WOOLLEN Christmas trees will be sold to raise funds for a real forest in memory of a much-loved mother-of one.

Knitters are being invited to take part in the project aimed at celebrating the life of Helen Louise Hambleton who died of breast cancer in May at the age of 44.

As business manager at the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership, Ms Hambleton was passionate about the Durham Dales and loved walking near her home in Hamsterley, near Bishop Auckland. Naturally creative, she was an entrepreneur at heart and her belief in the value of partnership work meant she was well known and respected by many groups and organisations in the area.

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Angelina Maddison, co-ordinator of the Weardale Area Action Partnership (AAP), was keen to organise a project in memory of Ms Hambleton.

“Helen had a kindness about her which brought people together,” she said. “We wanted to do something to remember Helen that celebrated her life and promoted places that were important to her.”

As part of the Helen’s Forest project, the AAP is sharing free knitting patterns to create Christmas trees for woollen forest displays at Hamsterley Forest and Bowlees Visitor Centre in Upper Teesdale. Spindle Wood has whittled stands for the larger decorations free of charge and knitters are encouraged to have fun and experiment with wools and needle sizes.

Once on display, the trees will be available to buy in return for donations, which the Forestry Commission will use to buy saplings to plant in Ms Hambleton’s memory in Hamsterley Forest.

Chris Woodley-Stewart, director of the North Pennines AONB Partnership, said: “Helen was very creative and a real entrepreneur and the idea Angelina has come up with is just the kind of thing she would have loved.”

The patterns are available by contacting Mrs Maddision on weardaleaap@durham.gov.uk or 03000-268077.

They are also available from Woollyback in Stanhope, where a discount on wool will also be offered to those taking part.