A LOCAL newspaper which has been a part of its community for more than 30 years is to close.

The Weardale Gazette has been part of rural life from Upper Weardale to Stanhope and Howden-le-Wear since 1987.

With more than 500 issues behind it, the fortnightly paper was launched by Bill Holden, Robert Marshall and Peter Bowes, who became its first team of journalists.

The group of volunteers produced the first four-page edition of the Gazette on a kitchen table, in 1987.

It was first published as a monthly before becoming a fortnightly paper and expanded its titles to include ‘Remember when’, a nostalgia publication.

Its premises in Stanhope’s centre has been part of the high-street since the 1990s and holds many of the archives of Weardale history, which they are trying to preserve.

A few weeks ago, Anita Atkinson, the newspaper’s well known and longest running editor, stepped down – but there was optimism about the new path the publication could take.

However, after exploring new ideas and new ways to keep the paper going, the directors and staff unanimously made the decision to stop printing.

There was a plan to finance the paper through crowd funding, but that idea did not work out and those who had pledged money were refunded.

In a post on social media the Weardale Gazette said: “Local newspapers are vital to society, especially rural areas like Weardale. It was not a decision that has been made easily by the directors, some of whom have supported the paper from its inception in 1987.”

One of the directors of the Gazette, Maureen Thomas, said: “The Gazette has been a way of life for me, joining shortly after Bob, Nick and Sheila.

“I’ve lived and breathed it for 32 years. Together we’ve enjoyed every bit of it through the highs and not so many lows.

“I think I can speak for all concerned in saying that we hope it does rise again.”

Residents in Weardale have reacted to the news with sadness but some said they would support keeping the Gazette running in some form.

The history of the Weardale Gazette can be read in the last edition published today – Wednesday, December 18.