COUNTY Durham-born television presenter Matt Baker last night completed his 480- mile rickshaw challenge, and was told his efforts had raised nearly £1.3m for Children in Need.

The 33-year-old One Show and Countryfile presenter, whose parents farm in Lanchester, cycled from Edinburgh to London in eight days to raise money for the charity.

He pedalled through the North-East and North Yorkshire last weekend, and last night told how the hills around Stanhope had reduced him to tears.

Speaking on the One Show minutes after finishing the ride, he said: “It has been remarkable.

I am overwhelmed by it.

“It was just wonderful to have that connection with these people who have donated.

“Some of the landscape has been so remote and there were people in the dark walking alongside and cheering us on.”

Also featuring heavily in the BBC coverage of this year’s Children In Need appeal was Beamish Museum, near Stanley, County Durham, which opened its doors free of charge as the centrepiece of the region’s fundraising.

BBC North-East and Cumbria broadcast live from the museum during a full evening of entertainment based on the open-air museum.

Joining the stars were 200 schoolchildren from Chesterle- Street, who joined a live performances of choirs across the country.

The group contains 120 students selected from The Hermitage Academy Voices and 100 children from Newker Primary, Bullion Lane Primary and Red Rose Primary.

Choir director Jocelyn Mc- Mullen said: “They have worked incredibly hard and for such a large number of both primary and secondary school children to come together, make music and raise money for Children in Need is wonderful.”

Across the region, schools, community groups and businesses all did their bit for the appeal, which raises money to help vulnerable and disadvantaged children and young people.

Workers at Northumbrian Water’s headquarters, in Pity Me, Durham City, were hoping to raise £3,000 with a full day of fundraising. Six contestants were put through a stomachchurning ordeal of having to pick eight jelly sweets out of a tray of live maggots in a race against the clock, while others fought out a pie-eating contest.

Pupils at Spennymoor School paid a penny to cast a vote on which of their teachers should be covered in slime.

The final vote saw Dean Cooper and John Dixon covered in custard based gunge.

Teacher Paul Tomlinson, school council co-ordinator, said: “The pupils have been very active for the charity.

We’re well on the way to raising £1,000.”

Pupils and staff at Bowes Hutchinson Primary School, in Bowes, near Barnard Castle, dressed up for the day for a £1 donation and sold cakes, biscuits and wristbands.

There was also a penny trail and a name-the-teddy competition at the 45 pupil school.

Headteacher Sue Griffiths said: “They are really keen to raise money for those who are not as well off as them.”

Youngsters at the Pixley Dell Day Nursery, in Spennymoor, took part in a sponsored toddle.

They took collection buckets on the walk and raised £35 on the day, which will go towards an estimated £300 donated overall.

A fundraising party at the Spectrum Leisure Centre, Willington, near Crook, was expected to attract hundreds of revellers.

In Darlington, activities at Everything Everywhere, formerly the Orange call centre, had a retro theme with old fashioned favourites including a Pudsey penny trail, a cake bake and tombola.

More than 120 of the mobile phone company’s employees also lent their support by manning the pledge call lines last night.

Children at the town’s Red Hall Primary School enjoyed a visit from Pudsey Bear, raising £470.

At The Aston Hotel, Newton Park, Coatham Mundeville, near Darlington, night porter Ray Fendley cycled 180 miles by doing laps of the hotel’s car park from 9am to 3pm.

Mr Fendley was cheered on by colleagues and took only a few short breaks, raising more than £100.

General manager Tracy Campbell said: “We’ve had a fantastic day, and Ray did a wonderful job.”

Schools and offices across North Yorkshire were turned into spotty havens, in keeping with this year’s Children in Need theme.

Youngsters at East Cowton Primary School, near Northallerton, held a range of activities, including a dance workshop, as well as art and maths projects.

Pupils also wrote and sold a Children in Need joke book.

Headteacher Julia Campbell said: “The children have really enjoyed the time to work together in their house teams.

“They have raised a considerable amount of money for such a worthy cause. It is lovely to see our younger pupils working together with older pupils, parents, staff and governors.

We’ve had such a brilliant day.”

On Teesside, students and staff at Prior Pursglove College in Guisborough made £892 after the Students’ Union Events Team co-ordinated a week of activities including a “pie your tutor” stunt, cake stalls and a publess quiz.

They also staged a show starring the college’s cast of Grease, a solo performance of the hymn Morning Has Broken, drag kings and queens and banghra dancers.

Andrea Booth, student liaison officer, said: “The events team worked really hard all week to raise funds and put on fun activities for their fellow students.”

At Tees Valley Music Service in Stockton dozens of young musicians took up the challenge of becoming the fastest drummer, and at Priory Woods School and Arts College in Middlesbrough pupils covered two large paintings of mascot Pudsey Bear with loose change, raising more than £100.

Students at the school, which caters for children with severe learning difficulties and those with profound and multiple needs, enjoyed wearing outfits covered in spots or fancy dress, said deputy head, Julie Wilson.