WHERE does support for local businesses come from today? Real support, that is – the type that helps local people actually sell their wares and make a living?

There is only really one answer to that, says a craftswoman working in rural Tynedale. And it is ‘each other’.

Shop Local campaigns have come and gone in these times of hyper-supermarkets and internet shopping, making little impact along the way. Trade has continued to take place on an ever-expanding scale.

Your green beans can have come from Morocco, Egypt or Senegal, your shirt from China, your soap-based products from Germany, the United States, Indonesia and, again, China.

Sue Reed, known far and wide across Facebook as the Woolly Pedlar, doyenne of waste wool upcycling and a traditional skill that magically transforms yesterday’s jumpers into the most boho-chic of ponchos, cardigans, blankets and accessories, believes it is time to try again.

There is already grassroots action across Tynedale, a movement towards a Keeping It Local campaign, whereby independent traders are quietly supporting each other.

But it wouldn’t half help if members of the public got behind it too!

Sue’s own business story of late demonstrates just how out of kilter international trading patterns can be.

“I am really struggling to get hold of recycled knitwear nowadays,” she said, “because companies are shipping it all out to Africa off the back of the myth that we’re helping them.

“It’s a huge business, all these cash-for-clothes enterprises, but it is decimating the clothing industries in those countries.

“Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania are looking to ban the import of recycled textiles from Europe and America from 2019, because their cotton farmers are not getting the prices for their cotton.

“Businesses there can’t sell their beautiful African fabrics or things like locally-produced T-shirts when cheaper, second-hand Western imports are flooding their market.

“And it’s all very well saying it is giving women work, sorting these recycled garments, but they only need to do that because their cotton farmer husbands have lost their b****y jobs!”

Estimates indicate that somewhere between 10 and 30 per cent of clothes recycled in the UK are sold in the UK, mostly through charity shops. The rest is exported abroad, at a rate of around 350,000 tonnes a year.

Sue says she has had to look at means of interrupting the stream of discarded woollens flowing out of Hexham and into that export trade.

She found at one point that she couldn’t buy what she needed anywhere, so she began with the charity Scope, which has a branch on Fore Street. Its shops across the North-East are now sending their waste woollen garments to Hexham, where Sue can pick out what she wants before they are sent onward.

Tynedale House Clearances similarly lets her root through what they have first. “I give them double what the rag man would and the charity shops four times what they would otherwise receive,” she said.

“But the point is, it’s all about keeping it local – keeping our waste and recycling it in our own country rather than sending it abroad.”

That’s a starting point, yes, but the proof of the pudding is in our own independent traders being able to make a living.

Bardon Mill is a small village, with a tiny centre to boot. However, the mutual support businesses give each other there is surely a template for a Keeping It Local code of best practice.

Mike and Dawn Smith had transformed the village shop since taking it over in 2013, said Sue. “It was really quite a sad little shop, particularly after it lost the Post Office, before they arrived.

“But now, besides serving the best coffee for miles around, they used the shop to genuinely support local artists and producers. They could fit another table and chairs in there, but instead, they’ve got display stands with my Woolly Pedlar stuff on, David Lawson’s pottery, Nadine Sutterby’s artwork, and so on.”

They also have a collection bin outside the shop, in which local residents can deposit their unwanted woollies for Sue.

Then there was the support offered by Helen and Damian Rudge, owners of the nearby Stanegate Hideaways holiday cottages.

“Helen asked me to make bedspreads for the shepherds’ huts they have there. Helen herself makes jam and marmalade, which Mike sells in his shop.

“And Helen has introduced some great local initiatives for supporting the local community generally, among them discount vouchers she gives her holiday-makers before pointing them in the direction of local businesses.”

There were great examples of support offered by independent Hexham businesses too, among them the Mr Wolf toy shop and the Robinson-Gay Art Gallery, both of which did their utmost to promote the work of others.

Sue said: “That’s what it all comes down to at the end of the day – helping and supporting each other, and in the process keeping the money local.”