TOWNS and villages across Tynedale are famed for their community spirit, with a huge range of groups and activities taking place to help make the communities friendlier and happier places.

So it could be seen as a surprise that the latest figures released by the British Red Cross show that 51 per cent of adults in Northumberland don’t feel well connected to their local community.

The Red Cross polled more than 4,000 adults and found that 60 per cent of people in the North-East said they had become much less involved with their community over time, with 27 per cent saying there were not people they knew well in their local community.

The survey also found that 44 per cent of people said their neighbours were like strangers to them.

Chris Reed, director of volunteer mobilisation at the British Red Cross, said: “Social isolation and loneliness are serious and widespread issues. The findings of this research show why we must do more to help people stay in touch with their communities and build support networks in their local area.”

But in some parts of Tynedale, there appears to be lots going on to prevent loneliness and encourage community spirit.

It was only last month that the district featured on the BBC’s Countryfile with the story of how local choir the Song Reivers brought people together around the secluded hamlet of Tarset.

The episode focused on rural isolation and recognised that in the countryside, isolation and loneliness could be a real problem.

Some parts of the Tyne Valley, particularly parts of the Upper North Tyne and Redesdale, have limited bus services which could cut people off further from people and services in larger communities such as Haltwhistle, Prudhoe and Hexham.

Age UK Northumberland said up to 12,000 older people had been identified as lonely in Northumberland.

Factors such as having nobody to talk to, being widowed, retiring, poor health, money issues and living alone are all seen to contribute to the problem – and many of these are more prevalent among the older population.

The charity provides lunch clubs on a Monday and Thursday in Corbridge, and on a Thursday in Allendale, where people can get a hot meal, meet friends and enjoy social activities together.

It also provides falls prevention classes and long-term conditions courses in Hexham and Bellingham, which are exercise classes which help people who are at risk of falls or who live with a long term condition, to improve their quality of life and give them more strength and confidence.

Some smaller communities have shown outstanding commitment to getting the whole community involved in projects, with Humshaugh having a community-run shop and Slaley having a community-run shop and pub – and having recently expressed an interest in taking on the Commemoration Hall.

These provide volunteer opportunities for residents giving them a chance to mix with local people in their area. But despite all that goes on in our thriving and friendly communities, it’s worth remembering that it appears that a significant percentage of people are feeling left behind.

Andrew Marsh, chairman of Age UK Northumberland said: “Recent research by the BBC has found that it isn’t just older people who are affected by loneliness, meaning this issue will not disappear and what we put in place today will support future generations as well.”