THE family of a mother-of-one who died of breast cancer say they are overwhelmed by the kindness of those who have supported a knitted Christmas tree appeal in her honour.

Hand-made Christmas tree decorations are now on sale at Hamsterley Forest, one of Helen Louise Hambleton’s (pictured left) favourite places to walk near her home in the nearby village of Hamsterley in Teesdale.

Her death in May at the age of 44, was a great loss to her family and friends, along with the many people she had met through her job as business manager at the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership. It was a job that saw her work with people across the Durham Dales and her kindness, passion for the countryside and ability to bring people together made her very popular.

Earlier this year, Angelina Maddison, Weardale Area Action Partnership co-ordinator, launched a special appeal encouraging knitters of all abilities to make little Christmas trees in Ms Hambleton’s memory.

The plan was for these to be sold to raise funds for saplings, which would be used to create an actual memorial forest at Hamsterley.

However, when Alex MacLennan and fellow Forestry Commission staff heard about the project they insisted on covering the cost of the saplings, meaning all of the proceeds can be donated to cancer charities.

Ms Hambleton’s mother, Eileen Smith, said: “I am overwhelmed by how many people have got involved and their generosity. It is very touching and means a lot to us. I know Helen would have been so proud.”

Tom Hambleton, Ms Hambleton’s 13-year-old son, added: “I am impressed by the variety of the decorations. They are all so different. People have put a lot of effort into them.”

Hundreds of knitters contributed to the appeal and decorations will be on sale in the Hamsterley Forest Café and at Bowlees Visitor Centre in Upper Teesdale until Christmas.

Jane Walker, who owns the café, said: “We put them out last weekend and have had a really good response so far. When we tell people what it is for they are very generous, not only buying the decorations but telling us to put the change from their cup of coffee in the collection box.”

Mrs Maddison, who worked with Ms Hambleton on various projects over the years, said: “It has been heart-warming to see the community coming together for such a good cause.”

Chris Woodley-Stewart, director of the North Pennines AONB Partnership, added: “This is a lovely way of remembering Helen as she loved Hamsterley Forest. I’m really grateful for the effort made by Alex and Angelina in particular to make this possible.”