Salt of the Earth is a partnership between North Yorkshire County Council and the Darlington and Stockton Times to celebrate acts of kindness across our communities. For the latest feature highlighting the impact of good deeds in the county, Alexa Fox pays a visit to The Beeswing Inn at East Cowton to hear about the multiple benefits of the annual Cowtonbury Festival.

“After my mum was diagnosed with cancer, she received excellent care and thankfully went into remission, and it started us talking about doing that cliched thing of ‘giving something back’,” says Beth Robinson, landlady of The Beeswing Inn at East Cowton.

And while many people are prompted by their personal experiences to fundraise for the charity or organisation that helped them, most arrange a raffle or do a charity run to raise a few hundred pounds. Beth, however, was far more ambitious in her mission to help Macmillan and the Friarage Hospital, and so in 2014, The Cowtonbury Festival was born.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

Taking place on the late August Bank Holiday weekend, Cowtonbury attracts hundreds of locals and music-lovers to enjoy a one-day festival in the grounds of the Beeswing. Last year it enjoyed a record attendance, with 600 people flocking to the event, and so far it has raised almost £100,000 for good causes.

Money has been given to Macmillan, to the Friarage and even nearby residents in need such as Northern Echo Local Hero finalist Matt Hadden whose brave battle with cancer ended with his passing in 2017 aged just 28.

And although Cowtonbury was inspired by Beth’s mother’s battle with breast cancer, it has since been fuelled by the passing of her father, Les Robinson.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

“Just before the Cowtonbury in 2018 my dad passed away,” said Beth. “He was being treated at the palliative care unit at the Friarage and with dad being there, it highlighted issues in the hospital that we knew we could help with through Cowtonbury. My dad always used to say, ‘don’t complain about things if you’re not going to do anything about them’. The care they gave him at the Friarage was phenomenal and the nurses were phenomenal but there was a lack of money for things that we knew could help the hospital.”

Darlington and Stockton Times:

As a result, Cowtonbury money has been poured into improving the relatives’ rooms at the Friarage’s palliative care unit. It has also funded 200 care packs - small bags with essential toiletries in case relatives have unexpected overnight stays at the unit. And there is an even more ambitious project in the pipeline, with money and space set aside at the hospital for the creation of a ‘secret garden’. This is intended to be a garden with a key-coded door so that patients - and staff - can enjoy a peaceful oasis away from the clinical setting of the wards.

Already the thousands raised by Cowtonbury have helped improve the experience of an incredible number of patients, staff and visitors to the Friarage, but it also has local community benefits, as fellow organiser Leanne Walker explains: "I got involved five-years-ago and since then it has just grown and grown and we get a big group of volunteers every year. We are really lucky here as we have a lot of tradesmen who offer to help for free. Putting up the scaffolding is a two-day job and they just come in and get it done, which is amazing." Beth adds: "It has become a big community event, everybody rallies together. It is just brilliant; it is such a good day and it is such a good cause."

This year's Cowtonbury is scheduled to go ahead in August as planned, with Beth and her team anticipating that coronavirus measures will have been relaxed in five-months-time. She said: "We're just keeping on as if it's happening, it's all we can do."

  • Do you know someone who is going the extra mile in their community? Get involved and nominate them to feature in the Salt of The Earth movement by email at