Unique exercising venue in Northumberland proves a big hit

People from all over the region are taking part in exercising classes at a farm's barn in Ponteland, Northumberland

Jo Shallcross, with clients, at The Barn
Jo Shallcross, with clients, at The Barn

Finding an environment you feel comfortable training in can be difficult, while commercial gyms offer the facilities you may need they do not provide the environment some people are comfortable training in.

Over the past few years, there has been a prolific rise in alternate fitness training opportunities taking exercising out of the gym and in to a variety of different locations.

One example of this is the Barn, which is located at Thorneyford farm, three miles outside of Ponteland, Northumberland, and provides one of the newest and unique training venues in the North East.

Not only the uniqueness of the Barn is special but open the doors and you are looking out over some of Northumberland’s finest countryside. This proves a great environment for working out in and also in good weather the classes have been known to move outside and take advantage of the surrounding environment.

Alix Scott is a Barn regular and started attending to gain fitness and reduce pain around an injured hip,

She said: “Why do I go to the barn? It’s not like a normal gym, I’ve been to those and really didn’t enjoy as they are boring, you can’t always get on the activity you want to be on and I found it was easy to be distracted by others or TV’s and I lost motivation quickly.

“The Barn is unique in its surroundings, it’s rustic and quirky, but still gives you a whole body workout.

“The trainer is always hands on to ensure that the activity is done correctly for optimum development and safety.

“One of the main reasons I started was I wanted to try and lose weight, especially around my core, plus I wanted to try and help stabilise my hip/groin area to try and help fix my ongoing hip saga. “Although my hip is not fixed there has been a massive improvement in my range of motion throughout the joint and a reduction in pain.

“Since coming to the Barn I have met a lovely group of people of all abilities, they help make the sessions fun, sociable and enjoyable, they help motivate you and encourage you when needed. I am privileged I can now class many of these as friends.

“I would, and do recommend the Barn to anyone interested in having fun, want to get fitter, lose weight, recover from injury or just want something different to come along and give it a go.”

The Barn is run by Joanna Shallcross, known as Jo, a mother-of-three who moved to Ponteland a year ago and was looking for somewhere to train her clients which would provide a stimulating yet fresh approach to fitness.

Jo Shallcross, with clients, at The Barn
Jo Shallcross, with clients, at The Barn

Jo never imagined that place would be a barn at a local farm, but that proved the perfect location.

She said: “The Barn fitness location happened by chance. It was while out cycling with farmer Tim Irwin that the conversation led to the use of the barn.

“My first ever client finished training on a complete high and described herself as feeling like Rocky Balboa, it was then I realised I had a unique training venue and the Barn evolved.

“A few years ago my life took what can only be described as a 180 degree turn and it was at this point that I decided to follow my passion which was, and always has been, sport, and turned it into a career.

“I also see many clients outside of the Barn, from children with cerebral palsy, to private one-on-ones and also I have been coaching small groups of ladies that lunch, these having realised the importance of strength training as it will help them not only pick up their grandchildren with greater ease but also help them to get off the loo keeping their dignity in their latter years.

“What is clear to me is it’s not always everyone’s choice to train, I see children who need to train to be able to walk and I see many adults who train not always because they want too but because of health they need too, it is clear to me if it’s not fun it’s even harder to maintain.

“Functional fitness can be fun and I make it as fun as possible if you can add laughter to your training its then not only your body you are training but also your state of mind.”

The Barn attracts a diverse group of clients, some even travelling out from the city centre on an evening to participate. The uniqueness of the environment and the pay-as-you-go sessions can be seen as a no frills approach to getting fit with the added bonus of expert eyes keeping you right.

Another regular at the Barn is Brian Egdell, who started looking for a way to improve core strength to hopefully lead him back into running after suffering years of knee injuries.

Jo thrives with this type of client, as a keen triathlete herself participating in Ironman events she has developed a real passion for correcting movement patterns following personal injury caused by poor movement patterns.

Jo will screen clients and work to design programmes to get them moving correctly and overcome any issues they may have. Brian has come a long way on his journey to get running again.

He said: “Jo’s reputation and standing in the area goes before her – a few people had previously recommended her to me. She is a very successful Ironman triathlete who practises what she teaches. She’s popular and held in high esteem.

“She’s a key part of a physical health partnership with Claire Butterfield and Lou Davison, who both hold her in very high regard. They do assessments, treatments, stretching, and massage and then hand on to Jo for the more dynamic work.

“Jo has a passion for physical fitness, but more importantly people, and improving individuals’ wellbeing and life chances.

“Her attention to each individual’s needs is exceptional, and quite unique. She uses her knowledge and understanding to make sure everyone is doing the exercises correctly so that the effect is maximised and the chance of injury is minimal.

“Every session is really great fun and non-threatening. When else would I dress up in Santa outfits and grass skirts and work flat out for 25 minutes? Or feel very comfortable in a one-to-one running session.

“The environment is undeniably brilliant. Today I went from walking through a very expensive, windowless, city centre gym packed with every conceivable state-of-the-art machine, with live TV’s on all CV pieces of equipment, to a local farm in the most wonderful countryside surrounded by sheep, with free parking and fresh air, a very warm personal welcome and a great group of people who talk, work extremely hard, and laugh together.

“The coffee, cakes, bacon sandwiches and cycle shop next door are not bad either!

“The sessions are absolutely superb. They are having a great effect on our fitness and performance in our chosen sports. Everyone is supportive and although we push ourselves hard there’s certainly not a competitive culture – it’s an emotionally safe place to challenge yourself, no matter what ability, physique or age.”

Jo holds many sessions throughout the week so that exercise can be fitted in easily to people’s busy schedules.

She added: “What I am also creating at the Barn is an open door feel, that everyone new and old is always welcome.

“I understand the constraints of life and that things get in the way of training, and once you stop training getting going again is normally the hardest thing to do.

“What I feel the Barn has is a real community feel to it and open door look, so if you have got tied up with work and the kids for three weeks it’s no problem, having three of my own I totally get the chaos life can throw at you.

“But walking back in the Barn is as almost as comfortable as throwing your shoes off at your front door, you can jump straight into a class knowing exercises will be tailed to your condition and you will be back to fitness in no time.”

The Journal collaborated with Nova International more than two years ago to launch our Great North Fitness Revolution. The campaign is challenging everyone to make a pledge to get active and make the positive changes that will lead to a better quality of life.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer