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West Witton – Stewardship and Celebration Weekend

June 10, 2014 By: Pip Land Category: In Wensleydale, Story of the week No Comments →


The Stewardship and Celebration Weekend in and around West Witton church (June 6-8) got off to a joyful and special start thanks to Cantabile – the young singers from the Wensleydale School (above).

St Bartholomew’s church was full for this thoroughly enjoyable “Concert for a Summer’s Evening” which began with a foot-tapping rendition of Rhythm of Life. This, and several other items that evening, revealed how well balanced this choir was. The harmonies were often enchanting.

But the most memorable song was Call your girlfriend which the choir leader, Kath Barker, had transposed for the choir, and to which Simon Chorley provided an entertaining accompaniment using a plastic pot. And there were memorable solos by Rachael Binks, Jessica Buck, Kate Chorley, Jo-Ann Lambert, Rayanne McGee and Anya Wagstaff.

The audience was delighted to be share in the end of term farewells to the choir members who were graduating from the school, and each received flowers. (Below – saying farewell with a hug and flowers)

Pimms and canapés were served afterwards and some wandered out into the bunting-bedecked churchyard to enjoy a beautiful summer’s evening. The collection that evening (£320) was shared equally between Cantabile (to cover the cost of new music and travelling expenses) and the school at the Bungokho Rural Development Centre in Uganda.

Not even heavy rain on Saturday could dampen the spirit of the weekend and many made their way to the village playing field where there was a plant and book sale with table top “Swop and Share”. All the stalls along with refreshments were hastily moved into the pavilion when the rain started – but the excellent array of plants and books and the welcome coffee and scones drew many from both the village and further afield. The funds raised went towards the cost of running St Bartholomew’s.



For this was a stewardship weekend aimed at raising awareness of the importance of the St Bartholomew’s within the community. After centuries of service it would be sad to lose it!

The community extends to Swinithwaite and on Saturday evening a merry group gathered at Berry’s farm shop for what was more like a charabanc ride up to Penhill. Adrian Thornton-Berry drove the tractor pulling a trailer load of people (including a granny armed with an ipad) while his mother, Caroline Gardner, drove the old Land Rover full of food and beverages.


After a day of torrential rain those who had signed up for the “Evening of Penhill” were amazed to find themselves bathed in glorious sunshine and with a clear blue sky overhead. It had turned into one of those champagne-like Dales’ evenings – perfect for a picnic up on the hills with Blaise Vyner and Adrian providing the commentary on the moorland birds and the history of the area.

“To stand in silence with only the sound of the birds; to experience the light of that June evening, as we gathered for a late picnic looking down on to Walden and Bishopdale and way into the distance was utterly stunning. We could only look and listen in wonder at such a truly awe-inspiring sight,” said Gillian Vyner.

She added that when they got back to Swinithwaite three hours later they all agreed it had been a privilege to have been part of that expedition and an absolute thrill. On their return Bridget Thornton-Berry served hot drinks in her kitchen.

The Songs of Praise service in St Bartholomew’s on Sunday morning provided both a joyful and thoughtful finale. It began with remembering those who died during the D-Day landings and many shared why they had chosen hymns. And it ended with a rousing rendition of Tell out my soul, the greatness of the Lord.

Gillian commented: “The singing was wonderful, led by Martin Hotton playing the organ. We also enjoyed Martin performing a couple of his own compositions on the piano.”

She told the congregation that stewardship meant giving time, talents and financial resources to maintaining the church’s service to the community – and she especially thanked all those who had helped to make the weekend so enjoyable.

She reminded them that it was Pentecost – when the church celebrated God making the life-changing gift of the Holy Spirit available to everyone whoever and wherever they were. And she thanked Jesus Christ for making that possible. Below – a floral display at St Bartholomew’s.

An album of photographs of the event, as originally posted in Pip’s Gallery, are available on CD. Anyone who wishes to have a good copy of any of the photographs (printed or by email) can purchase it from me. Contact me at pip.land@internet.com.


Bainbridge: The Peace and Remembrance Wall

March 08, 2014 By: Pip Land Category: In Wensleydale, Story of the week No Comments →


The first to get close up and personal with the large poppies placed on the Peace and Remembrance Wall at Bainbridge Quaker Meeting House in Wensleydale  in March was a horse! The appearance of the 4ft diameter brightly coloured poppies (created at Gayle Mill)  spooked her and she had to be gently introduced to them.

The objective of the wall is to give people the opportunity to make their individual remembrances and expressions of their attitudes towards war and peace. They can post their own comments on the wall, as well as decorating it with ribbons or with poppies from the last Remembrance Day.

The Meeting House is open from 10.30am to 12.30pm each Wednesday with materials being available for posting messages on the wall. Some Friends will be there to answer questions and chat.

In the next few months displays will be developed illustrating the local involvement in the two World Wars. The first explains the Quaker views on peace and the work of the Friends’ Ambulance Unit (FAU).

The Bainbridge Quaker Meeting has its own special link with the FAU for during the 1st World War as John Leyland of Bainbridge was one of the 96 volunteers with the Unit to be awarded the Croix de Guerre for continuing to work when under fire along the Western Front. His son, Peter, served with the FAU in China in the 2nd World War. (See also A Bainbridge Family )

The poppies were created at Gayle Mill by David Pointon, a member of the Bainbridge Quaker Meeting. He was very grateful to those at the Mill who made that possible.

Below: David at work at Gayle Mill as seen through a 19th century water powered saw.  Ian Fraser (a Gayle Mill director) and Lynda Casserly assist David as he makes the first cut. And another director, Mike Thompson, used the 19th century saw to produce the poppy centres.










Below: Mounting the poppies on the railings outside Bainbridge Quaker Meeting House to start the Peace and Remembrance Wall.





And the first message to be placed on the Peace and Remembrance Wall:


Schooling in Peshawar in the 1950s

January 20, 2014 By: Pip Land Category: Pioneering Girls' Education, Story of the week No Comments →

Writer and broadcaster, Safia Haleem, shares this story about attending a girls’ school in Peshawar in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan in the 1950s.


It was 1956 and probably the end of March that my father took me on his bicycle through the narrow streets of Peshawar. I don’t remember whether my parents prepared me for that day or not but I was quite excited to enter a world where my older brother and sister went every day. The word school was a familiar one but still carried a mystery and was associated with the modern world.

The street of the school was familiar to me because I used to pass through these narrow lanes with my maternal grandmother. She went for fabric, silk and wool for knitting as my mother always knitted us beautiful things in winter.

The school was known as “Jogiwarra” which was the name of that street. Jogi in Hindi means a “hermit” and it seems that part of the city was a forest hundreds of years ago as jogis lived under trees. Peshawar is the oldest living city in Asia with a history of over 2000 years. Nobody knows the name of the hermit but we still have very ancient Peepal trees in the old bazaar of city and the ruins of a Buddhist Stupa from the time of King Kanishka were excavated in the beginning of the 20th Century.Our school building was an old temple probably Buddhist, with rooms around a big courtyard which had huge Peepal trees.

I remember vaguely, standing in a courtyard looking around and then found myself in a huge room with many girls of my own age. A lady with red lipstick asked my name and wrote it in a register.

There was a water tank with tap under the spiralling stairs and that spiral went up to the second and third floors. The very top of the building had a bricked courtyard with beautiful facade in the shape of Lotus flower petals. In one corner of that courtyard were the toilets.

It was a primary school for girls only and all the rooms were occupied by the senior classes. The youngest group of children was literally treated as the lowest of the low. Therefore, we had to sit in the courtyard and not in a room.

Looking back it seems so unfair, but at that time we loved to sit on the jute mats spread on the brick floor. During the hot weather, it was bliss to feel the cool floor underneath. There were several open air classes in that courtyard and plenty of view.

All the teachers wore beautiful clothes and high heels.There was a room for the headmistress and near its door, a round copper disc was hanging. We could see that an attendant would come and hit the disc with a wooden hammer. After a few days, I loved the sound of this “bell” as it announced the end of a lesson.

We sat in front of a wooden blackboard placed on a tripod stand. There was a cane chair for the teacher who brought a piece of chalk and a foot long ruler, which was known as “foot”. I don’t remember many things about my lessons, but loved to play hide and seek with a group of girls in that building.

Every class had their own teacher and my teacher was “Susan” – the same lady who wrote my name. She was a Christian but I didn’t know that. She looked like other teachers and always wore red lipstick which I loved. We called them, Apajee, which was a title of respect for an elder sister.

My mother tongue was Pashto but living in the city, I had learnt the local dialect as well which was spoken by most teachers. We were taught in Urdu which was the language of the books. Sometimes, I did not understand what was being taught but there were clever girls who knew everything and they helped.

Each girl had a flat piece of wood known as “Takhti“, a reed pen, inkwell, and a book with alphabet. The teacher wrote with white chalk on the blackboard and we learnt the sounds of the alphabet. Then we wrote on the takhti with the reed pen and black ink which the teacher checked. I made a lot of mess with black ink on my hands, clothes and even my face, but learnt quickly how to drain my pen in the inkwell which had a small piece of cloth.

At some point during the day, we were allowed to go and wash our takhti in the water tank. There would be some green clay known as “gachi” which we rubbed on the damp takhti like soap and made it smooth with hand. Later we would air dry these planks to be ready for the next round of writing. The clay absorbed the ink and it also covered the old ink markings.

There were a number of women attendants known to us as “Amma” (aunt) who escorted us after school and each one of them had a group of girls under their supervision. Every day, when the bell rang in the afternoon we would wait for our “Amma” near the gate and walk with her like chicks around a mother hen. Some girls who were slow or day dreamers like me, would be asked to walk in front so that she could keep an eye on us. She had her own system of taking us through the streets. Some days, she would take a long route and at others she would go the shortest.

After a few weeks, I started going to school with a group of other children from the neighborhood. But, coming home was always with my “Amma” because I loved listening to her stories. She was a very good story teller and although I knew the way to my house, I still followed her.

In the winter months, all the lowest classes were held in the big hall which was used for assembly. The only partition between the three sections was the black board and the teacher’s chair. The jute mats were known as “Taat” which were five to six meters long and a meter wide. They were spread in rows and one row would have seven or eight girls. Those who sat in the front were considered clever and sometimes when they decided to be mean, the last girl would be literally on the cement floor. But the teachers would know and did not allow anyone to have more than their fair share of the space on a mat.

The Taats would be dusted, folded and kept in one corner at the end of the day. It was done by the attendants, after which a woman would come and start sweeping the cemented floor. In the morning, before the assembly, the girls would bring the mats back to the allocated space and spread them in rows. Everyone had their turn and it became a responsibility for us from an early age.

I always sat with my friend behind me except when we fought. If that occurred at the end of the day, either she or I would decide to sit in another row. But it was an unpleasant experience because the girl, whose space was taken, would fight back.

When I passed my first grade, I had a slate added to my three school books. We used the slate for adding numbers and doing sums. It was better than the wooden takhti as it was easy to clean.

The real sponge was rare and only a few girls had pieces to clean their slates. Others would use a dampened cotton piece, sewn with a string and attached to the wooden frame of the slate. Those of us who did not have a sponge or a damp cloth…did the most disgusting things children would do…spat on slates and rubbed with hands while the teachers would scold us if they found out.

We did not have uniform in our school and I wore my sister’s hand-me-downs, my brother’s trousers and even my silk frocks with spangles on. Some girls were always smartly dressed and we knew that they were rich. Others did not have woollen jumpers in severe winter months but they managed somehow.

One day we were all assembled in the courtyard and the headmistress announced that we need to wear specific dress to school every day. It was cotton, sky blue frock and shalwar with white scarf or dupatta. One little girl modelled it for us and I did not like it at all. This was our uniform for the next four years and then in 5th class we started wearing white shalwar with blue frocks. In winter we had bottle green woollen jumpers and later they restricted us to tie our hair with white ribbons only.

Thousands of girls go to school in Peshawar now but they don’t use the learning devices as we did.

© Safia Haleem

Writer and Broadcaster


On the theme of girl’ education the article The Queen in Swat on her website is especially interesting.

Maternity and Paediatric services at Northallerton Hospital

December 14, 2013 By: Pip Land Category: Story of the week No Comments →

At a private meeting on February 7 the Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning  Group decided to downgrade the maternity and paediatric services at the Friarage Hospital, Northallerton.

The Group decided that instead of having a 24-hour consultant-led service at the Friarage children will only be treated at that hospital from 10am to 10pm seven days a week. Children who are very sick will be referred to the nearest major hospital for specialist inpatient care.

An extraordinary meeting of North Yorkshire County Council’s scrutiny of health committee will be held on March 14 to discuss whether the Group had properly examined alternative options. These are outlined below.


Proposals to downgrade the maternity service at the Friarage Hospital, Northallerton  by the Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (HRWCCG) could lead to the complete loss of that facility, according to a report1 prepared for Richmondshire District Council. The report goes on to show how, for £200,000 each year, it would be possible to retain the present excellent maternity and paediatric services at the Friarage Hospital.

The alternative model for the maternity and paediatric services put forward by Richmondshire District Council (RDC)  led by Coun John Blackie, has received the support of local MP, William Hague, who stated:

“It is a much more attractive option than the proposed downgrade of maternity and paediatric services at the Friarage Hospital and it deserves the most careful scrutiny by the CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) with a view to making it work.

“I applaud the work that has been done to create an alternative proposal and it if is not adopted I and many other local people will want to know in great detail why it cannot be made to work.”

The RDC report, which includes that alternative model for the future provision of children’s and maternity services at the Friarage, has been compiled by Richmondshire district councillors John Blackie and John Robinson, and by the district council’s scrutiny support officer, Penny Hillary.

Coun Blackie, who is leader of Richmondshire District Council (RDC), visited six hospitals2 similar in size to the Friarage, and occasionally was accompanied by Coun Robinson and Mrs Hillary. The HRWCCG has put forward two options for the future of the maternity and paediatric services at the Friarage which, it argued, would ensure the sustainability of these. Both options were for a midwife-led unit for women with low risk births and to provide community midwifery and outpatient services locally.

At its meeting on November 20 the RDC decided that neither of the two options put forward by the HRWCCG would meet the healthcare needs or the local communities of Richmondshire and, therefore, rejected them. It stated that patient choice had not been taken into account, and that the proposals were not in the interests of the local community nor in the interest of local health services.

At present the Friarage has a consultant-led maternity unit, which the RDC report pointed out, provides a first class service, an excellent safety record and enjoys the full confidence of the communities it serves. The report adds that the options put forward by the HRWCCG would have a significantly detrimental impact on the services provided to the women, children and families within Richmondshire and Hambleton in the future.

And the removal of consultants from the unit would not only mean the loss of the gynaecology service at the Northallerton hospital but increase the danger of losing the midwife-led unit as well.

According to this report the number of births at Hartlepool Hospital fell from 1,680 to 300 a year after it changed to a midwife-led unit in 2006. The Royal College of Midwives has warned that midwife-led units with fewer than 300 births a year are unlikely to be financially viable.

So the RDC report states:“The experience at Hartlepool casts a shadow over the long term future of any freestanding midwife-led unit  established at the Friarage, as it had a higher number of births when consultants were present than the Friarage has now, and the retention rate for a midwife-led unit birth is only 300.

“Nearly 1,300 (a year) choose the Friarage where they can currently have the option of a high tech or low tech birth. They do not have to make a choice about safety because the safety record is excellent and they know a consultant is on hand if needed.

“It is important to note that midwives need to maintain their skills too and too little activity at a midwife led unit would soon lead to a deterioration of skill base, a problem with staff retention and more importantly the safety risk to mothers and babies.”

The RDC report explains: “In order to achieve sustainability there is no dispute that the situation does have to change because people are retiring or have retired and they need to be replaced. In addition the service should have had investment in it before now but the Trust has relied on the goodwill of the present consultants to carry the service up to this point.

“It is considered that the situation in paediatrics (at the Friarage) has been exacerbated by chronic understaffing and underfunding for several years by the South Tees Hospitals NHS Trust.”

When the Friarage was merged with that Trust in 2003 local residents were assured that being part of a larger Trust would enable a greater range of services to be maintained at the Northallerton hospital, and that the Trust was committed to retaining healthcare services there which would benefit the local communities.

Instead the Trust expects to invest in the services at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough so as  to provide sufficient capacity for an increase in patients, both from the new housing developments in Teesside and from the Dales when the units at the Friarage are downgraded.

At the consultation meeting in Hawes to discuss the two options put forward by the HRWCCG Fran Toller, the head of maternity services at the South Tees Trust, stated that the patient experience of mothers-to-be whilst in confinement at the James Cook University hospital was just “adequate”.

The RDC report states: “A solution to address the capacity problems experienced by the James Cook University Hospital would be to promote giving birth at the Friarage. The slightly similar smaller faculty with an excellent safety record and an ethos of a family circle approach to care would be the ideal place to have a memorable and unpressured birth experience. .. This will increase the number of live births at the Friarage, maintain/improve the skills of the clinical staff, and will balance sustainability at both hospitals.”

The option preferred by the HRWCCG would also mean there would be no consultants available for the paediatric unit. Instead there would be just a short stay paediatric assessment unit at the Friarage. This would be open five days a week from 10am to 10pm with the last child being seen no later than 8pm.

The RDC report states: “Our visits to various small hospitals indicate that the busiest time for patients to arrive at their paediatric unit is between 6.00pm and 11.00pm at night. To set the time at 8.00pm for the last child to be examined cuts the service off from the greatest number of its potential users. Our visits also indicate that the numbers of patients arriving at the paediatric units throughout the day and evening at weekends is very little different to those on Monday-Friday.”

The HRWCCG has also stated that under both options there would no longer be a high risk obstetric service or a special care baby unit at the Friarage.

The RDC report gives the example of a child or baby in Thirsk requiring a journey of over 40 minutes to reach an open access paediatric unit as compared to 15 minutes now. The parents in that situation might even have to call for an ambulance, rather than taking their child to a hospital themselves.

But those in Upper Wensleydale face even longer journeys as the RDC report points out: “The distance from Hawes to the Friarage Hospital at 38 miles is already a long enough journey for a woman in labour. There have been a number of occasions when expectant mothers have given birth to their babies in lay-bys on route to the Friarage. The idea of them having to travel another 22 miles to James Cook is totally unacceptable to them.”

It adds that it is understood that the recommended safe transfer time from one hospital to another when a mother is experiencing difficulties giving birth is 30 minutes – and yet even with no road closures on the A19, the journey from the Friarage to Middlesbrough can take longer than that. In the past three years the A19 has been closed 18 times with some closures lasting several hours.  The RDC report states:

“It appears the local NHS is prepared to take these risks to patient safety on board to downgrade the service at the Friarage on the back of a case they claim to have been devised on grounds of patient safety.”

It points out that the Yorkshire Ambulance Service is frequently not reaching call-outs within eight minutes in rural areas of North Yorkshire and the lack of facilities at the Friarage could lead to more people calling for ambulances.

And it is not just expectant mums and parents with children who would be affected by these longer journeys. Those visiting them at the James Cook University Hospital will incur considerable extra expenditure in both fuel and car parking costs and time to reach and return from Middlesbrough if they are unable to use the proposed free bus service from Northallerton.

Army families living at Catterick Garrison would also be affected – even though the military GP practices which serve them did not appear to have been included in the discussions about downgrading the facilities at Northallerton.

As the RDC report points out, when the Duchess of Kent hospital at Catterick Garrison (which had a maternity wing) was closed down in the 1980s the Army families were told: “Do not worry – there will always be the Friarage for maternity.”

The report adds:“Research shows that the structure of the population amongst the MoD families in Catterick Garrison, the largest Army Garrison in Western Europe, is heavily weighted towards young families. The peace of mind of the soldiers who serve our Nation overseas… has been completely overlooked in the consultation.”

One of the key arguments for downgrading the Friarage Hospital is that it would cost £2.7million to upgrade to a consultant-delivered service. This was described in the RDC report as an unnecessary and extravagant upgrade aimed at bringing the units up to the standard of the Royal College Guidelines.

The Royal College Guidelines provide staffing recommendations which are not even met by the James Cook University Hospital.

The RDC report notes that the £2.7 million would be offset by the £2 million of lost patient income to the South Tees NHS Trust as many patients would chose to go to hospitals not administered by the Trust if services were downgraded at the Friarage. There would also be costs of about £500,000 to cover the free bus service from Northallerton to Middlesbrough and the additional ambulance service required.

Then there was the question of how much it would cost to increase the capacity at the James Cook University Hospital which has ranged from £1 million to £10 million. This, the RDC report states, gives credence to the statement from the South Tees NHS Hospital Trust that “taking into account both changes in cost and likely loss of income the Trust’s financial position will be adversely affected by all of the options considered.”

The children’s and maternity services at the Friarage have already been upgraded to 1st class status thanks to a multi-million investment into the facilities at that hospital several years ago. “Judged by the experience of the other small hospitals …. You could continue a very safe and sustainable 24/7 consultant-led service for £200,000 annually,” the RDC report states and adds:“The South Tees NHS Trust suggests that the main problems at the Friarage stems from recruiting staff who want to work at small hospitals, and also the clinicians not overseeing enough work to maintain their skills, particularly in paediatrics.

“However our evidence confirms that other small hospitals find ways to recruit staff, plan complaint rotas, maintain skills and carry out forward planning well in advance of staff retirements.”

It was noted that one of the features of the hospitals which were visited was the absolute buy-in by all the staff and the management so as to retain the best services for local communities. And the RDC report states:

“There needs to be a change in culture at the (Friarage) hospital particularly amongst the consultants and the management.”

It adds:“Our model is based on the South Tees Hospital NHS Trust undertaking genuine initiatives to promote and encourage additional patient footfall for the 24/7 consultant-led maternity services at the Friarage.”

The Trust would also have to encourage consultants to take part in a high level of rotation, which according to the RDC report, is something those permanently based at the James Cook University Hospital have had little appetite for.

The RDC report accepted that there were few training posts on the rotas of the small hospitals that were visited. But those hospitals got round that by using Speciality Doctors and also Clinical Research Fellows if close to universities.

The RDC Model put forward for the Friarage includes using Advanced Nursing Practitioners (otherwise known as Specialist Nurses) as part of a bespoke solution particularly as there is a lack of middle grades in the Friarage’s paediatric service. It could take up to three years to train a midwife or a paediatric nurse up to such a level. The South Tees Hospital NHS Trust would need to identify potential candidates from its own nursing staff and embark on a training programme immediately.

“Whilst the training programme is being established it may be necessary to employ a generalist consultant paediatrician to backfill, and we understand from our enquiries that there are a reasonable number of quality generalists available for recruitment at this time.”

The consultants recruited to serve at the Friarage would be required to live within 20 miles of the hospital and to take part in an on-call rota. None of the six hospitals visited had experienced any problem with recruiting consultants.

The RDC Model envisages that its proposed staffing structure would allow the vitally important 24/7 open access and acute open access services for children with complex health conditions, and the special care baby unit service to continue as they are now. It would also call for the South Tees Hospital NHS Trust to investigate the establishment of a Young Persons Unit like that at Yeovil District Hospital.


1.Response to Proposals within the Consultation Document on Options for the Future of Children’s and Maternity Services at The Friarage Hospital Northallerton and Our Model for the Future Provision of Children’s and Maternity Services, November 2013.

The full report, with the RDC Model and appendices can be viewed at www.richmondshire.gov.uk

2. Hospitals visited:

In October 2012 – North Devon Hospital, Barnstaple, Yeovil District Hospital, Dorset County Hospital

In October 2013 – Borders Hospital, Melrose, Dr Grays, Elgin, West Grampian, Dumfries and Galloway Hospital

And also Bassetlaw Hospital, Worksop

Dales Festival of Food & Drink

May 02, 2012 By: Pip Land Category: In Wensleydale, Story of the week No Comments →


Above: The founders of Leyburn’s Dales Festival of Food & Drink with Richard Whiteley in May 2004. From the left (the late) Keith Knight, (the late) Richard Whiteley, Ann Hodgson, Margaret Knight and Gerald Hodgson. Below is a feature I wrote in April 2003 about how the festival began, followed by photographs  from 2002, 2003 and 2004.

The Festival in 2016 will be held in Leyburn town centre on June 18 and 19. See 



Driving into Leyburn in Wensleydale for the first day of the Dales Festival of Food & Drink in 2002 was an amazing experience. The town centre was so full of people that  one little boy commented: “It’s just like London.”  During the foot and mouth epidemic the year before Leyburn had been almost like a ghost town and a pall of smoke and depression had hung over Wensleydale. But four local people were determined to help kick start the dales economy.

Over 15,000 attended that first festival and it has become an important annual event in North Yorkshire and beyond. I interviewed Keith and Margaret Knight and Gerald and Ann Hodgson in April 2003 for their story about the founding of the festival and this was published in the Darlington and Stockton Times.  To mark the 10th anniversary here is that story:

Good friendships and the hands-on approach were major factors in the success of the first Festival of Food and Drink in Leyburn, Wensleydale, in 2002. And at the heart of the team were four people with a vision: Ann and Gerald Hodgson and Margaret and Keith Knight. It all started with Ann being irritated by the way urban politicians and planners viewed the countryside.

“I got terribly upset listening to instructions to farmers that they had to change their lives and that the countryside should be a large pleasure ground for the tourists. And all these farmers were going to have to change their way of life by applying for grants. That upset me again. Most of the farmers were born around here. They love and understand the land and how to use it, and have great animal husbandry skills. All this knowledge is so important and not to be just packaged up and changed. We have this wonderful countryside – let’s use it.

“Let’s tell everyone we are good farmers, that we provide excellent food and everyone can come to Leyburn and buy it. We should have a food festival I said. I was thinking more about the flower and wine festivals in Europe. I used Gerald as a sounding board.”

This was just after Margaret Knight started her two year stint as chairman of the Leyburn and Mid Wensleydale Business Association. So Gerald told her about Ann’s idea. They also shared it with Richard and Jacqueline Wells who told them there was an annual food festival at Ludlow. At their own expense, the Hodgsons and Knights headed for Ludlow just a few weeks later.

“We had a lovely time and were very impressed,” commented Mrs Knight. “I walked around with a pad of paper and if I saw a good idea I would make a note of it. Those notes were the foundation of our planning.”

“But we never thought we could do as well,” added her husband, Keith.

“That festival had been running for eight years and had worked up to 12,000 visitors,” said Mr Hodgson. “It had clearly had a considerable impact upon the town of Ludlow which has become a nationally renowned centre for good food. We noted good ideas and added our own. It was held in the centre of the town and that seemed very important because that created a great atmosphere. They had made only a small effort to involve the farming community but we wanted to involve the farmers in a more meaningful way.”

They also wanted to make sure that all local businesses benefited. But they never thought they would do as well as Ludlow in their first year. “We expected a total of 8,000 people and we got 15,000,” said Mr Hodgson.

Mrs Knight, as chairman of the business association, got the ball rolling by organising an open meeting. Among those invited were representatives of the local churches. “We thought we had done a fair amount of work but St Matthew’s scored four tries,” said Mrs Knight. “They suggested the band concert, flowers in the church, refreshments and that lovely cookery book. The Methodists also organised food and a pudding tasting competition.”

“The business association was a great help because they said they would bank roll it. Without that we would not have been able to go ahead,” said Mr Knight. They decided to look for funding because with that they could plan with more confidence, including ordering the marquees. In the end they received £20,000 from various agencies as they emphasised the need to counteract the devastating effects of the foot and mouth epidemic in 2001.  Even so, as Mrs Hodgson said, it was an ambitious decision to go for a three-day event. “People could not envisage what we were trying to do. They could not believe it. That was the worse moment for me. I thought it was going to fail.”

“In January and February 2002 we debated if we should pull the plug on the whole thing,” said Mr Knight. “We had no idea how many people would come. It was a leap of faith.But all were used to facing tough times.

Mr Knight had been a train control system consultant and they had lived quite a transient life before moving back to England after five years in the States. They looked at properties in the Lake District and the dales and found something suitable in Leyburn.At first they had a bread and breakfast business but this almost came to a standstill during the miners’ strike. They were facing bankruptcy when the local vicar pointed out there was a need for good quality residential care for the elderly.

“It was a complete gamble,” commented Mr Knight. But it worked well right through to their retirement in 2002. The Hodgson’s retired in 2001when they sold Copley Decor in Leyburn to their long term business colleague, Bruce Storr.

“We first came to Leyburn 25 years ago and started that business in an outbuilding beside our house,” said Mr Hodgson. When that was moved to a premises on Leyburn business estate Mrs Hodgson was busy developing a special idea of her own in those same outbuildings. She came from a textile background in Bradford but as a young woman was thoroughly frustrated that the whole wool trade only employed women as secretaries or tea makers.

In the dales she was fascinated by the Wensleydale Longwool sheep. “They have a magnificent fleece. Its probably the world’s finest  lustre wool,” she said.  At that time the breed was in decline. She said that the main way to promote it was to use the wool. And so she started the Wensleydale Longwool Sheep Shop, which is now run by Ann Bolam and Ruth Tombleson at Garriston near Leyburn. Under Ann’s guidance the shop twice won an International Quality award from the British Wool Marketing Board.

The Hodgsons and the Knights were also encouraged to keep going in 2002 by the rest of the steering committee set up to organise the festival. “David Berry, Alistair Davy and Elizabeth Hird were just great,” commented Mr Hodgson. “Another major contributor was Mavis Parry who joined the team as the representative of Leyburn Town Council.” In the end about 35 people were involved besides the small army of volunteers who helped throughout the festival.

“Ann worked immensely hard to persuade people to come,” said Mr Hodgson. “It was a very big commitment for small businesses as they had to spend three days at the festival.”

His wife added: “They had to make all the preparations beforehand and there was a lo t of clearing up afterwards. We were trying to give confidence to everyone to go ahead.  But we had to proceed with it. It was really worthwhile not just for us but for the whole area.” And all their hard work did pay off for not only was that first festival a big success but everyone who had a stand in the food hall last year returned in 2003. And more booked to join them.

“I would love to see the festival being automatically included on everyone’s calendar just as the Yorkshire Show is,” said Mrs Hodgson.  To which Mrs Knight added: “We also want the local people to have a good time.” Their ultimate aim was summed up by the Hodgsons: “We want Leyburn to become nationally recognised as a centre of good food based on the wholesome production of the surrounding countryside.”

The festivals in 2002 and 2003 were held in the centre of Leyburn. Margaret Knight spent most of the first festival wearing an apron as she was so busy making sure that the theatre marquee was clean and tidy for each demonstration. She was still cleaning up the day after the festival – and was spotted “shut in” the market shelter. Her husband and the Hodgsons all helped with tidying up afterwards – and for the Hodgsons that included moving a rather sorry looking “sheep”.


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Among the special guests  in 2002 were Clarissa Dickson Wright and Johnny Scott who signed copies of their books. Derek Kettlewell of Raydale Preserves has been among those who have regularly had stalls in the main marquee. And Andrew Thwaite had his Wensleydale family there to help at his chocolate stall including his grandmother, Isabel Robinson, and his mother (right) Gillian Thwaite.

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Richard Whiteley joined Andrew Thwaite in the theatre marquee during the 2003 festival for lessons in how to make chocolate much to the delight of a packed audience. “It was great fun. I’ve never made chocolates before and I thoroughly enjoyed myself,” Mr Whiteley said.

Below: Rick Stein was one of the guests at the 2003 festival where he enjoyed sampling the roast pork at the Mainsgill Farmshop stand and trying his hand at Craske’s traditional shooting gallery. Gerald Hodgson took good care of him during his visit to Leyburn.  Also pictured: Local estate agent Brian Carlisle with all those balloons, and the young four-legged star of the farming marquee.






























































































After the 2003 festival it was decided to move to a field on the outskirts of Leyburn for the festival had already outgrown the town’s market square. This new site has proved to be a big success as it provides plenty of space of the large marquees as well as room (on warm, dry days) for families to sit on the grass and relax.

Also photographed in 2004: Richard Whiteley after a cookery lesson with Peter Ball of Darlington College; Gervaise Phinn book signing; and Ffion Hague tasting honey watched by her husband, William Hague MP.



Wensleydale’s new farm shop and cafe

April 17, 2012 By: Pip Land Category: In Wensleydale, Story of the week No Comments →


Above: Bridget and Adrian Thornton-Berry enjoying a tea break after the official opening of Berry’s Farm Shop and Cafe by William Hague MP on Saturday, April 14.


Woodland and meadow walks and the chance to see llamas, kune kune pigs and the fluffiest chickens you can imagine (Buff Orpingtons)  are all on the “menu” at Berry’s Farm Shop and Cafe at Swinithwaite in Wensleydale. Bridget Thornton-Berry and her family have created an environmentally friendly place to gather and enjoy a meal behind Swinithwaite Hall.

The walks include a newly opened one through unimproved pasture full of native wild flowers to Redmire waterfalls. Dogs on leads  are welcome on those walks.

Hopefully there will be plenty of warm, dry weather this summer so that the lovely courtyard beside the café can be enjoyed as well. Light snacks will be served from  9.30am to 5.30pm Monday to Saturday. For Sunday lunches it will be open from 10am to 4pm. To contact the shop and cafe phone 01969 663377.

The chairs and much of the new buildings have been made from timber from the Swinithwaite Estate and a wood burning boiler provides the heating and hot water.  All the water comes from the roofs of the buildings. This same sustainable approach applies to the café and the shop with the vegetables, cheeses, oils, chocolates and preserves  being procured from local producers by Nick and Sue White’s  WKD Rural Business Consultancy. The on-site butcher selects beef, lamb and game from the Swinithwaite Estate and quality meat from a 30 mile radius.

Mrs Thornton-Berry said: “By having a farm shop and café we realise a dream of sharing the views and the land with more people and in so doing help people to understand that food comes from this landscape. We see ourselves as care takers for a beautiful part of the dales, and we feel very privileged to live here.”

Other old farm buildings at the hall have been developed to retain their traditional features and to provide modern facilities for such businesses as a laundry and a bakery.

See also A Meadow Walk in Wensleydale

Eileen and Bill Shuttleworth

May 14, 2011 By: Pip Land Category: In Wensleydale, Story of the week No Comments →

shuttleworth_golden A memorial service was held at St Andrew’s church, Aysgarth church on May 15 for Eileen Shuttleworth  because so many were unable to get to her funeral in December due to the very bad weather conditions. (Photo: Bill and Eileen celebrating their golden wedding anniversary.)

At the funeral service in December the Rev Penny Yeadon told those who did get there that the core of Mrs  Shuttleworth’s life had been her faith in Jesus. This has been evident in her calling to be a nurse in inner city hospitals, in the way she assisted at her husband’s medical practice, the communities she lived in, and as a homemaker.

She was born at Whitley Bay in Tyneside in 1917 but, as her son Keith explained, the family moved to Rothbury in Northumberland while she was still young because her father had to take early retirement from the ship yards due to ill health. She enjoyed the open countryside as well as taking part in sports and the Guiding movement.

During the war, after qualifying as a nurse, she transferred to the Liverpool Royal Hospital where she met Dr Bill Shuttleworth. He was born in Coventry and grew up in Wales.  “The romance soon blossomed completely contrary to hospital regulations which would not countenance such a scandal,” said Mr Shuttleworth. They were married at Rothbury in 1943 and not long after that Dr Shuttleworth joined the RAMC.

While he was away his wife moved back to Rothbury to live near her parents. On his return in 1947 he joined a medical practice at in the large mining village of Witton Park, Bishop Auckland. Mr Shuttleworth told those at the funeral:”With the establishment of the NHS in 1948 the practice grew as did the size of the twice daily surgeries. Mother helped to relieve the pressure by acting as receptionist, dispensing medicines and performing nursing tasks.”

By 1954 she also had four sons to care for but all that did not stop her having her own interests. She joined the Women’s Institute and the St John’s Ambulance as well as helping with Meals on Wheels. But her main interest was the church at which she was a Sunday school teacher and a member of the Mothers’ Union and the choir. She also occasionally played the organ.

Dr Shuttleworth’s annual two weeks leave gave them the opportunity to take caravan holidays in Scotland, Ireland and Scandinavia – and also in Walden near Leyburn. This led to their buying a house in West Burton in the 1960s and to which they retired in 1975. They joined Aysgarth church and became choir members. Mrs Shuttleworth was the choir leader for 16 years and especially encouraged the junior members. She was the church organist for a few years after Madge Blades retired.

Retirement provided them with an opportunity to expand their love of classical music by learning to play the violin and cello and they joined the Wensleydale Philarmonic Orchestra. They sang with Aysgarth Choral Society for many years and were instrumental in the formation of a local recorded music club. Her continuing love of sport led to her becoming a lady member of the Yorkshire County Cricket Club, and to buying a wide-screen plasma TV recently so she could enjoy watching cricket, tennis and snooker matches.

Mr Shuttleworth thanked all the neighbours and friends who had helped his parents in the past few years, and had supported his mother after Dr Shuttleworth died in 2009. He also thanked those who had cleared the driveway to the church on the day of the funeral.

EXCERPTS FROM THE REV SUE WHITEHOUSE’S ADDRESS ON MAY 15:  She began by reading the pilgrim journey of the Church as described in a prayer by George Appleton, one time Bishop of Jerusalem.

“For over 90 years the church’s (pilgrim) journey was also Eileen’s, and for a good part of that time within the fellowship of St Andrew’s church.

“The early Christians devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers. Eileen’s own spirituality was sustained by receiving communion and by her daily prayers and Bible reading. Gathering together for worship was important to her – she was faithful in her attendance at Sunday and weekday services. There was a steely determination about Eileen. It was because of Eileen that the midnight Christmas communion service about 12 years ago actually took place. It was a night of dreadful storms. She and Bill had had to negotiate a fallen tree on their way out of West Burton. They arrived to find no electricity at church. Eileen made her way in the pitch black to the vestry to find some candles. When I arrived from Redmire the church was in candlelight and ready for what was to be a memorable service.

“Hospitality – reflecting God’s welcome to each of us – has always been a hallmark of Christianity. Eileen and Bill’s home was a place of welcome. Meals with friends; larger gatherings to celebrate important birthdays or anniversaries; choir parties – especially enjoyed by the younger members with their good old-fashioned party games; and shared meals for Christmas and Easter. It was generous and sensitive hospitality.

“And there were the glad hearts in the early church – and I think that above all Eileen’s life showed such a gladness and gratitude to God for all his faithfulness and his gifts to her. She rejoiced in her family – Bill, their four sons, their daughters-in-law, grandchildren and great grandchildren. ”

She said that Eileen accepted the gift of life from God and lived it to the full – enjoying the opportunities presented to her and sharing with others her gifts and interests. And continued:

“When someone dies we look back over past years with mixed emotions – gratitude, grief, regret, laughter, nostalgia – thoughts too deep for words. But then (we remember) we are a pilgrim people – a pilgrim church. Eileen, in her earthly life, showed how following the good shepherd led to growth and development in her relationship with God and in her understanding of Him. Jesus’ promise is now fulfilled in her: that He came to live, to die and rise again, that we might have life and have it abundantly. As we as individuals and as His church continue on our earthly journey we pray that we may hear the Good Shepherd call us, by name, and be ready to follow him wherever he leads that we too may grow and develop as people and as His church.”

shuttleworths_diamond The memorial service  provided an opportunity to remember both Eileen and Bill Shuttleworth (Left: at their diamond wedding celebration) The following is from my report about the Shuttleworth’s  Golden wedding celebrations in September 2003:

Dr Shuttleworth told all those who attended the celebration at West Burton village hall that so much in his life, including his 25 years as a GP in Barnard Castle, would not have been possible without Eileen. Along with raising their four sons (Keith, Hugh, Philip and Paul) she had been the general practice nurse, receptionist and dispenser at that surgery. She was also the nursing officer with the local St John’s Ambulance Brigade for many years.

It was when she was working as a probationer nurse at a hospital in Liverpool that they met. Their eyes twinkled mischievously as they spoke of their clandestine romance. “The nurses weren’t supposed to fraternise with the doctors. We were very discreet but we did get teased,” she said. They spent their honeymoon in Scotland “feasting on the fat of the land” as Dr Shuttleworth recalled. “We ate grouse, venison and salmon and then had to go back to strict rationing.”

In 1945 he joined the Royal Army Medical Corp for two years seeing his wife only occasionally in her small cottage near Rothbury. “There was no electricity. There were oil lamps and an outside toilet,” she recalled. Her father sent in a snow plough to get her out during the winter of 1947, just two weeks before her second son was born. So she was very pleased when Captain Shuttleworth was demobbed.

It was in 1965 that they bought a holiday home in West Burton and began singing with Aysgarth church choir. By the time they retired and moved to West Burton they had been singing with the church choir in Witton Park for 25 years. They said their love of classical music and working together had kept them close. “It has been a very satisfying and happy marriage,” commented Mrs Shuttleworth.  Her husband added: “We just hit it off together and we helped one another. We needed each other.” Both had a deep Christian faith but in all their years of attending church services they  rarely sat together because of their choir duties. They notched up another 25 years of choir singing with Aysgarth church choir!

Eco friendly transformation

May 31, 2010 By: Pip Land Category: In Wensleydale, Story of the week No Comments →

eco-friendly, geothermal heating, low carbon footprint, Wensleydale

Eco-friendly transformation

Eco-friendly living with geothermal heating can be fun as Rosi Keatinge found when she helped to transform a small barn in Wensleydale into a dwelling with the smallest carbon footprint possible. The barn at Garriston near Leyburn with its panoramic views of Lower Wensleydale was almost derelict when she had her husband, Dr Dyno Keatinge, decided to turn it into a two-bedroom home. Above: As the barn is  now with its French doors facing south to collect heat from the sun. Below: Mary Farnell’s painting of part of the barn when it was derelict.


Before transformation!

The most eco-friendly feature about the barn conversion is the geothermal under-floor heating installed by IceEnergy of Whitney. With a considerable amount of insulation the temperature inside was 22 degrees C throughout the winter, without ever using the multi fuel stove. “This place is so warm- I cant believe it,” commented Rosi.“My late father, a civil engineer, was convinced that geothermal energy was the way forward and particularly for things as we have done at the barn, for under floor heating and hot water production. You have got to get your heat from renewable sources. We are running out of oil, gas and coal.”

Dr Keatinge is the director general of the World Vegetable Centre in Taiwan and spends a lot of his time trying to convince people throughout the world of the importance of growing their own vegetables and having a balanced diet. So Rosi had the job of searching for local products for the barn conversion when not teaching music. They have named the dwelling Rufus Barn after a golden retriever who was a much loved family pet.

She is delighted that most of the oak used for the bespoke kitchen and the roof trusses travelled only a few miles from where the tree was felled via Wensley saw mill and Calvert’s  workshop in Leyburn. To make the best use of natural light there are French windows in the kitchen, sitting room and main bedroom, and  glass has been inserted between the traditional roof trusses.

eco-friendly, geothermal heating, low carbon footprint, Wensleydale The sitting room as seen from the storage space above the second bedroom.

“The trusses are so wonderful. There is a bolt through the middle and that’s it. Then there are pegs and so every year or so you will knock the pegs in a bit more. Oh – and a few makers marks,” said Rosi.

Calvert’s craftsmen also produced the kitchen counter tops made from the fossil-filled stone from Leyburn’s Shawl Quarry. And, before Rufus Barn was let to a tenant, Rosi loved standing in the kitchen and looking across Wensleydale to Jervaulx where the stone for the floor was quarried. “It’s the same stone as was used to build Jervaulx Abbey,” she explained.

She is especially pleased with  the tiles handmade by Caroline Hudson. Rosi spotted those at an arts and crafts fair at The Station in Richmond (North Yorkshire) and has integrated them into the design of the bathroom, toilet and kitchen.

She was very careful to make sure that the bath and toilet were just right! “I sat in many baths and on many lavatories to make sure that they were comfortable,” she said with a laugh. In the end she chose an ideal standard bath at Homebase.

Some of the walls have not been plastered so that original features can be seen. These include the original outer wall now in the kitchen complete with lichens, and the clamp bricks in the sitting room. These would have been baked in small kilns in the late 19th and early 20th century and were used to make the animal stalls. “There’s a patina to those bricks which is very attractive,” she said.

They have been careful to retain the integrity of the barn and its rural charm. “It’s an amazing part of the world – we have got everything. The sunrises are beautiful and there are wonderful trees, the wild flowers are super, and there are resident hedgehogs, stoats, little voles and many birds.”    Her tenants won’t be allowed to keep cats because she is so keen to protect the small birds that flock to her garden next door to Rufus Barn. Below: Rosi just making sure that the bath still feels right!

Rosi and Dyno may consider retiring to the eco-friendly barn they have created, with its geothermal under-floor heating, and its great views across Wensleydale.

eco-friendly, geothermal heating, low carbon footprint, Wensleydale

Keywords: eco-friendly, geothermal heating, low carbon footprint, Wensleydale

National Park Debates ARC questions

January 31, 2009 By: Pip Land Category: ARC News Service, Story of the week 1 Comment →

THE Yorkshire Dales National Park must have interim policies to protect a balanced range of visitor accommodation so that it did not turn into a rich man’s playground, it was decided at the authority’s meeting on Tuesday. This was agreed after members debated the three questions presented by the Association of Rural Communities about the ban on touring caravans and tents at the Westholme site near Aysgarth.

Both the association and its president, Tom Knowles, were thanked for raising the issue. None of the members had known about the decisions made by a planning officer under delegated powers concerning Westholme until informed by Mr Knowles.

So that a situation like that at Westholme could not happen again there was unanimous agreement on Tuesday that all applications in relation to caravan and camping site should be brought to the authority’s planning committee and not dealt with under delegated powers by officers.

Parish Coun Harold Brown commented: “Burton cum Walden parish council would have objected if it had known what the outcome what have been.” County Coun John Blackie said: “It should not have to be up to a small parish council to bring to the authority a matter of such importance. We need a fail safe system. “Unknown to us a precedent had already been created behind closed doors and we don’t want to be in that position again.”

He explained that even when there wasn’t a market down turn young people had been coming on camping holidays to the National Park and it had been shown that 80 per cent of them would return later to stay in a variety of accommodation. The provision of cheap and cheerful accommodation for such people was important, therefore, for the sustainability and viability of the local economy, he added.

Peter Stockton, a senior planning officer, pointed out: “We don’t have a planning policy to protect visitor facilities and perhaps we should have. There is a fundamental issue there.” He explained, however, that it could take a few years to research market trends and prepare a new policy. The members voted unanimously for an interim policy to make sure that there was a balance of visitor accommodation in the national park.

They also followed the lead of County Coun Roger Harrison Topham that the authority, via the Association of National Park Authorities, should lobby the government to change legislation on the definition of a static caravan. One member said that the definition was so wide it would include a chalet which had had wheels painted on it. It was due to that definition that the decision to allow only static caravans at Westholme had led to the introduction of luxury five-star chalets there and the Association of Rural Communities asking what the National Park would do to stop the Yorkshire Dales becoming a rich man’s playground.

Mr Stockton said that the decision concerning Westholme had been made on the basis of there being a significant overall environmental improvement if there were no touring caravans or tents there. And the YDNPA chief executive, David Butterworth, pointed out that when there seemed to be a conflict between a National Park’s objectives to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage, and to promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of National Parks by the public, it had been accepted that the priority was conservation.

Members felt, however, that any such decisions should be made by the planning committee and not by an officer under delegated powers. One member did state, however, that touring caravans and tents could be a blight on the landscape.

After the meeting Mr Knowles said that it had not been possible to see the tents and touring caravans at the Westholme site which he had and his wife, Margaret, had run for many years. The site had, he said, provided an important facility for those taking part in Duke of Edinburgh award scheme expeditions in Wensleydale as well as for many other young campers.

The chairman of the Association of Rural Communities, Alastair Dinsdale, commented later about the unanimous vote of thanks to the association: “This is a milestone for Tom. It makes the monitoring of the YDNPA that he has done for so many years all worthwhile. He has sat through so many meetings.”

Milners and that Department Store

November 13, 2008 By: Pip Land Category: In Wensleydale, Story of the week No Comments →

David&Richard The producer of The Department Store, Richard Macer (sitting on the floor) enjoying a joke during filming with David Milner (beside him) and customers at a fashion show at Milners of Leyburn.

On Monday, November 17, at 9pm on BBC 4 there is the first chance to see Leyburn’s very own family department store on TV. The programme is also being shown on BBC 4 at 00.10am  and 3.20 am on November 18; at 10pm on November 20 and at 1.55am on November 21.


THE dynamics of a family-run shop in Leyburn have been turned into a humourous and very entertaining TV programme being shown on BBC 4 at 9pm on Monday.

There were film crews at Milners of Leyburn for six months until April this year and they caught every aspect of life there for this first programme in a series entitled The Department Store.

“I think this is one of the most entertaining films I have made partly because they were so open and honest in front of the camera,” said Richard Macer, the producer. He added:

“They are a remarkable family in many ways. I was also attracted by the family dynamic which was so interesting. And so the film is more about a family. They have all got strong personalities and a good sense of humour and we show some of the funny situations they got into.”

Central to the film is David Milner and his struggle to accept retirement and hand over to his daughter and son-in-law, Leonie and Keith Garrard. Mr Garrard believes that this makes the film one that many can relate to. He commented:

“It is difficult when you are so used to being busy and when you know that things are changing as others are coming in with different ideas. That makes the film very interesting.”

He agreed that the film was very funny because it did portray him and his wife, and David and Linda Milner as they are.

“The film crews really came to understand our characters and portrayed them very well. And we didn’t hold back.”

That period at the store was a watershed for the family. Although Mr Milner has now retired he does support Mr and Mrs Garrard. But he has time now to be more active in the community, particularly through the Rotary Club of Wensleydale and Leyburn Methodist church.


David Milner is proud of the fact that Leyburn in Wensleydale has one of those now rare British institutions – the independent family-run department store.  Five generations have now kept it going since the business was started by David’s great grandfather, Christopher.

Christopher’s father, George, settled in Wensleydale in the 1840s, where, as a master stonemason, he worked on the construction of the railway, supervising the Irish navvies and overseeing the building of the bridge and railway stations.

But Christopher, the sixth of his eight children, decided on a different trade. At 14-years-old, he was apprenticed to James Wheldon and Sons in Northallerton. During his seven years at the large mercers and drapers store he had to promise not to “commit fornication or contract matrimony” or to “haunt taverns or playhouses or absent himself from his master’s service day or night unlawfully.”

It was probably a relief to reach the grand age of 21 and go back to his parents in Bainbridge.  He started to go round all the villages with a handcart and a backpack, calling on people to show them clothing and fabrics and seeking orders.

“Manufacturing wasn’t that big in those days and so he had people who made things for him like working trousers,” explained David.

Then, 10 years later, in May 1882, Christopher settled his business in Bridge Street, Hawes, as a general drapers and milliners. He did, however, continue to visit his customers, as well as travelling regularly to Leeds or Manchester by train to buy supplies, thus setting a pattern which his descendants would follow for many years.

His sons carried on the tradition in the 20th century with Percy in charge of the Hawes shop while Cyril opened Milners stores in Leyburn, Appleby and Bentham. Harry took on the shop in Kirkby Stephen. Between them they covered the dales from Barnard Castle to Skipton and Kirkby Lonsdale.

Percy’s sons, Raymond and Carl, later joined him in Hawes, with the latter being in charge of the ironmongers. David’s father, Raymond, returned to the family business after being demobbed from the RAF after World War II.

He shared his knowledge of electrical and mechanical engineering with David. So when David left school at 16 and was offered the choice of selling ladies’ clothing alongside his father and grandfather, or working with his uncle Carl he chose the ironmongery.

In the late 1950s David went to Darlington to serve a five-year apprenticeship and then worked as a Hoover engineer. Just as he was contemplating emigrating to Canada his father offered him a partnership which he accepted.

They decided to leave Uncle Carl in charge at Hawes and bought a business which had shops in Leyburn and Middleham. The original Milners’ shop in Leyburn had closed in 1945 and that premises is now owned by the Co-op.

David learned his trade in the stores for about six months before his father introduced him to the suitcases – ten in total, each bound in leather, double-sided and very heavy as they contained clothes and household goods for all.

It was David’s job to travel around the dales with those suitcases. He chuckled at the memories of the number of times he had opened them in lonely farmsteads and had all the children peering in asking: “What’s in here Mr Milner?”  “If it was a big family sometimes the kids’ cases came out first and the parents would not bother about themselves,” he commented.

Even so he carried a wide selection of clothing for women, including corsets, and the essentials for men like corduroy trousers and working clothes.

In some villages it could take him several days to go door to door before finally returning to the shop with his order book full. He remembers: “In the sixties people didn’t go out as much as they do now so they were pleased to see you. It was a nice way to do business.

“They were all locals, mostly farmers, farmers’ wives or farm workers. Sometimes I would take sandwiches but if I was going to a particular house I knew that there would be a dinner arranged.”

When he delivered the goods a week later he would usually receive payment, unlike in earlier years when the store gave its customers six months credit.

In time the shop attracted more customers and so David packed away his suitcases for good. He did not remain in the shop for long however. Leaving his father in charge, he toured the area measuring floors and fitting carpets.

As more dales folk bought cars change was inevitable. “The locals are getting older and the young ones are moving away and they don’t deal in the same way at all. It’s a complete change from my early days,” David commented.

In the 1990s, as the only descendant of the founding member who wished to continue with the Milners’ family business and with most of the other shops closed, he chose to extend the store in Leyburn and sell that in Middleham.

David has diversified into fitting blinds and providing soft furnishings and said: “I am still offering a service – I am still going out to see customers but only on request now.”

Their wares have changed considerably since Christopher’s day. Gone are the flannels (in scarlet, white and grey), the corsets, the tweed dress material, the all-wool shirting and cloth hearth rugs.
But Milners still have a reputation for fulfilling special orders whether for men’s long johns or providing a woman in Australia with the same patterned carpet as was used on the Titanic.

David did consider selling the business a year or two ago but thankfully his daughter, Leonie, and her husband, Keith, decided to take it on. Now David can look forward to retirement in April and know that Milners is in the capable hands of the fifth generation.

It has not been easy handing over to Leonie and Keith, however, and some of that trauma has been captured by the TV crews. As Milners is small compared with the other two department stores being filmed the crews didn’t miss anything in Leyburn.

Luckily though, the problems are always resolved because, as Keith said, the family shares the same principals.  “Family values are important to Milners and we want to maintain its good reputation. We enjoy serving the community.”

Wensleydale’s Own Bird’s Nest

September 11, 2008 By: Pip Land Category: In Wensleydale, Story of the week No Comments →

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         A bird’s nest inspired Janet Rawlins  and 42 artists, a poet and a writer to create work for an exciting and probably unique exhibition entitled A Brush with the Media shown in the magnificent circular gallery at the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes in September 2008. Its uniqueness came from each artist being asked to give their own interpretation of just one subject: a bird’s nest in a besom (broom).

One artist commented: “It is phenomenal. Although there is one subject no two exhibits are the same. The interpretations are as wide and as varied as the materials used.”

(Left) Deborah Lowe’s stained glass panel behind a silhouette of Michael Kusz’s metal sculpture.

janet1It all started when some friends were cleaning out a shed at the Friend’s Meeting House in Bainbridge, Wensleydale. Angela le Grice wondered why the besom wasn’t very effective as a broom until John Warren pointed out that it had a bird’s nest attached to it.

The bird had used a short length of unravelled binder twine with a fat knot in one end to wind around the nest as a lining. Among the artists who saw it was Janet Rawlins. She did a chalk drawing of the nest, a fabric collage and a woollen hooky rug. She then had the idea that as she had a number of artist friends in the area working in different media it would be interesting to challenge them to freely interpret the same subject. While she went on to create a collage from shredded Sunday supplements the circle of artists expanded well beyond Wensleydale.

Janet Rawlins with the bird’s nest in a besom.

The exhibition was an imaginative and fascinating mix of photographs, etchings, collages, paintings, handmade jewellery, engraved glass, ceramics and textiles, plus Michael Kusz’s fun metal sculpture made from welded recycled copper, barbed wire and other recycled materials. He commented: “This is such an enjoyable exhibition and the atmosphere is great.”

Richard Crookes created a magnificent banner of the theme of the exhibition: “To make out of the ordinary something out of the ordinary.”  Janet heard this during a television lecture by Sir Patrick Nuttgens about 30 years ago and thought it was a good thing to aim for.

Those taking part in the exhibition were: Emma Amsden (photography), Whitfield Benson (photograph), Derek Bowskill (writing), Judith Bromley (painting), Piers Browne (etching), Brenda Cheese (mixed media), Carolyn Corfield (sculpture), Hester Cox (printmaking), Richard Crookes (calligraphy), Laurence Cutting (collage), Caroline Dunn (textile), Lee Fitton (felting), Andrea Fothergill (textil), Ian Fothergill (mixed media), Andrew Hague (ceramics), Joan Harrison (drawing), Jan Hicks (textile), Winifred Hodge (mixed media), Mike Hoyle (photograph), Roy Hubbard (mixed media), Angela Keeble (painting), Terry Kirkbride (watercolour), Michael Kusz (metalwork), Linda Lee Loudon (poem), Anthea Linacre (patchwork), Deborah Lowe (stained glass), Glenys Marriott (photography), Moira Metcalfe (silk painting), Stephen Morgan (wood turning), Sarah Nichols (sculpture), Shirley Nichols (sculpture), Tony Parker (painting), David Pointon (glass engraving), Janet Rawlins (collage), Heather Ritchie (rugging), Helen Roddie (print making), Peter Sarginson (watercolour), Carol Tyler (mixed media), Sarah van Niekerk (engraving), Roma Vincent (jewellery), John Warren (painting), Brian Waters (gouache), Margot Waters (textile) and Kitty Weedon (embroidery).


glass5As David Pointon and another contributor, Heather Ritchie, are very much involved in helping the blind in the Gambia, Janet has decided to give her hooky rug/ wall hanging Nest in Besom to support Heather’s Rug-Aid fund.

(Left) David Pointon’s Nestling.




See Friends of Govi (of which David is a trustee) and Heather’s Rug-Aid. Also see Memories of War Time China.

nest 3

Janet’s Nest in Besom

(photograph by Whitfield Benson).



Judith Bromley studying Andrew Hague’s ceramic Cheeky Chicks

(a limited hatching of eight)


There is a besom making demonstration at the exhibition from 10am to 4pm on Saturday, September 20.

And children’s workshops from 10am to noon on September 13th and 27th.

All are free.

All the other photographs are by Pip Land

Memories of War Time China

August 08, 2008 By: Pip Land Category: In Wensleydale, Story of the week 1 Comment →


A FEATURE I wrote for the ‘Darlington and Stockton Times’ in June led to two people reminiscing about the life of Darlington born Doug Hardy who died in China in June 1942. After reading the feature Wendy Acres of Darlington contacted me because she so wanted to meet someone who had known Mr Hardy who was, she explained, her first cousin once removed.

(Above) Wendy Acres with Peter Leyland

“There are very few of my family left now and I was very small when Doug left England,” she said. So she was delighted to have an opportunity to visit Peter Leyland at his home in Bainbridge in Wensleydale.

Mr Leyland and Mr Hardy became friends at the Quaker College at Ackworth, shared a berth on the voyage to India and to Burma, and worked together with the Friends’ Ambulance Unit (FAU) in China.

She was also very pleased that Mr Leyland said he would ask if the certificate Mr Hardy had been awarded could be deposited later in the archives of the Society of Friends (Quakers). (above: Ms Acres and Mr Leyland with the certificate)

Mr Leyland said that the Executive Yuan of the Chinese Republic during the war had only issued the illuminated certificates to the two members of the FAU who had died while serving there. Both John Briggs from Horsforth near Leeds and Mr Hardy died from typhus.DHardyS2

Mr Hardy had joined the FAU because he was a conscientious objector like the rest of his family. He and his parents had attended a Methodist church in Darlington. (right) Doug Hardy

During her visit on Monday afternoon Ms Acres showed Mr Leyland photographs of Mr Hardy and the letters which had been sent by a doctor and a nurse who had nursed him at the mission hospital until his death. The nurse had written that even when very distressed “his manner was always just beautiful”.

“I’ve enjoyed reminiscing this afternoon even if about a sad time. I was very cut up when Doug died,” said Mr Leyland.


I have been working with Mr Leyland, who is known to many by his given name of John, on an oral history record of his interesting life. From that I produced the feature that caught Ms Acres attention. Here it is:



THE earthquake in China has brought back memories for Peter Leyland of Bainbridge in Wensleydale of transporting medical aid to Sichuan Province during the Second World War.


(Right) Peter and Janet Leyland studying his China diary and photographs.

One month remains particularly unforgettable and that was June 1942. First he lost a very close friend and then he heard that his father, John, had died. As he was a volunteer with the Friends Ambulance Unit in China, and the Japanese had cut off the road link to Burma, there was no way he could get to his father’s funeral in Bainbridge. (See In Remembrance)

Peter was articled as an accountant in London when the Second World War broke out. He served with the FAU  in London during the Blitz and then joined the “China Convoy” as it became known. After lessons in Chinese, mechanics and first aid he and about 40 others headed for Burma late in 1941. Ten months later, on  June 10, when in West China, he wrote in his diary that the unit was at its lowest ebb in morale – and that was before he heard of the death of his friend, Douglas Hardy. Doug, from Darlington, had attended the Society of Friends school at Ackworth with Peter.

They had shared a cabin in the City of Baroda when it sailed from Glasgow in September 1941 during the height of the U-boat war in the Atlantic. During the journey they had gone sight seeing together in South Africa and India and in China had met each other regularly.

On Saturday,  June 13 ,1942 he wrote: “Doug died on Thursday. It seems he developed typhus and with the dysentery just hadn’t the resistance. Poor Doug – I suppose he is the last of us I should have wished to go, having known him since school and being such great friends during our time together in this convoy. He has been buried at Anshun. I am gathering Doug’s things together.” For the China Convoy this was the second death from typhus for John Briggs had died on June 9. John was from Horsforth near Leeds and his parents built almshouses there in his memory.

While Peter was mainly confined to an office as the unit’s accountant John and Doug were convoy drivers and mechanics. Doug and Peter had been at sea between Calcutta and Rangoon when news of the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbour broke. Most of the coolies left Rangoon after the Japanese bombed the city and Peter and other FAU team members themselves loaded valuable hospital equipment straight from the docks onto their trucks ready for the drive over the Burma Road to China. Some of the FAU team were almost trapped in Rangoon when the Japanese invaded but managed to get out with their valuable lorries and cargoes. (Photo: A convoy on its way to Kunming.)

ChinaConvoyPeter helped with the drive north to Lashio and on into China. On January 2, 1942, the scenery was so awe inspiring that he almost forgot it was his 22nd birthday. The day before they had driven up Maymyo Hill, a rise of 3,000 feet in six miles in a series of 22 hairpin bends.

(Right) A convoy in China

He wrote in his diary: “Rather like a long stretch of Kidstones Pass, Wharfedale side, at the top. The view from the top across the plain with the Irrawaddy meandering in the distance was striking.” (The Kidstones Pass is in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.)

The following day they headed towards the Goktech Gorge. “We came over a hill and saw this steep narrow gorge down below , with mist hanging in its depths.  In the distance we could see the railway viaduct, which crosses 1,000 ft above the river. We drove down into the gorge, having to reverse on some of the bends in order to get round them.  My hand brake behaved very badly.  Crossing the bridge at the bottom we climbed very steeply by means of another series of hairpins.  This time I had to reverse on just one, but having to back towards the edge is not  pleasant.  I believe that some chaps had to reverse on three or four of these bends.” He said later “That was the first time I experienced hairpin bends on mountainous roads. The Salween gorge was even more awesome!”


It was not long before the Burma Road was closed by the Japanese and the FAU made its headquarters near Kunming in China. There was a desperate shortage of petrol and so most of their lorries were converted to run on charcoal. Doug had been one of the pioneers of using such adapted lorries.

(Left) Checking a charcoal burner on a truck.

Peter explained:“Our job was mainly to transport these medical supplies with our charcoal burners throughout west China to the various hospitals. The Government of China was established in Chongqing and we were transporting these medical supplies brought in over the Hump throughout this west China region mainly Yunnan, Guizhou and farther north Sichuan.  Chongqing was in the middle of Sichuan on the Yangtze.” The Hump was the name given to the air supply route over the Himalayas from India to Kunming over the Himalayas.

As an accountant his main problem was the level of inflation which was often at 20 per cent per month. Foreign currency for the China Convoy was sent to the British Embassy in Chungking and was only converted into Chinese dollars as and when needed. When drawing Chinese dollars from the bank Peter had to take a rucksack because he received the money  in huge wads of notes. “We when we paid wages to our Chinese staff they would immediately rush round to the market. They converted it as soon as they could into goods, rice and food – it was really quite extraordinary,” he said.

In November 1945 as he came to the end of his time with the FAU he was asked to travel home via North America to talk to some of the donors about inflation accounting. But then he got a telegram informing him that his only brother, Derrik, had died.

He headed home to support his mother but was held up in India for three months waiting for a berth on a ship. Within days of his reaching Bainbridge she introduced him to her fiancé, Anthony Pim, who was a master at Bootham School in York where Derrik had also been teaching. So he went back to London to complete his accountancy training. He went on to become the finance director  of the Scott Bader Commonwealth.

InChina1bIt wasn’t until 1992 that he and a fellow China Convoy man, Theo Willis, who grew up in Carperby in Wensleydale, went back to China with their wives. The tourist group they were with was taken to see the house in Chongqing where Chou En-lai, had lived during the war. Chou En-lai was later the Chinese premier. “When inside Theo looked to the right and said – ‘that’s where Duncan Wood and I sat with Mao Tse-tung and Chou En-lai who had organised a meeting to thank the FAU for the help we had given by getting medical supplies to them in Yenan. All of our group was quite overcome with surprise at this – a bit of living history and several afterwards said it was the best bit of their whole trip.”