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Brigitte’s Charity Calendar

February 08, 2017 By: Pip Land Category: In Wensleydale, Story of the week, Wensleydale People No Comments →



No one was more surprised than Brigitte Duquesnoy of Hawes when her charity calendar raised £450 to be shared between the Great North Air Ambulance and Breast Cancer Research.

When Brigitte and I set out for Kirkby Stephen in July last year neither of us knew what to expect when we reached the Picture House Portraits studio.

‘I wanted some photographs for my family. It’s my grandmothers 85th birthday at Christmas and she loves having photos of her grandkids and great grandkids,’ she said later. ‘I have never found myself photogenic and I thought a professional photographer would see me in a different light.’

Brigitte and I have been friends since she came to me as an au pair over 20 years ago. The first thing she said to me and my young son, Eddie, was: ‘I don’t like children, I can’t cook and I can’t drive!’

Not the best start, but we all became good friends very quickly and the arrangement worked very well. She returned to Belgium about a year later and then decided she preferred Wensleydale so she came back as our lodger, learnt to drive and found work locally. She joined the Wensleydale Creamery 18 years ago, met Kevin Fothergill, and so moved to Hawes.

I was looking forward to the lovely drive to the studio in Kirkby Stephen but both of us were nervous. Brigitte had seen the studio after an appointment at a holistic centre there.

She told me: ‘I went to the bakery to buy some cakes and I noticed its Art Deco shop front. I really like retro and vintage. Instead of doing something modern I wanted something quirky, something different.

‘I asked you to come with me to help choose costumes. I’ve never been into dresses before. It was quite daunting. At my age (she was then 44) I never expected to do such things. I hate posing.’

She found it even more daunting when she found that the studio was holding an open day and she would have an audience. But that audience included two experienced models, Kerry Delia and Emma Higginson,  and one of them set to work on transforming Brigitte into a quite stunning 1920s lady. Getting her to relax in front of the camera took a bit longer.

It was fascinating to watch the transformation thanks to the encouragement of the photographer, Andrew Fowler, and the two models. The studio had an array of costumes and Brigitte moved on from the 1920s through to the 1950s.

‘When I saw the results it was such a morale booster. It was quite an eye-opener. It brought me a lot of confidence. I would advise it for anybody because he did a very good job,’ she said.

She was so encouraged that she decided to enter a competition for a free photo shoot with Andrew and, to her amazement, was the winner.This time Kevin accompanied her for what became a truly memorable occasion which provided most of the photos for her charity calendar.

‘The photographs were just for fun – for family and friends,’ she said. But then she discussed with Kevin the possibility of creating a charity calendar.

For many years she has been involved with fundraising for charities: helping with the garden parties organised by Pauline and Bill Hasted of Mallerstang to raise money for the Great North Air Ambulance; and then baking cakes for events at the Creamery during the annual Breast Cancer Awareness month. (She is now an excellent cook.)

So they contacted Simon Iveson of Pennine Print. ‘Without Simon we would not have been able to raise as much – he charged us as little as possible,’ she commented.

Andrew designed the A5 size calendar free of charge and all the profits have gone to the charities.

Once they had a preview copy pre-orders were taken by Carol Waggett at the Creamery so that there would be no surplus stock. By Christmas they had 86 orders, and afterwards the number went up to 102.

‘I never thought I would get 100 but it’s quite funny to see me in that kind of attire. That’s probably why people have bought it – it was funny and it was like something nobody expected me to do.’

She took a set of photos to her family in Belgium at Christmas and even her grandmother liked the calendar. ‘She was delighted. She could not believe that I dared to do such things because she knew I never liked my photo taken.

‘I never thought we would raise as much. I want to thank everyone who supported us,’ Brigitte said.

Now people are asking if she will make another calendar for next year. She is not sure that even for charity she will be brave enough to do it again.

A&E services in the Upper Dales – Hawes meeting

August 02, 2016 By: Pip Land Category: ARC News Service, In Wensleydale, Story of the week No Comments →

It is not much use having excellent specialist consultants available at a hospital if patients die before they get there, or a woman has to endure a complicated birth in the back of an ambulance.

This message was repeated again and again at the meeting at The Fountain Hotel in Hawes on Monday evening (August 1) at which Edmund  Lovell  outlined the objectives of the Better Health Programme envisaged by the NHS in Darlington, County Durham and Tees.  Mr Lovell is the associate director of marketing and communications at County Durham and Darlington NHS Trust.

He emphasised that they had not yet reached the consultation stage but did want feedback on the various issues raised by doctors working in the hospitals in that region.  These issues, he said, included the provision of high quality 24/7 services at a time when fewer junior doctors and consultants were available and the financial restraints within the NHS.

There had also been a considerable move towards specialisation in the past few years and consultants wanted assurance that there would be sufficient work for them to maintain their specialist skills, he said.

To meet national guidelines by having consultants available 24/7 the Trust had already been centralising some specialisations. An example of this is that most heart, stroke and trauma patients with life-threatening symptoms are now taken to the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.

He accepted that this caused problems for those who lived furthest away from Middlesbrough. Local residents reported that in Wensleydale this had led to long waits for ambulances to arrive.

There was considerable concern about the possibility of losing not just the 24/7 A&E unit at Darlington Memorial Hospital but also the consultant-led maternity and paediatric services there. Residents in North Yorkshire had been assured that those services would be available following the downgrading of facilities at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton.

One woman told Mr Lovell: “You don’t know what it feels like to be in labour in an ambulance.”  She added that in some parts of the Dales there was no mobile signal so it was quite possible that an ambulance crew would not be able to contact anyone who could advise them if there were complications.

There was also concern that the JCUH was already under pressure with ambulances having to wait in queues until patients were admitted into the hospital. This increased the time that the ambulances were unavailable.

It was reported that in Wensleydale this had led to patients waiting between 20 to 40 minutes for an ambulance. In one case there was a 90 minute wait during which the patient died.

“This is why the air ambulance is so important,” said Gill Collinson, the chief nurse with the Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (HRWCCG).   She told the meeting that the two new air ambulances would be able to fly at night.

“And that’s why landing lights are needed at the James Cook hospital,” said Burton-cum-Walden parish councillor Jane Ritchie, who is a member of the HRWCCG.

Both Ms Collinson and Mr Lovell said that one of the solutions to the problem of overcrowding at the JCUH was to move planned treatments such as hip and knee surgery to non-A&E hospitals. This would also ensure that such operations were not postponed due to emergency patients requiring surgery.

Friarage Hospital

Ms Collinson discussed some issues in more depth with those of us at her table. She explained that the HRWCCG had initially declined being involved in the discussions about the Better Health Programme because it had just completed a lengthy consultation concerning services at the Friarage Hospital. At that time the HRWCCG was assured that the consultant-led maternity and paediatric  services at the DMH would continue.

“If there were now proposals about any changes to the midwifery [and paediatric] services at Darlington we would object,” she said.

“We are trying to bring things back to the Friarage,” she added. Thoracic surgery was now being carried out there, more outpatients were being seen, and more cancer patients were receiving chemotherapy.  She said there were experienced physicians at the Friarage who were taking care of patients very well and enabling them to return home quickly. (This is  one of the key objectives of the Better Health Programme.)

Local residents emphasised that there was still a problem with ambulance transport even to the  Urgent Care Centre (for non-life threatening emergencies) at the Friarage. “We need more ambulances,” said Miss Ritchie.

Everyone agreed with Ms Collinson when she stated that one of the key issues was equity of access no matter how deeply rural a community might be.

Footnote: Mr Lovell said 700 clinical care standards had been collated for the Better Health Programme by doctors in Darlington, County Durham and Tees in accordance with national guidelines.   It is interesting to note that not one of those mentions equity of access.

The first two are:

A trained and experienced doctor (ST4 and above or doctor of equivalent competencies) in emergency medicine to be present in the emergency department 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

A consultant in emergency medicine to be scheduled to deliver clinical care in the emergency department for a minimum of 16 hours a day (matched to peak activity), seven days a week. Outside of these 16 hours, a consultant will be on-call and available to attend the hospital for the purposes of senior clinical decision making and patient safety within 30 minutes.

For  more information see A&E services in the Upper Dales – a danger alert

A&E Services in the Upper Dales – a danger alert

July 29, 2016 By: Pip Land Category: ARC News Service, Story of the week No Comments →

North  Yorkshire County Councillor John Blackie has issued a health warning for the Upper Dales as he believes there is a serious threat to the emergency services at the Darlington Memorial Hospital (DMH) due to a consultation being carried out by the NHS in Darlington, Durham and Tees entitled “Better Health Programme”. The loss of 24/7 full scale A&E services at the DMH, including the consultant-led maternity, paediatrics and children’s services there, could mean that people living in Hawes would have a 60 mile journey for emergency care.  Cllr Blackie has provided the following information:


Where will the nearest hospital to Hawes be for emergency care if the DMH loses these Emergency Services ?

To be decided but most likely at the James Cook University Hospital (JCUH) or University Hospital of North Durham (UHND), both 60 – yes SIXTY – miles away from Hawes.

Weren’t we promised by the local NHS when 24/7 Consultant-led maternity / paediatric services were closed at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton that  they would be available at the DMH, no further than the Friarage from Hawes ?


So this was a hollow promise, wasn’t it ?

Please make your own mind up. I know what I think.

Doesn’t the Friarage have a 24 / 7 A&E service ?

Yes but in name only as it has been run down by the local NHS to what is called an Urgent Care Centre. Emergency ambulances from the Upper Dales head for the DMH, bypassing the Friarage, and the local NHS has publically stated that children under the age of 16 will not be seen at the Friarage but sent to the DMH (!) or the James Cook UH.

So isn’t it important that the DMH retains its A&E service, it is a very long way to the JCUH or Durham if you have had an accident, an emergency healthcare event, or one of your young children are very unwell, or your partner, daughter or grand daughter are having complications giving birth?

Yes, retaining these emergency services at the DMH is hugely important to us here in the Upper Dales.

The JCUH, an excellent hospital for complex healthcare treatments, is now at full stretch for A&E and maternity. If the DMH and the North Tees Hospital lose their emergency services, won’t it become overwhelmed by the demand ?

Yes, this has already happened when mothers-to-be booked at the JCUH were sent to the Friarage.

We would all lose out then, and there could be very long queues at the JCUH formed by those existing patients needing emergency care services and the new patients diverted by the closures ?


And this is what they call the Better Health Programme, are they joking ?

Yes this is what the local NHS tell us it is all about. And No, they are not joking.

When did all this start ?

In January 2016 but we in North Yorkshire are only just being consulted now, and only after I prompted the County Council to demand a seat on the Joint Scrutiny Committee of 5 local Councils challenging the Better Health Programme, given that we in the Upper Dales rely on the DMH for these services to save our lives, or the lives of our loved ones.

What can we do about it ?

Spare two hours of your time to attend a Better Health Programme consultation at The Fountain Hotel, on Monday August 1st between 6.00 pm and 8.00 pm. There is no need to book a place – please just turn up on the night. And let the BHP promoters know what you think of their proposals.

This news is so bad I simply do not believe it.


  • Balancing clinical standards, better outcomes and workforce requirements means emergency care for adults and children should be provided from fewer sites.
  • James Cook University Hospital to remain the designated major trauma centre for Darlington, Durham and Tees.
  • Key clinical services provided alongside ach other to provide comprehensive emergency services for adults and children.
  • Consultant-led maternity based in the emergency hospitals, to manage high risk deliveries. Midwife-led care for low risk deliveries provided at other hospitals.


  • Status quo – James Cook UH as major trauma and heart attack centre and three other specialist emergency hospitals: Darlington Memorial, North Tees (Stockton), and University Hospital of North Durham (UHND)
  • James Cook UH and two out of Darlington Memorial, North Tees and UHND
  • James Cook UH and one of Darlington Memorial, North Tees and UHND as emergency hospitals.
  • Bishop Auckland and Hartlepool and one other hospital out of Darlington Memorial, North Tees and UHDN as planned care centres. The additional planned care centre would be at a local hospital with an integrated urgent care service.


The Better Health programme (BHP) started in January 2016 and there have already been two sets of consultation meetings but North Yorkshire was not included in the venues where these were staged.

I was very concerned to read for the first time in May about the BHP, and that the threats to the DMH had not reached the MP for Darlington. Dr Mike Brooks from the top-rated Reeth GP Surgery attending a meeting I was chairing at this time, and he also had not heard of the BHP.

I asked a Question at the May meeting of North Yorkshire County Council (see below), and demanded we at the County Council were given a seat alongside the five other local authorities already appointed to scrutinise the proposals for change. This demand was taken on board, and there are three County Councillors now on this Scrutiny Committee, including myself representing all those in Richmondshire District who use the DMH or the JCUH. County Councillors representing communities using the DMH and the JCUH strongly support retaining the Emergency services at the DMH, as does unanimously all Councillors at Richmondshire District Council.

Now that we in North Yorkshire have forced ourselves onto the scene – rightly so given that all of Richmondshire and most of North Hambleton rely on the Emergency Services under threat at the DMH, and are frequent users of them all, and we are all along especially with communities in the Whitby area already making very extensive use of these Emergency Services at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, where they are under pressure now and might be overwhelmed in the event of the proposals for closures at the other hospitals mentioned in the BHP presentation being implemented – suddenly we are being given our first consultation meetings, here on Monday August 1st at The Fountain Hotel in Hawes (6.00 pm – 8.00 pm) and at the same times at the Catterick Leisure Centre on Wednesday August 3rd.

Unbelievably the Chief Officer and Senior Management at Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group, representing 21 local GP Practices and part of the local NHS, chose not to take a full part in the NHS Officers / Medical Practitioners group on the BHP because it had just completed the review of 24/7 consultant-led maternity and children’s services at the Friarage, and did not think it was necessary to take part in this new review. This decision is highly questionable as the Friarage review removed the very services at the hospital which are now under threat at the DMH, on the grounds they were available at the DMH !

My contact details are shown below if you wish to get in contact with me. The Joint Scrutiny Committee is meeting every two weeks and please be assured it is now hearing loud and clear the voice and concerns of all of us living here in the Upper Dales. Please help me to ensure these essential Emergency services remain available at the Darlington Memorial Hospital by attending the meeting on Monday August 1st between 6.00 pm – 8.00 pm at The Fountain Hotel in Hawes. You do not need to book – just please turn up and let the BHP know what you think of their “Current thinking” and “Possible solutions”.

Question to Cllr Carl Les, leader of North Yorkshire County Council, on May 18:

“The review of Critical Care services, including Accident & Emergency and Consultant-led maternity and paediatrics services at the Darlington Memorial Hospital (DMH) is causing great concern in the Upper Dales.  If these services were cut then communities I represent could be 60 miles or more away from potentially life-saving healthcare provision or a complex birth of a baby.  Some of these services were removed from The Friarage Hospital on the assurance they would be available at the DMH, this despite the deep concerns of 4,000 local residents who marched from County Hall 4 years ago in May in an well-conducted but eventually unsuccessful campaign, fully supported by NYCC, to try to save them.

“Consultation with the public on the review by the NHS has been a low-key back-door affair with none of the events being properly advertised.  I note the Scrutiny of Health Committee is monitoring the situation closely but I do not believe that is a sufficiently robust response to the serious threats posed to both residents of Richmondshire and Hambleton who are increasingly extensive healthcare customers and in-patients at the DMH.

“I (Cllr Blackie) ask for the Leader’s assurance that there will be engagement by him and his Executive at a higher political level, including with leading members of Darlington Borough Council,  who are alarmed at the potential for the dismantling of immediate, urgent & unplanned healthcare services at the DMH their communities depend upon as much as we do here in N. Yorkshire”.

Contacting Cllr Blackie:

email: cllr.john.blackie@northyorks.gov.uk

Telephone: 01969 667 123

mobile: 0796 758 9096

Dales Countryside Museum – January 8, 2015

January 10, 2016 By: Pip Land Category: FDCM Volunteers, Story of the week No Comments →


The collections at the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes are like a treasure trove and you hardly know where to start.

Liz Kirby is helping with redesigning the display of toys which is in one of the rail carriages beside the museum and the trail started at Janet Thomson’s desk. Above from left: Liz Kirby, Debbie Allen and Janet Thomson studying a list of toys. For more photos, including of some of the toys, click on the photo. 

Museum officer, Debbie Allen,  explained: “Janet is our most loyal volunteer.” For Janet has been working on the accessions database since 2008. Prior to that she and several other Friends of the Museum helped to label exhibits.

When an object arrives at the museum it is entered onto an Entry Form and given a group number before being assessed for the relevance to the collection. Fiona Rosher, the museum manager, explained that if  an object is to be “acquired” it is passed to Janet to be placed on the database and is allocated a unique number.

The museum uses the MODES database system and since 2008 Janet has been adding information into the “free text” box  on each record to give a fuller description of each individual object.

Janet said: “At the moment there are 7,339 objects in the database and I started from number one – going back and upgrading the descriptions.  I started just working on the computer but then found I had to go and handle the objects. It slowed things down.

“I was joined by Margaret Hartley. Originally we were coming once a month but we found we weren’t making enough progress so we came every Friday – and had lots of fun doing it together.” Since 2011, however, Margaret hasn’t been well enough to help and so Janet has plodded on alone.

She’s no nearer reaching the end because more boxes of objects have arrived, including from the now-closed mining museum at Earby.

Janet has that researcher’s love for having direct contact with the past. She pointed to a bookcase of old books and commented: “I thought they were much more accessible on a shelf than in a box. Some of them were school prizes and that is written inside. So there is a history of a person in a collection of books which have been donated. You wouldn’t know that unless you look at the books.

“I particularly like going through all the old photographs from a hundred years ago or even 50 years ago. There’s a collection of photographs from Leyburn that somebody  had collected from the 1950s. It was quite good fun going to look at the places now so I could say what the shops had become.”

The job of scanning all the photographs has been taken on by Marcia Howard. She told me: “I’m scanning the entire collection of archives photographs. I’m currently up to T so I’m doing Transport at the moment. That covers the Settle Carlisle railway and Wensleydale railway stations. The ultimate aim is that the photographs will all be available on line eventually. And there’s an awful lot of them.

“I’ve lived up here for about 16 years and I’ve been coming up for 40 because we used to have a holiday home in Hawes – and I’m learning so much more about the Dales and the people in it. Some of the tales written on the back of these photographs are wonderful. So I’ve often got a smile on my face. It sounds like a tedious job but it’s so fascinating that it’s not tedious at all.”

Soon she and Janet were sharing with me some of those great stories as they showed me the photographs. Yet more ideas for Now Then – the annual magazine of the Friends of the Dales Countryside Museum of which I am now the editor.

And just like Liz I will turn to Janet and that database for help in finding interesting objects in the museum. Janet had already prepared a list of toys for Liz that morning, and soon they were in search one particular box. Opening it up they found a traditional Yorkshire Knurr and Spell game on an old, well worn piece of wood. Janet explained that men would often play this game as they walked across the Yorkshire Moors.

L:iz had selected that box because she thought the Victorian brass tea set would be interesting but soon she was much more fascinated by the homemade toys and the Knockemdown set of  ninepins skittles made by the Disabled Ex-Service Men’s Industries after the First World War.

The skittles had obviously been the centre of a lot of fun in some Dales’ household – unlike Mr Turnip, “the children’s favourite television puppet” who was still in pristine condition. Mr Turnip became a celebrity in the 1950s after being created by Joy Laurey for a BBC television magazine show called “Whirligig”.

Among the home-made objects was a skipping rope made from old wooden spools and string, and a miniature chair created from wooden clothes pegs. There were also some board games including a well-worn Snakes and Ladders morality game.

This game originated in ancient India to teach children the effects of good deeds as opposed to bad ones. It became a favourite among the Victorians as Snakes and Ladders with its encouragement to do good to others and the dire penalties for participating in gambling (ruin), stealing (prison), laziness (poverty) and bad temper (murder). One of the longest snakes begins with Pride and ends with a Fall.

Once she had made her selection Liz then had to consider the design of the new exhibit. Stuart Armstrong,  a regular volunteer at the museum, was there in the afternoon to put in more shelves.  So when the museum re-opens in February there will no longer be a “Le Mans” line up of small bikes and trikes as Janet has described the old exhibit.

There will be more bikes at the museum by March – but they will be very modern ones. For Mike Appleby and Helen Pollard are moving their Stage 1 Cycles and Cafe business  (Firebox Cafe) from Askrigg to the museum. Nick is busy this month fitting out the rooms at the western end of the museum.


Mission to save rural communities

September 26, 2014 By: Pip Land Category: ARC News Service, Story of the week No Comments →

This month N Yorks County and Richmondshire District councillor John Blackie launched a year long mission aimed at preventing the drain of young people and young families from the rural and deeply rural communities of Richmondshire including the Yorkshire Dales. (The press release issued Richmondshire District Council  is at the end of this post.) He then asked the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) to take part in this important mission. At the Full Authority meeting of the YDNPA on September 23 the Association of Rural Communities made the following statement to which the chairman of the Authority, Peter Charlesworth, made a response. See also YDNPA Full Authority meeting September 2014.

Statement by the Association of Rural Communities:

The Association of Rural Communities supports the mission launched by Cllr John Blackie to prevent the drain of young people and young families from deeply rural areas like the Yorkshire Dales National Park. This Association has, since its inception, stood for the need to protect and encourage the viability of local communities in the Dales.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority does have a duty of care to this beautiful landscape – but it can’t do that on its own. The majority of the work of maintaining this landscape is carried out by farmers and landowners, and the communities to which they belong. This means the Authority also has a duty of care to those who live and work in the Yorkshire Dales.

But many communities are becoming unviable as their lifeblood – young people and young families – are leaving. So the Authority needs to consider whether its planning system is undermining those communities.

The Authority boasts that over 90 per cent of planning applications are approved. This, however, does not take into account the number of applications which are withdrawn or the factors which stop local families applying to convert barns either into homes or for commercial use.This year a farming family in Litton has had to pay over £10,000 in various fees to obtain permission to convert a barn against officer recommendation. And they are not the only ones who have had to pay so much to fight the system.

Farmers and landowners are very aware of the high cost of working in the National Park. Those stories are shared at auction marts and create bad will and a desire to avoid the planning system. That in turn undermines small dales’ communities.

Often there is the impression that the planning system favours the rich over the poor, the wealthy incomer over those on lower incomes whose families have lived in the dales for generations.

It doesn’t help when the draft local plan looks as if it favours “glamping” and chalets cum luxury lodges over traditional camping and touring caravans. But the latter bring in far more income to local shops and businesses than from those rich enough to rent more luxurious holiday accommodation. Just look at the negative impact upon local businesses in Kettlewell when a camp site closed last year.

We were encouraged that those at the last planning committee meeting set good precedents for encouraging young families to return to the Dales and in supporting business sites like The Courtyard near Settle in their need for sufficient and good signage so as to remain viable. We hope those examples will set the pattern for the future.


Peter Charlesworth’s response:

“I really do hope that the Association of Rural Communities do not take a negative view of the work of the Authority because, if I may say so, I think there is so much more that unites us than divides us.”

He said he might not agree on the analysis of the points raised and that the problems facing rural areas had been much the same since the industrial revolution. Other national parks were facing similar problems with depopulation and he added: “Our communities here are facing very serious challenges”

“Indeed all these challenges were recognised explicitly by this authority and our partners who cooperated in making the National Park Management Plan and we set, I believe, meaningful objectives in the management plan to try and tackle them. Several of these objectives will tackled through our policies in the new Local Plan which is being consulted upon as we speak.

“I think there is also an opportunity during discussions on several papers we are discussing this afternoon to look at what practical measures we can take that can improve the situation. And that is the key for me and my final response to (this) statement. That we are genuinely trying to find practical actions rather than simply saying ‘well there’s a problem – something needs to be done about it.

“I hope as (ARC) does that we can rise to that challenge and I hope that we can work together with all parties including the Association of Rural Communities in … genuine co-operation and goodwill to try and face up to the problems which (ARC) has outlined.”

Young families becoming an endangered species –  press release issued by Richmondshire District Council.

Councillors at Richmondshire District Council have endorsed a year long mission launched by its Leader, Cllr John Blackie, to prevent the drain of young people and young families from the rural and deeply rural communities in the District.

A debate at its Corporate Board discussed concerns over the lack of affordable housing, the poor quality of employment and business opportunities, little or no access to essential services, spasmodic public transport, NHS services such as GP Surgeries and local maternity services being lost, that are evident in rural communities, and concluded the threat of these communities collapsing in on themselves was all too real unless more can be done to retain their young people and young families.

It was agreed that the problem cannot be solved simply by the Council acting on its own, as it needs a co-ordinated approach working with all those key players involved in community development with everyone acting within its own remit to make improvements, however small, to brighten the outlook for the future.

The Council has agreed to take a lead by being very active in lobbying regional and national organisations to raise awareness of the acute plight of rural communities. This will also include hosting a Conference on the issues later in the year. In the meantime it is preparing a series of detailed papers on the key concerns to explore what the Council can do, acting in partnership with others as appropriate, to help address the problems.

Cllr John Blackie said “16 years ago two local primary schools in the Upper Dales had 117 children on their combined school rolls. In September there will be just 67 pupils because local young families, faced with insurmountable difficulties to overcome, have voted with their feet and moved away. Children gracing the corridors and classrooms of our small rural schools are the lifeline to a vibrant, sustainable long term future for their local communities, and without them we are but a generation or two away from witnessing their complete collapse”

He added “Storm clouds are now directly overhead and unless we act quickly now and act together in doing so young people and young families will sadly become an endangered species in our rural areas. Doing nothing and hoping things might improve soon is simply not an option. They will not.”

Public access defibrillators in mid Wensleydale

September 15, 2014 By: Pip Land Category: In Wensleydale, Story of the week 2 Comments →


Thornton Rust institute now proudly displays a public access defibrillator (PAD) box on the front of the building. And on Saturday, September 13, many residents attended the coffee morning in the institute to learn more about the defibrillator (defib) and how and when it could be accessed.

Left: Ian White (right) and Dave Jones beside the PAD box outside Thornton Rust institute.

Dave Jones, the community defibrillator officer for West Yorkshire, explained that the box containing the defib could be opened by obtaining the code for the keypad from the Yorkshire Ambulance Service. So, in an emergency, the first step was to ring 999 and the ambulance call handler will ask a series of questions to ascertain what was required.

It is vitally important to give the ambulance service an address to which to send a fast response car, an ambulance and (if one was available) a community first responder. As a first responder I’ve often been very grateful that a Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS) fast response car has arrived soon after I have reached someone suffering from chest pains.

Once the call handler knows where the patient is they will want to know how many people are available to help. Dave emphasised that it is important that one person stays with the patient and the call handler will give advice about how to administer chest compressions. “The call handler will talk you through it,” he assured everyone and warned: “The window of opportunity when there has been a cardiac arrest is just four minutes.”

But compared to administering chest compressions a patient’s chances of survival can be increased from below five per cent to over 50 per cent if a defib is used soon after someone has collapsed. So, if another person is available to help, they will be asked to run and get the defib, following the instructions provided by the ambulance call handler.

When encouraging residents to make use of the defib Dave commented: “You can’t get it wrong – just have a go.” He said that the defib provided both spoken and visual advice on how to use it.

Dave not only explained how the defib worked but also demonstrated how to give chest compressions using a dummy. Afterwards he had time to chat with residents and answer more questions while I, as member of the Carperby and Aysgarth volunteer community responder team, watched while some used the dummy to practise chest compressions. Practising chest compressions on ‘Little Anne’.


The Carperby and Aysgarth team now has sufficient members to provide almost 24/7 coverage in mid Wensleydale as we are willing to go beyond our four-mile radius.

Ian White organised the installation of the defib box at Thornton Rust. The  boxes and defibs for Aysgarth and Thoralby have been deliverd and that for Aysgarth has been installed on the front wall of the village institute thanks to Kevin Hails and James Metcalfe.

But, even though Thoralby was the first village in the Aysgarth and District parish council area to raise the funds for this equipment it is likely to be the last to have a box installed.

This is because Thoralby village hall is a listed building.  This means that permission has to be obtained to install a box on an outer wall and the Yorkshire Dales National Park planning officer has suggested it should be at the back of the building. This upset many people in the village who felt that the building was not “an attractive feature which contributes significantly to the quality of the village” and that equipment which has the potential to make the difference between life and death ought to be clearly visible. (See Aysgarth and District parish council report)

Dave, however, said that having the defib box at the back of the hall was not a problem as the ambulance call handler would give clear directions as to its location and signs could be provided.  When I asked him about this later he said that a PAD box had been installed on the back of another listed building in North Yorkshire.

The box needs to be on a publicly funded building with an electricity supply as the defib must be kept warm during the winter months.

The cost of the equipment at Thoralby and at Thornton Rust was met from the funding received through the Defra environmental stewardship schemes for Thoralby Moss and Thornton Mire. Aysgarth, as well as West Burton and Preston under Scar plus two villages in Swaledale received assistance from Richmondshire District Council’s Communities Opportunities Fund.

New Vicar for Penhill Benefice

July 12, 2014 By: Pip Land Category: In Wensleydale, Story of the week No Comments →


Joy was the keyword at the service at St Andrew’s, Aysgarth, on July 8, when the Rev Lynn Purvis-Lee was inducted as the vicar of Penhill Benefice, in mid Wensleydale.  Left: Bishop James with the Rev Lynn Purvis-Lee.

After he had blessed her the Rt Rev James Bell, Bishop of Knaresborough, stated: “It is with joy – with joy – that I present to you your new vicar.”

All the congregations in the benefice were represented as well as those from the churches* Lynn had worshipped and ministered at before including the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust where she was chaplain for 12 years.

When Bishop James asked those who knew her to list the qualities which described her they said patience, sincerity, compassion, loyalty, enthusiasm and fun.

That fun could be seen in her response to the gift presented to her by Sally Stone on behalf of West Burton CofE School. She laughed with delight and said: “Oh a chocolate cake – with buttons on.” The other gifts from the benefice included a candle, fresh local produce, free-range eggs, and a picture of a local scene.

Bishop James had everyone in the large congregation laughing when a mobile phone rang and he joked: “A fanfare for my sermon.”

In his sermon he said that a rural ministry didn’t just involve maintaining historical buildings for their communities, contributing to the common good, giving practical help and pastoral care but also to manifest the character of Christ through their lives. This was through compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience as well a practising forgiveness and forbearance.

He thanked the clergy, laity and readers who had served the benefice faithfully during the interregnum after the Rev Canon Sue Whitehouse retired last September.

Lynn’s youngest grandchild, Olivia, was keen to participate in that joy and was very happy that her grandmother carried her in the procession alongside the Bishop at the end of the service. And afterwards Olivia took over the Bishop’s chair for the family photograph.  Below – Olivia proudly holding Lynn’s hand surrounded by, on the left, Alan, and (left to right) Lynn’s son Gregg Clark, Alan’s sister June Pennick, his daughter Joanne Stephenson, and mother-in-law Mary Nellist.


Below: Lynn with her parents, Norma and John Osborne (on the right) and friend Edna Wilson.


Lynn and Alan were married, with the blessing of the Prioress, at St Hilda’s Priory chapel in Whitby almost two years ago. Both are Friends of the Order of the Holy Paraclete which is based there. They met when she attended a seminar at which he was advising clergy and church members about pensions and investments. Between them they have four grandchildren aged between 22 and five.

In the weeks before the induction service Lynn and Alan were busy moving home from Crook in Weardale, Co Durham, to the newly refurbished vicarage in Carperby. “Alan and I have decorated, furnished, and carpeted the vicarage, and made it our new home, and we are grateful to all who have played a part in the preparation of the Vicarage,” she wrote in the latest Penhill Newsletter.

“I was born and bred in Consett and have always lived and worked and ministered in Co. Durham. My previous jobs before ordination included being a sewing machinist in a factory for Marks and Spencer; a waitress in a coffee shop and restaurant; a healthcare assistant; and an assistant physiotherapist.

“I was educated to degree level when I was 37-years-old at Cranmer Hall Theological College, Durham, and served my curacy in the Parish of Great Aycliffe before becoming full time chaplain.”

She added that she wanted the induction service to be full of joy and that “joy will be the foundation on which we begin our new journey together – filled with the Joy and Love of our faithful God.”

After the service there was an excellent bring and share supper thanks to members of the benefice congregations – and time to enjoy the floral decorations created to welcome the Tour de France Grand Depart.

Many who came to Wensleydale for Le Tour visited St Andrew’s to see the flower festival and afterwards Liz Piper, who organised the event, thanked all those who had helped with the displays, made biscuits and tray bakes,  and been there to welcome visitors. For photographs of that flower festival see Pip’s Gallery.

Below: Lynn with Sister Helen (left) and Sister Janet Elizabeth who represented the Order of the Holy Paraclete.


* St Catherine’s at Crook, St Mary and St Cuthbert’s at Chester-le-Street, and Great Aycliffe Parish especially  St Elizabeth’s where Lynn served as a curate. There were also her colleagues and friends from Durham Diocese and especially the Stockton Deanery. Sisters Janet Elizabeth and Helen from St Oswald’s Pastoral Centre in Sleights near Whitby represented the Order of the Holy Paraclete which Lynn has described as being a spiritual home to her and Alan.

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.

DCF 1.0

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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

Thornton Rust Show 2008

September 02, 2008 By: Carol Haynes Category: In Wensleydale, Story of the week 1 Comment →


EACH year the residents of Thornton Rust in Wensleydale stage a thoroughly enjoyable country show even if the village is one of the smallest in Yorkshire. In fact it may be the smallest country show in Yorkshire, or even England.

There are always memorable floral arrangements (especially the miniatures); fascinating entries in the children’s and crafts sections; a mouth- watering display of baked cakes, flans, breads and preserves; and the produce from various gardens.

The show was started 26 years ago by the late Ron Jones and his wife, Chris. They got the idea from Rufforth where they lived before moving to Thornton Rust and Ron saw the show as a way of drawing the community together.

(Above) Chris Jones studying the arts and crafts exhibits at this year’s show.

That was very obvious on Saturday, August 16, as residents delivered their exhibits and worked together to make the show a success.

The fun for some had started two days beforehand with the spud raising ceremony. The show chairman, Mike Thomson with his wife Janet, and David Pointon, visited all the gardens where the show’s seed potatoes had been planted. They carefully checked the size of each potato rejecting those which were too small. Each contestant’s bag of potatoes were then weighed on the show day. This year it was Nicola McCreadie who had produced the heaviest bag of potatoes and so won the Silver Dibber.

There were also competitions for the longest stalk of rhubarb, the tallest sunflower and the biggest onion. Susan Freer won the prize for a miniature floral arrangement. At the jubilee of the show last year Chris Jones awarded a new trophy for the highest total in the floral classes because, she said, the standard was always so high and there were so many beautiful arrangements and displays of flowers. The Ron and Chris Jones Silver Jubilee Cup was won this year by Susan Freer and Julia Harrison.

The prize money hasn’t changed since the show started in 1983: 20p for coming first in a class; 15p for being second; and the princely sum of 10p for coming third. But most people don’t collect their prize money. Instead it was left in the kitty and this year the proceeds of the show, about £500, have gone towards the cost of replacing the roof of the village institute. There are trophies, however, for those gaining the highest number of points in various categories.

This year the trophies were presented by Eleanor Scarr who also opened the show. She enthralled everyone with her stories of growing up in Thornton Rust in the late 1940s and 1950s. In those days it would not have been possible to hold a country show in the summer as the majority of the residents were then involved in farming and would have been too busy. There were 12 farming families in the parish then. She said:

“It meant that any village activities were more winter time because we were all farming orientated – lambing, haytiming or clipping sheep. And I don’t have to tell you have different it was then. If rain threatened (during haytime) we made cocks or jockies, then strew them out when it faired up. If hay was a bit green, we made it into pikes and then they were to snig to the barn and fork in. That mean a man to snig and a man to fork and a man to mew which left us little urchins to trample the hay down in the mew to get more in. No big balers whizzing into the field at the threat of rain, no contractors spiriting everything into a silo in a matter of hours. Just days of hard graft. If we could get finished by the third week of August we could go to the Leyburn Show….. but haytime often went into September. We’ve had rain untold this year, but it did rain in the 50s as well which meant often dusty hay, which in its turn led to farmer’s lung. Thankfully that, I hope, is a thing of the past.”

“In summer the highlight was a Sunday afternoon when father would dam up the beck in the moor bottom … and we went with a dingy for all to have a go. Just big enough for ducks but we thought it was ok.”

Those were the days when the village had its own shop and Post Office. Any extras were bought at Bainbridge or at the markets in Hawes on Tuesdays or Leyburn on Fridays. There were certainly no big supermarkets nearby.

Below:  Eleanor Scarr studying the floral arrangements with her sister, Margaret (right) and Julia Harrison.










Below: Local farmer, Alwyn Spence, auctioning items at the end of the show.








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.”