Category Archives: Personal

Call for help from Immanuel Kindergarten

Teenage girls, graduates of the kindergarten in South Sudan supported by my friend, Carolyn  Murray MBE,  are selling themselves to pay for soap and food for their families as a result of the Covid-19 epidemic. So she is now seeking funding for a special educational project.

“Girls are now like chicks in an open space as prey for an eagle to feed on,” stated Malish Simon Lo Thomas, the head teacher of Immanuel Kindergarten School in Yei (pronounced Yay), in a letter to Carolyn. In this he and Juan Margret Lomora, Director General of the Ministry of Education in Yei and a kindergarten governor, outlined a proposal which will not only educate teenage girls but aims also to provide them and their families with the basic necessity for fighting Covid-19 – soap.

Malish said that due to civil war the majority of young people in South Sudan have only known war, violence and deprivation. He added that many people in Yei, which is near the Ugandan border, are weak due to the poor quality and limited availability of food and consequently vulnerable to the Covid-10 pandemic and other diseases. This is made worse by the lack of sufficient good quality health facilities and, as a consequence, there are high mortality rates, he said.

He explained: “Many people are traumatised with the magnitude of many bad occurrences they have witnessed and made them hopeless.

“All the learning institutions are closed … as a way to curb the Covid-19 pandemic. But it becomes a hazardous situation to our girls who are still school-going age. Many girls are now forced or run for marriage and others are raped.”

He told Carolyn that some girls were “selling themselves” to pay for soap and food for their families and that was resulting in pregnancies.

He said: “As usual, we are vigilant to issues facing our communities. We are seeking support to help our girls.”

The proposal is to use local radio broadcasts and workshops at the five senior schools in Yei to raise awareness and teach life skills.

Carolyn said that many girls were orphans or their parents lived in refugee camps. They had to live with relatives to have access to schools – and that meant they did not have priority when the host families were short of money.

Their budgets would not cover the cost of travel to workshops or the food provided after a teaching session. So those costs are included in the project proposal.

Carolyn explained: “They will bring the girls in in cohorts of 30 over five days to enable social distancing. They would ideally like to give each girl some soap (a long bar of five pieces) as part of the training will be about Covid-19.”

The project will also have to cover the cost of providing each girl with an exercise book and pen as well as flip charts.

“When I did teacher training in August last year I was amazed how folk lapped up anything I said and all notes were copied to be reviewed later,” Carolyn commented.

It is estimated that £3,000 is needed and donations can be made to the specific project via GoldenGiving/../Yeigirls  “Even if we don’t get anywhere near that any small amount raised will be used to help make a difference to the girls and their families,” Carolyn said.

For more about the school see  a story of hope from South Sudan and  Immanuel Kindergarten 

Immanuel Kindergarten, South Sudan – a story of hope

Carolyn Murray MBE and I became friends when we were working in South Sudan in the early 1980s, and we both shared the deep sorrow of watching that country being destroyed by yet another civil war. But there were many Southern Sudanese, like Esther Poni Solomona, who didn’t give up hope. With other Mothers’ Union members she re-started the Immanuel Kindergarten in Yei and, with the help of friends like Carolyn, it has become a beacon of hope in a war-torn country. This is the story Carolyn shared with me:

A joyful parade of 140 kindergarten children with their parents and teachers led by a local brass band marched through a small town in South Sudan in December to join 2,000 from their community who had come to celebrate their graduation with their guest of honour – Carolyn Murray of Lancaster. (All photos courtesy of the Immanuel Kindergarten Charity)

A few weeks later she would be honoured with an MBE for her work with that school – Immanuel Kindergarten in Yei (pronounced Yay) which is near the Ugandan border.

The children’s parents and grandparents are struggling to build a future in a land torn by two civil wars since 1955. Many have spent years as refugees.

Carolyn worked in South Sudan for ten years in the peaceful time between the civil wars (1972-1983). In the early 1980s she visited her friend Esther Poni Solomona in Yei, as Esther’s husband was the Episcopal Bishop there. Esther started the Immanuel Kindergarten in the vestry of the Cathedral – but very soon most of the town’s residents had fled as refugees to Uganda.

When they began returning with their few belongings to Yei in 2002 there wasn’t much left – and there still isn’t.


Esther and her Mothers’ Union colleagues re-started the Kindergarten but they had only a dilapidated hut for a school. The roof was falling in and inside was dark and dreary. (left – Esther in one of the  classrooms)

Believing that the children deserved a new start Carolyn and friends set up the Immanuel Kindergarten Charity to work in partnership with families in Yei to build a new school. Fundraising began in 2006 and the new school building was officially opened in 2009. In 2015 the charity had funded a new school hall and a bore hole well to provide clean drinking water.

Of the graduation ceremony in December 2019 Carolyn said: “It was the culmination of 11 months planning and hours of hard work by the entire staff team who work long hours for minimal financial reward.

“It shows how much education is valued and more than one speaker talked about education being the key to long-term peace in South Sudan. We were privileged to share in the celebrations.

“Malish [head teacher] and the team work incredibly hard to enable the children to have an amazing education. Despite each of the three classes having upwards of 120 children they have lots of opportunities to learn in a fun way.

“The energetic staff bring ‘chalk and talk’ to life with lots of jumping around, singing and rhymes. The older children also regularly spend time reading and writing. Imagine marking 120 work sheets for each session!

“They also have lots of outdoor activities including games and more formal PE lessons.”

Carolyn also visited Yei in August 2019. Her journey that time had included a ten-hour very bumpy bus trip in Uganda from Entebbe to Arua. From there she had flown to Yei arriving just before the end of term which allowed her to see the school in action and to work with the teachers in the classroom.

She then participated in a three-day training course not only for the team at Immanuel but also for teachers from other nursery and primary schools in the area.

Carolyn continues to work part-time as a primary school teacher in Lancaster so that she can help cover the cost of her journeys to Yei without using funds donated to the school. She did some practical sessions during the training course on how to use story books to bring various aspects of the curriculum alive.

“We had lots of fun making caterpillars from socks and butterflies and animal masks creating story sacks as well as sharing ideas. Many of the teachers have had little or no formal training so opportunities like this are very important.

“One of our kindergarten governors led some excellent sessions on administration and management and another taught about child development.” (Both of these governors are South Sudanese.)

She had taken resources with her which will be stored at the kindergarten and can also be used by other schools as well as sufficient funds from the charity to buy another solar panel. With stronger power the photocopier and laptop at the school will be more reliable. She explained: “This means that creating resources and planning are slightly less stressful.”

This was possible because all donations to the charity go directly to the school.

She reported that the school hall was being used during the day for Day Care provision for 20 small children. She said: “The children are part of the whole school family so when there is a need for the staff to use the room for other classes the younger children go outside if the weather is good or into the classroom that is being vacated by the class using the hall.

“This is a self-financing venture with any profits being used to provide extra facilities for the kindergarten. This means that young children are able to access the opportunities the school provides.

“The television in the hall is used regularly to show English Premier league football matches. The customers pay to watch each match. This is proving to be an excellent source of income for the kindergarten.”

In December she attended several meetings about the future needs and plans for the school.

teacher_largeclassThe school is recognised as one of the best in Yei State and so there is a high demand for places. But the three classrooms are bulging at the seams with 120 to 130 children in each.  The charity is, therefore, committed to raising funds to build a new classroom block. (right – an early start for this baby as its mother teaches one of the large classes.)

But the governors don‘t want to remain dependent upon foreign funding. “The focus is on sustainability and having long-term enterprising projects to enable the school to be completely self-sufficient,” Carolyn said.

There are plans to start a bookshop, bringing in supplies from Uganda and selling these at a small profit to help support the school. Carolyn explained: “Part of the requirements for school attendance throughout East Africa is not only to pay school fees but also to take stationery and other items such as a chair, cup and plate. Often it’s difficult and sometimes impossible to buy these things locally so a small local shop would fulfil a huge need and ultimately be a good money spinner.”

The school also aims to have an internet dish which would not only provide it with a reliable internet connection but make it possible to set up an internet café for the local community. This is an expensive project but would provide a reliable and regular supply of income for the kindergarten.

Currently the school is able to provide its pupils with a meal every day consisting of beans and the local staple of maize porridge. The ingredients are provided by the World Food Programme.

The school supplements this with the crops from its own garden which the children help to care for. The school’s feeding programme means a lot to families whose income is only sufficient to buy one meal a month. And they don’t have money to buy underwear – even if these were available in Yei.


So on the Immanuel Kindergarten website there is a heading: Smalls for Yei. Carolyn (left)  regularly sends or delivers donations of ladies’ and children’s underwear to the school. There is always a lot of excitement when she distributes those smalls.

When she came to leave in August she was amazed at how much she was given for her journey: 20kg of locally grown or produced food such as peanut butter, honey, roasted peanuts and a couple of bags of something very similar to doughnuts. Plus eight boiled eggs.

“The generosity of people who have nothing never fails to touch me even though I have been experiencing it for more than 40 years!”

Donations can be made via

Remembering David


Above: White roses for Yorkshire and a pair of David’s crocs on the table in the Meeting House for David’s Memorial Meeting. This display was created by Liz Burrage who also led the Memorial Meeting. Many thanks to those who donated a total of £530 to Yorkshire Air Ambulance in David’s memory. 

David certainly did live up to the advice in the Quaker Advices and Queries which states: Live adventurously. When choices arise, do you take the way that offer the fullest opportunity for the use of your gifts in the service of God and the community? Let your life speak.”

Becoming a Quaker in 2004 made a significant and very positive impact upon him  -but he had lived up to that advice for most of his life.

He was born in Sheffield  in October 1941 where his father worked as a  policeman. While David was at grammar school he represented the North of England at the Scout jamboree in North America in 1958.

At Alsager Teacher Training College he specialised in Design, Technology, Arts and Crafts and then took a job at the Sheffield School for Blind Children.

He and his young family moved to Norfolk  to the East Anglian School for Blind and Deaf Children in 1974. While there he also trained as a teacher of the deaf, gained an Open University degree and served for four years as a councillor on Yarmouth Borough Council.

When that school closed in 1985 he became deputy head of the Norfolk Sensory Support Service with responsibility for integrating  visually impaired  children into mainstream schools. He later became head of that Service.

One of his former work colleagues commented: “David was a larger than life character, loyal to his friends and co-workers – and knew the best places to stop for coffee! He gave us freedom to work with the families and came with me to visit homes if they thought there could be a problem – or something interesting such as the view of prostitutes on Rouen Road!

“He was a lecturer on my Cambridge course and had a wealth of knowledge of the VI (Visually Imparied) world.”

In 1989 David answered an appeal by Phil Feller to help blind and visually impaired children in The Gambia. This led to him becoming a founder trustee of what is now the Friends of Visually Impaired Children in The Gambia after going with Mr Feller to that country to assess the need.

His list included setting up a purpose-built school;  proper training not only for the few teachers at that school but also mainstream teachers as the majority of visually impaired children were living in distant villages; and the provision of Braille machines and paper, as well as computers with specialist programmes.

Phil said: “David – with great enthusiasm – set to work with myself and my wife, Joan, to start meeting those needs. A charity was set up (now the Friends of Visually Impaired Children in the Gambia) and funds were successful raised for building a special school.”

The school was opened in 2002 and whenever David visited he helped to teach the pupils and teachers there.  He worked closely with the Gambian Education Department and the Integrated Education Programme and by early 2019 over 200 mainstream teachers had been taught to help visually impaired students.

Phil added:  “A highlight for David was the purchase of a minibus in 2003 and, together with Malcolm Garner, drove to The Gambia with urgently needed equipment. Subsequently he organised and led several other overland deliveries.”

David met Malcolm when they were both members of the Special Educational Needs National Advisory Council. Of the overland journey in 2003 Malcolm said: “This experience had a life-changing impact for me as I was later to return to The Gambia on a regular basis to try and develop health and education services for deaf children and adults, something which continues to this day.

“David has left a very significant legacy of change for good among many pupils disadvantaged by limited or no sight, both in the UK and also in Africa, and also among professionals such as myself who have benefitted from his energy, initiative and enthusiasm.” (See his Gambian adventures )

David and Pip Land (his partner whom he married in July 2018) introduced Heather Ritchie of Rug Aid to The Gambia and she has subsequently set up one of the most successful programmes for visually impaired children and adults in that country.

After he retired David moved to Thornton Rust in Wensleydale in 2001. He became a volunteer at the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes; enjoyed creative work as a member of the Yoredale Art Group; was an official of the North East Mercedes Benz Club for many years;  a president of the Rotary Club of Wensleydale, and was a trustee of the Kennel Field Trust at Thornton Rust.

Two weeks after he died villagers at Thornton Rust raised their glasses to him for all he had done for the Kennel Field Trust and as a local parishioner. (A special celebration at Thornton Rust)

He became a parish councillor for Thornton Rust in 2015 and one of his parishioners commented: “He was a very conscientious parish councillor and always available to the villagers, just to chat or to get jobs done.”

In the last few years of his life his main projects were turning round the Northallerton branch of the Institute of Advanced Motorists to make it one of the most effective in the country (he was its chairman and one of its observers), and working with the West Burton School Representative Group to safeguard its future as part of a local three-school federation. (See West Burton – a school set to thrive and his view as an independent education consultant. )

To the latter he brought a wealth of experience of governing schools since he retired. He had served as a Quaker trustee on the board of Reeth Primary School, and as a governor of the Breckenbrough Quaker Foundation School.  He had also been a Local Education Authority governor on the board of Leeming and Londonderry  Primary School and Risedale Secondary School.

He was an active member of the Wensleydale and Swaledale Area Quaker Meeting and served for a few years as an elder.

In 2014 David decided to create two large poppies, Peace and Remembrance,  to mark the beginning of World War I. These were fixed to the railings at Bainbridge Meeting House in November each year, and then throughout 2018 up until the centenary of the end of that war. They became a significant landmark in Bainbridge.

Another important part of his life since 2007 was his 30ft cruiser, Edna May. Its moorings at Thurne opposite the white mill and various journeys on the Norfolk Broads were a source of constant delight to him as were the friends he met there.

His links with Thurne went back to the early 1970s and nothing pleased him more than being able to return there. In the last few years there was always the question of how much longer he could walk along the dyke to Edna May  as the effects of an old spinal injury took their toll.

On May 19 (2019)he again savoured that walk, stopping half the way down to do his “360” – turning slowly to enjoy every detail of the scenery. Then he walked on and managed to reach his boat and settle into his favourite seat before he died. He wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.


My tribute to my husband, David Pointon,  at the Memorial Meeting at Bainbridge Quaker Meeting House on Saturday, July 13, 2019:

David passionately believed that anyone with a disability should be able to live life to the full and adventurously.

His former work colleagues recount with delight how he encouraged his blind and visually impaired students to climb trees – something that probably wouldn’t be allowed now du e to health and safety rules. But those kids learnt a lot about what they could achieve.

When his dog, Raq, became blind David gave him mobility lessons too. And I was taught how to be a good guide person.

David approached his own increasing mobility problems in the same way. An old severe spinal injury led to him being unable to put his own shoes and socks on. And then he found…Crocs! Out went the shoes and socks and in marched Crocs – and  joyful independence.

They meant he could still walk down the dyke at Thurne to his beloved Norfolk cruiser Edna May – his glorified shed on water, spiders and all. That meant he could fettle to his heart’s content – either in his garage cum workshop at Thornton Rust or when on the boat.

He could still participate in overseas adventures – either the overland drives to the Gambia or later with his mate Ken to Morocco and France. And David and I could enjoy our journeys exploring Britain.

Many have commented on how much they enjoyed David’s sense of humour.

Our relationship began 14 years ago with a good laugh – and continued with lots more. For me ours was a special relationship. We accepted each other warts and all – two odd people thoroughly enjoying life together and supporting each other in our various interests and activities. He was my soul mate and my best friend.

I have many wonderful and very happy memories. Thank you David.


David became a  close friend of John Warren through attending the Quaker meetings at Bainbridge and Countersett. Pip chose the following poem by John for David’s funeral. It was read by Allan Sharland who had been a friend of David and his brother Mike since they were teenagers.

Over the hill the grey road climbs

And the wind blusters over the hill

Tumbling the trees

And the grey road winds

Where hedges curve in ragged lines

And cærulean blue the bright sky shines

Where the road climbs over the hill

And I will go where the grey road leads

With the wind in my face at the crest

Where the curling road goes down and on

To the far blue hills in the west

And birds in the wind

Wheel and cry

The great elms bend, and creak

And sign

And the road goes on

And so shall I

To those far blue hills in the west.

David Pointon’s Gambian adventures

David teaching a blind student at the GOVI school in Serrekunda, The Gambia, in January 2010

David Pointon, who died in May 2019  made several overland journeys to the Gambia between 2003 and 2010 to deliver vehicles and equipment to the only school for the blind, run by the Gambia Organisation for the Visually Impaired (GOVI).  He was a founder trustee of  a charity with the objective of helping  visually impaired children in the Gambia. His travelling companion in late 2003 was Malcolm Garner (the Gambia Deaf Children’s Support Project – GDCSP).

Scroll down  for his overland journey with the Dales Team in 2006, and  for tributes to him by Phil Feller of what became the Friends of Visually Impaired Children in the Gambia, and by Malcolm Garner.

For that first overland journey, completed in January 2004, David decided it would be a good idea to join the Plymouth/Dakar Challenge.

He said: “I thought it was one way of getting out there with support and taking a minibus for the school. There were three rules for the Challenge: spend under £200 for your vehicles; only spend £15 fettling it; and rules are made to be broken. It is a charity run and all the vehicles are auctioned in Banjul and the money went to Gambian charities.

“As I had a purpose for the minibus I didn’t care how much I spent on the vehicle and I didn’t put it in the auction – it was going to a Gambian charity anyway.”

He knew he wanted a four-wheel drive diesel minibus and early in 2003 remembered seeing such a vehicle which had been parked at the Wensleydale Rugby Club at Leyburn for a couple of years. It was also left-hand drive as it had been bought in Germany by a British serviceman stationed there who needed a vehicle suitable for a large family.

“His daughters had grown a bit and he had bought himself a small car. When he came to the club we had a look at it and drove it around the rugby field, and we eventually arrived at what I thought was a reasonable price.”

That vehicle – a Mitsubishi minibus – quickly became known as Mitzi.

Malcolm was among the friends he contacted when looking for sponsorship for this project. “I had known Malcolm professionally for well over 20 years. We served on the same special needs advisory council. Malcolm sent me an email back saying ‘Of course I will sponsor you – wish I was coming with you.’ He was recovering from prostrate cancer at that time which had been caught and fixed. As he was convalescing I sent him an immediate reply: ‘Why don’t you?’”

Advertising material was put on Mitzi and she began her travels around England as David and Malcolm collected donations.

And then she left England for good. “She wasn’t the quickest of vehicles so driving 600 miles down Spain in one day was quite interesting but we did it,” recalled David. It was in the south of Spain that they first met up with others on the Challenge.

The journey overland in 2003 was very different to those David took part in later because the road from Noadhibou to Nouakchott in Mauritania had not been completed. Instead the route took them through desert and across a long beach.

Below: Mitzi crossing the desert – click on the picture for more photos of that overland journey. 

David said:”In our group there was a 43-year-old Triumph Herald, an old Mark II Cortina, a Lada and a Triumph 2000. The Lada never got stuck in sand the whole trip but the others got stuck quite often. As we had  four-wheel drive we were pulling them out all the time and the clutch wasn’t up to it. When it went we had to reline it with the Triumph 2000 clutch lining.

“The repair worked which got us out of the desert but when we got down to the Senegalese border the thrust bearing went making the clutch pedal obsolete. The clutch was still working so we could still get drive. Changing up was no problem but changing down was not possible. So we went right through Senegal and into the Gambia without a clutch.”

It cost just £100 to fix Mitzi and then she was handed over to GOVI and spent three years as the school bus. When two school buses were given to GOVI by the Dales Team of 2006 David and Malcolm repossessed Mitzi. Since then GOVI has sold the vehicles delivered in 2006 and the children are now transported to school by a bus provided by the Gambian Government’s Integrated Education Programme (IEP).

David and Malcolm spent a lot of money on Mitzi to try and get her back into good working order. When Malcolm arrived in the Gambia in 2009 the minibus wouldn’t go and he had the engine replaced, but to no avail. So it was decided it was time to part company with Mitzi.

Overland with the Dales Team in 2006

It was in April 2006 that David introduced me to the idea of helping blind children in the Gambia. By then he had visited that country several times to help at the school for the blind as well as to deliver Mitsi. By 2006 Mitsi needed replacing and David had begun to dream of taking something bigger and better. I wrote a feature for the Darlington and Stockton Times  about his dream and within a few months the Dales Team had formed.

WithMrsDavies1b The team consisted of David, myself, Ken Nicholas, Donna Parker and Hazel Townesend from Wensleydale; Ray Wright from Arkengarthdale; Charles and Elaine Wood from nearby Richmond; and Frank Whitfield from East Cowton near Darlington. By September three of the team (David, Charles and Ray) were able to travel to Germany to buy two Mercedes minibuses – a Sprinter and an MB100 as, for the Gambia, we needed left-hand drive vehicles. David likes Mercedes anyway, and the parts and expertise for them are easily available in that part of Africa.

(Above) When 100-years-old Kathleen Davies (who now lives in Bainbridge) heard about our adventure she decided to knit teddies for the children. Here she is with Ken. By the Sprinter are, from the left, Donna, Hazel, Pip, David and Ray.

As a team we raised over £13,000 for this project which included what we put in the kitty to cover our travel expenses. We left England on November 23 and reached Banjul on December 11 after a fascinating journey which had taken us through Morocco, Mauritania and Senegal.  In Morocco all of us especially enjoyed our short visit to Marrakech and the drive through the Atlas Mountains.


(Above) One of Ken’s great photographs from the journey – this was taken on the drive through the Atlas Mountains. Later he took the sun roof out of  Rosie the MB100 so that he could photograph our descent to the desert. The ability to get out through that hole in the roof proved very useful on the ferry across the River Gambia as there was so little space between vehicles that we couldn’t open the doors. That hole also provided Donna and myself and great vantage point (below)

G O V I ..... 1030

G O V I ..... 1032

The most memorable moment for all of us was arriving at the school and receiving such a warm, wonderful welcome from the staff and students. We not only delivered the new school buses but also equipment like computers, a printer and a computer driven embosser. David made sure that these were soon “up and running”.

On a visit to the Gambia in 2008 Ken Nicholas helped Lamin Saidy maintain and paint the playground equipment (below).

The playground was constructed under the supervision of FGVI’s representative in the Gambia, Lamin Saidy, who had designed it. Over the years he did  a lot to maintain the playground and the buildings.


 For David’s overland journey to the Gambia in 2010 with a team from Wensleydale Rotary Club click here.

Malcolm Garner and the impact of that first overland journey to The Gambia:

I feel as though a part  of my own history has died with him, as David and I go back a long way professionally, and then I shared with him one of the greatest adventures of my life – the drive to Gambia in December 2003 to deliver the Mitsubishi minibus to the School for the Blind in Serrekunda.

In our working careers, David was the representative for teachers of the blind and partially sighted when I was for teachers of the dear on an organisation called the Special Educational Needs National Advisory Council (SENNAC) which was actually far less important than its name suggests! Nonetheless we did some good work and organised a few national conferences which were interesting and sometimes influential.

It was through that contact that David got in touch in 2003 to ask if I (and others) would sponsor his journey to deliver the minibus to Gambia. I was impressed that he had set this up and wrote and said I would, and that I wished I was going too, to which he replied – “Well why don’t you. I need a co-driver.” Hence my involvement.

The journey was absolutely fascinating and exciting, including a complete failure of the clutch in  the middle of our crossing of the Sahara Desert! The repair of that in the desert was an epic achievement and we made it to Gambia intact and were able to hand the minibus to the school as planned. The project and journey was all David’s idea and initiative and, to his great credit, he made the journey [several more times] with other vehicles to donate to work in Gambia. I know he is remembered in Gambia with enormous affection and gratitude and they too will be very sad to hear of his passing.


Above: David (left) and Malcolm with Mitsi on arrival in Banjul, The Gambia, in January 2003

This experience had a life changing impact for me as I was later to return to Gambia on a regular basis to try and develop health and education services for deaf children and adults, something which continues to this day. This has been a rewarding and fascinating (and sometimes frustrating) experience and I have David to thank for leading me in this direction.

David has left a very significant legacy of change for good among many pupils disadvantaged by limited or no sight, both in the UK and also in Africa, and also among professionals such as myself who have benefitted from his energy, initiative and enthusiasm. As such I will never forget David and will always be grateful for the opportunities and encouragement he has given me over the years.

Phillip Feller, Chairman of the Friends of Visually Impaired Children in The Gambia:

Thirty years ago David answered my appeal for assistance for the blind and visually impaired children of The Gambia.  At that time David was head of what was then the Sensory Support Service of the Norfolk County Education Department.

Joining me in The Gambia David soon assessed the needs of the blind and visually impaired children there. His list was frighteningly long.

To mention a few: proper training for the few teachers who were working with the children; computers with special programmes to assist training; Braille machines and paper; tape recorders; and even a purpose-built school. At that time the few pupils attending a dedicated facility were housed in an annex to a mainstream school in Banjul.

David – with great enthusiasm – set to work with myself and my wife, Joan, to start meeting those needs. A charity was registered first as the Friends of GOVI (The Gambian Organisation for the Visually Impaired) and later as the Friends of Visually Impaired Children in the Gambia. Funds were successfully raised for building a special school for the children at Serrekunda.

A highlight for David was the purchase of a minibus in 2003 and, together with Malcolm Garner,  drove to The Gambia with urgently needed equipment. Subsequently he organised and led several other overland deliveries including that with the Dales Team in late 2006 and with members of the Wensleydale Rotary Club in 2010. The minibuses were then used by the school.

After several years of meetings with the Minister of Education we succeeded in obtaining an agreement that student teachers, as part of their training, would spend time with disabled pupils at St John’s School for the Deaf and at the GOVI School for the Visually Impaired (both at Serrekunda).

David worked closely with the Education Department and with the Integrated Education Programme headed by Nancy Mendy and her deputy Sarjo Bajinka.

Having just returned from The Gambia ( in 2019)  I was unable to inform David that there were now over 300 visually impaired children receiving education and of Nancy Mendy’s latest initiative to recruit more teachers. This is a legacy that David could be proud of.

All I can say is: Thank you David for all your help and support over the years and for realising my dream of a future of hope for the blind and visually impaired children of The Gambia.

(First posted on the website of the charity of which David was a founder member and a former trustee.)

David Pointon and a special celebration at Thornton Rust


Villagers at Thornton Rust raised their glasses to my husband, David Pointon, on Saturday June 1. He had died just two weeks before the 20th anniversary celebration of the founding of the village’s Kennel Field TrustAbove: David on his quad bike overlooking Wensleydale from near the Kennel Field.

At that celebration the villagers also raised their glasses to the continued prosperity of what is often known as the Millennium Field. The Kennel Field Trust was set up to bring that field, once used by the Wensleydale Harriers for kennelling its hounds, into public ownership and to restore it.

The Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT)  had supported the Kennel Field Trust  then – and, as part of its own 20th anniversary celebrations awarded a further grant of  £4,000.

At the party in Thornton Rust village hall on Saturday the chairman of the Kennel Field Trust, John Dinsdale, explained that this grant was used to install new fencing, reinstate the cooking area of the mash house, order an interpretation board and install a new bench.

Deborah Millward, the Trust’s secretary, told those who had gathered in the village hall: “Dave [Pointon] had been associated with the Kennel Field for at least 15 years and for much of that time he was a trustee.

“I think what appealed to him and the rest of us was the ethos of the Kennel Field: that it was owned by the community; that the villagers could freely wander wherever they wanted there – enjoy the flowers, enjoy the birds, and enjoy the view.”

She added that he was a very good artist and had designed the artwork for the new bench. “Sadly he hasn’t been to see it but he did have photographs. I think he would be wanting us to celebrate and so I would like you to raise your glasses in joyful memory to Dave.”

His wife, Pip, said later: “As his mobility was becoming more and more restricted he had bought a quad bike so that he could still visit the Kennel Field and go up onto the moors. He loved the Yorkshire Dales and still wanted to enjoy them.”

Below: the new bench with David’s artwork engraved on it.


David was an Aysgarth and District parish councillor for Thornton Rust and a member of its village hall committee.

He was chairman of Northallerton branch of the Institute of Advanced Motorist and a Qualified Observer (trainer).

He was on the Representative Group for West Burton CofE School and then a member of the Bainbridge, Askrigg and West Burton Federation of Schools Working Party.

Before he retired to Wensleydale in 2001 he was head of service in Norfolk for children and young people with sensory impairment. He set up that service in 1983 and through it children were brought from boarding schools for the blind and visually impaired into main stream education. This led to him being a representative for teachers of the blind and visually impaired on the Special Educational Needs National Advisory Council and being a trustee of a charity aimed at helping such children in The Gambia.

After retirement he made several overland journeys to The Gambia to deliver equipment to the only school for the blind and visually impaired in that country and to run training classes for teachers working with them. David and I also introduced Heather Ritchie of Rug Aid to that school and it is wonderful to see how her work in The Gambia has developed since then.

He also served as a governor at Risedale School until it was converted into an academy and at Leeming Bar CofE Primary. He was involved for a time with Reeth School through the Quaker Trust as well as being a governor for six years at Breckenbrough School at Sandhutton run by North Yorkshire Quakers.

His funeral will be at Gorleston Crematorium as he died on his boat on the Norfolk Broads and as his daughter and some of his closest friends live in Norfolk.

Later there will be a Memorial Meeting at Bainbridge Quaker Meeting House. As one of those who worked with him in the Sensory Support service commented: “His discovery of the Quaker faith gave him an anchor later in life and I know he loved the life ‘up North’ surrounded by such magnificent countryside.”

Pip’s message on Facebook on May 21:

Sadly my wonderful husband, David, died suddenly on Sunday – [sitting] in his favourite place on his boat on the Norfolk Broads. I am so grateful to the strangers who helped me with CPR, to the paramedics and ambulance staff who worked so hard to bring him back, to Eddie my son for driving from London to be with me that evening and for being a tower of strength, and to the Bondi family, especially Jim and Sue for caring for me so well at their home.

The Albion and our wedding blessing



Above top: The Rev Martin Upton conducting the wedding blessing for David and Pip Pointon on August 18 2018. The second photo of the wherry Albion and the wedding blessing group was taken by Eddie Land using a drone camera. The Albion’s volunteer crew is on the foredeck. This could well be the first time that The Albion has been chartered for a wedding blessing ceremony. Click on the top picture to see more photographs.

A special flotilla set out from Thurne in North Norfolk on Saturday August 18 as four boats followed in the wake of The Albion  – the 120-year-old wherry we had hired for our wedding blessing.

Two of the boats – Jim Bondi’s Karina and David Bondi’s Quixote (below)– were dressed overall with flags. This gave me a wonderful opportunity to take some photos of four generations of the Bondi family.



When we began our journey on The Albion from Womack Staithe the skipper, Roger Watts, kindly invited me to take the tiller – an honour I couldn’t refuse. But just as I reached the stern of the wherry I looked up and saw John Wayne very determinedly making his way carefully down the port side assisted by a crew member. John is the 94-years-old grandfather of David and Chris Bondi. Chris was with his wife, Emma,  and their three children on Karina – and another of John’s great grandchildren was on Quixote.

John was a very successful sailor when he was younger and was very happy to be at the helm of The Albion. It was so special to watch him do so in style all the way the Norfolk Wherry Trust’s base at Womack Water near Ludham to the site of the medieval abbey of St Benet’s.

Above: Karina following us, with John at the helm of The Albion and his daughter, Sally, in the foreground.

David and I were with nine family and friends  on The Albion with another 22 on the other boats. At St Benet’s The Albion went to the Bishop’s Mooring which gave us a private location for the wedding blessing. Karina and Quixote were moored beside us with the other two boats using the free moorings a short walk away. Originally we had planned to hold the wedding blessing at the cross which marks the site of the abbey’s altar. But it would have been very difficult for our two oldest guests, Marjorie Hawkings and John, to have walked there. Marjorie had also travelled with us on The Albion.

So David’s friend, the Rev Martin Upton, led the short but very special blessing service on the bank by The Albion with most of our guests (including one who had come by car) sitting on the wherry’s hatches.  David read the following from Quaker Faith and Practice for, as Martin said, it gave clarity on what is needed in an effective marriage:

“Marriage has always been regarded by Friends as a religious commitment rather than a merely civil contract. Both partners should offer with God’s help an intention to cherish one another for life. Remember that happiness depends on an understanding and steadfast love on both sides. In times of difficulty remind yourself of the value of prayer, of perseverance and of a sense of humour.”

For some (including David and I) the next half an hour of our blessing was even more moving thanks to Amy Bondi (David Bondi’s wife) as she sang Stand by Me and Hallelujah and other songs. There was also a  lovely duet thanks to Liz Burrage and Amy.

Then it was time to enter the hold of the wherry to fill our plates (belowphoto by Martin Upton) with the wonderful food made by Claire and Anita at The Galley in Horning. Several of our guests described the enormous homemade scotch eggs as the best they had ever tasted. David said the vegetarian quiche and  scotch eggs were also excellent.  And the sweet potato and spinach frittata were mouth-wateringly memorable. Claire and Anita had made sure there was a special platter of food for me (including a cheese-free frittata).  They had also ensured that their delicious tray bakes were free from cow’s milk products. We had collected this feast from The Galley that morning – with the help of my son, Eddie, and his girlfriend, Steph.


We made sure that Marjorie and John received plates of food as neither could have got down into the hold. And thankfully it was neither too hot nor raining. After Amy had sung some more songs Chris Bondi took John back to Thurne on the day boat. This was driven for us by Mark Olive.

So, at last, it was time to cast off and head back to Womack Ferry. I peered down into the hold, saw the chaos left behind after everyone had eaten – and decided that tidying up would have to wait. I just wanted to stay up on deck and enjoy being on The Albion. The Bondis went ahead of us so that they could wave to us as we passed Thurne dyke. Then we had to lay on our backs while the sail was lowered. (Belowphoto by Martin Upton).


When we were moored at the wherry station I looked into the hold again and was astonished to see that the long refectory table was spotless! Everything was so clean and tidy – thanks to David’s daughter, Alex, and Serena. That was a lovely wedding gift!

So many thanks to The  Albion crew that day: Roger Watts, Andy Brooks and George Blake with emeritus crew Ivor Stemp.

We were running late and had booked a table at The Lion at Thurne for 6.30pm, so the food containers were quickly packed into the back of David’s car. Ken and Pat and our family guests joined us for the evening meal even though most of us weren’t that hungry. As it was such a nice evening we could sit out in the garden which was fortunate as my nephew, Euan, and his girlfriend Lois,  had brought their dog, Dopey, with them.

For us the party didn’t end that evening. Next day we spent a lot of time with Jim, his wife Sue and her cousin, Hilary, and also with David and Amy Bondi and their son Dylan. We waved at The Albion as it passed us that morning with any group of volunteers crewing it. Quite late that afternoon I went to Thurne to return the food containers to The Galley. When I opened the boot at Horning I was very dismayed to find that the large salad dishes weren’t there. I apologised to  Claire and then went to the wherry station to await the return of The Albion. After about half an hour I saw a couple come out of one of the huts there carrying those salad dishes. Claire had phoned the Norfolk Wherry Trust and the Humphries had come to find those dishes. It was such a relief to see the bowls handed over to Claire’s husband when he came to collect them. The  Humphries told me that in all their years as volunteers with the Norfolk Wherry Trust they could not remember any other occasion when The Albion was chartered for a wedding blessing like ours.

Our party could then happily continue. David’s cousin, John with his wife Debbie, had their camper van at Thurne  and my brother Dave, with his wife Leigh, daughter Sian, with Euan and Lois and Dopey were camping at Obi Dyke nearby. On the Friday evening they had joined us for a BBQ on the moorings beside David’s boat, Edna May.

David had hoped to take them on lengthy boat rides on Edna May but during the week before the wedding blessing neither he nor Jim could find why the engine was overheating. So on the Monday after the blessing we took Debbie and John on a very slow boat ride to South Walsham Broad and to Ranworth . Even at three mph there was more steam than water pouring out of the exhaust and a Broads Authority inspector hailed us thinking we hadn’t realised there was a problem. It was a perfect day for boating – and after a pleasant walk to visit Ranworth church John and Debbie spent an hour of so together on the foredeck  relaxing, and enjoying the scenery and the wonderful skyscapes.

On the Wednesday – on yet another sunny day – we took Dave, Leigh, Euan, Lois and Dopey to South Walsham and found a mooring where the dog could be taken for a walk. Sian missed out on that trip because she had to return to north Kent for a teacher training college interview.

We had time on Thursday to take Edna May slowly to Potter Heigham to visit a boat-doctor: Harry May. David told him all that had been checked so far … and within 20 minutes Harry had found a pipe which had become blocked. It didn’t take long to clean it out – and Edna May happily chugged along with the temperature barely touching 70 degrees all the way back to Thurne. What a relief!

That meant that on the Friday evening we could take Dave, Leigh and Sian to Potter Heigham for a fish and chip supper. (Euan and Lois had left as they felt that Dopey was homesick!)

And finally, on the Saturday, it rained. But by then we could sit back and enjoy so many happy memories – thanks to all our wonderful friends and family who had helped us to make it such a very special week.

Our Quaker Wedding – 2


Our wedding on Saturday July 21 was a joyful, relaxed event where we had time to meet and greet friends and family and, in the Friends Meeting House in Countersett, promised to be loving and faithful partners in marriage to each other. So now we are David and Pip Pointon.

Little did we think when we started planning our  wedding that it would be a historic event for many who regularly attend meetings of the Religious Society of Friends in Wensleydale and Swaledale. This was because the last wedding at Countersett was in 1841. (For more about that see Our Quaker Wedding – 1).

We are so grateful to all those who helped to make it such a special occasion. We wanted a simple Quaker wedding but nothing is ever that simple.  First there was the problem of getting 78 people to Countersett where there is very little parking.  We began to explore the idea of hiring coaches to bring our guests from Bainbridge to Countersett but there isn’t much parking space in the latter either. Thankfully the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority gave permission for its staff car park to be used and from there it was a short walk to where Fosters Coaches of Redmire collected them for the journey into Raydaleside.

Two days before the wedding David, Ken Nicholas, Phil Crowther and John Suggitt took some benches from Bainbridge Meeting House to that in Countersett using John’s trailer. When I entered the Meeting House on Saturday the first thing I noticed was the two lovely colourful posies provided by Liz Burrage who had acted as our Quaker supporter. These were in addition to the arrangement of autumn leaves created by John Warren.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather for the wedding for it was overcast (so not too hot) but not raining. This meant everyone had time to greet us before going into the Meeting House – and were there a lot of hugs! They were more formally welcomed by the Friends who were on duty: Hugh Dower, Judith Nicholls and Ian Hunter Smart.

The majority of us had never attended a Quaker wedding before and so were very grateful to Ian who, as an elder, explained to us what to expect. A Quaker wedding takes place during a specially arranged meeting for worship – so at the beginning we all sat in silence until David and I were ready to stand  up and make our declarations to each other. A few people then shared their thoughts or memories about us – all of which was very encouraging.

I very rarely speak at a Quaker meeting but this time I did want to share something. I mentioned that the couple who married there in 1841 were Oswald and Agnes Baynes who then moved to Poynton in Cheshire (See Our Quaker Wedding  – 1). And there beside me and Eddie at my wedding were my brother Les, his wife Beryl, their daughter Clare, and her husband Barry – all from Poynton in Cheshire. I do like a God who takes special interest in us and has a great sense of humour.

Before the meeting closed the Quaker Registering Officer, Richard Waldmeyer, invited David and I to sign the Quaker Certificate of Marriage. The first witnesses to sign were David’s daughter, Alex, and my son, Eddie. Alex and Eddie then went with us into the home of the Warrens next door to sign the registers. Philip and Lesley Warren had prepared the room so nicely for us but it was odd to walk back in there for the first time since John died. (Below: David and I signing the registers with David’s daughter, Alex, behind us.)

While we were doing that our guests were lining up to sign our Quaker Certificate of Marriage. What a wonderful way to remember our wedding! I only heard about that Quaker tradition a few weeks before our wedding and the only one I had seen before ours was that of Janet Leyland and her late husband, Peter. Janet kindly did the calligraphy on ours so it looks amazingly good (below).


Once everyone was outside it was time to let Eddie do something very special for us – an aerial photo using his drone (above). We were very impressed (the small version used here doesn’t do it justice). But it wasn’t until later that we realised that the Registrar wasn’t included. (I am glad that Les did take one of him when the registers were being signed.)

By then the coaches were waiting for their passengers, and soon we were all on our way to Sycamore Hall in Bainbridge (near where all those cars were parked) for afternoon tea provided by the Corn Mill Tearoom in Bainbridge. And what a tea! Many  described the wonderful selection of food prepared and served by members of the Peacock family as excellent, including those who were vegetarians or who had food intolerances. I especially enjoyed the butter-free carrot cake – and the big welcoming smile from Yvonne Peacock as she gave me a refreshing drink as I walked in.

We had seen the facilities at Sycamore Hall Extra Care Home when the reception after John Warren’s funeral was held there and we were very impressed. Our guests were too as they were able to sit in comfort in either a large lounge,  the dining room or out on the patio. Our special guest at the tea was Judith Warren who is now a resident at Sycamore Hall.

We had told everyone that we didn’t want any presents as we have two full households. Instead we said that, if they wished, they could give donations to the Yorkshire Air Ambulance Service. When we got home from Sycamore Hall with Eddie, Alex and Serena we were amazed to find that the donations amounted to over £800 (with some more to come we are told).

So a big thank you to all who helped to make our wedding so memorable – even Oswald and Agnes Baynes!

NHS day

I’m wearing my NHS Community First Responder shirt today as I am logged on for duty. On this, the 70th birthday of the NHS, I am very aware of how much I and my family owe Aneurin Bevan and the post-War Labour Government for this amazing service.

Take my dad, for instance. He accepted being called up to fight during WW2 but he didn‘t want to kill anyone. So, he first joined the catering corps and then was transferred to the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC). He was fully prepared to go into the front line of battle unarmed to help the injured. But on the night he was celebrating finishing his training he was walking along an unlit road with a friend when he was hit by a lorry being driven without headlights on. That sort of accident was quite common in the days of the blackout.

My mum was told he would die but Dad was a stubborn man. He survived but his body was badly damaged. He knew that at the end of the war there would be many men listed as disabled so he refused to be put in that category. Instead he fought against the pain and did the job of an able-bodied man at Thames Board Mills near our home in Grays, Essex.

In the 1970s he was told it was at last possible to give him a replacement hip. I  will never forget the huge smile on his face when he could, for the first time in about 30 years, put his left leg in front of his right one rather than having to drag it along behind him.

How could we, as a family living on limited means on a council estate, have afforded that if the NHS hadn’t existed?

Or there was the day when I fell out of a tree. Dad wasn’t sure if my arm was broken, so he strapped it up and mum took me on the bus to Tilbury hospital (long gone now). My mum was told that my arm was too swollen for an X-ray to show anything so I was admitted. I don’t remember anything special for children in the ward and I felt very lonely and miserable. But at least my mum didn’t have to pay anything.

Both then and when I had my appendix removed there was that all-enveloping security blanket of the NHS. I was completely unaware that any other system existed – until I went overseas. In the Indian sub continent I became very aware of the problems people faced when they couldn’t afford medical care or insurance. For example – a young man with over 30 per cent burns was told by a hospital administrator that if he or his family couldn’t pay upfront he couldn’t be admitted.

So I don’t take our NHS service for granted – and am very aware of how easily we could lose it as bits get ‘sold off’ to companies which need to make a profit.

Let’s hope the celebrations today will encourage our rich politicians to protect the NHS for those who depend upon it so much.

Below – about six years separate these photographs of my dad. The one of him in  uniform was taken just before the lorry hit him. The other shows the impact of that accident upon him.




Our Quaker Wedding – 1


I sat in the Religious Society of Friends’ Meeting House in the hamlet of Countersett (above) on Sunday June 24 enjoying the peacefulness of an hour’s quiet contemplation and prayer when I suddenly thought: “Wow, the next time I will be in here for a meeting will be on my wedding day!”

For David and I have decided, after 13 years together, that we will get married – and we had no doubt where we wanted the wedding to be. Yes, St Andrew’s at Aysgarth is a beautiful church and all those I know there would be able to attend if they wished. But David and I were in complete agreement that we wanted the simplicity of a ceremony which centres on the essence of a marriage between two people.

George Fox, the founder of the Religious Society of Friends  (Quakers), wrote in 1669: “For the right joining in marriage is the work of the Lord alone, and not the priests’ or magistrates; for it is God’s ordinance and not man’s; and therefore Friends cannot consent that they should join them together: for we marry none; it is the Lord’s work, and we are but witnesses.

Some have asked why we wanted to go to Countersett when we could use Bainbridge Meeting House. In the past ten years, however, I have mainly attended Countersett Meeting House where meetings are held on the last Sunday of each month. I love the atmosphere there along with the opportunity to commune with God, usually in silence.

Countersett Meeting House for us also means remembering John Warren who died earlier this year. An arrangement of bronzed autumn leaves that he created is still on one of the window sills.

A Quaker wedding takes place during a specially –arranged meeting for worship and all who regularly attend local Religious Society of Friends meetings can attend. We are, however, asking them to let us know beforehand as we need to know how many coach seats are required and how many will be joining us for ‘afternoon tea’ afterwards. This will be at Sycamore Hall with the catering being done by the Corn Mill Teashop in Bainbridge.

So slowly we are sorting out the logistics but, at the beginning, we needed to make sure we could be married at Countersett Meeting House.

Preparing for a Quaker wedding

The first step was to meet with Richard Waldmeyer. The Marriage Act of 1753 explicitly exempted Quakers and Jews from the statutory regulation of all other marriages in England and Wales – and that has been reaffirmed by subsequent Marriage Acts in England. So, as the Quaker Registering Officer for our region, Richard explained what we had to do – starting with sponsors signing the necessary forms for me as, unlike David, I am not a member of the Religious Society of Friends.

A big thank you to Liz Burrage and to David Ladyman for being willing to sign the forms at very short notice for, after so long together, we were suddenly in a hurry.

Richard also explained that we needed to get certificates of marriage from a local Registry office as well as attend a Quaker Meeting for Clearness. So one morning we went to the Registry Office in Richmond to apply for those certificates which now take 28 days to process. The first problem was that the computer didn’t immediately recognise Countersett Meeting House. Thankfully the registrar resolved that problem and we managed to complete the paper work.

After that we definitely needed some sustenance so made our way to one of our favourite eating places: Duncans Teashop in Richmond. My food intolerances have multiplied and become more severe recently so it was wonderful to be so well looked after – and to have yet another slice of their utterly sumptuous walnut and coffee cake which contains no cow’s milk products or potato starch.  David, of course, treated himself to a slice of their wonderful treacle tart.

After a short rest we headed to Leyburn Meeting House for the Meeting for Clearness. I have to admit I was both intrigued and a bit nervous. I had read the guidance provided in Quaker Faith and Practice which stated: “A meeting for clearness can provide an opportunity for the couple and selected members of the meeting community to explore their intentions and hopes, the nature of the commitment that is being contemplated, and ways the meeting can support the marriage after its solemnisation. Consideration of a non-member’s acceptance of the Quaker understanding of marriage could also be explored. The small group of Friends and the couple will get to know one another at a deeper level. Prayerful consideration in a relaxed atmosphere is time well spent…”

So I entered the room with some trepidation. But there was nothing to worry about for the elder leading the meeting, Ian Hunter Smart, quickly put us at ease. It was a good example of a prayerful and loving Quaker meeting.  Within a day the meeting houses in Leyburn, Bainbridge and Countersett were informed that approval had been given for our wedding to take place at the latter.

An interesting history

Richard was at the Meeting for Clearness – and it was he that told us that the last wedding at Countersett was in June 1841! As one local Quaker said – ours will be a historic wedding at Countersett Meeting House.

So the next time I was on duty as a volunteer in the Research Room at the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes I had a look at the transcript made by Jack Handley of The Births Marriages and Burials, Records of the Society of Friends for Wensleydale and Swaledale which covers period from the 1680s to the 1770s. The first Quaker weddings in upper Wensleydale were held in the homes of members and that was certainly true of the first four at Countersett, three of which were in Richard Robinson’s house, Countersett Hall. Where that in 1709 was held is not clear as the date on the Meeting House is 1710.

Sir Christopher C Booth wrote in The Quakers of C ountersett and their legacy  that the Norsemen who colonised the upper dales before the Normans came were individualists and did not tip their hats to the gentry. Richard Robinson, he said,  was such an independent-minded dalesman who, by the 1650s, was searching for a spiritual experience beyond  that offered by the institutional church. When he heard about George Fox he went to Westmorland to meet him and was convinced.

Like other Quakers at that time he was prepared to face considerable abuse and persecution to be part of this revival of the Christian faith. Booth noted: ‘It was undoubtedly through the influence of Richard Robinson and his friends that so many became Quakers in upper Wensleydale. At the same time, Richard’s extensive travels in Yorkshire and throughout the land, sometimes taking him as far as London, helped to spread George Fox’s teaching far and wide.’ Robinson died in 1693 and Quaker Meetings continued to be held at Countersett Hall until the Meeting House was built.

When reading the diaries of George Fox I was particularly fascinated by his radical approach to gender equality and the impact that had on the development of female education. 

I was curious, of course, to find out more about the couple who were married at Countersett in 1841. They were Oswald Baynes, a farmer from Carperby of ‘full age’, and Agnes Webster, a ‘minor’ who was described as a housekeeper at Carr End near Countersett. The profession of her father was given as Linseed Manufacturer.

When I searched for them in the 1851 census I had a surprise for I found they were living at Poynton in Cheshire. That’s where my eldest brother, Les, lives with his wife, Beryl. His daughter and son-in-law also live in Poynton. We often joke about the similarity of that name to David’s surname.

In the 1851 Agnes was shown as being 29-years-old who had been born in Thirsk. She had two sons and two daughters – and the help of a 20-year-old female servant from Sedbergh. Oswald (32) was a farm steward at Tower Farm Yard. Ten years later he  described himself as the farm bailiff at The Towers.  By 1861 there were three more sons and the girls were at a Quaker boarding school in Winscombe, Somerset. Oswald continued to do well and by 1871 he had his own farm of 130 acres. His eldest son (also Oswald) went on to become an auctioneer in Chorlton on Medlock.

I couldn’t find Oswald Snr or Agnes in the 1881 census and decided I would have to put aside any further research as there was so much to do with our wedding date fast approaching.

Wema – an inspirational centre in Mombasa


One of Ann’s selfies – Ann is on the right, Esther on the left and me in the middle! For more of the photos she took on my iPad go to the  bottom of this article

A visit with my niece, Alex, to the Wema Centre Children’s Home at Bamburi in Mombasa where street children are rehabilitated was one of the highlights of my visit to Kenya in February. We were accompanied by Alex’s housekeeper, Martha Mwakio, who received a delighted welcome from several teenage girls at the centre because ten years ago she had been their housemother.

The girls were back home at the centre as it was the half term holiday at the boarding schools they now attend. Martha told us that they would have a home there until they were able to make a life for themselves elsewhere.

Wema means “well-being” and those girls are excellent examples of what is being achieved at the centre. They were full of vitality and confidence and were only too pleased to take us on a fun-filled two-hour tour of the centre.

First we had a delivery to make. I had brought some clothing and school equipment from England (below – photo by Alex), about half of which had been donated by Alison Kate Ofori-Atta, and Alex had bought some foodstuffs for the centre. To my surprise, some time later I was presented with an itemised invoice. This attention to detail and good housekeeping was obvious throughout our tour. Click on the picture below to see more photos on Flickr.


That was so apparent in just how clean the whole centre was. Alex was astonished that when she gave the smallest boys lollipops they immediately put the wrappers in a waste bin BEFORE they began enjoying those sweets.

It wasn’t long before it was obvious that one of the girls, Ann, was probably more competent with an iPad than I was so I let her take photographs with mine. She and her friends had a lot of fun and I was very pleased with the results. The children at the centre are introduced to computers and modern technology very early.

The centre provides “work experience” at all levels. One group had donned tunics and were busy learning how to deep clean. In the next classroom a group of girls, under the guidance of Kathleen (one of Martha’s “girls”)  were learning to sew using treadle machines – a useful skill if later they don’t have access to electricity. Next door some were using electric sewing machines and fulfilling tailoring orders for local businesses.

We were then taken to see the dormitories. There the institutional nature of the centre was very apparent with tiers of beautifully clean and tidy bunk beds, each with their own mosquito net. Lockers along the walls provided the children with somewhere to keep their personal belongings. Even in such a regimented situation, however, one could feel the family atmosphere which was such an important part of the rehabilitation programme. (Below: Alex’s photo of a girls’ dormitory)


The founder of the this charitable organisation, Kenyan businesswoman Lucy Yinda, wrote in her  MA (Sociology) degree thesis in 2009 (The Impact of Rehabilitation Approaches on the Education of Street Children in Mombasa Town) that parental love was one of the key factors in improving the children’s educational opportunities (p64). At the Wema centre which was founded in 1993 this is provided by housemothers although a lot of effort is also put into re-uniting children with their families.

Martha explained that the children at the centre were encouraged to remain in contact with their families and could return to them whenever they wanted. She described how one girl had been found under a tree with her aunt and her cousins. It was agreed that all the children would go to the Wema Centre. The girl’s mother, who was probably a prostitute, visited on occasions but the girl chose to remain part of the Wema family.

Mrs Yinda wrote: “Organizations that work with street children should ensure that children are rescued from the streets within the first two years of their entry into the streets. Such early intervention would give street children a much better chance of rehabilitation and/or continuing with the education system.” (Ibid p74) For that reason social workers from the Wema Centre are regularly scouring the streets to find children who have newly arrived.

Mrs Yinda explained: “Street children are orphans, run-a-ways, abandoned or neglected children for whom the ‘street’ including unoccupied dwellings, open fields, market places, have become their real home and/or source of livelihood. Street children characteristically exhibit anti-social behaviour such as theft, aggression and violence towards other people, and will usually occupy spaces in the city that are not fit for human occupation, such as abandoned buildings, under bridges and sewage holes. (Ibid p1)

“Kenya already has thousands of children living in the streets all over the country… They belong to an alienated social group of the poorest of the poor. The paradox is that street children need education in order to get out of poverty and on the other hand, it is a necessary pre-requisite to have a certain level of income in order to access education.” (Ibid p3 &6)

She has no doubt that street children in residential institutions have far greater opportunities for education due to residential care and provision of services such as food, clothing and medical care (Ibid ix) and that was why she took the first six girls she recovered from the streets into her own home in 1993 leading to the birth of the Wema Centre.

For many years the Wema Centre only took in just girls but now there is a boys’ dormitory as well. It was so evident from the girls that took us on that tour that by being rescued at a young age had given them the opportunity to look forward to a very different life to that they would have known if they had continued as street children.

They took us to see the “common room” which was equipped with a television and to the dining area with attached kitchen. In the latter a young man was mixing a large pot full of ugali (thick maize flour “porridge”) which was being cooked on a wood burning stove (Below – photo by Alex).


Alex immediately thought of the big piles of wood at the bungalow which she rents from Bamburi Cement Limited (Photos on Flickr). (Alex is the Strategic Planning Officer at UN Assistance Mission in Somalia.)

Her garden is part of a conservation area and the company had recently had some old trees chopped down. She didn’t want those piles of wood left too long as they would attract rats, snakes and termites.

A quick chat with a Wema Centre staff member and the problem was solved. Within a day a team arrived from the centre to collect the wood which would fuel the stoves in the kitchens for maybe three weeks.


As we left the dining room we saw young girls filling buckets and bowls with water. Martha explained that even at such a young age the girls were expected to wash their own clothes.

We also visited the library, the small farm, the vegetable gardens and the fish pond.  And  we saw the boys’ dormitory which was just as clean – but with far fewer bunk beds as there are not many boys yet.

There are two Wema Centres (the other is at Thika) and both provide educational support for children who cannot leave the streets as they are helping to earn money for their families.

I’m definitely adding Lucy Yinda to my list of inspirational women! And the girls who took us around the centre were truly inspirational as well.

©Pip Land March 2018

Below: Two of Ann’s selfies, and one of Esther having fun. Do look at the photos of our tour by clicking on the photo of the boys receiving the clothes. 




She can’t do that – she’s a girl

The suffragette movement definitely inspired me as a child. The fight for women’s right to vote made me believe that women could aspire to a more interesting and fulfilling life. But in the 1960s there were so many hurdles in the way.

The first time I heard someone say “She can’t do that – she’s a girl!” was when my mother was discussing my choice of secondary schools with the wife of my primary school headmaster. I had just got good grades in the 11-plus exam and had a choice between going to grammar school or to the technical school. Mrs Gray assumed my mother would send me to the technical school where I would learn some domestic skills. When my mother responded that I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my two brothers and go to grammar school Mrs Gray was  horrified. “She will only get married and become a housewife – what a waste!” she said.

Ever the rebel that just made me more determined. The first few weeks at the grammar school, however,  revealed more about the British class divide. My neighbours on the council estate where I lived decided that a grammar school girl was too stuck up to talk to – even if I was wearing a second-hand uniform and riding a bike which my father had created out of bits he had found on a rubbish dump. It took me years to prove to my working-class neighbours that I still wanted to be friends with them.

At the all-girls grammar school it took just a few days for many in my class to realise that I was from a council house estate. They didn’t speak to me for years. Some only did so on the memorable occasion when a female teacher announced that I was considering leaving school early.

I was in the second year of the sixth form and wondering what to do next. My first choice was to be a cartographer but I was told very firmly by the careers officer that women were not allowed to work in the field. All they were allowed to do, it seemed, was a nice little safe office job. I didn’t want to be a glorified shorthand typist. So I looked for a job I thought I would like where I could be on equal footing with men. I chose journalism – but how to get a foothold in that when I didn’t want to go to university first? That could be achieved, I was told, by getting to know local editors and to keep reminding them I wanted the next trainee journalist position that became available. (There were no diploma courses in journalism then.)  I was, however, a bit too successful because I got offered a job before my A-level exams.

So there I was sitting in a classroom being berated by the teacher and her sycophants about why I had to refuse that job. And guess what, someone said “You can’t do that – your a girl.” Even they thought journalism wasn’t a proper job for a woman.

I didn’t respond but, as rebellious as ever, I left the school within days and started work at the local weekly newspaper. Through the fog of cigarette smoke I could just about discern an office full of men – and it didn’t take long before I learnt that to them my role, as the only woman, was to make the tea.

About a month later I was delighted when I got a proper job – to report on the hearings at the magistrates court. When I got back most of the men were there and for once the chief reporter joined them. And why? Because they wanted me to report in full on a sodomy case. They thought they were in for a good laugh. I told them to b***** off and left. I returned to the office in the evening when they were gone to write my reports. The photographer was also working late and he earned my respect that evening for being kind and supportive.

Not surprisingly it turned out to be a long, hard apprenticeship but I did survive.

I’ve just celebrated my 70th birthday and that rebellious streak is still there. That’s why I regularly, on a voluntary basis, attend many meetings of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA). The Authority is a quango and has considerable power over the lives of people living from near Lancaster City in the south to part of Eden District in the north, as well as Wharfedale, Littondale, Wensleydale, Swaledale and Arkengarthdale.

These days local newspapers don’t have the staff to be able to cover its planning and full authority meetings. So when it comes to a big issue like whether the council tax on second homes should be increased by 500 per cent the press usually rely on what is given to them by the Authority, either by its press officer or its chairman. That did not include reporting that some members of the Authority did warn about the possible  undesirable consequences. Only the ARC News Service reported on that.

There have been so many occasions over the years when the views of local residents and even the Authority members would not have been reported if it hadn’t been for the ARC News Service.

Just some thoughts regarding the YDNPA:  For 11 years it was run  by just one man (Cllr Robert Heseltine). The Association of Rural Communities called for the Authority to have secret ballot votes when electing a chairman. In 1999, when the Authority did do that, it also decided that no-one could continue as chairman for more than four consecutive years. Now,  however, we seem to have a “revolving door chairman” because Cllr Carl Lis was elected chairman from 2004 to 2008 and  2009 to 2012, and has had a further two years in that post since 2016. Is he trying to equal Cllr Heseltine’s total?

What’s more – the  Authority has never had a female chairman.

Enjoying Britain – West Mersea and Audley End


In May we headed for Essex and visited West Mersea  and Audley End House while based at the Premier Inn, Springfield, Chelmsford.

It was hard to believe that, having grown up in on the northern bank of the Thames that I had never visited West Mersea before. On May 19 we avoided main roads for we wanted to enjoy the country lanes of Esssex. Unlike in North Yorkshire at that time the trees were fully adorned in spring green in shocking contrast to the vivid yellow of the blossoming rapeseed. I still see the latter as an interloper in the British countryside – even if it is now an important cash crop.

At The Strood we were surrounded by mud for it was low tide as we crossed what is one of the few true causeways connecting a community to the British mainland. After a quick look at East Mersea we headed for the Victoria Esplanade at West Mersea with its remarkable long line of beach huts – and were glad to find the Two Sugars seafront cafe where we could sit and watch three sprit sail rigged barges and a yacht race. Sadly it was too hazy to get any good photos of those barges.

We enjoyed a gentle and enervating stroll along the beach, fascinated by the odd shapes created when oysters had glued their shells to those of their neighbours. Like us many others were making the most of some warm sunshine after a cold winter.

Our next stop was the Mersea Island Museum. I had found this originally when searching the internet for information about the Thames sailing barges that my grandfather had been the master of. So I had hoped to find out more by visiting it. This small, independent museum did have lots of interesting information about fishing, oystering, wild fowling and local boat building – but nothing more about those Thames sailing barges. So after an hour or so we went back to the Premier Inn at Springfield in Chelmsford.

On arrival there we were delighted to find there were comfortable seats, a bar and a restaurant near the reception. The staff were exceptionally friendly and very helpful concerning any food allergies and intolerances – so much so that we ate there each evening.

The highlight of our Essex trip should have been our visit to the Jacobean mansion at Audley End near Saffron Walden on the Monday. I had checked the English Heritage website beforehand but there was no warning that the main house would not be fully open at that time. Having made the journey there we did pay the full entrance even if we felt that was a bit much for just a whistle-stop 50 minute tour of the house. Our guides did a good job but it was nothing like having time to stop and browse in the various rooms, and being able to find out more about many of the interesting objects and paintings.

Thankfully there was more to see on the estate including the various gardens, the kitchen, laundry, dairy and the well renovated stables with a very informative exhibition about life on the estate during the 1880s. David was fascinated by the demonstration given by Rebecca Holland, the stable manager, about training horses to not be scared by random moving objects such as plastic bags and umbrellas. He thoroughly appreciated her relationship with the two horses, and theirs with her, as well as her patience and the training techniques she used. And even if we did not have much time in the house he commented: “I did enjoy seeing inside it – and thinking about its history right up to my own time.”

A seat near the stables provided the perfect place to study the house and reflect on that sweep of history which took in the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII, the development of Audley End House into a Jacobean ‘palace’, and how later owners had to downsize it to make it economically viable. During the second world war it became the secret training base for the Polish Section of the Special Operations Executive.

Our routes to and from Audley End again took in some fascinating ancient Essex villages such as Thaxted and Newport. The 15th, 16th and 17th century houses included some wonderful examples of pargetting (external decorated plasterwork) – and many timbered buildings which, have over the years, warped and become wonky or lopsided.

The following day we travelled to Thurne in Norfolk as David’s boat needed some care and attention. On the way David took me to visit Bungay in Suffolk where we saw what was left of Bigod’s Norman castle. Bigod was a 12th century warlord who tried to create his own mini kingdom but was brought to heel and kneel by Henry II. Even more of interest was the Jesters tearoom which we passed en route to the castle. David was delighted that the advert that they made the best hot chocolate proved, for him, to be true.

We enjoyed a gentle stroll around the town where I saw the Butter Cross for the first time and learnt about the legend of the Black Dog. We thought the weather that day wasn’t too bad until we reached Thurne. There the wind was so vicious and cold that it felt as if winter had returned!

Below: More beach huts at West Mersea; and enjoying a view of Audley End House.



Enjoying Britain–Ironbridge



It was David’s turn to choose our destination in April – and he not only picked a fascinating location but also superb bed and breakfast accommodation. As soon as we arrived at the Foundry Masters House (above) in Ironbridge, Shropshire, we were enveloped in the warm and friendly atmosphere created by Dawn and Danny Wood. (See also Enjoying Britain )

Dawn is also a great chef producing wonderful meals even for those of us with food allergies or intolerances. On the Saturday evening we and two others, Kate and Peter, were treated to a feast – and the conversation was so entertaining that we did not leave the dining room until 10.30pm.

On our first evening in Ironbridge we were fortunate to find an empty table at Da Vinci’s cosy little restaurant and so began the weekend with a memorable meal. Walking to and from Da Vinci’s we could enjoy very different views of the Iron Bridge, built in 1779, and from which the town gained its present name.

From the Foundry Masters House it was easy to visit the many museums in and around Ironbridge and we made good use of our annual passes.

On our first day we visited the Victorian Village at Blists Hill. This had its own special features particularly the use of the old pounds, shillings and pence and  the friendly, helpful staff who spoke to all the visitors.

metalworker_twocWe watched Roger Fewtrell (above) preparing to cast iron figurines, saw children learning about how iron was made in the past, and could see the machinery used to lift a cage-full of miners out of the depths of a coal mine. By lunchtime our nostrils were aquiver with the smell of freshly baked bread and also fish and chips fried in beef dripping .

The village is quite compact so it was easy to stroll around and enjoy the shops and visit the various houses with their cast iron fire grates – from the upper class Doctor’s House to the lowly squatter’s cottage. (By the end of the weekend we couldn’t help feeling that there must have been thousands of squatter’s cottages around Ironbridge in the 18th and early 19th centuries.)

We had enough time that afternoon to also visit the Jackfield Tile Museum. We were filled with wonder at how the Victorians and their successors had produced a seemingly endless array of colourful tiles. I was especially enthralled by the murals created for children’s hospital wards.

The following day we first visited the Museum of the Gorge to obtain an overview of how Ironbridge  (or Coalbrookdale as it was known in the 18th century) had been “the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution”. The 12 metre long model of the Gorge in 1796 is exceptional and so informative.

We then went to the Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron and made some surprising discoveries. David, as a Quaker, thought he knew a lot about how the early members of this Society of Friends had influenced the industrial revolution. But he had not realised that the Quaker ironmaster Abraham Darby I had actually helped to start the revolution. He perfected the technique of smelting iron with coal in Coalbrookdale and his company went on to employ 30,000 – 40,000 people!

By the late 18th century the gorge was full of smoke and noise as both sides of the River Severn were heavily industrialised. And that’s why Abraham Darby III was keen to have a bridge built to connect those hives of industry. But he, like his grandfather, died young. And for David and I that led to another interesting fact about which little, it seems, is said in either the Museum of Iron or the Darby Houses. There was one small note about Sarah Darby which led to me searching the internet for more information.

And yet again it was the story of the importance of Quaker women in the 18th and 19th centuries. For Sarah Darby became the head of the Coalbrookdale Company in 1789 when her brother, Abraham Darby III, died. Elizabeth Fry as a teenager witnessed how Sarah and Abraham’s widow, Rebecca, and other female relatives, kept the company going until his sons were old enough to take over. Sarah and Rebecca were founding partners of the Coalbrookdale Bank in 1810.*  Other women in the Darby family became renowned Quaker preachers. (See also The Quaker Inheritance)

After two days in Ironbridge David and I were over-filled with so much fascinating information and things to see. So we will return – not just to Ironbridge but most definitely to the Dawn and Danny’s Foundry Masters House.

* M Dawes & N Selwyn Women Who Made Money: Women Partners in British Private Banks 1752-1906, published as an e-book with Trafford Publishing in November 2012.

Below:  At the Victorian Village – inside the Doctor’s House and visitors enjoying a horse and carriage ride.  At the Museum of Iron – the head of one of the  life-size deerhounds on a 16 cwt cast iron table designed by John Bell for the Paris International Exhibition of 1855. This table is among the remarkable collection of cast iron objects on show at the Museum.The Iron Bridge was also created with cast iron and has withstood many a storm and flood.








Enjoying Britain

David’s birthday in October marked the beginning of our “let’s enjoy Britain” travels. We started by visiting Greenwich that month, and then Edinburgh in January, followed by Chester in March.  There’s definitely a boat theme in our travels!

March 2013 – Chester

We returned to budget travel for the journey to Chester – but this time in David’s “new” diesel cabriolet Smart car. It was far more comfortable than the 11-years-old left-hand drive diesel Smart that he had before!

Our first stop was at the awe-inspiring Anderton Boat Lift. What a remarkable piece of Victorian engineering. And it was good to see that it was again being powered by a hydraulic system.

At Chester it was again a Premier Inn that provided us with comfort on a budget. This one was in Caldy Valley Road and close to the Broughton Heath park and ride bus service. So we had a comfortable drive (free with our bus passes) into the centre of the city with no parking problems. And what a city!

In the Rows – the first-floor half-timbered galleries which have provided space for a second row of shops above street level since the Middle Ages – one scene summed it up so well. A large group of primary school children were having a picnic in two of the alcoves (stallboards) along the Row on the West side of Bridge Street. With their brightly coloured jackets and their snacks they were truly children of the 21st century thoroughly enjoying the amenities provided centuries ago.

After sampling the Rows we headed for Chester Cathedral and were delighted to find that the entrance fee had been replaced with voluntary donations. I thoroughly dislike places of worship charging an entrance fee. So it was encouraging to find that one of the pioneers of such charges had found, after a two-month pilot scheme, that it was more productive to rely on donations.

In the Cathedral we were fascinated by the modern stain glass windows, the mid-19th century Pre-Raphaelite mosaics, the 14th century quire stalls and so much more. Not wanting to carry too much I had only my little Olympus Mu camera and so could not get a good photograph of the Chester Imp. But some of the other medieval sculptured figures were just as intriguing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Two sculptures even looked like a man and his wife – with the wife perched discretely behind him (I needed a long lens to photograph them). After a brief visit to the Roman ampitheatre we made our way back to the bus stop.

The following day we had a leisurely wander in the warm sunshine around the well laid-out and informative National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port. David was particularly fascinated by some of the good design features and the ropework on the leisure boat Amaryllis. That afternoon it was so warm we had the soft-top roof down on the car. Winter returned the next day, however, and so our visit to the servants’ quarters of Erddig Hall got off to a cold start. We were too early in the year for the full tour – so we will have to return sometime.

Our thanks to the chef at the Brewers Fayre next door to the Premier Inn on the Sunday and Monday who helped me find meals I could eat, and assured David that no shellfish had been fried in the fryer used for the chips. It’s not often these days that David can order chips. We also had great pizzas at the Piccolino in Pepper Street.

Below – left- the Anderton boat lift; right – one of the houses in Bridge Street, with the Row running above the white fronted shop.






January 2013 – Edinburgh

David organised this as my birthday treat but I almost wrecked it by lifting a heavy object some days before and setting off muscle spasms in my back. Thankfully the spasms stopped the day before we went north – and David got his Mercedes 320 Cabriolet out of storage to provide me with a very comfortable ride. Otherwise we would have gone in his very economic Smart diesel. The heated seats in his Mercedes were blissful!

Yet again we had chosen a Premier Inn that had a free car park and easy access to local transport. This one was at Leith waterfront and was yet again well-run, friendly and as comfortable as ever. It was just a short walk away from a bus stop where we caught the Majestic tour bus.

We had intended to walk around the centre of Edinburgh a lot more but it was very cold and I didn’t want that back muscle to go into spasm again. So, after a very interesting visit to the Camera Obscura we headed back to the bus stop. Thanks to the Edinburgh Tour and the Majestic Tour we got an excellent overview of this historic town even if we sat downstairs where we were protected from the wind and rain.

The following day we visited the Royal Yacht Britannia. It provided an intriguing insight into the lives of the members of the British Royal family – from the way it once provided them with a special way to escape from the public spotlight to the juxtaposition of their luxurious quarters on the upper deck with those of the crew down below. But even if the crew quarters were cramped it was obvious that most of those who served on the Britannia saw it as a very special honour. For David the highlights were that gleaming engine room and the Royal barge. We also had a great view of one of Antony Gormley’s waterside statues.

For those with food allergies and food intolerances we couldn’t fault either the restaurant on the Britannia, the Brewers Fayre at the Premier Inn, nor Prezzo at Pier Place in Leith. But the best meal of all was definitely at Prezzo. They prepared for me an excellent pizza with extra virgin oil, buffalo mozzarella, pineapple and ham. We have found that the chefs at Italian restaurants are amazingly creative when told they can’t use any cow’s milk products or tomatoes on my pizzas! Before heading home I bought some excellent fresh fish from Loch Fyne Fishmongers at Leith.

Below –   left:  Antony Gormley’s statue dwarfed by a departing ship; right: Edinburgh castle soars above our bus; and underneath – that beautiful Royal barge.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         October 2012 – Greenwich

For a comfortable bed at economy prices we feel that little can beat the Premier Inns. For David’s birthday treat we booked in at their Inn at Rainham, Kent. This provided us with the opportunity to see some of my family, including my mother (now in her 90’s) and the chance to visit Greenwich.

We left the car at the Premier Inn and made good use of our concessionary bus passes by going by bus to Chatham train station. It was a memorable day thanks to visits to the National Maritime Museum, the Cutty Sark, and then the river ferry to the South Bank in London for supper at the Giraffe restaurant – one of David’s favourites.

At the museum I especially enjoyed the exhibition about the East India Company and Asia as it connected so well with all the research I have done about the first girls’ schools in India and China. David was fascinated by the front rudder on Miss England III. This was designed and built by Hubert Scott-Paine in 1933 and a year later set a world record of 110.1mph for a single engine boat.

We were both impressed by the Cutty Sark. David remarked: “That was wonderful. They made a good job of the restoration.” Below – looking up at Miss England III (left) and the Cutty Sark.


Aysgarth church – a personal view

This is my own very personal view of Aysgarth churchSt Andrew’s, Aysgarth – after many years of sitting in pews, assisting with events there and just spending time contemplating the gifts that have been made to it over the years that make it a special place in Wensleydale.


I often wonder what it feels like having one’s nose squashed against a stone column since 1866. That was the year when the Victorian makeover of Aysgarth church was completed and during which someone added a series of carved heads to look down upon us. Were those stone heads bought “off the shelf” or did they have any local folks in mind?

The wonderful East window bequeathed to the church in memory of William and Ann Robinson and some of their children evokes very different thoughts. I often use that window to meditate on the joy of having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ which depends so much upon the sacrifice he made on the cross. The Robinson family also gifted to the church the altar and reredos beneath the window. The latter is a magnificent piece of 19th century craftsmanship in Caen stone portraying Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper.

Alongside there are some fascinating examples of medieval craftsmanship. For me there is a lot of fun in the medieval carving – even if it was intended to scare people into heaven. There are those naughty little imps (or devils) peering out from the 16th century beam above the vestry door. The beam, inscribed to Abbot Adam Sedber of Jervaulx, is said to commemorate the rebuilding of St Andrew’s in 1536.


The Abbot was executed in London the following year for participating in the Pilgrimage of Grace against Henry VIII – a rebellion aimed in part at saving the smaller monasteries like that at Jervaulx from dissolution.

Soon after the Abbot’s death the rector and parishioners of St Andrew’s, which had very close links with Jervaulx Abbey, decided to bring the beautifully carved rood screen to Aysgarth. It is said that 20 strong men carried it on their shoulders across Witton moor to Aysgarth – the same moor where the Abbot hid when trying to evade being caught up in the Pilgrimage of Grace.

At first the Jervaulx Screen served as a rood screen between the nave and the chancel at St Andrew’s. When the church was being rebuilt between 1864 and 1866 the screen  was restored, painted and gilded at the expense of the church’s present patrons, Trinity College, Cambridge.

The Vicar’s Stall, at the western end of the Screen, was also brought from Jervaulx Abbey. The intricate carvings on the bench ends include a little monkey beside an intriguing mystical animal and a medieval depiction of a lion. What did these mean to the Abbot when he sat in such a grand seat? Below  – that lion – and  the monkey with mystical animal.






























For me one of the highlights on a Sunday is listening to Richard Wilkinson playing the organ when the worship service is over. “It’s a wonderful instrument and it is a joy and a privilege to play it,” Richard told me. It was built by Abbot of Leeds and installed at St Andrew’s in mid 1880.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA In the early 20th century there were further gifts to the church but none more soulful than the font in the baptistry. Mrs Jane Winn of West Burton had the font created in memory of three of her children who died in infancy. Baptisms are no longer held at that one as the 18th century font has been brought back into use.

Mrs Winn’s husband had donated the clock in the tower to the church in 1904 and, after the 1st World War, paid for the Memorial Gates. All those from the parish who died as a result of wars since 1914 are commemorated inside the church, including Capt Philip Guy who was killed in a helicopter crash on the first day of the Iraq War in 2003. The memorials to those who died in the 18th and 19th centuries were re-installed in 1866.

The Winns belonged to the gentry of Wensleydale – but another of the church benefactors of the early 20th century certainly didn’t start life in that social class.

Frank Sayer Graham was the illegitimate son of a house servant, Elizabeth Graham. He did not inherit the estate in Aysgarth until several years after his father’s death.  One of his donations to the church was the magnificent pulpit in memory of his first wife, Mary.

I like to think he had an old woman included in the central panel of the pulpit in memory of his mother. See A Mothering Sunday Story

pulpit_detailFor details of services at St Andrew’s and at other churches in mid Wensleydale see Penhill Benefice.

The space at the Eastern end of the nave was extended in 2007 and this has become a great performance area which, with the superb acoustics in the church, makes this a great place to hold concerts and recitals. See Wensleydale Concert Series


A Walk from Aysgarth

It takes just 10 to 15 minutes to walk across the fields from the  eastern  end of Aysgarth to Aysgarth church and Aysgarth Falls.  This walk begins at the bottom of the lane below the Methodist chapel. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Last spring those two lambs had jumped  over onto the footpath which at that point runs between a hedge and that drystone wall. Above – trying to get back to mum. 

At the next stile on the way to the church it is possible to see both Bear Park and Carperby to the north (below). Bear Park was originally owned by Marrick Priory in Swaledale and the present house was built in the 17th century.


As you approach the church you can see a large building to the right which was once known as the Palmer Flatt hotel because it was built on the site of a medieval hospice for pilgrims or “palmers”. This is being completely refurbished by the new owners and should be open by early summer if not before and will be known as the Aysgarth Falls Hotel. The car park at The Falls is also visible, as well as (to the right) the large building which now houses a book store. This was the original home of Aysgarth preparatory school  and in 1881  there were 81 scholars. By 1891, however, the school had moved to its present site at Newton le Willows. In the 1920s and 1930s the building was part of a TB sanatorium and later served the area as a YHA hostel.

As you enter the field directly below the hotel it is possible, from the fence on the left, to look down on the River Ure (below).


Or you can go up the path towards the hotel to get a better view of Bolton Castle across the river to the north east. bolton_castle


















The footpath across that field takes you to Church Bank road and on the other side is what may be the largest churchyard in the country. You can take time to visit Aysgarth Church (St Andrew’s) which is open every day or turn left just inside the main gates onto a path which takes you to the northern exit from the churchyard. Descend the steps to reach Yore Mill.

This began life in the late 18th century as a cotton mill  and over the next two centuries was used to produce worsted, to grind corn and then flour (see Yore Mill). There was a school in a room in the mill complex in the early 19th century run by John Drummond, a noted mathematician. In the census for 1891 there were nine households listed at the mill complex, ranging from a clerk in holy orders living in one of the small cottages to the corn miller with his wife and six children. Today the mill is used to generate some electricity for the National Grid and the once derelict cottages behind the gift shop are being renovated.

The old middens (toilets) for the cottages by the mill race are by the river just before the bridge. There is an excellent gift shop on the right. For refreshments there is a choice for there is the restaurant at The Falls (by the car park opposite Aysgarth Falls Hotel) ,the tea room at the Yorkshire Dales National Park car park on the northern approach, or the tea shop by the bridge

The bridge was built in the 16th century  for pack horses and was only nine feet wide. It was rebuilt in the 18th century when the turnpike roads were made. Do be careful crossing the bridge as there is no footpath and is just wide enough for two cars! At the other side turn left through the gate to the Upper Falls. In this parkland meetings and galas were held which, in the mid 20th century, included the Aysgarth annual show with sports, fancy dress and tea tents. Across the river are the remains of lead mining and a bit higher up the river is Aysgarth Mill where electricity was generated for the village in the mid 20th century.

Back at the road take the footpath on the left through the woods to the National Park car park where there are toilets and the information centre in which there is an exhibition about how the falls came into being and the wildlife of the area. Outside the information centre there is a mosaic made by local children. For more photos (all copyright Pip Land) see Aysgarth Falls.

Aysgarth Reflections

Most people come to Aysgarth because they want to visit those famous falls. The village, a bit further west of Aysgarth Falls doesn’t look at first as if it has much to offer the tourist – even if it does have some excellent accommodation and food available.

It does now have a beautifully maintained Edwardian rock garden at the west end. When I first came to the village it was almost impossible to move around in the rock garden as it was so full of brambles and nettles. Thankfully Peter and Angela Jauneika found sufficient funding to be able to restore it and it was opened to the public in April 2003. Below: The exterior of the rock garden in early 2002 and how it looked after restoration.  And inside the garden before and after.



























From the gateway to the rock garden it is possible to look out across Wensleydale and down what is known locally as Jammy Hill. I have always been fascinated by the painting of James Thompson which hangs in the institute. It shows him at work as a cobbler and clog maker. His home overlooked the hill that now is remembered by his name. In 1891 there were two shoemakers in Aysgarth as well as a butcher, two grocery shops and a postmaster.

The village could still boast a general store with post office and a cheese and wine shop at the end of the 1990s. But then we had what I called the “cheese and wine war” when the owner of the general store decided to go into competition with the shop next door.  Not surprisingly that didn’t help either shop and within a few years both had closed. One has been replaced with an excellent teashop. Below – our cheese and wine wars in the summer of 1998.


James Thompson lived next door to Frank Graham, the illegitimate son of a housekeeper, who had finally come into his inheritance from the Aysgarth landowner who had fathered him. It was Frank Sayer Graham who had the rock garden built as well as his Arts and Crafts inspired house opposite (Heather House). From Jammy Hill one drumlin (a hill created when the glaziers receded at the end of the Ice Age) stands out. The old Douglas Firs on top of it gave Lady Hill at very distinctive shape for many years. It will take time for the young Douglas Firs to be so misshapen. When Frank Graham owned Lady Hill it was an enclosed warren where he bred silver-grey rabbits. In the early 20th century he was still exporting the black furs from the young rabbits to Russia.

He became a major benefactor of St Andrew’s church at Aysgarth in the first decades of the 20th century.  The Anglican church had remained a central feature of village life even though the Dale had witnessed the great spiritual revivals of the 17th Century when the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) opened its first meeting houses and the 18th Century when many responded to John Wesley’s preaching and became Methodists.  There are still two Quaker houses west of the rock garden and the Society of Friend’s burial yard behind them. As there are only a few gravestones at the south end the Wensleydale and Swaledale Monthly Meeting Trusts gave permission for the children of the village to play football in the burial yard.

Opposite the village green and what remains of the village stocks is Hamilton’s Tea Room which offers homemade food each day except on Tuesdays. Or you can walk a bit further east to the George and Dragon.  (All photographs are copyright Pip Land)

You’re Joking!

Sami, the Yorkshire Terrier, was always ready to go for a walk but even for her there were limits. Just see the look she gave me when I tried out a lamb’s waterproof jacket on her!  Raq proved to be far more laid back when, with old age, he needed to wear knickers. Raq died on June 26, 2012.



Aysgarth Falls


When the River Ure is in full spate I can hear the roar of the water over Aysgarth Falls from my home. But it is not easy to get a good photograph of the water storming over the Upper Falls for often it is still raining hard or there is not enough daylight. I struck lucky during the first week in January even if I almost got blown away as I took photographs from the bridge. The rain held off and the sun broke through for a few minutes and I snapped away until my fingers were too cold. I then headed for home only to find, at the top of Church Bank, that there had been a hailstorm and the A684 had a treacherous icy mantle.

I certainly would not have dared to try and take any photographs from under that bridge – as I had done in the summer of 1995. There were even flowers growing among the rocks in the river bed during the drought that year.


There was just a sad trickle of water flowing over the Lower Falls that year – as compared with four years later. I particularly love visiting the Lower Falls when there is a gentle cascade of water rippling over the limestone shelving as in May 2011.
















Skipton to Saltaire by Narrow Boat

David decided to celebrate the beginning of his 70th year in style by booking a four-day cruise on a narrow boat from Skipton to Saltaire and back. We warned our friends, Jim and Sue, that it would be a working holiday and they rose to the occasion magnificently. Sue took care of most of the catering while Jim thoroughly enjoyed himself working locks and swing bridges.  (Photo – David, on left, and Jim being briefed  at Skipton on how to operate the narrow boat. For full gallery of photos click on this picture.) 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Starting from Skipton meant we could do the basic shopping at a supermarket and also buy some great pork pies in the town. Both Sue and Jim had been on narrow boat cruises before and voted the Skipton to Saltaire route as the best they have ever been on, not just for the famous five- and three-rise locks at Bingley, but because of the mixture of natural scenic beauty and industrial architecture.

Jim very aptly compared living on a narrow boat to a game of chess where each move had to be carefully planned. Our first problem was finding a safe place for Raq, David’s blind elderly dog, especially when we were loading the Pennine Cruiser boat Leyburn. David was initially shocked that I had made Raq cosy in the heads (toilets) but at least his cocker spaniel was safe from our trampling feet. Later we made a bed for him in a corner of the fore cabin.

hirst_lock Unlike Sue and Jim’s Monty Raq wasn’t up to walking for hours along the towpaths. But he did enjoy getting out for a while each day to sniff all those interesting smells left by other dogs. Sadly many owners hadn’t cleared up after them so one of the problems along the towpaths was dog mess. (Right – Jim, Sue and Monty at Hirst lock.)

At Silsden where we moored on the first night we found another problem – an over officious guard in the shape of a white duck. At regular intervals throughout the night it and its feathered platoon loudly quacked their way up and down that stretch of the canal. And when guard duties were over it led its followers onto the patio of a house and made sure the poor owner had plenty to clean up when she came home from work.

When Sue and Jim took Monty for a walk early that morning at Silsden they came back dripping as it was raining so hard. So Jim put his full waterproofs on ready for opening and shutting all those swing bridges. Thankfully the weather improved and for most of our journey to and from Saltaire the sun shone and we could enjoy all the brilliant autumn colours.

On our second day we made a successful and memorable descent of the locks at Bingley thanks to the lock keepers – Barry at the five-rise and John at the three-rise. That night we moored at Shipley and then went back to Saltaire the following morning. What a fascinating place! David and I will definitely return to visit the 1853 Gallery at Salts Mill and to study Titus Salt’s model village. And we did find a bakery which sold curd tarts. As Sue said – how could they visit Yorkshire and not buy some of those.

By the time we left Saltaire Raq had become quite demanding about his morning sniffawalk. He wasn’t that interested in keeping up with the boat – there were far more important things to do!

On our way back we were grateful for the help of Nick the lock keeper at the two-rise lock at Dowley Gate. It took longer to go up the three-rise and five-rise locks with this operation being carefully co-ordinated by Barry and John as there were three other boats besides ours. By late afternoon we had reached Riddlesden which meant that the following morning Jim, Sue and Monty had a delightful walk in the grounds of East Riddlesden Hall.

On our last full day of gentle cruising Sue made sure she was back on board with Monty before we reached “cow shit bridge”. This swing bridge near Skipton allows a farmer to move his cows from his fields to the milking parlour (see photos below).  For Jim it was not an easy task moving that bridge! There was a sense of power, however, at the road bridges that had flashing lights and barriers!

Those road bridges reminded us, along with the roar of traffic along the main road to Bradford, that even if we were cruising along at two- to four-miles an hour we were not so far away from the hurly burly of the modern world. But it was nice for a while to live in a slower universe more like that when these remarkable canals were built in the 18th and 19th centuries. Long may they continue to exist and be available to those like us who want to escape for a while. (Copy and photographs copyright of Pip Land).


Jim tried to close the bridges quickly so that he caused as little trouble for motorists and other road users. Below – What a lovely sight the cows made when crossing the bridge – but the view was not soOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         great for Jim!

Monty may have been sad to leave the boat after all those great long walks. But Raq was delighted to get back to his home comforts!


A Yorkshire Terrier memorial

sami_running sami_rosette










“She was such a big character in such a small package,” commented one friend about Sami. Just a few days before she died and even though she was not well she still enjoyed a good run across the fields. When younger she even won that rosette for being the fastest in a race for small dogs at the Wensleydale Agricultural Show in Leyburn. I am in no hurry to replace her because Sami was such a special little Yorkshire Terrier, with a big heart, large expressive eyes, and a great companion.


The first Yorkshire Terrier we had was Tommy (left) way back in 1987. The idea was that he would be a good companion for my son, Eddie, as we travelled the world with the UN agency that his dad, Tony, worked for. So Tommy travelled with us to Quetta in Pakistan to become part of the expatriate community there. When we moved to Peshawer Eddie and I had the fun of travelling on the “milk run flight” which stopped at such old British outposts as Fort Sandeman. Tommy, however, was not so impressed and howled every time the turbo prop Fokker F27 Friendship came into land and took off. But at least the crew let us take him out of the luggage area at the back of the cabin so that he could have a walk (and a pee) at each of those small airfields overlooked by the Hindu Kush.

Sadly Eddie and I had to leave Tommy behind when we settled in Wensleydale in 1990. A few years later when Tony and Tommy were in Geneva Eddie and I collected the little dog and went on a fascinating train tour of Switzerland which included visiting Jungfraujoch . And, of course, Tommy, left his blessing…. Yes, he had a pee at the highest point he could reach.

zac Back in England Eddie felt lost without a dog so we went to the National Canine Defence League in Leeds and fell in love with a cross bred dog called Zac (left). And then in 1997 Tony decided he wanted another Yorkshire Terrier. He asked Eddie and I to find him a bitch and to house train her for him. So that’s when Sami came into our lives. She was called Sami because the elderly lady that had her thought she was a boy – so we just added an ‘i’ to Sam. What surprised us was how quickly Sami became top dog and very much part of our family. So Tony gave her to Eddie as a birthday present and went looking for another puppy. This time we made sure that the new dog, Tina, went to Switzerland as quickly as possible – and I thought that was that. A few years later, however, United Nations High Commission for Refugees sent Tony to places like Sarajevo and Kosovo and he couldn’t take Tina. Rather than see her left in kennels for months on end Eddie begged me to let her come and join us in Wensleydale. Having three dogs was fine all the time we could walk through the fields but it became a nightmare when that was not possible during the foot and mouth epidemic. If anyone had made a video of me tangled up in dog leads they could have sold the film to You’ve Been Framed.

But one by one our dogs died. Zac went first with acute haemophilia. Tina developed mammalian tumours but with good care she continued enjoying life until she died in 2006. Below: Tina as a puppy; and Tina (left) with Sami.