Reflections on a Suffolk sojourn

Darlington and Stockton Times: 17.12.08-yarmm-DJ
Living Magazine: Pics of Yarm river area for Keith Proud's walky-type article. View from road bridge toward the viaduct.
pic: Doug Jackson (11314924)

11:19am Friday 17th October 2014

This week’s Diary comes from Suffolk where my wife and I spent a few days researching the wild life and history of that area with a novel in mind. Our base was Aldeburgh, a seaside town with a fairly modern history because the original town on this site, Slaughden, was swept away by extremely heavy seas. That name lives on in a local sailing club and a street name.

Versatile shrub synonymous with the Moors

Darlington and Stockton Times: Redcar and area for Living Mag.
   Eston Moor.
picstuartboulton. (11046227)

10:05am Friday 10th October 2014

A TRIP across the North York Moors revealed several patches of yellow gorse flowers showing brightly on their spiky dark-green shrubs.

Colours that brides should choose – or avoid

Darlington and Stockton Times: ARISTOCRAT: It seesms to have been a good summer  for butterflies like the red admiral

10:04am Friday 3rd October 2014

THE formal aspects of getting married seem to have become less important in modern weddings. Informality seems to be the situation nowadays, with as much original thinking as possible.

The traditional tales we all know

Darlington and Stockton Times:

2:51pm Friday 26th September 2014

OUR region is particularly rich, with legends ranging from tales of giants to accounts of fairy activity in quiet places. Barguests and wild boars were said to roam the countryside during the hours of darkness, and we also have widespread tales of ghosts and other fearful apparitions.

Virgin marks and a lost equinox

Darlington and Stockton Times: Autumn colours are reflected in the water at Fountains Abbey, Ripon in North Yorkshire.  (10267605)

3:08pm Friday 19th September 2014

ONE of the long-surviving customs in parish churches featured the display of a Maiden’s Garland at the funeral of an unmarried woman or girl. This was a visible sign of her virginity and innocence.

Traditions and trees tells us tales


PICTURED.............Tocketts water driven corn Mill near Guisborough.
24-03-08 (10023124)

2:33pm Friday 12th September 2014

THE coming Sunday was formerly known as Holy Rood Day or Rood Mass Day, the word rood meaning cross. The festival’s official title was Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and it began when the Emperor Constantine of Rome saw the figure of a blazing cross in the noon sky.

Place of mysteries and sanctuary

Darlington and Stockton Times:

3:43pm Friday 29th August 2014

DURHAM Cathedral is one of the most imposing buildings in Britain, and it is instantly recognisable by its famous towers on their hilltop site.

Old Bartle

4:33pm Friday 22nd August 2014

This Sunday is the Feast Day of St Bartholomew, whom Christ called to be one of the apostles. He is believed to have also used the name Nathaniel and was known as an Israelite, but also as “a man with no guile”.

The tragic tales of ancients past

Darlington and Stockton Times:

4:32pm Friday 22nd August 2014

SPAUNTON is a small village near the southern edge of the North York Moors, resting quietly on a hilltop between Hutton-le-Hole and Lastingham to the south-west of Blakey Ridge. Many of my reference books that deal with that part of the North York Moors omit references to Spaunton and yet it boasts some interesting tales.

Perfect guests

3:44pm Friday 15th August 2014

During the past few weeks, our house has been invaded by small tortoiseshell butterflies. They seemed determined to enter the house through open doors and windows, and then find refuge behind curtains or blinds where they appear to be quite happy to remain. Needless to say, I caught them and gently returned them to the big wide world of this year’s lovely English summer.

Cheap slape

3:44pm Friday 15th August 2014

In my diary notes of July 25, I referred to a query from a Bedale reader who asked if I had come across the word slape as a type of cheap beer.

How did they name our towns?

Darlington and Stockton Times:

3:43pm Friday 15th August 2014

NORTH Yorkshire seems to have more than its fair share of place names that either begin with or end with Carr or Car. The former West Ridings and East Ridings do not appear to have such a gathering of cars and carrs and they seem positively rare in County Durham.

Summer and the birds are silent

Darlington and Stockton Times:

4:54pm Friday 8th August 2014

ONE of the features of August is the silence of our song birds. While some may still be heard in our gardens and countryside, many whose voices woke us from sleep during bright spring mornings might now be silent.

August is filled with celebrations

Darlington and Stockton Times:

3:23pm Friday 1st August 2014

AUGUST is rich with days that encompass celebrations of various kinds and today is no exception. Yorkshire readers will not need reminding that it is Yorkshire Day when we wear white roses, eat Yorkshire puddings and greet one another by saying, “Noo then. ‘oos’t tha gahin on?” Or we might utter that famous phrase “Ee By Gum”, or use the simplest of Yorkshire greetings, which is “Now then”.

Wild words

4:53pm Friday 25th July 2014

My mailbox this week includes an email from a reader who refers to my earlier notes (D&S May 9) about nicknames for some of our wild birds.

Le Tour de waterfalls and fosses

Darlington and Stockton Times:

4:52pm Friday 25th July 2014

THERE is no doubt Le Tour de France left a lasting mark in this region. One of its lesserknown achievements was to revive my own memories of some cycle tours I had undertaken in my youth, and I thought I would add a final note to conclude my reminiscing.

River was the Ridings border

Darlington and Stockton Times:

11:07am Tuesday 22nd July 2014

A RECENT recent outing took us to West Tanfield, between Masham and Ripon, said by Arthur Mee in his The King’s England series of books (The North Riding of Yorkshire) to have almost everything one could wish for in an English village.

Mysteries, legends and religion

Darlington and Stockton Times:

4:32pm Friday 11th July 2014

A FLEETING visit to Somerset enabled us to make quick visits to places like Wells and Glastonbury, the latter catching our attention before the crowds arrived for the noted festival of arts and music.

Conquering the Durham Hills

Darlington and Stockton Times:

1:57pm Friday 4th July 2014

I’VE had an enthusiastic response to earlier notes about my exploits on a racing cycle. As this is the weekend of the much trumpeted Grand Départ of le Tour de France, I thought I would share my own memories of a “Tour” in which I took part.

Cherished memento of the Tour de France

Darlington and Stockton Times: 20/07/2012
Runswick Bay.
Pic Sarah Caldecott (7332017)

2:12pm Friday 27th June 2014

WHEN I was a teenage cyclist, I spent a good deal of time competing in time trials and massed-start road races. Most were around Teesside although some were further north on Wearside or in west Durham, such as The Tour of the Durham Hills.

My grand tour of England, at 16

Darlington and Stockton Times: YORKSHIRE CLIMB: Last year’s Tour de France winner Chris Froome (front right) rides alongside Richie Porte as they climb the cobbled hill at Haworth during a recent practice run for this year’s Grand Depart

4:22pm Friday 20th June 2014

THE imminent arrival the Tour de France’s Grand Depart in our region reminds me of my own Tour of England. Some 62 years ago, I was a keen cyclist and belonged to the British League of Racing Cyclists, the Cyclists’ Touring Club, Hambleton Road Club, which was based on Teesside, and also the Youth Hostels Association.

Using my loaf on marathon ride

Darlington and Stockton Times: CROSSING PLACE: An inviting footbridge at Fangdale Beck in Bilsdale

4:35pm Friday 13th June 2014

WITH the Grand Depart of the Tour de France almost on the horizon in the Dales, I can recall my youthful cycling expeditions.

Garlands represented innocence

Darlington and Stockton Times: SOLID FRONT: Snape Castle, near Bedale

1:48pm Friday 6th June 2014

FOLLOWING my notes about the use of coffins (D&S, May 16), I have been asked if I can throw any light on the old practice of displaying maidens’ garlands in some of our older churches.

Keeping the mayor’s feet dry

5:04pm Friday 30th May 2014

Continuing the theme of boundaries and boundary stones, one curious custom that fell into disuse with the passage of time was known as Beating the Bounds, although it continues in some places on Rogation Days, Rogation Sunday, Gang Days or in some parts of Yorkshire, on Rammalation Days.

Secrets of the standing stones

5:04pm Friday 30th May 2014

ONE of the regular queries that come my way is the reason for the many stone crosses on the North York Moors. It is not possible to provide one simple answer because they have different meanings or purposes.

Blackbirds sing their hearts out

Darlington and Stockton Times: SPRING ENTRANCE: The swallows arrived in April this year

3:58pm Friday 23rd May 2014

THE first weeks of this month proved exceptionally busy so far as the bird life around us was concerned. That period of the new spring is always a frantic time for wild birds with our native species busy courting, nesting and defending their territories while immigrants are helping to swell numbers and increase the activity which at times can be rather frantic.

If you were too poor for a coffin

Darlington and Stockton Times: SPLENDID AND FASCINATING: The old church at Easingwold

3:56pm Friday 16th May 2014

EASINGWOLD has a splendid and fascinating old church with many sections dating to pre-Reformation times. It is dedicated to All Saints and St John and is worth a visit in an effort to date and identify most of its parts.

The literary myths of the moors

Darlington and Stockton Times: SPRING IS HERE: St Mary the Virgin Church in Norton High Street

3:57pm Friday 9th May 2014

A FEW days before settling down to write these notes, I read an article that had been written by a tourist expert, and it praised the North York Moors for having the scenery that produced epic novels such as those written by the Bronte sisters as well as Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula masterpiece. Clearly, the writer had no idea of the geography or history of this huge county.

Fryup – a dale of horses and fairy rings

Darlington and Stockton Times: ROYAL APPOINTMENT: Cleveland Bays – efficient carriers, and popular with the Queen

4:29pm Friday 2nd May 2014

ONE of the least visited areas within the North York Moors is probably Fryup. This small community is spread around two dales – Great Fryup Dale and Little Fryup Dale, in the Esk Valley between Danby and Lealholm.

Whatcamefirst, theyewor the church?

Darlington and Stockton Times: PROTECTED FLORA: Early blooms in front of Castle Howard in North Yorkshire

3:35pm Friday 25th April 2014

THERE are times when the traditional “chicken-and-egg” question is raised about yew trees and churches. I am frequently asked whether the yew tree was first to appear at the edge of a graveyard, or whether the church came first.

‘Rock’ and role in setting date for Easter

Darlington and Stockton Times: LEAP OF FAITH: Spring has sprung and this lamb at a County Durham farm is making the most of it

4:13pm Wednesday 23rd April 2014

WHITBY Abbey, with its famous abbess, Hild, now known as St Hilda, was one of England’s leading centres of the Christian faith and a major event occurred during Hilda’s stewardship. It was the Synod of Whitby in AD 664 when the town was known as Streoneshalh.

Cuckoo waltzes in with spring weather

Darlington and Stockton Times: THE CUCKOO: Its arrival and call are the subject of many sayings and superstitions

2:45pm Friday 11th April 2014

IT is around this time that we listen for the cuckoo’s familiar cries. Down the centuries this has always been a sure sign that spring has arrived, but now this iconic bird is in serious decline.

Do you have a cuddy in your garden?

Darlington and Stockton Times: ALSO KNOWN AS: The house sparrow - or spuggie

3:53pm Friday 4th April 2014

FOLLOWING my recent notes about the North Riding dialect names, especially for the hedgehog, a reader asks about dialect names for some of our wild birds He adds that his bird feeders are regularly visited by stoggies. I’m sure the same reader would have told us that spuggies were also regular callers, then with a bit of luck he might have noticed a French linney or a cuddy.

Do you measure up in the size stakes?

Darlington and Stockton Times: ABOUT THE SIZE OF IT: A male mallard in the spring sunshine among crocuses in Ripon

3:14pm Friday 28th March 2014

IT can be difficult conveying to another person’s imagination the approximate size of something.

Dialect links hedgehog and sea urchin

Darlington and Stockton Times: SPRING! One of the busiest maternity wards in the country is up and running with hundreds of new borns being brought into the world over the next few weeks at Doe Farm in Teesdale

4:31pm Friday 21st March 2014

SOME time ago I spotted a reader’s letter in a local newspaper which drew attention to the plight of hedgehogs on our roads.

Speculation over unusual village name

Darlington and Stockton Times: POINTS OF INTEREST: In spring, snowdrops are a feature of the grounds of Mount Grace Priory

4:30pm Friday 14th March 2014

A VISIT to Osmotherley and the nearby Cod Beck Reservoir can always produce something of interest. And so it was the day before compiling these notes just over a fortnight ago. My wife and I decided to visit the reservoir in an attempt to research the species of birds it attracted, and to learn a little more about the history of the village.

Village greens so vital to community life

Darlington and Stockton Times: FEATURE: A sturdy pant is a feature of the broad village green in West Auckland

11:33am Friday 7th March 2014

A RECENT news item in a national paper recorded that builders had won an appeal which allowed them to build large numbers of houses on two village greens. This was despite opposition from the respective local councils and the villagers themselves.

Yellow visitors a reminder of tragedy

Darlington and Stockton Times: STEAM POWER: No 46115 Scots Guardsman hauls the Cumbrian Mountain Express along the famous Settle to Carlisle railway line on a recent excursion from London Euston

4:08pm Friday 28th February 2014

OUR bird feeders are well patronised, especially by blue tits, but in the last few days, a pair of yellowhammers have visited us. This is by no means common, although we have welcomed yellowhammers in the past. I found this quite unusual because I have always associated yellowhammers with open moorland or wide areas of quiet countryside.

Evidence tree sparrows are taking over

Darlington and Stockton Times: BLEAK BEAUTY: Horses being exercised in the hills near Middleham during the recent snowfall

4:38pm Friday 21st February 2014

LOOKING back over my youthful birdwatching years, I have no recollection of seeing tree sparrows either in our garden or around the surrounding countryside, although we were visited by dozens of house sparrows. In simple terms, those two species are so very much alike that it is far from easy to make a positive identification so in those youthful years I might not have noticed the difference!

The undisputed capital ofWensleydale

Darlington and Stockton Times: BUSY BUT DIGNIFIED: Leyburn Town Hall, built by Lord Bolton in 1856, and now shops

3:53pm Friday 14th February 2014

LEYBURN is the undisputed capital of Wensleydale which is the broadest and arguably the most beautiful of the Yorkshire Dales, and yet it is the only one of the major dales that is named after a village rather than a river. In spite of Leyburn’s dominance, the dale gets its name from nearby village of Wensley and one of my regular queries is why this should be so.

At last, an urban craze that Dalesfolk can fully embrace

2:23pm Friday 7th February 2014

THERE was a time when trends and crazes took a while to reach the Dales, or failed to arrive completely.

Peregrine’s aerobatic antics are a treat

Darlington and Stockton Times: FLYING HIGH: A peregrine falcon on a ledge at Malham Cove

2:23pm Friday 7th February 2014

ONE of the walks regularly enjoyed by my wife and I takes us along the escarpment at Sutton Bank Top near Thirsk.

Searching for clues of Saint Alkelda

Darlington and Stockton Times: QUESTIONS: St Mary and Alkelda’s Church, Middleham. The church is only one of two dedicated to St Alkelda in England

3:56pm Friday 31st January 2014

THE remarkably mild weeks of December and early January have apparently created some disorientation among our wildlife. I’ve received reports of daffodils blooming weeks earlier than usual while in several places snowdrops have appeared both in the wild and in our gardens.

Weather rhymes had reasons behind them

Darlington and Stockton Times: LORE-MAKERS: Clouds gather on the horizon over Fountains Abbey, near Ripon

4:29pm Friday 24th January 2014

COUNTRY folk have long been revered as highly capable forecasters of our weather. I can recall some villagers from the North York Moors hanging seaweed under the eaves of their garden shed where it was used to forecast rain – if the seaweed was damp and slimy, it heralded rain, but if it was hard and dry, then fine weather could be expected.

The sky’s no limit for majestic buzzard

Darlington and Stockton Times: THE BUZZARD: A majestic sight in flight, the species is increasing in range and can be seen in our area

3:54pm Friday 17th January 2014

MANY years ago, when I was a lad, the Lake District was probably the only locality in this region where I could be sure of seeing a real live buzzard.

A date that will always stay with me

Darlington and Stockton Times: NO FUN FOR SHEEP: like this one near Lanehead in County Durham last winter

4:43pm Friday 10th January 2014

I HAVE good reason to remember this date in both 1959 and again in 1976.

Flocking together for safety in numbers

Darlington and Stockton Times: FLIGHT TIME: A murmuration of starlings at Gretna in the Scottish borders

4:15pm Friday 3rd January 2014

ONE of the curious features of January is that so many birds join flocks mainly comprising their own species, but sometimes mingling with others. It may be that they recognise that there is safety in numbers, and another theory is that, when feeding, most of the flock members can satisfy their hunger whilst one or two of them keep guard.

Candle from the past still burns bright

Darlington and Stockton Times: WINTER VIEW: the ancient St Cuthbert's Church, Darlington, in December 2009

12:37pm Monday 6th January 2014

MANY years ago there was a house in my home village where an old gentleman lived alone. His wife had died some years before I was born and there were no children of that union.

Christmas times have changed their tune

Darlington and Stockton Times: BIG ON TWITTER: A RSPCA picture of a house sparrow (Passer domesticus) perched on a twig

11:50am Friday 20th December 2013

IN the December days preceding Christmas there have always been celebrations of a very mixed kind. They range from the customs practised on Old Christmas Day (Dec 6), by way of the Halcyon Days that bring a patch of milder weather to the celebrations of St Lucy’s Day (Dec 13), the feast of St Thomas which is today (Dec 20), and then tomorrow we remember that it is the shortest day of the year which is also known as Candle Auction Day, Gooding Day and more formally as the Feast of St Thomas the Apostle, who is often known as Doubting Thomas.

Why the New Forest is really rather old

Darlington and Stockton Times: WINTER GUESTS: Light-bellied Brent geese flying over Lindisfarne in Northumberland

1:11pm Friday 13th December 2013

THIS weeks’ Diary comes from Dorset, where I undertook a short visit to spend time with my family as I researched the locality for future novels and articles, as well as being a guest author at the Venus Business Women’s Awards in the New Forest.


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