WHEN is a closed road closed and when is a road closure open? It is a conundrum that has been bothering residents of Reeth and in particular Grinton recently.

An informative road sign indicated that there would be work done on the cattle grid at the top of the bank on the moor road going over to Leyburn. It also detailed that the road would still be usable by accessing the gate opening and shutting the gate next to the grill.

The work stated, the grill was passable and then the road closed, signs appeared but the road wasn’t closed, then it was, then it wasn’t. Then last weekend it would have been accessible, but the digger used for the work was parked in the way.

Going up the hill residents drove past the road closed sign to get home, frequently followed by other drivers who though the road was open – which on occasions it was!

But similarly, on as many occasions it was closed and it resembled the Grand Old Duke of York’s Men marching up and down. At the top there is little or no space to turn around which results in vehicles encroaching on private property.

The alternative was to reverse several hundred yards down. Much to the annoyance of the people wanting to go up the hill to find that the road was closed. Some of the other signs are placed in what I consider to be confusing locations. What was wrong with the cattle grid in the first place at the start of the summer school holidays?

I hope it isn’t to make a smoother more comfortable ride for cyclists. I have nothing against cyclists – it's good for the environment and healthy. In the near future it many not be too healthy for a resident of Grinton as bikes speed down the hill from the cattle grid, in the middle of the road, often in camouflage like deadly stealth bombers. It's not as if you can hear their engines.

A little research suggested that a cyclist with an average speed of 12mph to 15mph can increase their speed easily by more than 20mph on a descent.

In the 2016 Tour de France a professional rider clocked 81.2mph, and that may well have been beaten by now. A speed camera outside my cottage would undoubtedly detect numerous speeding cyclists each week.

It would be a good idea whilst the workers are here that they put in some speed bumps, change the speed limit to 20mph, indicate sharp bends, children playing, and old folk crossing the road and generally make the road a safe place. My parking makes it hazardous enough as it is.

Howard Nicholson, Reeth


I THOUGHT you might find this rather odd – we did.

My husband’s sister and husband live in Melbourne, and they know my husband reads a lot so on July 18 they sent him a book which they had enjoyed for my husband’s 80th birthday, The Dry by Jane Harper.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

Yesterday (Jul 19) I bought the D&S Times and there is the lovely article about Jane Harper.

My daughter will send my sister-in-law in Australia the page in the D&S Times which is so amazing.

Pauline Kemp, Northallerton

Friarage debate

I WAS at the public meeting arranged by Richmond MP Rishi Sunak about the changes to services at the Friarage Hospital. The last question asked was: "If you got the £22m to improve the operating theatre suite would the A&E stay open?" The answer was "yes".

The Yorkshire and Humber spend on health is £2,094 per head – in London it’s £2,639. If we had the same spend per head it would give Yorkshire and Humber and extra £2.6bn a year to spend on health. Why are we being treated as second class citizens? We are one of the few counties in the UK that pays more in tax than we receive back.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

It’s also interesting that the threat to close A&E at Charing Cross Hospital was reversed in March. The nearest alternative is less than five miles away compared to over 20 miles for us but then their Tory MP is representing a marginal seat.

As for Mr Sellars (D&S Times letters, July 19) we live in a democracy. The NHS isn’t free, we pay for it. If an unelected and unaccountable group of people spending our money make decisions which affect our lives, we have a right to question them and ensure that the decisions are correct.

It may be that the real question is should the Friarage be part of South Tees when it’s not in the same county or government region?

Philip Knowles, chair, Richmondshire Liberal Democrats

Gayle Mill

AT some time in recent weeks, the brown tourist information signs to Gayle Mill, positioned at the approaches to Hawes, were removed. And not just the signs but their supporting posts as well. Gayle Mill has been wiped off the map. Why, and on whose authority?

After closing the mill to the public in April 2018, for reasons still not properly explained, the custodians (North of England Civic Trust) posted a notice on their website stating that the mill would reopen in time for Easter 2019, a pledge that was later modified to indicate that they “hope” to re-open the building during the 2019 season.

However, the intense inactivity observed at the mill during the last 18 months begs the question as to whether this hope has any chance of becoming reality.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

Contrast all this with the hyperbole that surrounded the plans to restore and reopen Gayle Mill – “the jewel in the crown of Wensleydale”, as one authority put it. Indeed no description could be more apt. Gayle Mill is home to arguably the oldest working water-turbine in the UK, if not farther afield, and it houses a remarkable collection of Victorian woodworking machinery in full working order.

Gayle Mill is a truly unique vestige of Britain’s industrial heritage. It must be preserved and must remain available to all to appreciate and enjoy.

Unfortunately, the removal of the signs can only reinforce concerns that the mill has not just been closed but is destined to remain so.

Michael Thomson, Thornton Rust

Rainbow flag

I WAS very surprised to read of Northallerton Town Council agreeing to fly the rainbow flag outside the Town Hall (D&S Times, July 19).

Surprised because for more than 20 years now, the rainbow symbol has been used by a very vociferous and powerful political lobbying group with great effect, both on TV and in all the media, and continues to do so.

Council members may or may not be aware that the first rainbow was written about in the Bible, and therefore is a symbol of faith to Christians, Jews and Muslims. And for them it would be anathema to see it advertised or used in this way.

In my honest opinion, the only flag to be flown outside the Town Hall should be the flag of the United Kingdom, which represents our country and each and every one of us.

Maureen Johnston, Thirsk

Voting farce

WE can understand voting for a chairman – but never for a prime minster without the general consensus of all voters in this country. More so when we preach the rules of being a democratic nation.

In addition when the nation has suffered the last eight years of austerity – plus three years of useless debates on Brexit!

The Tory PM resigns her position and her party elects a replacement. How absurd.

More than 50 million voters are denied a say – whilst just a mere 200,000 people are given the right to continue the farce of the last eight years.

G Hayes, Richmond

Sheep cull

HAVING just read the article headlined "Mass sheep cull part of no-deal contingency" (D&S Times, July 19), it never fails to amaze me why MPs say things which are obviously scaremongering.

Darlington MP Jenny Chapman apparently tweeted that: "Defra has a no-deal contingency plan that would require the slaughter and burial of up to nine million sheep." Why? If our farmers were to carry on as they are we would not have to import lamb and sheep products therefore keeping our sheep farming industry in full employment.

Also in this day and age of food banks and poverty, why did Ms Chapman come out with the ridiculous statement of burying the animals? That would be a total waste of good food.

C.P. Atkinson, Great Ayton

Debt of gratitude

ON behalf of myself and Wensleydale Creamery, it is with great sadness that we learned of John Blackie’s passing. I first met John in 1992 around the time of the closure of Wensleydale Creamery and John became a local leader in the Save the Creamery campaign. He lobbied media, MPs, local government and together with colleagues, supporters and the community, raised the profile of a small business closure in a deeply rural environment, to national status.

The pressure and momentum gained through this campaign did indeed contribute significantly to the then owners, Dairy Crest agreeing to a sale to the management team.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

Since this time, John maintained full contact with the Creamery and became a champion of our progress and development. Throughout the years following our Creamery buyout, John fought for the Creamery and on many occasions challenged us to improve our performance, always in the spirit of progress and ultimately for the wellbeing of Hawes and the Upper Dales.

As we know, John loved to "back a cause"; in our case, it was to resurrect a failing business and to maintain employment and economic survival in Hawes. John always recognised the value and the contribution local businesses make to the stability of the local community and the opportunities and jobs for local people.

John was dogmatic in his opinions and attitudes towards local educational provision. I worked with John as a school governor at the Wensleydale School and Sixth Form – again an environment in which he would both challenge and support. However, John always linked the need for great education and the opportunities in our area for young people to build meaningful careers.

Again, this linked to housing provision for young people and John was a champion of local affordable housing. Without doubt, John had a truly rounded perception of our community and what it needs to be both sustainable and successful. He was always prepared to stand up for what he believed in and what he perceived to be in the best possible interests of the community he served.

John was the person responsible for ensuring our deeply rural community has a transport provision in the form of The Little White Bus – and remarkably, I often saw John at the wheel of a bus – now that is leadership! A planner, facilitator and leader of other local services via The Community Office in Hawes, where he ensured the continuation of a Post Office in the face of bank closures. The provision of cash machines in Hawes – again in response to others withdrawing their services. Latterly, we were encouraged to show around the executives of the Newcastle Building Society, who plan to open an office in the Community Office. John was most instrumental in developing this relationship and simply made it happen.

I suspect one of John’s proudest achievements for our community will be the huge success of the Community Garage – a truly inspired move whereby the community’s not for profit organisation purchased the local garage, to ensure our town has a viable fuel outlet, taking advantage of rural support payments for fuel and to drive this business forward providing fuel for ‘our community’ at the best possible price and in fact, being nationally competitive. This facility has made a huge impact and as a business person, I give John full credit and respect for this achievement alone.

John loved to promote our area as a self-sufficient community, and whilst he loved to deal with the media in all its forms, regionally, nationally and internationally, he genuinely had a point to make – we are self-sufficient, sustainable and successful.

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to John Blackie. He fought tirelessly for what he believed in – people, social justice, fairness, opportunity for all, our environment, education, housing, rural economic prosperity and wellbeing – all wrapped up in the objective of prosperity for Hawes, Wensleydale and the Upper Dales. John will be missed by me, the Creamery and the community he represented.

On behalf of us all at Wensleydale Dairy Products, we offer condolences to Jill and all his family and for sure, John will be remembered.

David Hartley, MD Wensleydale Dairy Products Ltd