Sheep fair

IT was reported (D&S Times, October 6) that a 60,000-signature petition had been signed, calling for racing at the annual Masham Sheep Fair to be abandoned even though the same fair has raised more than £158,000 for various Yorkshire charities since it was launched 32 years ago.

What on earth are these 60,000 objectors thinking about, when, to me, this important annual Dales market town sheep fair brings in so much money for charities and brings life to the town and the community and people together?

These same 60,000 objectors have a very selfish attitude and are living in “cuckoo land” while many people are really working hard in trying to keep these annual events going, especially amidst all the government and council’s ever-increasing cut-backs in today struggling country.

Roland Bramham, Richmond

TV lesson

IN this week's episode of ITV’s "Victoria" the Tory Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, took the historic step of ignoring his right wingers and instead doing what was best for the country by supporting repeal of the Corn Laws.

Mrs May should take a similar step, abandoning futile efforts to keep her party together and instead working with other parties to plan a Brexit which is best for the nation.

Liberal Democrats have consistently said that it is essential for us to remain in the single market and customs union; this should be her starting point in gaining cross-party consensus.

Our MP was keen to tell us before the referendum why we should vote to leave the EU. He seems much less eager to tell us about the progress, or lack of it, being made towards that end.

Richard Short, Great Ayton

Petrol miles

IT is fantastic news that the future of the petrol station at Hawes will be guaranteed - great for locals and the thousands of visitors alike (D&S Times, October 13).

However, you state in the article that “the nearest alternative full-time petrol station from Hawes would require a 36 mile round trip.”

Not true! We have two petrol stations within five miles and another just nine miles away which is open seven days a week, 7am - 7pm.

I know the main content of the article is about the community taking over the filling station, but the some of the facts were not quite accurate.

Brenda Peacock, Hawes

Verge planting

FARMERS have complained about plans to grow native British flowering plants on road verges because of the ragwort danger.

Hartlepool has been growing these plants successfully for about five years now and I haven’t seen any ragwort, just an attractive colourful mixture of life beneficial native plants.

I know a lot of small farms struggle to compete with cheaper and maybe lower grade products from countries that don’t have the same respects and controls for good crops and animals.

But they shouldn’t knock initiatives that try to stop the destruction of our natural support systems, especially as some pesticides and herbicides along with intensive farming are being blamed for this destruction, which has reduced fields to impotent factory floors.

C Davison, Billingham

Memory lane

YOUR notes from Ann Flintoff about Cowton station (D&S Times, October 6) brought back many memories for me.

My father, Harry Dunning, was the last station master at East Cowton and I was born in the Station Master’s House across the road from Station Farm where Ann lived.

When my parents married, my mother moved from East Cowton village, where there was mains water and electricity, into a house which had neither. Water for washing came from the water butts around the house and all drinking water had to be carried from the tanker on the station.

It was the mid-1950’s before the station complex was connected to mains water and my mother often related how electricity was switched on in the house on the day my younger brother was born in February 1958.

I used to enjoy “helping” my father in the station office and a particular favourite was using the weighbridge to calculate the weight of the trailers before and after they were filled with coal. I was never entrusted with the maths to work out the weight and cost though!

Each year the Sunday School outing from the village went on the train to Redcar. I also remember my father having to set the alarm for the middle of the night if the Royal Train was coming through, because he would have to stand on the station platform with a lamp to show that the passage was clear.

I have a photograph which has an inscription by my father: “Cowton – in the rain - last passenger train, 14 September 1958.” What is interesting is that, with the renewed interest in steam, nowadays such an occasion would see the platform crammed with people. Yet there is nobody to be seen, although obviously someone took the trouble to take the photograph.

It is not true to say that Cowton station closed in 1958. In fact, we still have the notice which was displayed at the station which reads: “Cowton station – closed for passengers. Still open for goods, parcels and livestock.” I can’t remember the exact date when it closed completely, but I’m fairly sure that this was not until early to mid-1960s.

Jennie Town, Romanby

Bridge fears

THE East Coast Main Line bridges at Bank Top, Darlington are now showing extensive corrosion, which would now seem to require urgent treatment, before costs escalate.

I have it on good authority that Network Rail have been aware of my observations for a few months, including a suggestion that the bridges receive the same long-life glass-epoxy coating as was recently applied to the Forth Rail Bridge.

Lately, I note that one support column at the Neasham Road end on the south side has a prominent slab of half-inch thick rust-scale. I am not a structural engineer, but if this was my car, I would be somewhat concerned.

I also note that our historic coat of arms displayed on the bridges are faded and jaded, surrounded by grime and rust.

In 2025 Darlington will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the opening of the world’s first steam-powered passenger railway, the Stockton and Darlington Railway, but I do wonder what plans exist for these vital bridges. If preservation is not an option, what is?

M Watson, Darlington

Nuclear treaty

ON October 14 the Northern Friends Peace Board met in Darlington Quaker Meeting House. Delegates from all over the north heard about the amazing UN Nuclear Weapon Ban treaty signed in New York in July by 122 countries.

We then heard from one of our own delegates. Janet Fenton, sponsored by NFPB, had been in New York and Geneva as part of the negotiations. She told us that ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons - a coalition of 400 partners, had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

At a time of such heightened tensions between the US and North Korea it was wonderful to be in the middle of Darlington, hearing first-hand about this ground-breaking treaty.

It is only a first step but this is how we got rid of chemical and biological weapons and land mines, a glimmer of hope.

Jennie White, Wensley

Schools focus

WHAT a shame your story about the region’s under performing schools (D&S Times, October 13) chose to focus on the negatives and failed to mention the meteoric rise in high performing schools in Stockton Borough.

I don’t know, maybe bad news sells, but here in Stockton-on-Tees the percentage of secondary schools rated outstanding or good has rocketed from 45 to 89 in just over three years – that’s the best in the North-East by some margin.

As for our primary schools, 96 per cent are outstanding or good.

So, rather than “Region tops the class for poorly performing schools” as a headline it would have been nice to see an alternative along the lines “Stockton schools are flying high.”

Well done to our schools and all of the pupils, teachers, support staff, parents, carers and governors who have contributed to this remarkable improvement.

Cllr Ann McCoy, Stockton-on-Tees

Superb service

MANY local pharmacies are under threat of closure due to Government cost cutting within the NHS.

Some months ago I received a letter from a private company, sporting the NHS logo, urging me to sign up for free prescription deliveries to my home. I now see adverts on national television offering the same type of service.

I use my local chemist, "The Village Pharmacy" in Newton Aycliffe regularly and receive superb service from staff. They home deliver, liaise with my medical practice, sell a wide range of goods and medical items and I can get first rate medical advice from the on-site pharmacist and thus free-up a doctor’s visit for minor ailments. - And I also walk there which helps keep me fit.

Why would people not fight to save and support their local pharmacy by using the very same services and more that some unknown national company wants to take from us? Support your local pharmacy, local people work there delivering a fantastic local health service for the whole community. Use it or lose it.

John Walker, Newton Aycliffe

Cancer call

WHEN my mother Marjie Lawrence died from ovarian cancer seven years ago, I promised myself I would speak up so that others wouldn’t suffer in the same way. I joined Target Ovarian Cancer because it is a charity determined to make the changes that will save lives.

They have worked tirelessly on symptoms awareness and this is taking effect.

But the fact is that UK women are facing a demographic time bomb in ovarian cancer. In my capacity as Ambassador to Target Ovarian Cancer, I’m writing to tell you that enough is enough. Our new campaign bears our most powerful message to date and signifies that now is the time for change: It’s time to TAKE OVAR.

Funding for new research into ovarian cancer drugs has dropped by one third in the past five years. Without this research we will be unable to establish new treatments for the disease. This is an indisputable fact and yet statistics show that more women than ever will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the coming years.

More funding is required as soon as possible.

Eleven women die every day from ovarian cancer. We need to diagnose ovarian cancer much earlier and we need better medicines to treat it. For Marjie it was too late, but this situation can change if we act now.

Please join Target Ovarian Cancer to raise awareness, fund research and save lives. Get involved at

Sarah Greene, Target Ovarian Cancer Ambassador

Caring eulogy

WHILST attending a recent funeral service at Middlesbrough Crematorium I was extremely impressed by the gentleman who conducted the service for this very elderly local lady.

I had not previously met this man but felt I had to congratulate him on his professional and caring approach, so much so, it almost seemed like he knew the deceased and on speaking of her life was word perfect.

So, ITV / BBC, should you require any newsreaders or presenters, then look no further than James Dooley. His heartfelt speaking is a rare talent indeed.

Trevor Mason, Swainby

Green delight

I WAS delighted to learn that on my recent return from visiting family in different locations where they can recycle just about anything, Richmondshire District Council have increased the door step recycling and are bucking the general trend in decreasing facilities.

Really pleasing. Well done RDC

Gwen Clark, Gayle