Year in Review (Jul - Sept) – Haircut, Sir? Dale is ‘Good to Go’ as lockdown restrictions are eased
By Stuart Laundy - Senior Reporter
THE green light was given for leisure businesses to reopen as a further easing of lockdown restrictions came into force.
Pubs, B&Bs, caravan parks and other attractions had worked hard to make sure they were Covid-safe in an effort to cash in on staycationers.
Many signed up to Visit Britain’s Good to Go accreditation scheme in an effort to convince visitors they had done everything possible to ensure a safe stay.
One way systems were put in place, track and trace arrangements organised and table service at pubs was introduced.
However, there were still issues at the dale’s beauty spots. Enforcement officers handed out fines to more than 40 visitors who ignored the recently installed double yellow lines at Bowlees.
At the Langdon Beck Hotel, sheep pens were put to good use to ensure social distancing between customers.
Elsewhere, barbers and hair salons were allowed to reopen – resulting in a huge queue of shaggy haired men outside Riley’s, in Barnard Castle.
In other headlines, development plans at Gainford came to the fore.
The derelict former St Peter's school was further damaged after emergency services were called to a fire which destroyed two floors and the roof and led to calls for compulsory purchase of the property by Durham County Council.
It remains an eyesore after years of wrangling over plans to develop the building and the surrounding land.
A plan by Raby Estates to build 79 houses elsewhere in Gainford attracted opposition from the village's parish council.
Raby outlined plans to build an estate at Gainford plus 72 homes in Staindrop to raise money for the redevelopment of the castle park and gardens and the maintenance of the now derelict Gainford Hall.
Parish councillors agreed if the new houses were built, they would be to the detriment of the village.
Nature enthusiasts were celebrating the 20th anniversary since Smallways wetlands came into being.
It was created when all efforts to grow crops proved unsuccessful and the wetlands now attract 100 species of birds each year.
WHILE some semblance of normal life had returned, there were constant reminders that things were not as they used to be.
Barnard Castle town councillors decided it was simply too risky to contemplate a Bonfire night fireworks display later in the year and a question mark hung over the planning for the town's other major events such as the Remembrance Day parade and Christmas lights switch-on.
Alternative events were organised at Middleton-in-Teesdale in place of the annual carnival parade.
A scarecrow competition – one of several organised by villages across the dale this year – proved popular and new arrangements were put in place for the annual treasure hunt.
However, there was plenty to celebrate in the village with the reopening of Wesley Terrace play area.
Despite delays in installing the new equipment caused by the Covid-19 alert, parents celebrated a “true community effort” as children enjoyed their new swings, slides and other equipment.
August saw plans submitted to Durham County Council for yet more houses in and around Barnard Castle.
This latest scheme, by the Banks Group, envisaged 100 properties on Darlington Road next to the recently completed Castle Vale estate.
The company said the scheme was at a pre-planning stage, with consultation events planned to canvas local opinion.
In sport, the shortened cricket season was well under way, while the dale's footballers were also preparing for a return to action later than anticipated.
In the meantime, Bowes FC and Barnard Castle Juniors FC agreed to work towards an eventual merger of the two clubs in an effort to develop football in the town and create a seamless route for players from junior to senior teams.
MEASURES had been put in place to ensure schools could welcome pupils back to class – some for the first time since March – for the new term.
Kelvin Simpson, head teacher at Staindrop Academy summed up the mood of staff and students as “excited and nervous”.
The scale of the challenges facing staff and pupils at school during a pandemic were demonstrated just two weeks into the new term when Cotherstone Primary School was temporarily closed after a scare.
Also reopening in September was The Witham, which had been closed since March.
Although no live performances could be staged, the cafe and shop welcomed visitors, with trustees hopeful some of the community classes could resume in the not too distant future.
The spectre of local lockdowns also loomed in September, with Teesdale being included in an area covering seven local authorities in the North East – all with higher rates of infection.
There was also the first hint of a vaccine on the horizon.
The Mercury reported how a trial was due to begin into a potential vaccine put forward by US pharmaceutical company Novavax.
Morag Burton, chief operating officer of the National Institute for Health Research network for the North East – and Barnard Castle resident – appealed for her fellow townsfolk to sign up.
In sport, the curtailed cricket season ended in delight for Barnard Castle's second team, which lifted the Readman Cup with a 30-run victory against Marton.
In the Darlington and District League, Aldbrough St John were crowned champions of the A division.
From cricket to golf and following Darren Pearce’s decision to call time of his 25-year stint as pro at Barnard Castle, the club welcomed Martyn Stubbings, the former director of golf at Rockliffe Hall, in Hurworth, near Darlington.
Boosting membership and increasing the number of visiting golfers to Barney were his main goals – and he was hoping a renewed interest in the sport during the pandemic would help.
It emerged Mr Pearce would not be going far after an offer came “out the blue” to take over the golf club at Headlam Hall.
“I was going to take a few months off to get married and recharge the batteries. But after discussions with Headlam, I realised it was too good an opportunity to miss,” he said.