Year in Review (Oct - Dec) – It all ends in tiers as year draws to a close
By Stuart Laundy - Senior Reporter
WITH the dale back under local lockdown measures there was little to be optimistic about.
Having embraced Eat Out to Help Out in August, cafes and pubs said they were now counting the cost of measures banning anyone from different households meeting up at their venues.
In Barnard Castle, the YMCA closed its premises due to financial pressures, the future of the Edinburgh Woollen Mill was thrown into doubt and beauticians said restrictions had dramatically affected their businesses.
Trustees at The Witham described how events of 2020 had dealt a “brutal” blow to the complex.
Manager Susan Coffer to the annual meeting: “There were signs of optimism for 2020. In the first quarter there were really positive figures across all areas of operation. To be stopped in our tracks felt incredibly brutal.”
Later in the month, plans were unveiled to hold late shopping evenings in early November – as it turned out just as the country was plunged into a second lockdown.
The town was also not looking its best – the view of Cllr Richard Child, chairman of Barnard Castle Town Council's services committee after his annual inspection.
Several areas were highlighted as requiring improvement, such as the rose garden at the corner of The Bank and Bridgegate and the bed on Pearson Street.
The decision by Ian and Ruth Tallentire to sell up ended a nine decade association between their family and Alston Road Garage, in Middleton-in-Teesdale.
Mr Tallentire said changes in the industry and the forthcoming drive towards electric vehicles had prompted their decision.
“The Covid lockdown made us think and instead of plodding on we took stock. I think the business needs someone a little younger to drive it forward,” he said.
The efforts of a retired joiner who took to making bird boxes for something to do proved a hit with residents.
Ken Jordan decided to put his skills to good use and help raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care.
His efforts soon earned him the nickname of the bird man of Barney.
THE final resting place of Hannah Hauxwell, the dale farmer who found TV fame, was given a spruce up thanks to a new scheme.
Paths were reinstated, dangerous trees removed and broken fences repaired at Romaldkirk Cemetery through Durham County Council’s Find and Fix project.
Ms Hauxwell, who sprang to fame after appearing in documentaries about her life at Baldersdale, was laid to rest in the cemetery after she died aged 91, two years ago.
In the busy autumn sheep sales, good prices were achieved, including a Swaledale ram from noted dale breeder Robert Hutchinson which sold for £24,000.
Remembrance day events were held as the dale organised things differently in light of the second Covid-19 lockdown.
In Gainford, a socially distanced service was held on the green. In Middleton, a poignant display featuring the profiles of two Tommy soldiers was created at the cenotaph.
Green Lane Primary School head Rob Goffee told of the strain involved in keeping schools open during the pandemic.
Pupils learning at home, teachers self-isolating or shielding and meeting Covid-19 regulations were among the daily pressures faced by schools he said.
“I am spending the whole day doing things that are hardly connected to the school. You are constantly trying to keep the school open and staff motivated. You try to do what you can,” he said.
Staff and volunteers at the TCR Hub began a huge effort to collect enough goods to ensure those in need across the dale were not forgotten at Christmas.
The Hub’s care packages scheme has continued since it was first introduced in March and about 90 households currently benefit from the scheme.
Dozens of volunteers circulated thousands of leaflets asking residents for donations.
Meanwhile, jubilation at improvements to Wesley Terrace play park in Middleton-in-Teesdale had given way to dismay when work was required to fix safety issues with some of the equipment which had been installed.
Parish councillor Bob Danby said: “It is regrettable the play park is out of action again. We're really sorry about this but we needed to get these issues resolved as early as possible.”
BARNARD Castle’s Christmas lights switch-on was switched online.
With the dale emerging from Lockdown 2.0 and being put into Tier 3 restrictions, there was no chance of a traditional switch-on taking place. So a scaled back event was organised by the town council and Christmas lights group and recorded by Howell Film, a company which had recently moved its headquarters into Barney.
The result was streamed to coincide with when the lights would have been switched on.
Elsewhere across the dale, communities organised their own festive illuminations to bring a bit of seasonal cheer.
Raby Estates received backing for its plans to build housing estates on green field sites in Gainford and Staindrop and to redevelop the park and gardens at Raby Castle.
Members of Durham County Council’s planning committee voted 4-3 in favour of both housing plans, despite huge local opposition.
They said the properties were needed to help pay for the work at Raby Castle and maintenance at the derelict Gainford Hall, which is also owned by Raby Estates.
The county council also stands to benefit by millions of pounds from the housing development.
Parish councillors in Gainford and Staindrop began talks about seeking a possible judicial review into the county council’s decision.
Legal advice is being sought by both parish councils before a decision on future action is taken.
Whorlton Bridge was closed to all users after a new survey raised fears of a “catastrophic collapse”.
The inspection said the bridge cannot support its own weight.
Despite the difficulties faced by all charities, the Teesdale branch of Cancer Research UK was still able to hand over £40,000.
Cancer Research UK’s fundraising manager Jan Leafe said: “We are so grateful to this community for their continued support in what is such a difficult time for a lot of people.