This is an account from my late Aunt’s writings. She enjoyed trips out into the countryside.
Weardale is a dale, or valley, of the east side of the Pennines in County Durham, in England.
Trip taken in the 1970’s
One of the most active Natural History Societies I ever joined was the Middleborough on Teesside one. This society was proud of the fact that David Bellamy had started his career in the subject as a member.
With them I did some lovely day trips. This particular time I had both Saturday and Sunday off duty and our trip to Weardale was on Sunday. It was late May, I think.
On the Saturday I went walking on the nearby Moors – a short bus journey away. Skirting by the ascent to Roseberry Topping. ( I never did get up it.) I wandered further east and had a lovely walk. mostly on the North Yorkshire path. And then I tripped and fell, twisting my ankle. No real worry – I would sit by the path and rest for a bit, plenty of other walkers were about if I needed help.
Around me the Grouse cackled, and flowers bloomed. I had my lunch. The ankle was painful. I had about 6 miles to walk back to my bus. Would I be able to go on the trip next day? I had read that when the army marched everywhere, no quarters was given for an ‘injury as small’ as a sprained ankle. The casualty was got up to walk with his mates who were allowed to help him only for the first hour. Then he had to carry on as best he could. Well, I was having a good rest before I started my walk, I should be able to manage, I thought. And I did!
I even managed to trip and fall again, but kept going, got the bus and put myself to bed that night with no real hope of going out anywhere next day.
When I woke I was delighted to find that my ankle was almost normal! So the army were right! So I joined the party, and we had a lovely day walking along the river, through fields and little lanes. In one field we found Birds Eye Primroses – Primula farinosa, lots of them growing in the rough tussocky grass. They were kicked and uprooted by a herd of young cattle, but were going to survive.
My ankle hurt a bit on the rough ground but the interest was enough to make a bit of discomfort worthwhile. It was a lovely fine day. At lunch time we were near a farm and our leader went to see if they would make us tea. The farm people were very hospitable, invited we women in to use their (rather primitive) toilet. The men don’t need such refinements and often use trees and shrubs even when loos are available.
A huge pot of tea arrived as we sat about their yard and chatted with the children and dogs.
Inside it was simple comforts and a table bearing framed pictures of the family – old ones of Grandfathers’ winning prizes at shows, marriages, clever kids with school prizes.
Our leader gave the lady what he thought was fair and she seemed pleased and said, ‘Come again’
We walked back to our minivan. The little lanes were bounded by dry stone walls. Peeping over into a small field I saw it was full of lapwings all with two or three chicks pecking about in rough grass and stones.
This was the 1970’s. Since then lapwings which had been so common everywhere have declined in numbers due to intensive farming. But perhaps Weardale is still wild and natural. I hope so.