Chair’s Report, July 2019

Thursday July 4th 2019

Once again – it’s time to update you on what has been happening in the last month so here goes!  This will be complemented by an update at our meeting on Thursday night from our HAZ manager, Richie Starrs, and we are extremely grateful for the energy and commitment he is bringing to the job.

First of all, our sincere thanks must go to Ray State who gave us a fascinating talk on the influence of Hackworth on the development of locomotives in the USA.  The title understated the breadth of what we were told by Ray, and some fascinating new information was given to us regarding the impact of the S&DR on railways in the USA.  I would also like to convey a very, very big thank you to Bannantynes whose hospitality went way beyond the call of duty.  The canapes they provided for us (free of charge) were wonderful, and the room itself, also provided to us gratis more than met our needs.  Finally, thank you to the members of the Friends who organised the event, namely, Jane, Jonathan and Mike.  Let’s hope the programme of talks will take off.  Suggestions for speakers will be gratefully considered.

Our sincere thanks must also go to Martin and Barry who have organised several very successful walks/socials at the Stockton end of the line over the last couple of weeks.  These were extremely well attended and received and hopefully will lead to more people joining us in the capacity of Friends.  Martin has very kindly agreed to represent the Stockton end of the line at Trustees’ meetings which is an extremely positive development.

The trustees are currently working on responding to two main documents: the Access Audit and the Interpretation proposals.  We are also attending the discussions of the Communications working group which is currently looking at suggestions for logos etc.  It is now becoming very urgent that we do have the necessary tools in place to allow the S&DR to develop a clearly identifiable identity, such as a web site of its own.  So it is encouraging that this work is now well under way.  As chair, I attended the Access Audit meeting with Ross and also attended the Communications meeting and the Interpretation Audit meeting with Niall.

The area around the Gaunless Bridge is receiving considerable attention at present.  One of the local schools involved in the Wear Rivers Trust Gaunless Project carried out a litter picking event down by the river as part of their John Muir Trust Discovery Award and collected 6 bags of rubbish.  Durham County Council arranged for the Environment Agency to visit the river, and they cleaned up the river and cut back overhanging branches etc. on both sides of the bridge abutments.  Niall, Richie and I were involved in the pre visit and we would like to thank Durham and Richie for the clean-up work involved.  Niall, Richie and I also met with one of the DCC landscape architects down by the bridge to discuss potential landscape improvement and plans are currently being drawn up, prior to a community consultation.  Much of this is the result of the community consultation event put on by the HAZ (Richie) and ourselves a short while ago.

As one of our key objectives is to raise and maintain the profile of the Stockton and Darlington Railway in the lead up to 2025, I am delighted to report that in the last month the chair attended a Men’s Cree event at Greenfields Arts Centre in Newton Aycliffe and presented on the S&DR project.  I will be returning next month to deliver a talk on the history of the S&DR.  Three groups of primary school pupils in the Bishop Auckland/West Auckland area have also visited Cockfield Fell, the Haggerleases branch line, the Skew Bridge and the Gaunless Bridge as part of their John Muir Trust Discovery Awards.

Finally, as chair I worked recently with the TV production company we talked about last month.  The series of 10 programmes is devoted to railway architecture, and we focussed on: the Railway Institute; the Goods Shed; the Timothy Hackworth and Soho cottages and the Daniel Adamson Coach House.  On the next day the company filmed up at the Brusselton Incline and Trevor can tell you more about what happened there.  I have no idea how it will come out after editing but again it was a marvellous opportunity to get our story out there.

Sorry if I’ve left anything out.


Trish Pemberton

Chair, Friends of the S&DR