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Steve’s Nature Diary

May finds the breeding season well underway and with day lengths getting longer, not only can animals spend more time looking for food, but also there is opportunity for us to have a stroll after work. We are so lucky to have several nature reserves and green spaces on our doorstep including Hardwick Park, Bishop Middleham quarry and wetlands, Hurworth Burn and Castle Eden Walkway and many others.

On a warm day it can be worth visiting yet another site not too far away - Wingate Quarry Local Nature Reserve. This was Durham County Council’s first nature reserve and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Habitats include grassland, woodland, wetland and scrub. Wingate Quarry was quarried for Magnesian Limestone rock, the soil is shallow, of poor quality and has a high lime content. This affects the types of plants which grow here and these are known as Magnesian Limestone grassland.

Wingate Quarry is now a refuge for many of these rare plants. In fact the site contains over 34 species of wildflowers including Common Spotted Orchid, Birdsfoot Trefoil and Quaking Grass. One of my favourites that can easily be found is the Butterwort, a carnivorous plant which has sticky leaves and attracts flies. Once stuck the plant absorbs the nutrients to help it survive on the nutrient poor soil. It is worth spending some time looking near the ponds, you may see dragonflies and damselflies and, if you are lucky, Great Crested Newts. The site can be very good for butterflies but pick a warm sunny day and you may see commoner species alongside Marbled Whites and Dingy Skippers.

On one visit to Wingate Quarry, we came across an insect I had never seen before – we nearly stood on it! A black sausage shaped beetle with a bloated abdomen. On further investigation, using our field guide we discovered it was an Oil Beetle – so called because if attacked it exudes a toxic cocktail of oil which will deter most predators. With further research we found out that it has a complicated life cycle. The swollen abdomen is full of eggs and the females look for somewhere to dig a burrow to lay them in. When the hundreds of tiny larva hatch they look nothing like their parents; they are pale, thin and fast moving and immediately swarm up flower heads not looking for nectar but a lift.

On each leg they have three hooks, and because of this are known as triungulins (from the Latin for three claws). They wait until a solitary bee comes along and then using their hooks they attach to the bee and hitch a lift back to their burrow. Here they eat the bees’ eggs and feast on pollen before pupating and eventually emerging in spring. Oil Beetles are relatively rare so keep an eye out for them and if you find one let the Wildlife Trust know!

May’s Sinister Twist

In spring winds, flowers bend and sway,
Sunshine’s Tulips form a pretty bouquet.
Exotic Orchids nothing more, nothing less,
Delicate and loving, the flower goddess.v Daffodils swing with their heads held high,
Not long woken from the beds they lie.
With sinister twist, the last goddess of spring,
Dies, taking new life under her wing.
Green Jester the fool and his hobby horse,
Will find another as a matter of course...
Another sacred dance around the Maypole,
Entwining next years beautiful Soul…
The Unknown Poet 2018.

Oldest wedding dress appeal

A search is on for the oldest surviving wedding dress in the parish of the Upper Skerne, which includes the villages of Sedgefield, Fishburn, the Trimdons and Bishop Middleham.

The dress will become the centrepiece of a ‘Weddings Then and Now’ exhibition at St Michael’s Church, Bishop Middleham on Saturday 12th May, between 11am and 4pm. It will feature original bride and bridegroom wedding outfits, wedding memorabilia and photographs. Team Vicar Michael Thompson said this week: “We are looking for dresses from across the decades and there’s a prize for the oldest one we discover. We’d also welcome the loan of a tailor’s dummy or a mannequin to display the dress”.

The appeal has already produced dresses from the late 1940s to the modern day (the oldest so far is one from 1949, made from the silk of a parachute canopy). “We’d love to find one even older than that”, said Michael. The exhibition will include wedding texts, poems and written anecdotes about specific weddings and wedding traditions, floral arrangements, stands from local wedding services, activities and crafts as well as refreshments, including wedding cake.

Entry is free but donations are being invited for St Michael’s Boiler Fund. Further information is available at or by calling 01740 654966.

‘A fantastic historical gem’

A visit to a Grade I listed Jacobean home near Richmond is being organised by the Friends of St Edmund’s Church, on Thursday, July 12, as part of their annual social programme.

Kiplin Hall, (left) near Scorton, was built for George Calvert (Secretary of State to James I and founder of Maryland in the USA) and it is filled with wonderful furniture, portraits, paintings and personalia. Set in 100 acres of lovely gardens, “Kiplin Hall is a fascinating place in that it might just have been vacated by its Victorian owners”, said Brian Mutch, membership secretary of the Friends. The estimated cost of £33 includes the coach from Sedgefield, refreshments on arrival, a guided tour and lunch.

Further information is available from Brian on 01740 622302 or secretary Alison Hodgson on 01740 620912.

Looking for a home

WI Allsorts has just celebrated its first birthday and has already grown to 20 members. We are struggling for space in our current home so does anyone know of any community space with seating for 20 people, toilets, tables and a kitchen facility? We would hire it once per month. Please get in touch via our Facebook page.

A welcome donation

A foundation dedicated to improving the lives of sick and underprivileged children in the North East has been given a boost of almost £4,000. Hays Travel in Sedgefield recently donated a total of £3,990 to the Ellen Timney Foundation – a charity set up in celebration of the life of local mum and wife Ellen, who passed away in 2007.

Throughout her life, Ellen, was committed to helping others and was involved in a number of charity projects - it is the mission of the foundation to continue her work. In October the Ellen Timney Foundation hosted their annual ball, where the team from Hays Travel held a raffle, raising £1995. Following the branch’s application for match-funding from the Hays Travel Foundation, this amount was doubled.

Commenting on the success of the raffle branch manager of Hays Travel in Sedgefield, Julie Ann, said: “We’re delighted to be able to donate such high amount this year, especially receiving match funding from the Foundation. We have worked alongside the Ellen Timney Foundation from the very start, and have helped to raise money that can really make a difference to the lives of the children the charity supports. We hope this donation will go some way to help them continue their great work.” Jane Morgan, daughter of Ellen Timney and chair of the foundation, said: “We are very grateful for the support we have received from Julie Ann and her team throughout the years. In addition, we would like to thank the Hays Travel Foundation for their tremendous support.”

The initiative is part of Hays Travel’s local community partnerships, through which retail staff work with local schools, charities and organisations, helping them to raise the funds they need to achieve their goals.

Sedgefield Local History Society remembers John Welford

A small band gathered at the war memorial on March 29th to commemorate another of our Sedgefield men lost in the Great War 100 years ago.

John Welford was born in Coundon in 1892 to Thomas Welford and his wife Elizabeth Jane (nee Errington) of Sedgefield. In 1911, aged 19, John was a stone man, working in a coal mine, along with his father and younger brother James. Later, John became an asylum attendant, before signing up to the army in May 1915 at Bishop Auckland. He joined the Territorial Force of the DLI, serving in France, quickly gaining promotion to Sergeant.

The River Ancre, near the Somme, was the site of fierce fighting from 21st March to 5th April 1918. There, the first Battle of Dernancourt began on March 28th. John Welford was killed in action the next day, aged 26. He is remembered in France on the Pozieres Memorial and also on the Winterton Memorial, now in St Edmund’s Church.

Sedgefield LHS are grateful to the Village Veterans for their continued support. Also, on this occasion, to Martyn Evans, a SLHS Facebook friend, who was a great help in tracking down details on Sergeant John Welford of the 19th DLI.

Please join us at the war memorial at 10.45 am on Sunday May 27th, when we will commemorate Edwin Banks of the Northumberland Fusiliers.

Blues news

Back in January 2017, the little old blues club in Sedgefield was the scene for a piece of musical history, when a live CD was recorded at the Parish Hall by the winners of 2017 UK Blues Challenge winners, LaVendore Rogue.

So, what is the meaning of LaVendore Rogue (pronounced LAV, as in ‘toilet’, END, as in ‘not the beginning’, ORE, as in ‘iron’). Well, who knows, but what is clear is that LaVendore Rogue are one of the most exciting bands to emerge on the UK Roots scene for many years. They competed in the 2018 International Blues Challenge in the USA and the European Blues Challenge in Hell - not the one in the deepest darkest realms of the earth’s core, but Hell in Norway.

Anyway, back to the album; the gritty performance captured the energy and power of their live shows and they are back, bigger and even more live than before!

So, save the date, Friday 25th May. We ask you…will you relive that NIGHT IN THE NORTH moment or witness the attitude and swagger of Jo Jo backed by the sublime guitar playing of Joel Fisk for the first time? With support by Trevor Steger, tickets are in high demand.

For more information visit

Christian Aid Week 13th-19th May #StandTogether

It’s that time of the year when we call upon our volunteer collectors to again give freely of their time, to first deliver the envelopes, and then call back to collect your donation. It is not always easy to catch everyone when they are at home, however the collectors do try to call back a second time. If we fail to call when you are at home and you wish to give, you can drop your envelope off at St. Edmund’s Church on Saturday 19th May during the Mediaeval Fayre between 10am and noon. Look out for us at the Christian Aid table. Christian Aid seeks to support some of the world’s poorest people, so we once again ask you to be as generous as you can.

Last year we collected just under £4000 from Sedgefield, Bradbury & Mordon. This amount was further increased by approximately £350 as a result of the gift aid declarations. If you are a UK tax payer, the amount you give can be increased by 25% (at no extra cost to you) by simply completing the details on the envelope.

Christian Aid can then reclaim the tax you have already paid. Thank you all for your continued support. David & Margaret Glass