For the last few days, inspired by a photo of a gravestone found on an old backup disk, I've been retracing a walk the OH and I did in 2003. It combined our two favorite things, family history for me and pubs for him (well, OK I'm not adverse to a few beers myself and the sit down is always welcome, even more so these days).
We had reached Witton le Wear, found a gravestone, had a beer and now it's time for the homewards stretch.
|The map of the walk, red stars outward, green stars back (map from Bing Maps)|
|Map of the Howden le Wear area from a 1960s Ordnance Survey map|
When we were in Beamish at the beginning of this holiday I had taken a photo of a timetable for a railway excursion.
|Excursion Timetable - Weardale to Saltburn by the Sea 1913 (on Beamish Station in 2003)|
Historic money comparison is a funny thing - you really need to compare value rather than actual figures - so what proportion of someone's wage would 1/9 have been in 1913 for example? The average weekly wage in 1913 was £1 7s (one pound and seven shillings) or thereabouts and there were 20 shillings in a pound so 1/9 was about 6% of the average wage. The average wage in 2010 was £452 a week, so £10.30 is just over 2% meaning that looks like the fare is cheaper now! However remember that the cost of living was much less in those days - a fraction of what it is now - so actually money was sort of worth more - meaning a different comparison makes the train fare in 1913 much, much cheaper than today. [Figures from the Measuring Worth website.]
The promised Railway Cottages did look just like something you would expect to find by the side of a railway line, low with decorative chimmeys. We turned up the footpath expecting to see some sign of the old railway line, but the footpath just went across the preserved railway and continued on the flat for as far as we could see. Engineman's Terrace was a long row, of fifteen or so houses, less decorative so maybe more recent than Railway Cottages. They are now a bit stranded at the end of a lane, but I suppose once they would have been very busy, built for the men who worked at the junction and the engine sheds there. I wonder if I had any ancestors who worked on the railways in the area?
It seems that the line was closed - Beeching? - in 1965 and the track lifted a couple of years later. They even filled in the cuttings! There are some pictures on the Disused Stations website for Crook, Beechburn and Wear Valley Junction.
|Beechburn Station (remains)|
© Copyright Ben Brooksbank and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
|Howden le Wear aerial view - the railway line ran north to south straight through the middle (from Google Maps)|
We decided to continue back to Crook on the road, there was another cemetery just outside Howden le Wear, but we didn't go in. Time was pressing and we knew the buses from Crook back to Durham weren't that frequent on a late Sunday afternoon. The next green star on the walk map marks the memorable spot where the OH picked up some money from the pavement, no-one around to hand it to, Sunday afternoon in a strange place ... what do you do? We eventually chalked it up to luck, our good luck, someone else's bad and thought it would pay for a beer or two when we got back to Durham.
There are no Good Beer Guide pubs in Crook now, but in the 2003 guide there was one, the Uplands Hotel. Unfortunately it was closed between 2:30 and 7pm and we'd hit Crook in just that window so we went for the bus instead. There had been a brewery in Crook for a while, the Darwin Brewery, but the year before our visit it had relocated to Sunderland, so we missed out on that as well. The last green star is in the square where the bus stop was.
Looking back on it now, ten years later, I find it hard to remember what is was like to be able to set out confidently to walk so far on one day - nearly ten miles - not so much you might say, but a fair trek for someone only used to the odd sponsored walk. The fact that I can recall so much about the day itself means that it was definitely worth it - memories are the things you live on as you get older (and in my case more wibbly!) AND I did get a picture of Thomas and Sarah Jolly's gravestone - Result!