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Northumberland Ghostly Hitch-hiker ?

Perched on the side of a rural road, a ‘phantom hitchhiker’ gave pals Rob Davies and Chris Felton a spooky surprise.

The ghostly sight of a man all in beige seeking a lift near Belsay in Northumberland left the Gateshead radio presenters in for a sleepless night.

The pair claim the man was dressed in RAF gear as he emerged late at night – and they have since discovered that he was stood close to where an air force jet crashed during the Second World War.

Rob, from Whickham, and Chris, from Birtley, had been out recording a piece on the anniversary of the Battle of Otterburn and were heading home along the A696 just after 11.30pm on Wednesday when they spotted the unusual figure.

Rob, 27, said: “We saw a man standing at the side of the road. We both actually jumped at first because we didn’t see him until very late.

“He was dressed in a beige colour from head to toe. He was sticking his arm out for a lift, but we could not stop in time due to being at 60mph.”

Rob claims the man’s eyes did not reflect the car’s lights and added: “Chris, who was driving, decided to turn around for him but we both agreed that he looked a bit odd. We were two miles north of the nearest village and there was nothing for miles.

“We said we would pick him up if he was real and just make sure he was dropped at the nearest village, and joked he might be a phantom hitchhiker.

“I started filming on my iPhone as it seemed a bit odd. We couldn’t remember how far back he was, but we saw him again and slowed.

“He was dressed in what I can only describe as RAF gear and was holding something under his arm, which looked like a helmet or some kind of bag.

“We had to turn again so we could pick him up.”

However, when they did so…

Full story & photo of alledged ghost at: http://spirit-of-place.boards.net/thread/37/northumberland-ghostly-hitch-hiker

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Lampreys return to North East England as water quality improves

A species  of rare and protected fish has been spotted in the region’s rivers following improvements in river water quality.

The Environment Agency, working with local angling groups and Natural England, has been surveying North-East rivers searching for Lamprey.

So far one spawning site on the River Wear and a total of 20 adult sea lampreys have been counted.

In North Yorkshire, Natural England has a project underway in search for sea lampreys on the River Ouse.

River and sea lampreys are also expected to return to spawning grounds on the lower River Wharfe, Swale, Nidd and Ure.

Experts say the rare, jawless fish are a good indication of the high quality of the river water and scientists are continuing to search for more lampreys on the Wear and the Ouse river catchments.

Paul Frear, Environment Agency fisheries officer, said:

“We welcome the return of the lampreys back to Yorkshire and the North East. The lampreys are like swallows. They return to the same spot to spawn within the same few days every year.

“These illusive fish are extremely selective with their spawning sites and will only nest where the water quality is good. Their appearance is a ringing endorsement of the water quality in these areas.”

Scientists say lamprey are extremely unusual. The most primitive fish in the world, it uses its mouth like a suction-cup to attach itself to the skin of a fish and rasp away tissue with its sharp probing tongue and teeth.

They outwardly resemble eels because they have no scales and an adult lamprey can range anywhere from 13cm to 100cm. They have large eyes, one nostril on the top of their heads, and seven gill pores on each side.

Claire Horseman, from Natural England, said:

 “We are hoping that the lamprey projects being undertaken by Natural England and the Environment Agency will help us better understand the migratory behaviour of these primitive species and the challenges that they face along their migratory route. With this increased understanding we can work towards restoring lamprey populations to their former status.”

During the Middle Ages lampreys were widely eaten by the upper classes throughout Europe, especially during fasting periods, because their taste is much meatier than that of other fish.

The deaths of two English kings,  Henry I and John, are said to have been from overindulging on the fish.

Source ; http://northstar.boards.net/thread/218/lamprey-return-region-quality-improves

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Sunderland zeppelin detector restored

A  piece of First World War architecture, built in 1917 to protect Sunderland from Zeppelin attacks has re-opened following a £68,000 restoration.

Fulwell Acoustic Mirror’s historic value went unrecognised for many years and its deterioration led to its inclusion on the Historic England – previously known as English Heritage – Heritage at Risk register.

This triggered a partnership between Sunderland City Council, Historic England and Limestone Landscape which has led to its sympathetic restoration.

The Acoustic Mirror was built to help detect German airships following a series of Zeppelin raids on the North-East coastline during 1915 and 1916.

It was designed to act as an acoustic early warning system against air raids, after a bomb dropped by a Zeppelin over the Wheatsheaf area of Sunderland in April 1916 left 22 people dead and more than 100 injured.

The mirror worked by reflecting sound detected by a microphone in front of the dish to an operator who could alert the authorities of approaching Zeppelins.

Full story : http://northstar.boards.net/thread/77/sunderland-zeppelin-detector-restored

 

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Outline of medieval church revealed on building site

Outline of medieval church revealed on building site

THE outline of a medieval church has been revealed on the site of a new home for the elderly.

The foundations were discovered by workmen building an extra care scheme in Leyburn, North Yorkshire.

Archaeologists were brought in and their work has led to the clear outline of a Christian church dating back to before the Norman Conquest in 1066 being revealed.

Two bodies were also found at the site. It is thought the remains were of a young man and an older woman who were both found in a crouching position.

It is believed there were early Christian burials due to the east west alignment of the bodies.

Further work using the latest carbon dating techniques is taking place to more accurately establish how long ago the burials took place.

Experts from York-based On-Site Archaeology have worked alongside the builders carefully cataloguing the discoveries.

The extra care scheme is being built by Broadacres Housing Association.

Projects officer Graham Bruce said:

“The site is probably a family chapel possibly dating back to Saxon or early Norman times, as it is a clean area with relatively little waste. There is probably a rubbish dump nearby.

 “Interestingly, the Doomsday Book mentions two manors in Leyburn and this may relate to the abandoned settlement.”

The scientists’ work also unearthed two other small structures which pre-date the church.

It is possible they are bronze age and iron age dwellings.

Finds relating to these periods include animal bones, flint tools, and pottery shards.

Evidence of medieval farming was also discovered above the church foundations.

Archaeological work has now finished on the site, although the team are still examining the finds.

Mr Bruce added:

“All the items we have gathered will be offered to Broadacres, the site’s owners.

“The two bodies may be reburied somewhere on the site, as that it where they were buried originally.

“At some stage we will produce a report on the dig and our later work which will be available to the public.”

Source –  Northern Echo,  09 Feb 2015

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North East explosion followed by loud bangs across UK – with theories including meteors and spy planes

A mystery explosion in Catterick in the early hours of Saturday morning has been followed by further reports of loud bangs across the country – leading to wild theories about meteors and spy planes.

The massive bang reported at around 3am on Saturday, heard in the Marne Barracks area of Catterick Village, resulted in the A1 being closed for more than 12 hours while extensive searches were carried out.

Police found no obvious signs of an explosion and say they may never know what caused the noise, although investigations are still ongoing.

Later on Saturday night, at around 10pm, people across Britain reported hearing loud bangs which experts have claimed could have been caused by a jet engine, fuelling some theories that they could have come from a top secret fighter plane.

The bangs could be heard from Glasgow to West Sussex and Devon and social media was awash with ideas about what could have created the noise which shook windows, woke children and alarmed animals.

A Sheffield-based engineering research associate among a team of scientists working the technology behind types of pulse detonation engine said test engines could often be heard for miles.

Dr Bhupendra Khandelwal said:

“When we run a test engine it’s a real industrial noise and you can hear it for miles. We have people coming to us asking to make less noise or keep it to the daytime.”

 The engine works by using the force from a series of explosions, caused by mixing a fuel mist and air intake, to thrust itself forward. It is thought to be able to power planes at five times the speed of sound.

The technology builds upon ‘pulsejet‘ principles which first emerged in the early 1900s and were used in German V-1 flying bombs.

Test flights using the most recent forms of the technology have lasted only a few seconds, but it is still listed by conspiracy theorists as a possible way of powering the so-called Aurora spy jet.

The theorists have cited Aurora – a name which appeared in a Pentagon budget report in the 1980s – as an ongoing spy plane project for several years.

 After the Catterick explosion officers carried out extensive searches in the area where the explosion was reported but found no obvious signs of an explosion.

During the course of the day, eight members of the public came forward to report hearing a what they describe as an explosion in the area.

Superintendent Dave Hannan of North Yorkshire Police said:

“We are satisfied that the call to the police was made with good intent.

“The investigation is still ongoing but there is no information or evidence to say this reported explosion was a criminal or deliberate act.”

Source –  Northern Echo, 01 Dec 2014

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Mysterious hoard baffles cathedral experts

The discovery of a forgotten time capsule has baffled history buffs at Durham Cathedral.

Workmen dismantling a Victorian bookcase to make way for a new door were surprised to find two newspapers from 1880 hidden under the base – and names written on the timbers in pencil.

The discovery has puzzled historians who believed the towering bookcases were installed when the stunning Monks’ Dormitory was opened in the 1850s.

Cathedral archaeologist Norman Emery now believes the Dormitory, a library, may have been extended at a later date.

But even that theory raises questions, as Mr Emery explained:

“Perhaps the library was extended at a later date and the new bookcases made as exact copies of the existing ones, but they appear to me to have all been made at the same time, which is baffling.”

Meanwhile, Mr Emery and colleagues are investigating the graffiti, bearing the names John Milbanke, believed to have been a Victorian builder and joiner from Church Street, Durham, and Robert Robson , a builder, mayor, alderman and justice of the peace whose eldest son served as the cathedral’s clerk of works.

The newspapers unearthed were the Newcastle Daily Chronicle of July 13, 1880, and the London Weekly Times of June 17, 1880.

Stories of the day included parliamentary debates, imperial affairs and a Sunderland manslaughter trial, all featured alongside adverts for assorted miracle cures and agricultural show results.

The Times carries a name and address written in ink across the centre page: Mr R Yelloby, Berwick on Tweed.

“It would be fascinating to know the link between this man and the man who ended up with the newspaper,” Mr Emery said.

The mysterious find follows the discovery of Roman pottery and a single pre-historic flint under the cathedral’s Great Kitchen in April.

The cathedral is undergoing major renovation as part of the £10m Open Treasure programme, which will see the creation of a world-class exhibition space capable of hosting priceless artefacts from the cathedral’s collections and across the world.

For more information, visit durhamcathedral.co.uk/open-treasure

Source –  Durham Times,  30 Oct 2014

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Rare bird spotted in Sunderland

Picture by Harry Richardson

Picture by Harry Richardson

Twitchers  have got into a flap over a Wearside visit from a Siberian bird.

An Olive-Backed Pipit was spotted in Roker Park. Sunderland, and has caused excitement among the city’s bird lovers.

It’s  a small passerine bird of the pipit genus, which breeds across South, north Central and East Asia, as well as in the northeast of European Russia.

It’s thought to have ended up in Sunderland after being blown off course.

Mark Newsome, of the Durham Bird Club, said:

“This is the fourth one we’ve seen in the County Durham area. They’re more commonly spotted in the Shetland Islands.

“However, there’s been strong easterly winds recently so it’s probably been blown off course.”
Source –  Sunderland Echo,  17 Oct 2014
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Binchester Roman Town bought by the Auckland Castle Trust for £2m

A Roman site dubbed the Pompeii of the North has been bought for £2m, allaying fears for its future.

The Binchester Roman Town, where archeologists unearthed artefacts dating back 1,800 years, has been bought by the Auckland Castle Trust.

The Church Commissioners have accepted a £2m bid for the site, having originally rejected it.

Trust bosses had launched a petition urging the commissioners to accept the bid, which 4,000 people signed.

The trust had feared that the commissioners’ plans to sell the site in two lots could have made it harder to preserve the fort and ensure there is public access to it, but have now spoken of saving it for the nation in its entirety.

The fort, on the banks of the River Wear in County Durham, on the outskirts of Bishop Auckland, a mile from Auckland Castle, hit the international headlines in the summer when it was revealed archaeologists had uncovered some of the most exciting historical finds in living memory.

The commissioners then announced plans to sell it in two lots. While the site is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and can’t be built on, one plot includes Binchester Hall and has planning permission for conversion and development, while the second includes 50% of the Roman remains.

The trust launched an 11th hour bid to buy the site for £2m, ahead of a tender deadline today, Monday.

Bosses feared that if it was split between two owners it could open the risk for surrounding development, curtail public access and see the end of years of academic research. The organisation argued that bringing both plots under its wing would safeguard future access and research.

Its initial bid was rejected, sparking the e-petition which 4,000 signed. And now, the commissioners have accepted the original bid.

Dr Chris Ferguson, Auckland Castle’s head curator, said:

“This is wonderful news and we are delighted that Binchester will now be protected for future generations.

“Contracts still have to be exchanged, but the Auckland Castle Trust has successfully come through the tender process as the preferred bidder and now we can start to look to the future of this vitally important site and ensure its past and status as one of not just Britain’s but Europe’s most important Roman sites is secured.

“Here at Auckland Castle we have been thrilled by the goodwill and support we have received as we strove to raise awareness about Binchester.

“Our first priorities are to secure the site for the winter, work with Durham County Council and English Heritage to help shape Binchester’s future and to start pulling together plans to ensure the Roman remains continue to be available for archaeologists and the public to enjoy for generations to come.”

Source –  Newcastle Journal,  23 Sept 2014

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Eagle Owl spotted in Wallsend

Eagle Owl spotted in Wallsend garden

A rare Eagle Owl was spotted perching on a roof in Wallsend, North East England.

Garry Smith saw the bird in his garden on Monday lunchtime.

The eagle owl is one of the largest species of the bird and can have a wingspan of up to 74 inches.

It is regarded as one of the most ferocious birds , known to be intolerant of sharing their territory with other birds of prey and owls.

They are known to hunt rabbits and pheasants, but little is known about what else they eat in Britain.

It is not considered a British species as it is a danger to some of the country’s own birds of prey, such as Hen Harriers. Despite that, it remains a protected wild bird.

Garry warned his neighbour not to let his cats out while the bird was in the garden, but said it flew away after someone nearby began made a loud noise.

Source –  Newcastle Journal,  23 Sept 2014

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Rare harvest mouse found in County Durham

An endearing but rare animal for the North East has been found in one of its most northerly locations ever.

A dead Harvest Mouse was found near Bowburn in County Durham and reported to Durham Wildlife Trust.

Trust director Jim Cokill said: “We were alerted to this animal by a member of the public. It is a significant new record.”

The trust checked with the Environmental Records Information Centre (ERIC), based at the Great North Museum in Newcastle which collects information and sightings of wildlife in the region.

They have only 45 confirmed sightings for the region stretching back to 1974, so it’s a pretty rare creature,” said Mr Cokill.

Most of the records are in the south, around the Tees Valley, where there was a reintroduction project.

“There are no sightings from the area where this animal was found.

“Although this particular animal was dead, the report does raise hopes that there is a population living in that location and Durham Wildlife Trust will be trying to confirm that.”

The harvest mouse is the UK‘s smallest mouse and only weighs 6g.

It is mainly found from central Yorkshire southwards. Isolated records from Scotland and Wales probably result from the release of captive animals.

Katherine Pinnock, ERIC co-ordinator for the North East, said: “ This is a very exciting record because of the location. It improves our knowledge about this species.”

The find will be discussed at ERIC’s wildlife recording conference on October 11 at the Great North Museum, which is free and open to the public.

People can log any wildlife sightings on www.ericnortheast.org.uk

Harvest mice are extremely active climbers and feed in the stalk zone of long grasses and reeds, particularly around dusk and dawn.

Breeding nests are the most obvious sign indicating the presence of harvest mice.

The harvest mouse is the only British mammal to build nests of woven grass well above ground. Harvest mice have many predators, including weasels, stoats, foxes, cats, owls, hawks, crows, even pheasants and their average lifespan is 18 months.

Harvest mice usually have two or three litters a year in the wild. The young are abandoned after about 16 days.

Source –  Newcastle Journal,  26 Aug 2014

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