Tag Archives: County Durham

A beach hut, which plays an atmospheric soundtrack inspired by the coast

A beach hut, which plays an atmospheric soundtrack inspired by the coast, has begun its journey around the country in the North-East.

Electronic pop star Martyn Ware, who was a founder member of both Heaven 17 and The Human League, has developed audio for the project and was in Seaham, County Durham, today (Wednesday, July1) for its launch.

Next week the installation will move on to Orford Ness, Suffolk and finish up in Porthgain, Pembrokeshire.

Visitors are invited to enter the mini sound booth where they can record their thoughts about what the coast means to them.

Mr Ware, who is from Sheffield, said:

 “I was very happy to do it because I have done a lot of projects concerned with preserving the acoustic ecology and recording people’s memories.

“In the case of this area and the post-industrial location, maybe people’s memories of sound that used to occur in the industrial parts of town, when there used to be a big community here, has changed.”

The recordings that people make in the hut will be used as contributions towards One and All, an online digital artwork combining audio visual and interactive landscapes.

It has been commissioned by Trust New Art, the National Trust’s contemporary arts programme, and sounduk.

Full story :  http://northstar.boards.net/thread/116/project-launched-record-sounds-coastline

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False Water Cobra on loose in County Durham

For three days three-year-old Keegan kept telling his mother Samantha Wozencroft there was a snake in the house – but she didn’t believe him.

That was until mum saw for herself the six-feet-long false water cobra slithering through the front room of their flat.

The South American reptile, whose venom rots skin and muscle, had already bitten the tail of the family’s pet dog, English bull terrier Tyler, and was threatening to turn on others.

Horrified, the 27-year-old mum, from Ouston, County Durham grabbed Tyler, ran outside with her mother-in-law Dawn Martin and son Keegan and rang 999.

After calling in expert help, the police managed to capture the creature and take it away. They are now investigating who owns the snake and how it came to be in Ms Wozencroft’s flat.

“I was so shocked. It was just unreal. You don’t expect to walk into your kitchen and see a snake staring at you,” she said.

“I don’t feel safe there now – what if there’s more? I have a three-year-old and being told the snake was venomous is just so scary.”

Retired inspector Eddie Bell, who Durham Police called in to contain the snake, said:

“I found the snake drinking water from the dog’s cage and managed to pick it up using a snake stick.

 “The boy had been telling the mum for three days they had a snake in the house.

It is believed the snake may have been in the loft for some time but given its size it must have had access to a good food source. It may have come down into the flat when that ran out.

PC Lee Jackson said: “It’s very lucky no-one was bitten.”

Tyler the dog is now on anti-biotics and may have to have part of his tail amputated to stop the infection spreading.

False water cobras are common to South America but rarely kept as pets in the UK. Their venom comes from their rear fangs, so they must catch and chew prey before injecting.

Source – Northern Echo, 30 June 2015

Synchronicity corner : although the snake wasn’t a python, it’s a nice touch to se a PC Lee Jackson being quoted.

Python Lee Jackson was an Australian rock band active from 1965 to 1968, before a brief sojourn in the United Kingdom. The group’s most famous hit was “In a Broken Dream”, featuring Rod Stewart as guest vocalist, and recorded by John Peel.

 

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Excavation of forgotten WW1 camp

Archaeologists have been unearthing military marvels at a forgotten First World War training camp  in the North-East.

Dozens of volunteers have been helping a week-long excavation of Cocken Hall camp, near Durham – and what they have found could change the history books forever.

Today, the centuries-old hall is no more and the site is feet deep in nettles and bushes. But 100 years ago, it was home to up to 1,100 military men preparing for battle on the  Western Front.

Enthusiasts from archaeology outfit No Man’s Land travelled from across the country for this week’s dig, the first since the camp was abandoned near the end of the war.

They have unearthed foundations and artefacts from the military camp – and their work around the original hall suggests the site may have been inhabited well before the previous 17th century estimate.

Project director Alastair Fraser said:

“We’ve been able to establish the arrangements of the camp and we now know much more about the house – we’ve realised it was probably older than we thought.

“We’ve had 3D scanners on site and we now hope to produce a 3D model, which we should be able to render – because we have photographs from the time.”

 Cocken Hall dates from at least the 17th century, possibly earlier. Volunteers have found 16th and 17th century wall painting this week.

In the late 18th century, it was known for its ornamental gardens; while in the 19th century it was a convent, then a private home.

It was acquired by the Lambtons, the family of the Earls of Durham, around the 1870s.

Following an early 20th century modernisation, it was to be let again but sadly the prospective tenant died, meaning that at the outbreak of war in 1914 it was unoccupied.

The Earl handed the hall to the Durham Light Infantry (DLI) and it became the training base for the 18th battalion, known as the Durham Pals – men who enlisted with their friends and workmates.

The hall proved too small to accommodate all the men, so a barracks, bath house, rifle range, canteen and recreation room were built. Trenches were also dug, to simulate the brutal warfare the men could expect on the Continent.

 The 18th left for France in May 1915, but Cocken was later used by other DLI battalions, the York and Lancaster Regiment and the forerunner of the Home Guard.

The camp was demolished after the war and the hall, which was in a poor state, followed around 1928 – taking its secrets with it, until now.

Findings will go into a major exhibition on Durham and the Somme marking the centenary of the famous battle next year and Mr Fraser hopes to take a team to excavate part of the Somme where the DLI fought in 2018.

Source – Northern Echo, 26 June 2015

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Is there a Alien Big Cat on the loose in County Durham?

Could a mysterious creature spotted on the side of a busy trunk road be a big cat?

Hazell Lund, from Stockton, is convinced of it.

Ms Lund was travelling along the A66 at about 11.30am on Sunday (June 22) when she saw what she is sure was a large black cat.

“At first I thought it was a black Labrador but I soon realised it wasn’t,” she said.

“It pounced like a cat and the way it walked and held itself was very cat like.

“I know what I saw and I am convinced it was a big cat.”

Unfortunately, Ms Lund did not have time to retrieve her phone from her bag to take a photograph of the creature before it darted out of view.

Source – Northern Echo, 25 June 2015

The return of the Durham Puma, active in the 1990s ? Or its grandchildren…

http://northstar.boards.net/thread/134/alien-big-loose-county-durham

 

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Whitby councillor claims aliens are influencing President Putin’s actions in the Ukraine conflict

UNEMPLOYED IN TYNE & WEAR

A Labour councillor has claimed Russia’s President Putin is being advised by an alien race.

Simon Parkes told an audience of around 30 people in Wallsend, North Tyneside, that recent hostilities in Eastern Europe are down to extraterrestrial intervention.

Coun Parkes, who has previously claimed he has had ‘hundreds’ of alien encounters in his own life, blamed a group of aliens he calls the Nordics for President Putin’s aggression in the Ukraine.

The North Yorkshire councillor said the Nordics were supporting Putin against percieved American influences in the area.

He said:

“Putin had been part of a group advised by reptiles. Nordics made a counter offer to Putin.

“The technology the Nordics are giving to Putin is on a par with America.

“The Nordics have told Putin he no longer has to toe the American line, hence his resistance.”

The Whitby councillor also told the audience at The…

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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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Sightings of another out of place creature in Wallsend

Hot on the heels of recent reports of an Eagle Owl on the loose in Wallsend, Tyne & Wear, North East England – https://alchemyandaccident.wordpress.com/2014/09/23/eagle-owl-spotted-in-wallsend/  – comes this…

 

Is it a dog, a badger or an old fox?

Well, experts think this may be the first sighting of a Raccoon roaming free on Tyneside.

The furry mammal, usually found in North America, was spotted by a surprised jogger in Wallsend on Friday morning.

Wildlife experts believe it is the first recorded sighting of the wild beast in the area.

Tom Hughes, 22, was running through the grounds of Wallsend Hall at around 7am when something caught his eye.

He said: “I was running along and came across this curious creature.

“At first I thought it was a badger but its unusual facial markings made me think it was a raccoon.

“It was big and stocky, but very placid and didn’t seem to be in a hurry to get anywhere.”

Tom, who lives in Howdon, near Wallsend, is training to be in the Navy.

He said he hasn’t seen anything like this before but hoped to raise some awareness of the creature being out there.

I wasn’t going to go for my run on Friday morning but I’m glad I did now,” he said.

The early bird catches the worm, as they say.”

The last recorded sighting of a raccoon was in Sunderland in 2012.

They are considered dangerous with changeable temperaments, but some people are known to keep them as pets.

Following a change to the law in 2007 which removed the need for a licence, they are becoming more prominent in Britain.

Several sightings have also been recorded in County Durham.

Steve Lowe, head of conservation at the Northumberland Wildlife Trust based in Gosforth, Newcastle, said: “That is either a raccoon or a raccoon dog.

“Because we can’t see the feet we can’t be certain which.

“These are non-native animals which appear to be kept as pets. They can be aggressive so inevitably in such circumstances the owner finds them too hard to handle and abandons them.

“They are also extremely good escapologists. Two were recorded in County Durham recently but this is the first for us and not especially welcome. “

The last record of one was in Sunderland in 2012.

“It may be the same animal although it’s a stretch to say that it definitely is.

For a recent Racoon sighting in Chopwell, Gateshead, see :

https://alchemyandaccident.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/raccoon-spotted-in-north-east-england-garden/

Source – Newcastle Journal, 26 Sept 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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Developers “could buy County Durham Roman site”

Concerns have been raised that the site of a Roman settlement dubbed the Pompeii of the North could be sold to developers.

Binchester, just outside Bishop Auckland, County Durham, has some of Britain’s best-preserved Roman remains, including a bath house with seven-foot walls and painted plaster.

Last year a statue head, possibly of a local Roman god, was found by an archaeology student helping with the major excavation works that are being carried out.

The land where the settlement has stood for around 1,800 years is owned by the Church Commissioners. They are selling ten plots around Bishop Auckland, including two adjoining ones which cover the Binchester site.

The Auckland Castle Trust, financed by city philanthropist Jonathan Ruffer and which is aiming to reinvigorate the local area with tourism by tapping into its heritage, has made a £2 million bid for the plots.

Although the Roman settlement itself could not be developed, an old hall on one of the plots could be, affecting access to the site. Selling the plots off separately could also hamper archaeologists’ work.

 Mr Ruffer, chairman of the trust, said the £2 million bid was ten per cent higher than their own valuation of the site.

We have done this because there is no one else in a position to do it and Binchester must be secured by someone who has a heart for Bishop Auckland and a deep understanding of the site’s importance in a national and international context,” he said.

The trust has called for the public to back its bid by writing to the Church Commissioners.

David Ronn, chief executive of the Auckland Castle Trust, said: “We need to save the best of Bishop Auckland’s, County Durham’s, the North-East’s and indeed the UK’s past to take into the future.”

 Dr David Petts, lecturer in archaeology at Durham University who has been project co-ordinator on the Binchester excavation, said: “Binchester is one of the best preserved Roman archaeological sites in Britain and deserves to be protected for future generations to visit.”

Only a small percentage of the settlement, which surrounded a fort on the road north to Hadrian’s Wall, has been revealed so far.

Source –  Northern Echo, 29 Aug 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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