We are up at 8 today, and on the road for about ten. It isn’t a huge distance, but there are quite a few steep ups and downs. The destination is Dipton, a small former mining village in County Durham. We have a couple of new cyclists with us today, and one of them pulls the heaviest trailer with the sound system, batteries and everything, up all the steep hills. The other does all the navigating. It feels like we have new energy.
It is quite a slog at times, with some very steep and some very long climbs. We pass through some former County Durham pit villages, with more pit wheels half buried, and coal wagons used as planter boxes for flowers, in memory. We also pass lots of medium or large wind turbines, heralding, I hope, a different energy future for this windswept region. We climb to quite a good altitude, and in addition to our increasing Northerliness, this seems to markedly influence the local microclimate. The daffodils are still out in many spots, a few weeks or more finished in Notts now, where we set off.
Two good ideas
We drop sharply into Dipton, and one of the grandest buildings in the middle of the village (a former pub or coaching inn) is boarded up. There are one or two shops and churches, and the community centre, where we are staying. We get a warm welcome here. There is a local banner against ‘dirty coal’ out on the front, and quite a few locals inside with tea and vegan scones at the ready. Wow. It quickly feels like we are side by side with a vibrant campaign, sharing stories and ideas (and cake!). It feels good after a few days being with ourselves, and doing little but cycling.
The community centre has wooden decking at the back, with stunning views over the Derwent Valley. It is lush and green, and you can see for miles. We chat and mend bikes over a beer, in the sun. This is our first non-teetotal venue I believe. One of our party has ridden a considerable distance with a broken axle, but has managed to find a friendly bike shop that gave him some reclaimed parts for next to nothing. That’s how things should work.
The evening event is a slide show and talk about the caravan, and a showing of the new short film about the 2008 climate camp and Kingsnorth. We have a small number of locals and local campaigners with us, though the main advertised event is tomorrow. Discussion is lively, and the local campaign, run mainly by the Pont Valley Network, is very impressive. You realise immediately that this is a community with a long history of organising. The campaign is also very ecology and education minded, and publishes a series of leaflets of local walks, and local wild edible plants and recipes. I am looking forward now to Elderflower pancakes.
Soon it is bed time, and we seem to strike gold – a cupboard full of ‘exercise mats’ that we can lay on. Sweet dreams everyone…..