It is exactly 70 years since I left school and my family and the small market town of Barnard Castle at the foot of Teesdale and headed for my first job in the Unemployment Assistance Board in Westminster - and Clapham High Street Methodist Church, where I taught in the Sunday School and met my future husband in the choir there. It seemed like a great adventure then and, my goodness, I could never have dreamed then of the varied journey that God has led me on in those 70 years since then!
In Teesdale, we used to sing, 'The Teesdale hills for me, The Teesdale hills for me, Go where I will I love them still, The Teesdale hills for me.' I didn't get back to them very often in those 70 years but the yearning to return was always strong, so last summer's stay in Upper Teesdale was a great joy - long anticipated. As a result of signing the visitors' book at Newbiggin-in-Teesdale Methodist Chapel, I had a surprise last week in a letter from the Methodist lady who overlooks the affairs of this historic chapel. I find it surprising that she writes to me as a long-lost friend after all those years.
She writes, 'It is good to get in touch with you after so many years. I remember your parents and your family members and can recall our days at Newgate Sunday School.' [The Newgate Primitive Methodist Church was closed at the time of Methodist Union and its congregation amalgamated with the Trinity Methodist Church in Barnard Castle. Now it has been destroyed and a block of flats has been built in its place.]
She continues,'I was pleased to read your article about the Newbiggin Chapel [in the Questions and Answers column of the Methodist Recorder]. This year we celebrate the 250th Anniversary of the signing of the original deed, and we are planning special events, including a visit of Mark Topping on Wesley Day. Bowlees Visitor Centre keeps 3-fold leaflets and the lady in charge has a key to Newiggin Chapel. The chapel is well signposted on the roads from Middleton and from Alston.'