Left to right: Hilary Bevan and Maria Perek, Darlington South Park Foundation, Paul Black, Discover Brightwater Programme Manager

Unfortunately we weren’t given a catchy name like ‘The Dales” or “The Lakes” so we’ve had to make one up. The Skerne was originally named by our Viking ancestors; the word ‘skirr’ means bright and shining – Discover Brightwater our new catchy name.

For our new readers if you’re sat there asking where is Brightwater and why haven’t I heard of it? Well it’s probably been beneath your wellies without you realising it! Brightwater refers to the River Skerne which starts at the Trimdons via Hurworth Burn Reservoir and flows south near the towns and villages of Fishburn, Bishop Middleham, Sedgefield, Newton Aycliffe and North from Darlington.

Discover Brightwater is a landscape project which has been funded by all of the nice people that play the lottery. The National Lottery Heritage funds together with local councils, Environmental Agencies and others have funded a programme of events, projects and activities over the next few years which will allow us to restore, reveal and celebrate life around the River Skerne.

On 5th December we invited guests to Discover Brightwater’s Festive Heritage as we celebrate 2000 year’s of food and festive fun with our friends at the Locomotion Railway Museum. During the midwinter Yule celebrations our Viking ancestors would have anxiously awaited the gift-bringer Odin ‘The Master of Yule” as he soared through the skies on his flying eight-legged white horse Sleipnir. Christmas celebrations were made illegal by the party-pooper-Puritans who punished offenders with a hefty five shilling fine. This was our chance to discover the “reason for the season’ and find out about our ancestors festive traditions.

The afternoon was fun-filled with winter activities! Guests upcycled Yule Logs from our Fishburn Woods clear-up, created Roman Goddess Figurines with Ancient Pottery Specialist Graham Taylor. Our friends from Dig Ventures were also there with a display of artefacts from our digs in Bishop Middleham and Sedgefield.

Our special guests included ‘2000 years of winter-gift-bringers’. Brightwater residents mingled with St Nicholas and The Lord of Saturnalia, others shared a mulled wine with our contemporary Mrs Claus. (Our decadence green Father Christmas and King Winter could be found on the dance floor boogying to the Medieval Trio.)

During the launch local groups were also awarded our first community grants which included Darlington Friends of the South Park who received £2000 to help with leaflets and recruiting new members. Friends of the Denes in Cockerton who also received £2000 for improvements to the Cocker Beck. £2000 each was also awarded to The Cockerton Silver Brass Band and Drinkfield Marsh who will use the funds towards bench restoration.

The event was very colourful, very festive, very musical, very Brightwater.