Phil Wilson MP secured a debate in the House of Commons to showcase the £3.3 million Brightwater Project. The Brightwater Project will improve the river environment using its heritage to involve local people and to attract visitors to the area. FIFTY acres of fenland are to be created in the heart of County Durham as part of the Brightwater scheme, it will revitalise the banks of what was once one of Europe’s most polluted rivers.

Mr Wilson told the House that the River Skerne flows through the length of the Sedgefield constituency before reaching the River Tees after flowing through Darlington on the way. Unlike the vast majority of rivers, instead of running to the sea, it actually flows inland. The Skerne is the only river to appear on the back of the £5 note. The £5 note in question was issued in 1993 to celebrate the success of the railway pioneer, George Stephenson and includes an image of Locomotion No 1 travelling over the River Skerne.

Mr Wilson went on to say: “On the very edge of the Business Park, now the largest in the North East, sits Heighington Crossing and beside it a building which was once a pub called The Locomotion, now closed for several years. The pub is called the Locomotion to commemorate the fact that it was at Heighington Crossing in September 1825 where George Stephenson assembled Locomotion No 1 to enter service on the Stockton and Darlington Railway. The route would eventually take the latest invention over the Skerne Bridge over the Skerne River marking the start of the Railway Age which would eventually be celebrated on the reverse of the £5 note. The pub, the Locomotion, is the original ticket office and waiting room. The original, very short platform, is still there today. The route of the railway line from Heighington down into Darlington is still used today.

And on the other side of the railway line, Hitachi has built its new train manufacturing facility. From the original Locomotion No 1 to the latest high speed intercity Azuma train, train manufacturing has come full circle, back to the birthplace of the railways.”

“The project is not only about the past,” said Mr Wilson. “It is about the present and revealing the natural environment and heritage for residents living in this part of south-east Durham, and it is about the future. It is about making south-east Durham a place to visit. There is so much to see and enjoy but, at present, so much remains hidden, with so many stories untold.”

Paul Black, Brightwater partnership manager, said: “We’re delighted that Phil Wilson, who is as passionate about his home area as we are, has taken the opportunity to help a wider audience discover Brightwater. This is an important project funded by the National Lottery, and it helps us connect ourselves with our landscape and our heritage.”