SORRY, I'm in and out this week, taking a few day's holiday. But I thought you might be as excited as I was when I spotted the Carlbury milepost this morning. This to me is a beast as legendary as the yeti. I've heard fantastic stories told of it by people who are convinced that it exists, but I had never seen any evidence with my own eyes.
That may be, though, because I was looking in the wrong place.
The Stockton to Darlington to Barnard Castle road was turnpiked in 1751. I can't find any milestones between Darlington and Stockton (there was a metal post at Beacon Hill near Sadberge until about ten years ago when it was nicked), although there is a metal one leaning against a stone one on Great Burdon village green. It is in terrible condition and I've been ranting about it, but no one has taken any notice.
Such is the power of the press.
Going out the other side of Darlington, heading west towards Barney, the run starts with a superb old stone (circa 1751), covered in moss, sinking slowly into the verge by the entrance to the Broken Scar car park. It has BC carved deep into it, but if you didn't know it was there, you wouldn't notice it.
At Merrybent, there's a fine Durham County Council metal post (circa 1880s). It could do with a lick of paint, but it looks very well, particularly in spring when it is surrounded by daffodils.
On we go to the entrance to High Coniscliffe. Just before the village the road goes over a little beck. There's a wall some way back from the road on the left and a huge bramble patch. Deep in the brambles is another metal milepost. Someone from Darlington council got quite excited when I pointed out that it was still there, but it is still overgrown.
Then we come to the Carlbury miley, high above Piercebridge. Loads of people have told me it is there, and I've had several mooches around but never seen it.
This is the A67 and cars whizz along. The verge is covered in dense ivy that rolls attractively up and over the fencing, but ensares the foot as you walk. Miley-finding is a hazardous occuption.
But previously I was looking in the wrong place. I was always looking to the west of the entrance into Carlbury Hall, but if you take ten strides east, before the triangular traffic sign, there it is.
Oh, but you would miss it. This is in the worst condition of any miley in the district. It had a dirty great woodlouse-infested sandbag on its head, and it leans at a terrible angle (although it is well embedded in the ground). Worst of all something has taken an enormous bite out of the top of it.
Yet it is still there, still proclaiming that Barnard Castle is 11 miles away.
And if someone cared for it, even with the missing bitemark, a lick of paint and a re-embedment (is there such a word?) and it would be right to the world once again.
I've just got up and got the Listed Buildings Schedule for Darlington, and both the Carlbury miley and the High Conny miley are Grade II listed buildings, not that that that does anything for them.
There's then a large gap in the milestones of the A67 until we reach Arlaw Banks beyond Gainford and Winston. Arlaw Banks is the little tree-lined stretch of road, near where there is a signpost north to Humbleton. The Arlaw miley is a proper stone, sunk deep into the tarmac and freshly painted. A miley fan clearly cares for it.
Then we reach the eastern fringe of Barney itself. Here there's another well cared for milestone, again on the left, right by the entrance to someone's house. I took a picture of it several years ago when I was doing mileys, and when I got home and looked at the picture, there appears to be another stone miley built into the wall behind it. This miley now runs horizontal and has a deliciously carved B in it. Very peculiar. Those pictures are on another camera somewhere: I'll look them out for another posting one day.
Oh, but I forget! Just before you get in to Gainford, as I mentioned a month or so ago on this blog, there's another stone miley. It's not marked on the OS map and I reckon someone has only recently rediscovered it in the overgrowth. They're clearly treasuring it, though.
Because I am a strange individual, I reckon all mileys should be treasured.
Mud roads were abysmal until groups of local businessmen gathered together to form turnpike trusts and obtained Parliamentary permission to effectively privatise the roads. They were able to collect tolls from travellers - highly unpopular as people now had to pay for what had been free - and in return the turnpike trusts had to improve and maintain the road. One of the conditions set by Parliament was that each turnpike road had had to have milestones set along it, as if to remind people they were travelling along a toll road.
The metal mileposts were made when the county councils were formed in the 1880s. They took over road maintenance, and although tolls were no longer extracted from travellers, the councils liked to advertise their existence by planting new metal posts with hands on.
So if you live in Great Burdon, High Coniscliffe or Carlbury and Piercebridge, please get on to your local councillor. Harangue him/her, and the parish councillors, and the borough council until they look after our historic mileys properly. Or, better still, if you live within striking distance of a miley, why not take it under your wing and stop it from looking so abominable.
But please mind the traffic.