THE warm spring has encouraged Darlington’s Crocus Walk, in Southend Avenue, to look as lovely as ever this year – only earlier, as this photo by Colin Bainbridge, of The Northern Echo Camera Club, shows.

The crocuses were planted in the autumn of 1980 by Douglas Chilton in memory of his wife, Maude, who had died aged 81 that spring. Mr Chilton was the former director of Peases Mill, which was where the Sports Direct multi-storey car park is today, and he and Maude had lived in Southend Avenue for decades.

The avenue was originally the entrance to Joseph Pease’s Southend mansion, which is now the Bannatyne hotel. In 1897, when the Pease estate was sold for housing, Darlington council bought the avenue to prevent the tree-lined gateway from being lost. The council lowered Mr Pease’s wall by three feet to make the area feel less like a forbidden private garden.

There were crocuses there dating from the Peases’ time which Mrs Chilton obviously enjoyed. “Every year she looked forward to the spring so much,” said Mr Chilton, who was chairman of the Darlington Conservative Association and who was awarded an OBE in 1952. “People used to call the little park outside our house Crocus Walk, and she would spend some time there every day – just sitting looking at the crocuses and the lovely colours.”

So when Maude died – “we had been companions for 68 years and 57 in marriage”, he said – Mr Chilton donated 15,000 bulbs, which cost him £500. When they all flowered the next spring, he donated a further 15,000 to complete the carpet.

Mr Chilton died in 1986, but he left behind a quite magnificent memorial to Maude.