A DEVOTED husband has described his elation after a dog walker found the wedding ring he lost while playing cricket 52 years ago – buried in a riverbank beside the pitch.

The recovery of the golden band followed a chance encounter between Eddie Stokoe's brother and the woman who found it. Had she not taken her dog for a walk and slipped on a muddy bank, dislodging it from its hiding place, it may never have been unearthed.

Retired teacher Eddie, 73, of Bridgehill, Consett, County Durham, said his wife Jean, 75, cried tears of joy when he told her it had come to light on the banks of the River Derwent, just beyond the perimeter of Shotley Bridge Cricket Club.

Eddie said: "It feels strange having it back on after all this years. I can only wear it on my little finger now. I wish it could talk.

"A magpie could have picked it up and dropped it there. If it had a voice it could tell a story of the last 52-and-a-half years."

When the couple got married on October 16, 1965 they exchanged matching rings inscribed with their names, Edward and Jean, and the date of the wedding.

Six months later, at the first game of the season for the club, Eddie lost his ring.

"We had to take rings off for the game in case it damaged the ball," he said. "When I got home I realised I didn’t have my ring. I searched my bag and the changing rooms and for two weeks I literally quartered the field and scoured it for the ring.

"After a couple of weeks I decided it had gone for good. I was devastated."

Jean, also a retired teacher, said: "I was horrified when Eddie lost the ring, because we had only been married six months. He didn’t even get a year out of it... and the first time at the cricket field.

"For years I tried to get him a new one. Each special anniversary, in particular. I asked 'Can I buy you a wedding ring?'"

Eddie added: “But I would never have one. Because I felt it was something that couldn’t be replaced. It wouldn’t be right. Getting it back is the only thing that could happen. This is the original."

A few weeks ago his brother Billy rang him up and asked him if he had ever worn a wedding ring.

"I said 'yes of course I did. For about six months before I lost it'. He asked if there was anything on the ring and I told him we had matching engravings Edward and Jean.

"Billy said he was walking around the cricket field and fell into conversation with a couple who were watching their son play for Burnopfield’s Lintz Club.

"They said they had found a wedding ring. She explained it was found in the mud in between river and cricket field and it was inscribed in the side when they cleaned it up.

"Well, Billy was my groomsman. When he rang me up and told me I was flabbergasted. The chances of a ring being found with those names. It had to be mine.

"The people who found it, what a lovely couple did exactly what was right. We want to thank them from the bottom of our hearts."

Jean said: “I was in floods of tears – of joy. I couldn’t believe it that it had turned up after 50 years."

Eddie went to a cricket game at the weekend to track down Stephen Gohery, whose wife Karen had found the ring.

"When I told him he was thrilled to bits that it had got back home," said Eddie.

Karen said: "I had gone to watch my son Kieron play when I decided to walk our dog (a poodle cross) named Ollie.

"As I was going down a muddy slope I skidded and fell and must have dislodged it, because when I looked back I could see something shining. When I cleaned it and saw the inscription I took it to the clubhouse. I am over the moon they have got it back after all these years."