OUR review of the year reminds us that there has been one local winner of the pandemic lockdown.

When fate decides to thrust a hitherto unknown town into the spotlight, it is usually because it is the scene of an unforgettable tragedy: Aberfan, Lockerbie or Hungerford, for example.

But Barnard Castle is now on the map like no other town because of a risible comedy.

On April 12, Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s chief adviser and architect of the Government’s “stay at home” message, took a 50-mile round trip from his lockdown hangout near Durham to Barney to test his eyesight.

And then he sat in the Downing Street rose garden and preposterously tried to brazen it out.

Now no one can think of the Teesdale town without smiling.

Visits to its tourist website soared 155 per cent; almost every pub and café in the town displays a Barney eye test chart; property is apparently flying as people try to relocate from the cities; the Specsavers branch in Horsemarket is one of the most selfie’d buildings in the country.

So famous is it, that one national newspaper began a review of the year by saying: “Barnard Castle, Ghislaine Maxwell and Wuhan are among the most mispronounced words of 2020…”

Barney, which relies on tourism, could not pay for publicity on this scale. Perhaps Mr Cummings will get an award in the New Year's Honours for services to tourism.