A TIMELY reminder was given this week about the dangers lurking in the Teesdale hills each winter.

It came in the shape of a long hand-written poem brought in by Vince Wearmouth about Ralph Rumney, a farmer who died after being lost in the snow as he tried to trudge home.

The victim lived at Clitheroe in Harwood, one of the highest farmhouses in the dale. Mr Wearmouth, a long-serving parish councillor, lived four miles away in Forest for many a year, so he knows as much as any man about the locality and its hidden perils.

Rumney lost his way and his life when walking less than half a mile home from a neighbour's in 1862.

But the epic about him by Robert Allinson was still being recited at firesides many decades later - no doubt prompting a lot of shudders and tears

One verse states: This young man's fate doth emphasise/The truth well known to all/That life is held by slender ties/Upon this earthly ball. Clitheroe has long since been demolished and replaced by a byre. But Mr Wearmouth knows the winter hazards are still as severe as ever.

He feels anyone thinking of venturing into the hills in the coming months, even when the weather looks set fair, should remember the fate of poor Ralph Rumney.

It is advice that will be echoed by search and rescue team volunteers, who are so often called out to find those who set off for the open spaces without realising the risks. An interesting old chart gives a clear indication about the way the dale landscape rises. It states the height above sea level of various landmarks including: Barnard Castle Parish Church 520ft; Lartington Hall 650ft; Romaldkirk Parish Church 726ft; Folly Top 1,000ft; Middleton Parish Church 1,052ft, Harwood's old church 1,400ft; Cauldon Snout 1,512ft.

Arthur Bainbridge took me on a brief tour this week of old lead mining features around Eggleston, where he has lived all his life.

It came after he pointed out that the village suffered mightily 100 years ago when the Blackton smelting mill closed.

There's not much to be seen on the mill site now apart from a spoil heap and route of a lengthy flue. But not far away is a small stone building in which saddles were stored and repaired for the convoys of Galloway ponies which ferried loads to and from the mines.

There is an excellent plaque giving a brief history of this saddle house, but few outsiders know about its location off a side road at Egglesburn.

Wouldn't it be worthwhile to have more lead era features highlighted to let both local residents and visitors know what went on in this fascinating era which lasted more than 200 years in the dale?

Some years ago, Teesdale councillors discussed a suggestion that some relics such as mine shops in which the miners lodged and the remains of some spots in which they toiled should be spruced up and made into a trail. They all agreed that it would make a superb tourist attraction, but the idea just fizzled out.

When 125 mill jobs were lost in Eggleson in 1904, along with others that depended on it for contract work, there was severe hardship. But there was no support service, such as today's enterprise agency, to help find new employment and provide training for it. After a gap of five years there are to be Alpha sessions in Teesdale, organised by the Methodist circuit with support from other churches.

The first of six will be at Eggleston Village Hall on November 4, with another half dozen starting on January 13.

There will be a tasty start to each session, with a meal in the Three Tuns at 6.30pm before a switch to the hall, where basic tenets of the Christian faith will be discussed. Ruth Dent, well known as a poet and lay preacher, can be contacted on (01833) 638388 for all the details.

* I'll be glad to see anyone who calls with snippets of news at The Northern Echo office at 36 Horsemarket, Barnard Castle, on Mondays and Tuesdays, telephone (01833) 638628.