A dramatic Second World War dogfight in the skies over Teesdale was recalled this week following the funeral of 90-year-old Squadron Leader George Bennions, a craggy Battle of Britain hero.

He was at the controls of a Spitfire when he bravely chased a more powerful German Messerschmitt fighter and shot it down in a field at Broomielaw near Barnard Castle on August 15, 1940. It was one of seven confirmed enemy aircraft he downed, along with five probables, before he himself was shot down and badly wounded on October 1 the same year. The unassuming squadron leader, who was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and lived latterly at Catterick, visited Teesdale many times after the war and spent some hours looking around the crash site. He was glad the two-man German crew survived. He met and became friends with one of them. George, or Ben as he was known to many, confided to air historian John Yarker that he forced the Messerschmitt down low before finishing it off, as he knew this would help to spare the lives of the occupants. Mr Yarker, who is now mayor of Barnard Castle, said: "I met Ben several times and always found him really humane, not at all boastful about his daring war exploits."

A poster offering Coffee and Chat tempted me as I walked in Middleton-in-Teesdale on Tuesday. The coffee in the Methodist Church was tasty, but the chat was even better, as by chance I met Hazel Hawkins, a friendly lay worker. She told me about a new form of service she suggested. The first major change in over 100 years, it has been accepted by the members and will start on Sunday, March 7. Its motto is, "Church like it's never been before." There will be four features starting at the same time: Sunday school, young people's group, formal service and an event called Just Inquiring, for those who are not committed but would like to know more. Then they'll all link up for refreshments before an all-age celebration. "I'm delighted that everyone agreed so quickly," said Mrs Hawkins, who has two grown-up children. This was echoed by the Reverend Keith Pearce, superintendent minister, who stated: "New ideas usually run into some opposition, but this one hasn't." A banner declaring, "Wake up to Sundays - it's time to celebrate" is being made by Anne Tallentire and Lesley Walker for the church front in readiness for the big launch.

A 104-year-old photograph brought in by historian Parkin Raine has thrown more light on the Bachelors Club mentioned here lately. It shows 15 members who went from Teesdale on a day trip to Richmond on horse drawn carriages. They are all in smart suits and white trilbies - a debonair lot who must have ranked among the dale's most eligible young men at that time. Mr Raine was given the picture some years ago by Mrs Phyllis Mewhort, nee Bainbridge, of Newbiggin, who died last year aged 91. Madge Baum, who gave us details of the club and the names of five members which were printed here last week, has now named the other ten. She has had a copy of the photograph in her home for many years. The ten have familiar dale names and between them must have many descendants still living in the area. They are Gladstone Nixon, William Parmley, Harry Lee, William Thompson, Jonathan Tallentire, George Spraggon, Robert Lee, Jack Hewitt, L Reed and J Watson.

* 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.