FOR the first time during peacetime, the 150-year-old Barnard Castle Meet, traditionally held over the late May bank holiday, has been cancelled.

The decision came following an emergency meeting to discuss plans for this year's celebrations in light of the foot-and-mouth crisis.

Mr Andy Willsmore, chairman, told the D&S Times that, after a thorough and informed discussion, the committee had regretfully reached the unanimous decision the Meet 2001 would have to be postponed.

"This decision was not taken lightly, but it was felt that to bring so many visitors into the area at this time would be morally wrong," said Mr Willsmore. "It is hoped this crisis will not continue for too long and that, while the May celebrations will not now take place, it is envisaged they might be able to be held later in the year."

He added that, although the Meet was hard work, members of the committee looked forward to the event and were sorry to disappoint so many people. But, in light of the recommendations surrounding foot-and-mouth, they just could not go ahead. They would be unable to crown the carnival queen on Scar Top, use the top Demesnes for events or hold the duck and boat races on the river.

"But I must stress that we are in total agreement with the measures taken to combat foot-and-mouth, and nobody is to blame for land not being available to us," said Mr Willsmore.

A variety show scheduled to take place at the Glaxo sports and social club on May 19 will still go ahead, as will a planned exhibition of creative pieces made by community groups for the cancelled procession. It is also hoped to stage inter-pub quizzes, cumulating in the grand final for the Meet shield.

"The Meet committee will continue with fundraising efforts, and continue to make plans for what we hope will be a delayed rather than cancelled Meet," said Mr Willsmore.

The Meet has had a chequered history, with a lack of volunteers one of the main difficulties facing its survival in recent years.

It was not held during the two world wars, although a recruiting Meet was held in 1915 and a Victory Meet in 1919. It was also officially abandoned in 1910, following the death of the king on May 6, although a large number of cyclists did arrive to maintain the continuity of what was then called the North-Eastern Cyclists' Meet, and a concert, club rides and a religious service took place.

In April 1969 it was cancelled owing to lack of support - a familiar story of recent years - but within days was quickly back on.

l After much uncertainty about the carnival at Middleton in Teesdale this year, the event is to go ahead, it has been decided