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At the instigation of the retiring Recorder of Middlesbrough, His Honour Judge Peter Fox QC, the High Sheriffs of Durham and North Yorkshire took part in a walk from the source to the mouth of the River Tees. This is a distance of almost 100 miles between Cross Fell and the South Gare Lighthouse, undertaken over five days in June 2012. 

The walk was in aid of the Ocean Youth Trust (North East), whose 65 ft sail training boat, the James Cook, provides inspirational courses for disadvantaged young people from the Teesside area, which can include life-changing voyages.

Some difficulty was experienced locating the source of the river in the moors above Cow Green in Cumbria as the weather was appalling, with high winds, driving rain and low cloud. But, with a little help from technology, we identified the start of the Tees. Within half a mile, the stream had become a river and Cow Green reservoir, just a few miles downstream, which had been so low this spring, was full to capacity with water spilling over the top of the dam, an unusual occurrence. We walked across grouse moors ‘floating’ on water, forded swollen streams and climbed down Cauldron Snout.

Fortunately, the weather improved on subsequent days and some 50 staff from Teesside Combined Courts walked with us on the Sunday, witnessing spectacular views of the waterfalls at High and Low Force.

In addition to the current incumbents, past High Sheriffs and Under Sheriffs of both Durham and North Yorkshire, and a number of others, as well as trustees and supporters of the OYT, joined in for various stages. Yet more past High Sheriffs provided welcome relief, succour and refreshment en route. The final stage of the journey from Yarm to the mouth of the Tees at the South Gare Lighthouse, was undertaken by the Harbour Master’s launch.

Astride the Tees.
Front to back: Hon Harry Vane (Durham 2012/2013), Sir Harry Wilmot, Bill Chaytor,
Christopher Robson (North Yorkshire 2008/2009).


A total of £14,500 was raised for the OYT, which will allow some 200 additional teenagers to experience sail-training courses on the James Cook, changing entire lives and inspiring futures.

Further information on the Ocean Youth Trust (North East) can be found at: www.sailjamescook.com

Hon Harry Vane
High Sheriff of Durham 2012/2013

Every aspect of the last twelve months exceeded my expectations but nothing more so than the goodwill displayed towards the Office of High Sheriff. It has been a privilege to follow in the footsteps of my predecessors particularly in their work with young people supporting the Durham Agency Against Crime. People have been at the centre of my Year and so has a building...

In Durham, we have the glorious Cathedral, a World Heritage site and voted Britain’s best building in last year’s Guardian poll. A finer setting for some of our Shrieval occasions would be hard to find. The Cathedral is embarking on a development programme called ‘Open Treasure’. Whilst the Cathedral and its environs are the obvious treasure, lurking elsewhere are the hidden treasures, the ancient manuscripts, precious books and artefacts.

One of the highlights of my year has been the opportunity, along with visiting and local judges, to meet in the unique Monks’ Dormitory and spend time in the hidden spaces of the Claustral Buildings in the presence of academics sharing their knowledge of the great collections. It has been a delight to view historic works– Justinian legal texts from Bologna, the illuminations as bright as the day they were made, Anglo Saxon documents and copies of the Forest Charter and Magna Carta.

As a young schoolboy visiting England from South Africa I was taken to Runnymede by my British history teacher. I don’t remember it being a particularly riveting experience, but I guess neither of us ever imagined that nearly fifty years later I would be viewing the document in the presence of High Court judges and be surprised by the excitement it engendered. But then, as Professor Sir James Holt, an expert on Magna Carta, explains:

“Individual liberty, trial by jury, freedom of trade, the supremacy of the law, the separation of justice from politics, all these ideas and others have been read in, and sometimes into Magna Carta”.

“Magna Carta”, he says, “set light to passions and ideas which burned immediately, fiercely and permanently”. And as another of the greatest legal historians known to the common law world, Maitland, put it, Magna Carta is “the nearest approach to an irrepealable fundamental statute” we have ever had.

Perhaps these words explain how, nearly 800 years later, the impact of Magna Carta still resonated loudly amongst the judiciary in Durham Cathedral. 

The Honourable Mr Justice Moylan has referred me to a lecture given by The Rt Hon The Lord Judge, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales entitled ‘1215 and all that’ given to the Irish Legal History Society in Belfast on 26th March 2012 and I heartily recommend it to you.

High Sheriffs were involved with the launch of Magna Carta and its sentiments are as strong today.

The collections of Durham Cathedral are not yet easily accessible. The aim of the new project is to open up these treasures so that documents like Magna Carta, the Durham Gospel Book and other precious manuscripts can be exhibited to a wider audience.

Roger Howell
High Sheriff of Durham 2011/2012


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