A welcome in Wensleydale for Darlington asylum seekers

Never mind the rain - asylum seekers from Darlington enjoy a typical dales day

By Betsy Everett

Summer downpours and gale force winds did nothing to dampen the spirits of 42 asylum seekers from Darlington who came to Wensleydale recently for a brief respite from town life.

Bainbridge Quakers funded the second day out in Askrigg – the first was last summer in bright sunshine – and local volunteers organised activities for the families who are waiting in Darlington to have their papers and status processed.

The national park authority helped pay for the coach which brought the guests to the Yorebridge sports centre, and helper Judith Bromley who initiated the project was delighted to see some familiar faces.

“Some of those who had come on the visit last year jumped off the bus first, happily greeting and hugging those of us who were there to welcome them,” she said.

Many of the asylum seekers had come to the UK from countries which had seen more than their share of war and destruction, including Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Kuwait, Eritrea, Sudan, Albania, El Salvador and Honduras. 

“Our aim is to give them a Wensleydale welcome and a happy few hours in the countryside,” said Judith. 

“We shared a vegetarian lunch from the Cornmill tearooms in Bainbridge, locally-baked cakes and, thanks to the Harrison family of Thornton Rust, Wensleydale Ice Cream.

“The weather was challenging, but the majority still were keen to have a very wet and windy walk down to the river.”

Low Mill Outdoor Education Centre loaned wet weather gear, Richmond Children and Families Service also helped, and a local farmer brought a hen with chicks for the children to see and hold,

The group was accompanied by three volunteers from their drop-in centre at Darlington Assistance for Refugees (DAR) who sent a message of thanks.

“As everyone piled off the bus in Darlington, slightly damp and dishevelled, it was clear from their faces that they had all had a totally marvellous time today,” they wrote.

A local volunteer said: ‘“ was overwhelmed with the care, love and happiness of the event in spite of the weather. I’m not sure who got the most out of the day but I came away nourished, and with a bit more Spanish! It was so good to have so many local people there to meet, greet and welcome.”

Visitors and a volunteer