Country diary: among the signs of spring are echoes of the past

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Willington, County Durham: A half-buried brick, stamped with the name Straker, is the last tangible evidence of one of the largest collieries in the county

The longed-for, reassuring approach of spring seems more urgent than ever for the national psyche, scarred by the pandemic’s reminders of the tenuous nature of life and how quickly fortunes can change.

Searching for signs of spring on this grassy hillside, we found a half-buried brick, stamped with the name Straker – the last tangible evidence of one of the largest collieries in the county. Joseph Straker, like many owners, used clay from his mine to make bricks for the terraces that his workers rented.

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