On Friday June 2nd Middlesbrough Erimus rotary gave 65 Ukrainian guests what amounted to an unexpected but well deserved present. Aged between 7 months and fifty something, the group had been gathered from across Stockton and Middlesbrough and were to experience the beauty of Teesside’s hinterland which many of us too often take for granted.

The Guisborough Moor road was their introduction to a new series of landscapes as our driver who was, lets say much better at road safety than navigation, took his passengers on a circuitous route to the National Park Centre at Danby.

Blessed with the first fine day in over a week sunshine greeted our arrival as Rotary hosts Dave and Teresa Whittaker were joined by fellow Erimus member David Jackson , his family and the stars of the show from the National Park Jonathan and Rob with his sleek and handsome steel grey whippet Rufus. Nothing if not ambitious Jonathan who is the Park’s Education Officer explained he would be holding a geocaching adventure session whist Rob would lead a hillside walk across the nearby fields.

The next two hours proved thoroughly inspirational for our Ukrainian hikers as we scrambled across steep hillsides and Rob displayed his talents. Slow spoken and with a depth of knowledge Rob gave a master class of Country Code, Geography, Geology, Flora and Fauna . Rufus simply charmed everyone with his docility and willingness to be stroked. Our new friends took it all in as the messages were transferred from Rob to interpreter Liza, fascination was armed with knowledge and for a day the cares and concerns of a war torn past were morphed into new found experience in a peaceful landscape .

As we returned to the Visitor centre little Anya so shy her mother had to carry her most of the way suddenly blossomed picking a small bunch of buttercups and then joy of joys two glossy horses stood by the roadside wall and allowed themselves to be patted and fussed by Anya and the rest of the group. Checking in with the other group we discovered that geocaching had gone well and fun was had by all.

Farewells said to our hosts and back on the bus across the Moors to Saltburn with its stately Victorian exteriors sea views and impressive rolling breakers smashing into the Piers cast iron legs. Again our Ukrainian visitors were hugely impressed and thoroughly removed from recent hardships for a short time as legs were stretched along a busy promenade past gaudy beach huts and pale skins being toasted.

All too soon it’s back to the bus for four o clock and a journey back to reality. For a day we had removed worry and replaced it with wonder, denied harsh realities and offered fresh hope . The only disappointment is that our colleague Beverley Clifton who had worked so hard to make this happen couldn’t be with us. Rotary does lots of good things but this day was one of the best, thanks Bev.

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