'SAHRO 68' EXPEDITION

BY

Bari (Mick) Logan

Sahro 3.JPG

 

The Team

1   AINLEY,       Mick           – (Driver)
2   BLAKE,        Kevin
3   BURTON,     Paul            – (Driver)
4   GASKIN,      John
5   HARRISON, Alan            – (Driver)  – Expedition Leader - (died 27.02.2020 aged 73)
6   KEMP,         Wyndam                     – Expedition Photographer
7   LOGAN,       Bari (Mick)                 – Supplies Officer (amateur entomologist)
8   SNODIN,     Ian             – (Driver) – (died 06.08.2006 aged 57)

[ Total distance covered by the 4 drivers was logged at 6,243 miles ]

 

Introduction

Whilst on the Pegasus Caving Club Gouffre Berger Expedition in 1967, as a surface party member, one evening whilst sitting around the campfire I got into conversation with Alan (Big Al) Harrison and he asked me if I had travelled anywhere else in the World of recent.

I told him that only a year previous, during the summer of 1966, I had been on a four-week overland (minibus) sightseeing tour of Morocco and managed to visit majority of the most interesting sites to be found there.
Tangier, Tetouan, Al Hoceima, Taza, Fes, Midelt, Khenifra, Beni Mellal, Marrakech, Quarzazate, Agadir, Essaouira, Safi, Cassablanca, Rabat, Kenitra, Meknes, crossing the three chains of the Atlas Mountains down to the edges of the Sahara Desert.

He listened intently as I related my adventures and asked many questions about Morocco and then announced that he was actually in the middle of planning an overland expedition for the Summer/Autumn of 1968 to regions of the Sahara Desert in both Morocco and Algeria, then added, would I be interested in joining the team ?

Well, always up for an adventure, I accepted his invitation and when I returned to England from the Berger trip, I got in touch with him and met up with the rest of the team who mainly comprised of Al’s fellow students at South East Derbyshire College of Further Education, Ilkeston.

Over the ensuing months, a one-ton ex-army wagon was purchased and much maintenance and conversion work carried out on it, many ‘begging’ letters were written seeking equipment and food; and hours spent on maps carefully planning routes with timings and estimated amounts of fuel required for each leg of the journey.

The eight man Expedition went ahead and in general proved successful apart from the final leg into areas of Algeria where we had to alter our original plans when we unexpectedly began to run out of spare tyres for the vehicle due to ‘Blow-Outs’.

 

A privately printed Expedition Report, ‘SAHRO 68’, was published but unfortunately rather hastily written, out of urgent necessity, by Alan Harrison and myself, due to the other six members of the team ‘ducking’ their pre-expedition agreement to produce short articles and photographs for it.

 

35mm Slide Collection

A collection of 279 photographic images (35mm slides) produced from 8 rolls of film, were taken by myself over a six-week period of the above Expedition during August – September 1968.

Although, to note, there is a slight gap in the sequence, which represents the period that the Expedition entered and exited Algeria. The gap being Between - Slide 224 (Morocco) and Slide 225 (Morocco).

At the time, because Algeria was politically very delicate and the country in a somewhat unstable volatile state, we were strongly advised therefore not to advertise the fact that we owned cameras and certainly should not make any attempt to take photographs in case of being spotted, as the consequences would be severe and definitely result in confiscation of equipment.

For the trip, I used a new compact Mamiya 35 mm camera and in total 10 rolls of 36 exposure Kodachrome Colour Film.

 

Although Wyndam Kemp was the appointed official expedition photographer, having undertaken a graduate course on the subject at Derby Art College and equipped with a very expensive reflex camera. It has to be said, that both lack of film and enthusiasm at the time of the expedition disappointingly produced very little material at the end of the day.

As a result, therefore, my slide collection is the only near complete photographic record of the Expedition.

Additional to the above collection, there was also a series of pictures from a further 2 rolls of film, approximately (72) 35mm slides, taken of individual items, (donated equipment and supplies), being used on the Expedition.

 

Because of the lack of input from the Expedition photographer and being the designated supplies officer, I had little choice but to step-in and take the pictures of equipment and supplies, then post-expedition, send them, along with a further ‘Thank You’ letter and ‘Expedition Report’, to the various donors, as promised.

Sadly, a duplicate boxed set of all these 72 images was lost in the post at some stage and that is why they do not appear here.

I took over 350 colour slides which record most of the event, 279 of these have been annotated with short captions and are available for viewing by  Clicking Here.

Bari (Mick) Logan, Histon, Cambridge. 25th October 2021

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Newspaper Cutting from the Derby Evening Telegraph, Thursday May 23rd 1968

Transcript of the above newspaper article

SEVEN Sahara expedition members (from left): Kevin Blake, Ian Snodln, A. B. Harrison, Paul Burton, Wyndham Kemp, John Gaskin, Mick Ainley.

EIGHT young men, most of whom are students at South-East Derbyshire College of Further Education, plan to leave England on August 2, for an expedition into the Sahara in an ex-Army truck.

Their leader, Mr. A. B. Harrison, of 41 Rufford Road, New Sawley, Long Eaton, a member of Derbyshire Cave Rescue organisation, summed up the expedition's object: "To combine our multiple geographical interests in a report, on our return, and to enjoy an unusual and educational trip into the mountains and desert of North Africa."

THE PARTY

He will be accompanied; by entomologist Michael Logan (21). a telecommunications engineer, of 21 Plantagenet Street, Alfred Street South, Nottingham; Kevin Blake (19), of 52 Victoria Road, Sandiacre; Paul Burton (20), of Tranquilla, 7 Church Lane, Breadsall; Ian Snodin (19), of 90 Stevens Lane, Breaston; Michael Ainley (20), of 258 Duffield Road, Derby; Wyndham Kemp (19), of The Chestnuts, Derby Road, Sandiacre, and John Gaskin (20); of 15 Lathkill Road, Chaddesden.


The expedition will make a detailed study of the Gorge du Dades area of Morocco. Then they will travel into the High Atlas mountains and to Colomb-Bechar in Algeria.

They will continue east into the Sahara and on to a small Arab settlement in the Chottech-Chergui, a dry salt-lake depression. "We hope to spend some time there In order to carry out various studies. Then we shall continue north to Mascara and on to Algiers," he said.


The four-wheel drive truck is being converted by the members for long-range use. It will carry extra petrol and water, and local firms have provided oil and batteries. Only Mr. Logan, and Mr. Harrison have previously visited North Africa. In 1966 the former was in Morocco and, the same year, Mr. Harrison was a member of an international caving expedition in Tunisia.

CAVE DESCENTS

"Mick and I intend to make  several caving trips in Morocco and in Algeria, mainly to assess caving potential," Mr. Harrison commented. He said: "We are financing this trip ourselves, but we have received much help from local firms and great assistance and advice from Mr. F. Griffiths, geography lecturer, and Miss J. Akers, vice-principal of South-East Derbyshire College of Further Education." Mr. Kemp is studying photography at Derby and District College of Art.

 
Expedition Report

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Preparation

The expedition first came into being over coffee in the college canteen. It began, as so many do, as an idea, but unlike many the idea was transformed into a reality.


Paul Burton, Mick Ainley, Kevin Blake and Ian Snodin were talking over their studies of Geography and agreed the best way to study is to ‘go see'; the difficulty was how. They agreed that a combined expedition and holiday was the best method. With this in mind I was approached by them, my interest being in the caves of Morocco mixed with the ‘tourist’ in me, and another member was collected. A photographer was needed, so Wyndam Kemp, an ex-Ilkeston student studying photography at Derby Art College, became our next member soon to be joined by an entomologist friend, Mick Logan, who wanted to collect and study insects and butterflies in North Africa. John Gaskin, an Ilkeston student, was our last acquisition; he wanted to see the desert and to travel. At this stage we had eight members, no money, no vehicle, in fact nothing except ideas.


Mick Logan and I, being the only members to have visited North Africa previously, took on the, job of organising the trip with considerable help from the members. Money was raised initially by a grant of £30 from the Students’ Union and dances held at the college. £80 was raised this way, but the bulk of the money needed was to come from members' donations of £40 each. At this point we came to a grinding halt because, as students, we could not hope to save any money before the summer vacation, and at least £200 was needed immediately to obtain a vehicle, to book the passage across the Channel, and to tax and insure the vehicle. In addition, any vehicle obtained would have to have considerable spares which would have to be obtained well in advance. We were rescued by a loan of £100 with which to buy the Vehicle; without this loan we could have gone no further.
 

The best vehicle for the job we decided was a one-ton ex-army truck with four wheel drive. So, armed with a £100 we trooped off to Ruddington army surplus sales. Viewing day saw a highly critical bunch of students crawling in and out of suitable vehicles, noting tyre condition, gear boxes, engines, mileage etc. At the sale 'we bought for £90 a sound Austin K.9 and the next few months were spent in preparing this for our trip. Spares were obtained for just about everything possible, short of taking another lorry; our one worry was tyres. The tyres fitted were of the 'Trakgrip' variety and designed for use on soft mud; most of our mileage was to be done on roads which causes rapid wear on this sort of tyre. In the desert the sharp stones of the Hamada and Reg would cut into the soft rubber. If the soft sand of the Erg was encountered, balloon tyres would be best; the Trakgrip or road tyres would dig themselves in. The cost of either road tyres or balloon tyres ruled out any possibility of obtaining either, so an extra spare wheel was obtained as a further precaution, sand tracks were acquired from Hoveringham Gravels in case of soft sand.


Whilst this was going on, Mick Logan was writing letters at a furious rate to firms and companies asking for donations or concessions. This feature of expeditions, sponsorship by firms, is something for which I and many others are extremely grateful. Every year many expeditions leave Britain to go all over the world for a host of different reasons, and every year British firms help to sponsor them. In return they receive little, and too often nothing; all it is possible to do is offer a copy of the expedition report and photographs of their products in use - a small return for the donation of what is often an expensive product. Our expedition would not have been possible but for this help and the unselfishness of many people not directly involved, who came to our aid. To me, this is one of the most rewarding features of an expedition, and our gratitude to those who helped us is genuine and not merely lip-service.

The costs of the expedition were our major worry and were estimated as follows:-

COSTS ESTIMATE


Vehicle
Petrol for 5,200 miles estimate
Car ferries: Dover - Calais
Algeciras - Cueta
Insurance
Road Tax
Spares

£50 Miscellaneous costs

 

 

£100

£160

£75

£20

£40

£12-16s

£50

£?

In fact, as expected, the costs fluctuated but the estimate was fairly close to actual costs. In addition to these costs shown were those of food, personal insurance, and medical equipment.

ACTUAL COSTS

Vehicle
Petrol
Ferries: Dover - Calais
Algeciras - Cueta
Insurance
Border Insurance (Morocco)
Road Tax
Spares
Miscellaneous
Spare tyre bought in Morocco

 

 

 

£90

£130

£75

£19-16s

£58

£5-16s-8d

£15-10s

£43

£20

£19-3s-8d

Total Expenditure      = £476, 6 Shillings, 4 pence *

INCOME

Expedition Member Subscription 8 x £40:00:00p         =  £ 320.0.0
Monies raised from Events, Grants, Donations            =  £ 180.0.0

Total Income    = £ 500

Travel

The trip was intended to last for a period of about six weeks, beginning on 2nd August, 1968. The main object of our visit in Morocco was to be an area known as the Djebel Sahro, in particular the Gorges du Dades and Todra. After this, we intended to cross into Algeria at Colomb, Bechar and head North through Algeria up to the coast, then return, westwards along the coast to Cueta. Each member, according to his different study, had a particular place en-route he wished to stay at. The intended mileage was to be 5,200 miles; in fact it turned out to be 6,243 miles because we decided to visit Portugal when returning.

 


The Channel was crossed without incident and a hard day and night drive brought us to the Spanish border. There was no necessity to stop at all in France because, due to the expense of petrol there and our intended long-range travel, we had converted our lorry by fitting extra fuel tanks giving a non-stop range of nearly 800 miles. It was at the Spanish border that our first troubles came. The French with a characteristic shrug of the shoulders waved us through customs; not so the Spanish. With characteristic bureaucracy they informed us that our vehicle was a lorry', and that we had to pass through the commercial vehicle section of customs. We assured them that the vehicle was a private one, and that our papers proved it carried the same status as a private car, but they were adamant, and insisted that we returned to France and drove to the commercial customs. This we eventually did, only to be told that, it was impossible to pass there, because we were not a commercial vehicle, but if we were to wait 'un momento' in the bonded lorry park they would see what they could do. Having got us into the park with armed guards around it, they promptly forgot us.
 

After a day and night in the car park, it began to dawn on us that 'un momento' could be an eternity, so we began to make enquiries and found another English lorry in the park that had been there four days already, and a Spanish Tourist Official who spoke perfect English. He told us to get out of the bonded park at any cost because, he informed us, we might be there for months - so we decided to bluff our way out by telling the guard we were returning to France. We waited until Sunday evening when there was only one guard, and did this. Back in France again, we drove to the next border post, waited until it was very busy, and when the customs officials began the same preamble, we parked the lorry blocking the road and switched the engine off. Traffic began to build up behind us and eventually an irate official waved us through. It had taken two days and considerable subterfuge to pass one border despite the fact that our papers were all in order! However, it taught us a valuable lesson; after this we never assumed that officials knew their job, and never took no for an answer. It seems to be official policy to be awkward; the answer to this is to be more awkward than they are.


In 48 hours, we were in Algeciras, our port of embarkation for Morocco.  En-route through Spain we had found time to drink brandy at 10d. a glass, and considerable quantities of beer at 3d. and 4d., along with a mysterious local drink known as 'Electrico', which cost 3d. and was reputed to lay any man flat after four glasses. It was said to be responsible for the local drunk's ten childrenl


At Algeciras our troubles started again. For some strange reason known only to the Spanish, the issue of tickets for the ferry to North Africa, which is normally a matter of a few minutes job, had been slowed up to take two days. We arrived at the booking office to find a mob of about 300 angry people, trying to fight their way into the ticket office. Paul and I, being the largest members of the group, undertook the task of getting tickets. After a day's elbowing and jostling, we managed to reach the counter, only to be given a numbered slip, giving us permission to queue the next day for tickets! Feeling slightly despondent, we elbowed our way out again, with visions of another grim day ahead of us. In this mood we visited the restaurants and bars of Algeciras and it was not long before we were all happy again. It was probably the most riotous evening of the whole trip, vast quantities of liquor being consumed along with three bottles of champagne, two meals and a squid! The next day was incredible, the mob, infuriated when the Spanish decided not to open the booking office until an hour later, burst the doors down and stormed in. Paul and I made the best of this, and ended up at the front of the queue. After the police batons stopped flying, tickets were obtained and we were on our way again - after more trouble with Spanish Customs who informed us that unless we obtained a carnet-de-passage for the lorry we would not be allowed to re-enter Spain.

Sahro pic 2.JPG

 

We arrived at Cueta, which is a Spanish port on the North African coast, and filled up with cheap petrol before crossing into Morocco. We spent our first night on an Arab farm and shared tea with the farmer and his men. Unfortunately, when he left he left behind two or three fleas, which, after considerable scratching, were despatched with insect dusting powder. Next morning at Tetuan we arranged insurance for Morocco and obtained petrol coupons (tourists are allowed concessionary rates).


Tangiers was the next stop, whilst frantic letters were despatched to the A.A. in London. Tangiers was a disappointment to most of us - it is very commercialised and ‘touristy’, and although it is wrong to visit a place with preconceived ideas, we had our illusions shattered.
 

There is even a fish and chip shop in the Medina, run by a Yorkshire couple. More disturbing was the vast amount of young people of our own age who drift around Tangiers in a permanent drug stupor. Hashish and marijuana are easily obtained; in fact, Arabs were constantly approaching us trying to sell drugs and seemed most surprised when we declined.


Next came Rabat, Casablanca, and Marrakech and once again we were disappointed for the same reasons. In Marrakech we ran into the B.B.C. Blue Peter ‘Expedition’ staying in the best hotel in town.


We had heard tales of the famous market place in Marrakech, with dancers and snake-charmers. In reality, whilst being a fascinating place, most of so-called customs were designed specifically for relieving the tourists of their money. Marrakech was the last large town we were to visit on our route so a celebration was held, and next morning, after dancing until 3 a.m., we were on the road once more.


Just outside Marrakech, we picked up a lone Scottish medical student hitch-hiker, who was standing under tree miles from anywhere. He became an extra member of our trip as he was such a likeable character.


The road from Marrakech to Quarzazate is most impressive, crossing the Haut Atlas Mountains. Quarzazate takes its name from the quartz found in great quantities there. The local children make a living by standing by the roadside selling amethyst to tourists. However, some of these children paint quartz crystals and sell these to the ever-gullible tourists for exorbitant prices.
 

After Quarzazate the tourists started to thin out and the desert to encroach. At Boulmalne we left the road for the Gorge du Dades after taking on 60 gallons of water and 70 gallons of petrol. For the next week we were driving on dirt tracks and dry river beds through appearance, but not in scale, to the Grand Canyon. Two days were spent in the lower reaches of the gorges whilst Mick collected ‘bugs’ and we made several short field trips into the mountains.


On one of our short field trips we found a cave some of the most impressive gorges I have ever seen - comparable in which opened into the gorge about 75 feet higher than the stream level. On exploration it proved to be a resurgence cave with a suspended water table which obviously overflowed into the gorge in times of flood. In this cave I found two huge bones which our medical student (known as ‘mid-willie’ for some strange reason) seemed to think were either ape or early man. These were brought back for tests to be made and we are at present awaiting the results of these tests.


This is Berber country, the Berbers being a race apart, from the Arabs - their appearance is comparable to that of the Aztec Indians. The women wear lipstick, numerous silver ornaments and do not wear the traditional Arab veil. They live by herding goats on the slopes of the mountains and by farming short terraced strips of irrigated land in the valley bottom. These strips have the same layout and irrigational methods as the flood farmer’s use in their irrigated gardens in the valleys of the Little Colorado of America. They are a very shy rate and were difficult to photograph - the nearest they came to us was to collect empty tins, bottles, in fact anything we threw away. What value this western rubbish had was a mystery to us but our judgement is based on a different scale of values.
 

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The road steadily deteriorated as we wound around the side of the gorge - at times the road was only as wide as the lorry and all the passengers were turned out whilst these sections were negotiated in case the lorry turned over. At the head of the gorge the terrain flattened into a huge barren plain, our 'road' snaking away into the distance between the mesas. On this section we had our first trouble with the lorry, apart from fuel starvation which we cured by using an electric petrol pump in series with the mechanical one fitted. Our speed was down to a few miles an hour and the lorry was bouncing along over huge boulders. This caused a tyre to completely blow out rendering it useless. The spare was fitted, the old tyre abandoned, and we were on our way again. A few miles later, a puncture; the other spare was fitted and the punctured tyre stowed away for attention later. An hour and three miles later a front tyre blew! This meant before going on we had to repair the punctured spare. So, feeling very tired, we decided to camp for the night whilst Paul and I set about the repair. After much effort, cursing and numerous cups of tea, we eventually effected a repair, and inflated the tyre with the vehicles compressor. Back on four wheels with a very dodgy spare, we felt a little happier, but it had taken us a day and night and three tyre repairs to cover less than 15 miles. Our breakdown had occurred in a completely desolate area, the nearest village being some 50 miles away and consisting of a handful of mud houses. This drove home to us the importance of our comprehensive spares, especially when immediately after inflating the tyre the compressor mounting sheared leaving us without a compressor.

Fortunately, our run of bad luck was temporarily over and next day we reached an oasis and village. The following day we drove down the Gorge du Todra, stopping to admire chameleons, rock squirrels and a set of crazy birds that never seem to fly but run everywhere. There was no road at all - we were driving along the stream bed itself. After some time the gorge began to flatten out and the going became easier, until we eventually drove around a bluff of rock to find a small hotel and swimming pool! We were astounded especially when we found that the occupants were English tourists on a ‘Minitrek Adventure Holiday’. Apparently, their guide was equally astounded to see a vehicle coming down the gorge - they had driven up from the tarmac in a Land Rover. They informed us that this was the furthest point that vehicles went up the gorge and that the dirt road from the tarmac was ‘simply awful old chap!’ So, with visions of more low gear four-wheel drive work ahead, we set off, (after a few beers had been consumed), only to find the dirt road was wide and comparatively good. For the first time high range two-wheel drive was engaged and top gear was used. The driving became a pleasure once more, instead of an ordeal. The road wound its way through incredibly green palm groves and within a few hours the tarmac was reached. I don't think anyone has ever been so glad to see a road - we even considered kissing it!

We changed drivers and set off with Ian driving at about fifty miles an hour and Mick Logan sitting happily on the roof of the cab. We had just covered 10 miles when the front right-hand tyre blew. We bounced off the road through a shallow ditch and came to a grinding halt in a cloud of dust. It is a tribute to Ian's driving (or luck) that he managed to prevent the truck from turning over. On inspecting the site of our untimely exit from the road we discovered that had the tyre blown out another hundred yards on, we would have hurtled into a 30 feet deep wadi which would have been rather upsetting! The only mystery was how Mick Logan managed to cling on to the cab roof whilst this went on!

Sahro pic 4.JPG

 

The ‘dodgy’ spare was fitted and with just four wheels left, we set off again, reaching Ksar se Souk by nightfall. In Ksar we tried to buy another tyre, only to find that no new ones were available, and that second-hand ones worse than those we had abandoned, would cost anything from £12 to £25, according to how long you were prepared to haggle or how desperate your need was.

We decided that the best place to buy a tyre would be in a large town and that with only four wheels, any more dirt roads were out. This ruled out crossing into Algeria at Colomb-Bechar, so we headed North in Morocco intending to visit some caves in Taza and buy a new tyre at Oudja on the Algerian border. Thirty miles out of Ksar at the hottest time of day we had another puncture this time the heat had caused our patch to lift off. Due to the intense heat we could not get the rubber solution to set when we attempted to patch again so, whilst we waited for the cool of evening, we set about improvising a repair on our broken compressor. This proved difficult but we eventually managed it. The tyre was patched and inflated and believing that any further bad luck was impossible, we set off.


Next day 10 kilometres from a small town and 300 kilometres from the next large town, we had yet another blow-out. With no spare available, Paul and I had to hitch-hike into town clutching the metal centre to the wheel. The only tyre available was of an incorrect size and second hand, and because the Arab knew we had to have it, the price shot up to £25. After much arguing and reaching the stage where Paul and I would have cheerfully murdered him, we managed to get the price down to £19 for a tyre which was probably worth a fiver but he knew we had to have it so our bargaining powers were reduced to nil. We bought the tyre and after this had no more trouble with tyres.
 

Fes was our next stop and proved very interesting, possibly because we expected nothing of it. The Medina is very fine and we spent many hours in there, visiting the souks and workshops, including a visit to what must be the most-evil smelling workplace in the world - a tannery. Sheep and camel skins were being cured and dyed in a multitude of different coloured stone vats that had one feature in common, their stench! The dying was done by stamping on the skins in the vats with bare feet, so everywhere were multitudes of Arab boys with different coloured feet who all looked incredibly healthy despite the 'instant typhoid' conditions of work.
After Fes we spent a few days in the mountains near Taza and explored the cave system of the Gouffre Friouto. From here we crossed into Algeria at Oudja, visiting Tlemcen and Oran. At this point we spent a few days at the coast swimming and soaking up the sun. Then our route was back along the North African coast westwards; and our 'mad' Scotch hitch-hiker, to whom we had become quite attached (or he had to us, I'm not quite sure) intended to part from us, hitching eastwards to Tunis, then across the Mediterranean to Italy and back home through Europe. With this in mind we had a farewell party - unfortunately in the proceedings he fell off a balcony and broke his ankle and finished up sporting a plaster and returning as far as Tetuan with us, where he insisted on being left to hitch home! We returned to Tetuan two days later having picked up our mail from Tangiers and he was not there so we assume he made it back.
Our journey back from Algeria into Morocco was not without incident. Whilst in Algeria we were surprised at the hostility of the Arabs towards the West and their leanings to the East. Wherever we went we were called 'comrade' and farmers went as far as assuring us that it was only due to communism that the crop was good this year! We found it was best not to advertise our British nationality and removed our Union Jack. On every bridge, road or rail, on our route we encountered machine gun posts which we assumed were a relic of O.A.S. days.
 

Sahro pic 5.JPG

 

When crossing frontiers, we found the best times were either when they were very busy, or late at night at a small frontier post. With the latter in mind, we decided to cross into Morocco as far North as possible and late at night. About 20 miles from the frontier the signposts were all painted out, and the road was overgrown with weeds but we pushed on through what seemed to be deserted countryside, all the buildings we passed were derelict.


When we did reach the border we found it barricaded off and guarded by armed guards who promptly told us to return to the border at Oudja and not stop at all until then. On our way back, we picked up in our headlights several armed patrols and from this we can only assume that we had strayed into a military zone of some kind; we didn't stop to investigate!


On returning to Spain, we decided to visit Portugal en route home. This proved interesting - once we could convince the Portuguese customs man we were not international criminals nor were we mercenaries! We spent a few days in Lisbon then drove continuously back to Calais, arriving in England almost exactly six weeks after we left, to a reception committee of mothers and fathers armed with cans of beer.
 

Conclusion

In this report I have tried to provide a picture of what we did on this trip, but short of writing a mammoth book, I can only sketch an outline - often I have dismissed with a few words what took days to achieve.


The value of the trip to its members is difficult to assess.  In educational terms it brought home the lessons of the classroom, but its real value, I feel, lay in doing things together.  More than one member came back a ‘changed person'.  In doing things together we shared a common experience and it was a very happy one.  I thank the other members for making it so.


Whilst thanking people, I extend our collective gratitude to all those who helped us in any way. Enclosed is a list of those firms which donated or offered donations or concessionary prices to the expedition. Without their help our trip would not have been feasible.


Special thanks go to those parents who put up with all of our comings and goings and provided coffee and advice as the situation demanded.


Lastly, my sincere thanks to Miss Akers, Vice-Principal of the South East Derbyshire College of Education, without whose practical help the expedition would still be an idea at the coffee-cup stage.

TA!

 

Al HARRISON
 

Medical Report

By B.M.Logan

Surprisingly enough, considering the climate and local food and water that we were consuming daily, very little illness occurred among the members of the team, apart from the usual Diarrhoea and sickness that one usually experiences abroad. Three cases of this sickness did, however, give rise for concern as the symptoms were far more prolonged and pronounced than usual. However, after a rest and 48 hours on only liquids, the persons concerned were restored back to normal health by the tablets and Diarrhoea mixture which was contained in the first aid kit.


The only other serious complaint treated was an ingrowing toe nail, which had to be removed. A second ingrowing toe nail became well after seeing the first being removed...


All cuts, scratches and grazes were treated immediately by the persons inflicted. T.C.P. pads and disinfectant were used to cleanse the wound followed by an application of Savlon Antiseptic Cream. It was essential that all minor abrasions etc. were treated in this manner as soon as it was possible as disease from flies was always an imminent danger. Water, if taken from an unknown source (including majority of the African camp site supplies), was treated with purification tablets or was well boiled before being consumed. Water supplies in the mountain districts were often very good as they were usually fresh springs - unlike the well water of the of the plains which the local inhabitants shared with their goats, camels, sheep etc. and the rest goes without saying... Lime juice cordial was put into the drinking water to take away the taste of the purification tablets. This worked extremely well and proved to be a very refreshing and stimulating drink.
 

Everyone suffered from gnat and mosquito bites; although not fatal, the bites were extremely irritating. However, after an application of either Savlon or Antihistamine cream, the irritation and the inflammation soon disappeared. Scorpions and spiders were ever present and one soon developed a respect for them, especially at night when any clothing, sleeping attire and bedding was always checked before use to ensure that there were no visitors sleeping in or under them. It was also very wise to wear boots and always remembering to shake them out well before putting them on in the morning (this is the commonest way of receiving a sting from a scorpion). I am pleased to say that no one did receive a sting from a scorpion or similar creature. Scorpion stings are not fatal (only in rare cases where usually the victim is already suffering from ill health) but they are extremely painful and medical assistance should be sought immediately. A cheering thought is that the three most dangerous types of scorpion occur along the southern and eastern Mediterranean littoral. Only one snake was encountered on the whole of the trip and this, after being disturbed, slid silently away into the bush. Evidence of their presence was found, however, in the number of sloughed skins usually lying on rocky ground or in cave entrances. Once again, it is always wise to keep a wary eye for these creatures, especially at night and first thing in the morning when moving any equipment, A snake will never attack and only bites in self defense when alarmed or disturbed. Dr. A. Read of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, one of the world's leading authorities on snake bite and its treatment, provided the expedition with some extremely useful information on snake bite and its treatment.

Several months before the trip, each member of the team had the following vaccinations or their boosters: Smallpox, Cholera, Tetanus, Poliomyelitis, Diphtheria, Typhoid and Paratyphoid A & B. Although only the Smallpox vaccination was necessary by law, it was strongly advised that we have the other vaccinations or their boosters if one had previously had the main dose, as these diseases are still prevalent in these African regions. As well as the protection by vaccination, each member of the team had a daily intake of one 'Redexon' vitamin C tablet and one 'Paludrine' anti-malarial tablet. Personal hygiene was of the utmost importance and it was up to the person concerned to make sure that he made good use of the shovel after making a visit to the toilet and that hands were well washed before handling food.
Below is a list of the goods and sundries which were contained in the First Aid Kits. The list is followed by comments on the various articles used:

 

Tablets


Redexon Tablets (vitamin C tablets) 1 bottle of 500
Paludrine Tablets (anti-malarial tablets) 2 boxes of 250
Hibitane Antiseptic Lozenges 6 tubes of 20 tablets per tube.
Sereen Travel Sickness Tablets 2 tubes of 12 tablets per tube.
Sodium Chloride Tablets (heat exhaustion) 4 bottles of 100.
Sterotabs (water purification tablets) 8 tubes of 100
Anadin Tablets (pain killers) 60 packets of 4 per packet

Bandages


4 of 1 inch x 4 yards (Boot's)
2 of 2 inch x 4 yards (Boot's)
2 of 2 inch x 6 yards (Boot's)
4 of 4½ inch x 4 yards (Boot's)
3 of 3 inch x 5 yards Elastic Bandage (Smith & Nephew)
2 of 51 inches x 36 inches Triangular Bandages (Boot's)

Dressings


large roll of Surgery Cotton Wool (Boot’s)
of loz. packets of Absorbent Lint (Boot’s)
1 packet of 1 yard of Gauze (Boot's)
of packets of small standard Lint Dressing (Boot's')
2 of packets of large standard Lint Dressing (Boot's,)
3 of Roehampton Burns Dressing 12 x 6 (Price Bro's)
3 of Roehampton Burns Dressing 12 x 12 (Price Bro's)
1 of Roehampton Burns Dressing 18 x 24 (Price Bro's)
1 of Roehampton Burns Dressing 24 x 21 (Price Bro's)
1 of Roehampton Burns Dressing 24 x 54 (Price Bro's)
24 of Absorbent Dressings (Boot's)
1 Finger Stall, Applicator and Tubular Dressing (Boot's)
 

Splints


Of Gypsona Emergency Splints (Smith &Nephew) Plasters
Elastoplast First Aid Outfit (containing a large selection of various size plasters)  (Smith & Nephew)
of 1 inch x 3yd. of Plaster Roll (Smith & Nephew)
3 of 2½ inch x 3yd. of Boxes of Plaster (Smith & Nephew)

Creams


36 tubes of Savlon Antiseptic Cream (i.C.I. Ltd.)
1 large jar of Nivea Cream (Smith & Nephew)

Antiseptic Applications


3 large bottles of T.C.P. Antiseptic Disinfectant. (Unicliffe Ltd.)
6 Tins of T.C.P. Pads (Unicliffe Ltd.)

Powders


3 of large Tubs of Louse and Insect Powder (I.C.I. Ltd.)
1 of small Tub of Antiseptic Dusting Powder (Boot's)

Medicines


2 of Bottles of Diarrhoea Mixture (Boot's)

Miscellaneous


1 Bottle of Tooth Tincture (Boot's)
2 Packets of Tooth Stopping (Boot's)
2 of squeeze dropper bottles of eye drops (Boot's)
1 Eye Bath
1 Clinical Thermometer (Boot's)
Large Selection of Safety Pins (Boot's)
1 Portex Resuscitation Tube (Mattay & Co. Ltd.)
 

As we were to be travelling in regions which were many miles from the nearest medical assistance, it was decided that the medical kit should contain sufficient apparatus as to be able to treat a badly injured person should the occasion arise. I am very pleased to say that the occasion did not arise and that the medical kit was brought back to England almost intact - however, we were prepared. Good use was made of the T.C.P. pads and disinfectant which proved to be extremely efficient in combating infection. The Savlon antiseptic cream was also widely used and this too provided a great deal of comfort especially to those who developed sunburn. The Nivea cream was also a great asset here. The diarrhoea mixture was very good and most digestive troubles were soon cleared within a relatively short time after taking only a small dose. Unfortunately, one of the bottles (the full one) was broken and this left us with only half a bottle which was quickly consumed. I would suggest for future expeditions that at least four bottles of this mixture should be included in the first aid kit.

Entomological Collection Report

by B.M. Logan

I had been keenly interested in entomology, especially in the Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), for a number of years but unfortunately, due to my financial status and lack of qualifications on this subject, I had to be contented with collecting only our native insects. I therefore saw a great opportunity with the Sahara expedition to establish a collection of specimens and, I hope, provide a little information to those who are interested, on the areas that we visited.


Over the weeks which followed my first joining the expedition, a great many letters were written to numerous leading entomologists and authorities on the subject, seeking advice and information on the types of equipment that I would require and the sort of problems that I might well have been faced with. The response was extremely good and I would like to thank all of the people concerned - unfortunately too numerous to mention - for all the very interesting and most helpful information that I was supplied with. After reading what seemed to be an endless amount of information on the subject, I drew up my own conclusions and then began to gather together my equipment. I chose only the finest and most specialised equipment available; equipment that I knew to be first class and reliable. I was most fortunate to receive a few donations from a number of firms; the remainder of the equipment was purchased or constructed by myself. The main problem with which I was first faced was a method of transporting the specimens back to England without becoming damaged in anyway.
 

For this, two large wooden crates were constructed, 2' x 2' x 2’ deep, the insides of which were lined with ¼" foam rubber. This acted as a shock absorber for the plastic boxes which were stacked inside the crates and were to contain the specimens. The plastic boxes were of three sizes, 9" x 5" x 3" deep, 7" x 4½ x 2½" deep and 4½" x 4½ x 2¼" deep. The boxes were each wrapped in ¼" foam rubber before being stacked in layers inside the crates as an additional precaution against shock forces which may have been injurious to the specimens.


Specially constructed balsa wood boards, which had been covered with white blotting paper on one side ('to absorb moisture from the specimens body) and varnished on the other (to prevent the board from splitting) were placed at the bottom of each plastic box. The boards enabled me to set numerous specimens in the field, especially the scorpions, and they proved to be extremely good for this purpose. They did, however, have one drawback. When a specimen had been mounted on a board and the board secured (by pins) to the base of a plastic box, there was little or no room available for additional specimens. Several large rolls of cellulose wadding were obtained for 'layering' specimens (lying the dead specimens between two pieces of wadding inside one of the plastic boxes) and this proved to be by far the most economical and easier method of packing the specimens. Butterflies and moths were 'papered’ (placed inside small paper envelopes) then layered as the other specimens.


An imminent danger when transporting or storing specimens is mould and parasite attack. To combat this, I put a generous portion of Naphthalene Flake inside each plastic box and each crate. This precaution proved to be very adequate as none of the specimens were attacked by mould or parasites.

As most of the meaty bodied insects - scorpions and spiders - require eviscerating (having their internal organs removed), I included in my equipment a good assortment of instruments, all of' which were widely used. After evisceration, a small wad of cotton wool which had been dipped in Canada Balsam (a decay preventative) was inserted into the specimen.

Equipment List

1 Large Kite Butterfly Net
1 Small Folding Pocket Net
1 Large Box of Entomological Pins which contained:

  English Entomological Pins No's 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 13, 16, 17 & 20
  Continental Entomological Pins No's 000, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 7
  English Entomological Points No's 0, 1, 1A, 2, 2A & 3.
  Large box of Lill pins & Plastic Headed Pins.
1    Tin which contained two Glass Pooters or Aspirators.
1    Tin which contained 12 corked glass tubes.
1    Tin with a corked base for collecting in the field.
1    Large, Medium & Small corked glass killing jar.
1    Kit of instruments which contained:
1    pair of large scissors
2    pair of small fine pointed scissors
1    pair of bone cutters
1    section razor
1    pair of artery forceps
1    pair of 10" round ended dressing forceps
1    pair of 4" round ended dressing forceps
1    pair of 4" straight fine pointed forceps
1    pair of 5" curved fine pointed forceps
1    pair of 5" dental curved forceps
1    pair of entomological forceps
1    complete range of Swann-Morton surgical handles and blades
1    pack of Swann-Morton stitch cutters
Hypodermic syringes, lcc. 3cc. 5cc. & a range of needles
8    assorted types of seekers and setting needles.
1    Borrowdale needle
1    x 10 magnifying glass
1    roll of surgery cotton wool
1    bottle of surgical spirits
1    bottle of Canada Balsam.

1    large packet of labels
1    ball of string
1    tin containing a selection of polythene bags
1    nest of pill boxes
1    stout knife
1    trowel
1    torchlight
1    museum pinning stage
1    packet of polyporous strips and cork pieces
1    ammunition tin containing 4 bottles of ¼ pint of Ethyl Acetate killing fluid.
1    field collecting bag
1    packet of transparent paper envelopes
1    roll of cellotape
1    reel of black cotton
1    mapping pen and bottle of black ink
1    packet of rubber bands
 

Most of the collecting that I carried out was done during the day time; what little collecting I did at night, however, proved to be most rewarding. I considered it unwise to leave the confines of the campsite at night as often we were staying in very rugged areas whose wildlife included numerous poisonous nocturnal snakes. Meeting a snake at night is far different from meeting one in broad daylight. One of the most interesting catches which took very little effort, was made at night when we were camping in a desert area near Quarzazarte, south of Marrakech: We had established camp and after a meal and a hot drink, we began to settle down to a night's sleep. One of the team members was suddenly startled by a huge black six-legged insect which was quite obviously enjoying the evening's meal left-overs. On further investigation another was located feeding not far away and another and yet another - seven in ail. They were most peculiar insects, the likes of which I had never seen before. Their movements were almost clockwork, their six legs moving rather like the oars in a rowing boat. Their bodies were bulbous and black in colour and had a collar of what could only be described as armour plating. I quickly nipped round the camp site and gathered them all up - also catching a scorpion on the way. I have recently managed to identify these insects as being Armoured Ground Crickets (hetrodes pupas); they are quite common in most African regions.

Collecting during the daytime also yielded some very interesting and fascinating creatures. Scorpions, like spiders, are not insects but belong to the Phylum Arthropoda, a group of highly-organised animals in which the body is formed of a series of segments. They are distinguished by having a hard chitinous outer covering and by the possession of jointed limbs, one or more pairs of which are modified somewhat for use as jaws. They are nocturnal creatures and during the daytime they seek refuge in burrows or under stones. I successfully collected them from both types of locality, I first realised that scorpions inhabited burrows when, one evening near Marrakech, I saw a scorpion disappear down into a small oval shaped hole which was situated on a flat hard-packed mud surface. I carefully marked the spot and returned next morning with the firm intention to capture the creature. The entrance was little more than 1½ across and was oval in shape. On removing the first few inches of surrounding earth, I could clearly see the entrance shaft going straight down, retaining its size all the way. After eight inches I arrived at a small chamber in which I found a small pile of leaves and twigs and what appeared to be the owner's dinner. On emptying the chamber, I noticed a small cavity in the side of the shaft, a little above the floor of the main chamber. After prodding down the hole with a twig, out popped a very irate scorpion with pedipalps to the fore and tail raised in the usual retaliatory manner. I quickly picked the scorpion up by the tail (using the 10" forceps) and put it into a killing jar, to be despatched later. I despatched scorpions and the larger insects by injecting a dose of Ethyl Acetate into the abdomen - this was very quick and efficient. A number of other burrows were investigated and they were all found to be uniform in dimensions. An interesting fact is that all the scorpions which were taken from burrows contained a cluster of eggs, (these were removed on evisceration). I therefore believe that the burrows were the permanent home of the scorpions and that the leaves and twigs inside the chambers formed a nest. Several spiders were also caught, some being taken from burrows and the others from buildings and trees. Most of the spiders caught were very similar to the English wolf spider.

Other interesting catches included a great variety of crickets, grasshoppers, mantids and a few full-grown locusts. I found that the best time to collect these insects was late evening just before the sun went down. At this time most of the insects leave the small bushes which they hide in and feed on during the day, and settle upon the ground. To capture them I used the small pocket folding net as this proved the better of the two nets that I had with me. The insects tended to fly very low to the ground and it proved very difficult to catch them with the large kite net. A large number of butterflies were also caught and the spot which yielded the most specimens was in the upper regions of the Gorge Du Dades. It was at this spot, where there was quite an array of wildflowers and herbaceous plants, that I caught quite a few small blue butterflies. These have recently been identified as a species of Adonis Blue Butterfly of the family Lycaenidae. I also caught a few large brown butterflies which I had never seen before although at first sight they resembled a large version of our native Meadow Brown.

I gathered a large variety of Coleoptera (beetles); these took very little effort to collect, usually being taken from under bushes or cool stream banks. Unfortunately, due to lack of literature on the identification of North African insects and their allies, as yet most of the collection is unidentified. I am sure that this is going to be a very long and gradual business; however, I hope to have finished by the spring.


On summing up, I would say that undoubtedly the most interesting area in all aspects of natural history was around and in the Gorge, Gorge-du-Dades and the Gorge-du-Todra. The wildlife in this area is, as yet, unspoilt and I am sure that there is great scope here for the naturalist in all fields of study.

Footnote:

I also made a large and very varied collection of lichens. The lichens were collected from two areas, Taza near Fez and Agoulmane-di-Sali on the road to Fez in the Col-du-Zad. The collection was presented to Mr. A. R. Milne a Lichenologist on our return to England.

 

The members of the team wish to thank the following companies and individuals who very kindly donated their goods or concessionary prices and advice:

Batchelors Foods Limited, Wadsley Bridge, Sheffield.
Offered concessionary prices on their foods.
Letter No. 33    - J.A. McNamara, Marketing Dept.

Bovril Limited, Bovril House, Enfield, Middlesex.
Offered concessionary prices on their foods.
Letter No. 45    W.B. Wilkinson, Sales Administration Dept.

Brown and Poison Limited, 10 New Fetter Lane, E.C.4.
Offered concessionary prices on their goods, food.
Letter No. 44    Miss Margaret Carberry

Burrows & Sturgess
Who very kindly donated a crate of lime juice

Dri-Pak Limited, Lenton, Nottingham.
Letter No. 35 Donated 12 x 31b. jars of salt.
J. Maxwell, Director


Libby McNiel & Libby Limited, Kenton, Harrow, Middx.

Offered concessionary prices on their foods.
Letter No. 42    C.V. Grindle, Sales Director.

The Nestles Company Limited, Croydon, Surrey.
Donated £5 worth of food, offered concessionary prices
on their goods.
Letter No. 32    J. Shirley Rainer, Public Relations Dept.

Sutherlands Foods Limited, Handsworth, Sheffield.
Donated a supply of food spreads.
Letter No. 49    Mrs. A. Roe, Secretary to Mr. G.W. Reynolds, Operations Manager

A. Wander, Limited, Grosvenor Square, London W.l.

Donated Ovaltine produce, biscuits, drinking powder, tablets.
Letter No. 46    Miss I.M.Trangmar

A.B. Gibson, Limited, Daybrook, Nottingham.
Donated 4lb. tin of biscuits.
Letter No. 51    Mrs. S. Pickers.
 

Finch Batteries Limited, Leeds 12.
Donated a £23 battery and loaned a second-hand one before the expedition.
Mr. Whittaker.

Minimax Limited, Middlesex.
Donated a £6 Fire Extinguisher to the vehicle.
Letter No. 36D. Hunter-Strathern, Vice-Chairman & Managing Director.

Oldham &. Son Ltd., Denton, Manchester.
Offered to donate a battery to the vehicle.
Letters Nos. 20,22,23.

Speedwell and Shell Oils
Donated ten gallons of motor oil.

Boots Pure Drug Co. Limited.
Who kindly gave concessionary prices on the purchase of their goods.

Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool 3.

Provided a great deal, of information regarding snake bite etc.
Letter No. 9.    Dr. Alistair Read, C.B.E.

International Chemical Company Ltd.
Who kindly donated 6 tubes of 'Kolynos' toothpaste and 1 unit qf 248 Anadin Tablets.

Unicliffe Ltd.
Who kindly donated 6 tins of T.C.P. pads and 3 ,large bottles of T.C.P, Antiseptic Disinfectant.

Smith & .Nephew Ltd
Who kindly donated all the elastoplast plasters and the Gypsona Emergency Splints as well as the Elasticated Bandages and Nivea Cream.

Imperial Chemical Industries Limited.

Who kindly donated the Savlon Antiseptic Cream, Hibitane lozenges, Paludrine anti-malarial tablets and the insect powder and sprays.

Mattay & Co. Limited.
Who kindly donated 1 Portex resuscitation tube.

Mr. A. R. Milne
Who kindly donated 500 Redexon vitamin C tablets.

Price Bro's Ltd.

Who kindly donated concessionary prices on their specialised Roehampton Burns Dressings.

 

Addis Limited, Hertford.
Concessionary prices on purchases of plastic boxes.
Letter No. 8     Mr. Davies

Swann-Morton Limited, Owlerton Green, Sheffield.
Donated £4 worth of surgical instruments and blades.
Letters Nos. 24, 26    W. Crookes, Director.


The following were kind enough to supply a great deal of very interesting and helpful information!


The British Museum (Natural History)
The Royal Geographical Society
The Wollaton Hall Natural History Museum, Nottingham.
The Brixham Biological Supplies Limited.
Mr. Alan Cook of Drs. W. De Rover (Reptile & Amphibian Importers)
Patrick G. Haynes of Worldwide Butterflies Limited.
Watkins & Doncaster Limited.
L. Christie Limited.
Dr. A. Read of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
Mr. Tom Duro, an amateur entomologist.

* Note: Content in italics did not appear in the original report
 

 

The Expedition Austin K9 Truck

Specification

The basic version measured 17- foot 4-inches in length, 7-foot 3-inches in width and 8-foot to the top of the drivers cab. Height to the top of the canvas rear cover was around 11-foot 5-inches with a wheelbase length of 137-inches (11-foot 5-inches). The K9 weighed 3.1-tons unladen and with a fuel capacity of 20 gallons it had an operational range of 310 miles at an average speed of 27mph. The vehicle was fitted with an Austin petrol engine ‘High Speed’ Series 2 six-cylinder of 3995cc which developed 92bhp at 3000RPM.

Registration: WNU 655F

The truck was sold a month or so after the expedition for a pittance to a car repair garage on the outskirts of Ilkeston, Derbyshire, where it was converted into a breakdown truck by the removal of the canopy structure and rear tailgate, and then fitting a small crane in the main floor area.


Apparently, it was seen in the region for many years towing vehicles until it finally disappeared and presumably, and rather sadly, ended up in a scrapyard having done years of ‘Sterling’ service.

 

The story behind 35mm Slide No. 6

Slide 6.JPG

Alan Harrison, Kevin Blake Wyndam Kemp, Barbara Wright & Terry Wright having a roadside meal in France. Note Terry's 'Hook'

We got married in Spennymoor, Co. Durham on July 27th 1968.
Big Al was our best man. Pete 'Wocko' Watkinson drove us back to Nottingham on the evening of the wedding as it had been arranged with Alan 'Big Al' Harrison that we would accompany him and his mates as far as the south of France a couple of days later. Al and friends were going on to Morocco and Algeria on an expedition.


We had decided to walk into the High Pyrenees from Luz-St Sauveur to the Cirque de Gavarnie travelling light and bivouacking and from there over the Breche de Rolande into Ordesa Canyon in Spain. We had been told that it was hot and dry in August in Spain!!


Near Pragneres we bivvied in an idyllic alpine meadow above the road full of wild carnations but we were accompanied by dozens of adders basking by our heads the next morning! It snowed when we reached Gavarnie. As we had no proper winter mountain gear, we retreated down the valley to the Chaos de Coumely where Terry found a cave in the ravine among some giant boulders on the side of the river bed. We lit a fire from branches brought down by the glacial torrent and stayed there a couple of nights but the weather was awful.

A priest in Lourdes thought Terry had gone there for the cure when they saw his "hook" when we were waiting for a train to get away from the awful place and come home.


We came home via train from Lourdes and ended up in Buttermere in the Lakes.


This is the only photo we have of our honeymoon.

Luz is a thermal spa used by Napoleon.
Breche de Rolande was the place where the Resistance smuggled people across the border into Spain during WW2.
Wonderful scenery.


Barbara Wright, Dalton in Furness, December 2021.