It is 3am and the village of Woodland is asleep. Up here on the fellside, rising above the rugged beauty of Teesdale, shortly before a summer dawn, all is dark and all is quiet. Or should be.
Two months ago, local people began to talk – discreetly at first – then with growing conviction about what they thought was a loud hum permeating their homes and the surrounding countryside.
It has been blamed for shaking the furniture, rattling conservatories and ruining sleep. News of what has become known as the "Durham hum" has rekindled memories of previous sonic disturbances that have periodically haunted communities across the world, most famously the Bristol hum which made international headlines in the 1970s. But as I cock my ears and slow down my breathing in the pitch darkness, all that can be heard is the wind blowing gently through the trees. After 30 minutes of intense listening, I give up and go home.
In the morning I meet retired store detective Marilyn Grech, 57, right, at her cottage. Ironically,it seems the previous evening was the first time in six weeks she has not heard the hum. "When I got into bed I thought, this is fantastic. This is how it should be," she says.
Having moved into the village four years ago from Sunderland with her Maltese husband, Mario, 67, she admits she was anxious about going public – fearing she would be branded a "crackpot". "It is a humming, but it's got a bass – a heartbeat. Last Sunday it was so loud. The conservatory vibrates and it seems louder inside the house, although the hum is coming from outside. It is annoying and very irritating."
Angela Watson, 49, a care home worker, remembers the day she first heard the hum.
"It sounds like a helicopter, but bassier. It's in your face – it's not an ordinary noise," she says. "I am the doziest person in the world, but even I heard it last Saturday. I think it's the mines. Someone has dislodged something – unless it's a UFO come to take us away."