Tag Archives: Yorkshire

Where were we?

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Driving along Britain’s motorways, often you could be forgiven for having little idea where you are. There are places like Mill Hill on the M1 or Bury on the M66 where you find yourself rushing obscenely close to people’s homes but often the road runs through cuttings with no view of the surroundings.

Somewhere in Yorkshire on the M62 I spotted a sign ‘River Calder’. There was no other sign of the river; its bridge was barely discernible (to me at least). Although the car is king, for the present at least, there was a nod to the original power of this landscape: the water that formed it and powered the first factories along its banks.

Downstream at Castleford the Calder joins the Aire:

The Castleford lasses are bonny and fair,

For they wash in the Calder and rinse in the Aire.

When I first heard that rhyme, no sensible lass or lad would put a toe into the rivers, heavily polluted as they were by all those factories. Today the water is cleaner, the fish and wildlife are returning, but bathing might be a colder experience than many lasses would go for!

There is another River Calder across the hills in Lancashire; this one spends its whole life in Yorkshire.

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A tunnel re-opened, but closed for the night.

A flying visit to Saddleworth, where the moorland fires are now out, allowed NAIB and I to walk to Diggle along the Canal, We managed a very little foraging, just to be able to say we had done it: a few tiny bilberries, raspberries almost as small, and a handful of blackberries between the two of us.

We turned around at the Western or Diggle Entrance to the Standedge Tunnel. Narrow boats may pass through in one direction at a time behind a pilot boat. No more were moving yesterday so the gates were closed for safety.

Note the sculpture of the leggers. In the days of horse power bargees walking, or legging, along the sides or roof of the canal was the only means of propulsion for 3¼ miles. No wonder there was a pub at either end!

The blue plaque commemorates Thomas Telford, engineer of the Menai Bridge and many other surviving structures, whose intervention enabled the tunnel to be completed in 1811. The date on the later portico is misleading.

Read more about the tunnel here. 

We visited the Menai Bridges on 21 April 2015: Menai Bridges

After breakfast, walk a mile …

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A miner turned gardener taught me the old Yorkshire adage: After breakfast, walk a mile, after dinner, rest a while. I was reminded of this the other morning when I met a friend in the precincts of Canterbury Cathedral. I knew she had had knee surgery but was able to congratulate her on how well she was walking. ‘Oh, yes, thank you. It’s going well. We walked back from Chartham the other morning.’

Chartham is three miles from the city centre.

This column tends to celebrate the natural world, but time today to praise the work of orthopædic surgeons and all the scientists, engineers and technical staff as well as the nurses who enable them to do such fine work.

Three miles from Canterbury in another direction, another fine walk.

 

Retired Railway foraging

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I don’t know why this has been sitting in drafts for weeks, when it’s illustrated and all. Foraging seems a long while ago, with most leaves down and a wind trying to blow them and us away these last two days.

A month ago in Yorkshire, Mrs T and I took a walk which included a stretch of easy going along the old railway above the cliffs. Someone, sometime in the past, must have tossed an apple core from a train onto the bank. The fruit are small; green but with russet patches, and sharp. Maybe someone had been there before us – someone with shorter arms than this writer’s, as the half-dozen fruit I harvested were high above my head.

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Added to blackberries and sloes, we have a Yorkshire marinade for Christmas. A good set and sharp enough to counter the sweetness of the goose.

 

Spring, my mother said.

Let us celebrate the good done by surgeons, in particular eye surgeons. This note from my mother in Yorkshire is the result of her cataract operations giving her new sight.

Spring seems to have the upper hand at the moment.  When I was in the village this afternoon the big beech tree growing on the banks of the river and sending its great branches up, and above the bridge, was sending out its first delicate new leaves.  The sun shines through them and they are as soft as silk.  Standing on the bridge I could reach and touch them and the river below sparkled as it tumbled over stones that had been immersed in almost flood water for so long.    Even the small, brown trout were visible, and a Dipper was busy hunting for food beneath the water……………the village was busy, the traffic was noisy, but no one seemed interested or bothered with the magic on the bridge.

Spring is trying to assert itself in Kent as well. Here are a few observations from being out and about over the last week. I did not miss all the magic …

Friday, cycling along the road through the woods: an orange tip butterfly over a stand of garlic mustard, its food plant.

Saturday: Mrs Tittlemouse was on the yard, hoping to snatch a few crumbs. So were a sparrow and Mr Robin. He was so aggressive to the sparrow that Mrs Tittlemouse hid behind a flowerpot til he’d gone.

Sunday, living up to its name: Mrs Turnstone and daughter No 1 both saw the woodmouse; Mrs Turnstone feels that Spring is here.

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Monday, a trip to a cold Hastings to meet daughter No 3 and young Mr Turnstone. Bikers and pagans out in force for May Day. The latter drinking deep; the greenness round the gills not entirely derived from greasepaint. As the Jerwood gallery were inviting visitors to draw a green man on acetate for their window, I obliged.

Tuesday, back on the Brompton through the woods, this time on the track: a whitethroat singing where the path crosses a farm with the remains of a hedge still on one side.

Wednesday: a lizard in the classroom when I was visiting daughter No 2. Most of her pupils had gone home, but the one remaining had his eyes peeled. We caught the reptile in this blanket, put her outdoors – and she straightway came back in again and hid out of reach!

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Thursday: swifts screaming overhead as I ate breakfast in the garden. And so many more flowers out than I noticed on Tuesday or Saturday. Going slowly uphill means that violets, bluebells, primroses, herb Robert, stitchwort are all on eye level to a slow cyclist (who still gets up the hill!) On my way out of town in the afternoon I spotted my first beetroot-coloured blonde sunbather. She must have fallen asleep in the park.

Friday: Freddie the Norfolk terrier was being led home in disgrace, having rolled in fox manure. He was not the most popular dog in the park, but will the hosing down he was walking home to teach him a lesson?

 

Strange Season

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There are floods in my mother’s village in Yorkshire, so far well below her front door; down here in Kent, the storm has been less fierce, the temperature unusually mild. In flower today were: daffodils, violets, mimosa, roses, including our dear Mermaid and Thomas Becket; cyclamen, daisies and gorse of course; low-growing campanula, viburnum, prunus praecox, the watchful tree beloved of Jeremiah; camellia about to burst; ceanothus, winter jasmine. Someone at church reported a hawthorn in bloom; Glastonbury comes to Canterbury! Pussy Willow is not far behind.

It is worrying that the season is so topsy-turvy;  of course the slugs are loving it, and loving the Jerusalem artichokes, but we had more than enough to make soup with leeks for yesterday’s feast. Rowan and apple jelly gave an edge to the goose, made earlier after a forage with Mrs Turnstone.  It kept that lovely colour!

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Waders and a Warbler

I’m sure everyone in this part of the world is noticing Spring’s relentless advance. Even a cold day like today was longer than yesterday, and warm – out of the wind.

The wind was behind me along the shore today, and an  early start left time to look for the turnstones. None to be seen for the first mile and a half, but there were dogs and the tide was in, so that was understandable. However at the bend in the track was a blue van, parked for the day; a snack bar. No sooner had I ridden to the leeward side where the hatch was open than I met the first crew of turnstones, scavenging crumbs and left overs. Are they now the starlings of the shore?

Just along from there, a Dartford warbler cock, and a few yards away, a twitcher, so engrossed peering down his monocular telescope that he could not return a greeting. A stranger on the shore, and there’s nowt stranger than folk, as they say in Yorkshire.

https://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/discoverandlearn/birdguide/name/t/turnstone/index.aspx

https://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/discoverandlearn/birdguide/name/d/dartfordwarbler/index.aspx