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Breaking the Ice

New Year's Day, 1st January 2001, West Yorkshire
narrowboat THE THAW is only skin deep. The snow has vanished overnight but when I step on the muddy grass by the towpath I find that it is still frozen solid.

There's a crashing and crunching as a small barge attempts to get through the thick plate glass ice that has built up where a slope shades the canal. It is forced to turn back.

gulls It's a perfect new year's day. Such a contrast to yesterday's snow. There's an almost Mediterranean look as, against a blue sky, sunlit ripples reflect on the stone embankment.

It's so quiet today. The usual drone of traffic has subsided. The air smells fresher, as it did when we had the petrol strike. Even the gulls overhead are quiet for a change. So are the Blackbirds, which aren't making agitated calls as they do at dusk.

robin There are several Robins perching at intervals along the towpath hedge, a Wren and a few Fieldfares.

Instead of having the towpath to ourselves, or passing the occasional angler or dog walker, we meet scores of people out for a new year's day stroll.

Polygonal Patterns

ice pattern Below the Figure of Three locks, there's a polygonal pattern in the ice. Most of the cells are 5-sided, each with a dark nucleus near the centre with wriggly radiating marks around the edges. They remind me of the patterns that are produced by freeze/thaw action on permafrost. For that matter they are also similar to mud cracks and to convection patterns, such as those seen on the surface of the sun.

haws.gif - 2645 Bytes In a few places drifts Hawthorn berries are lying on the ice, like a slick of cranberry sauce. Perhaps the snow brought them down from the bushes. next page

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

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