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A Robin in the Reeds

Monday, 15th January 2001, West Yorkshire
A CAST IRON signpost marks the route of a new Transpennine Cycle Path across Walton Colliery Site Country Park. I'd love to follow the whole route, but today we walk around the landscaped pit heaps and small lakes, and take a short detour to follow the old Barnsley Canal a short distance towards Wakefield.

At the foot of what was the spoil heap fifty Lapwings stand at the edge of the lake, while Black-headed Gulls stand on the ice. On the open water around the edges alongside the Coots a pair of Teal are dabbling and a Dabchick dives under . . . but, as far as we can see, fails to surface again. After we've stood watching for a few minutes someone suggests; 'Perhaps it's got stuck under the ice!'

There's one reed-fringed pool that's no bigger than a tennis court that is entirely free of ice, probably because it is the first in the chain to be fed by a stream that comes in at the Oakenshaw end of the site. It has attracted quite a variety of wildfowl. There's a pair of Mute Swans accompanied by a number of cygnets. At the top corner where the stream trickles in amongst the reeds in an area no bigger than a living room there is a Teal, three Wigeon and a Dabchick.

I catch site of a small brown bird which is hopping up and down the reed stems very much as a warbler would during the summer. It disappears amongst the reeds and I wait for a few minutes scanning with binoculars. Eventually a Robin pops out. It's not a bird I'd normally associate with reedbeds.

With clay and coal to hand, many of the local collieries used to make bricks, which were stamped with the colliery's name. In a bank by one of the paths that crosses the old spoil heap, brick rubble is mixed in with the shale. One is stamped 'WARMFIELD', another 'SHARLSTON'. These two villages lie 2 miles to the north east of the Walton Colliery site. Warmfield pit, and its brickworks closed down years ago. Sharlston was one of the last local pits to close, in the early 1990s. next page

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

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