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larch cones

Losing Our Way in the Rain

Monday, 5th February 2001, West Yorkshire


pine needlesFORTIFIED BY the dish of the day - lamb stew with Yorkshire Puddings - at the Squire's Tearooms, Anglers Country Park, we set off to walk around Wintersett Reservoir. The snow has almost all melted and it rains all afternoon, so we reject the first waterlogged path and take a farm track which we soon find is blocked by a puddle the size of a swimming pool.

Opting for the shelter of the conifer plantations of Haw Park we follow the rides until we come to a fallen tree which lies across our path in another pool of standing water. I can see light through the conifers to our right so we set off along a banking parallel with the furrows that were ploughed when these trees were planted 30 or more years ago. In the wet and mist it's like a scene from Norse mythology but I find myself thinking of Monty Python and the Holy Grail and the 'Knights Who Say "Ni!"'.

pine twig The ridge ends at a clearing but there's no sign of a path amongst the strewn logs and dripping saplings ahead. Turning back we come out at a junction of paths. In my mind's eye I've got an idea where we are but checking my compass, which I carry on a key fob attached to my haversack, I'm amazed that north is in exactly the opposite direction to the one in which I and one of my companions thought it would be. With no features other than identical looking trees and no glow in the overcast sky to indicate where the sun might be it's easy to get confused.

Anglers Lake

wigeons One place we won't get lost is on our walk around Anglers Country Park Lake. When it was constructed during the restoration of an opencast coal mining site this was the largest lake to be based on a pond liner. Until recently it was stocked with trout, which on occasion were netted in night raids by gangs of poachers.

cormorants Wigeons that were grazing on the sodden grass fly back to the safety of the water as we walk past. We come across several groups, amounting, at a rough guess, to 400 birds in all.

There are as many, if not more, Coot and a dozen Cormorants perching on a row of rocks but my favourite bird this afternoon has got to be the drake Goldeneye that we see doing his head-nodding display. No sign of a female but she could be underwater. I see no more than six goldeneye on our circuit of the lake. They are generally in twos or page

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

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