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narrow boat, spring


Tuesday 24th July 2001, West Yorkshire

drystone wallgatekeeperGATEKEEPERS patrol the hedges and towpaths. Where there's a colony you'll see one every ten yards or so, making short flights then going back down to rest on a flower or leaf. They seem to be always on the alert to check out any visitors; particularly other butterflies of course, but they will also investigate a passing human. If they're that way out they'll hustle almost anything that passes.

One of the marks to look for on a gatekeeper is the eye spot in the top corner of the underwing. It is black, dotted with two small white dots.

Old Rope

Figure of Three locksThe Figure of Three, named for its shape in plan view, is a double lock on the Calder and Hebble Navigation between Horbury Bridge and Dewsbury. This section was opened in 1838. I notice rope marks which must go back a century or more on the edging stones in the central basin. From their position I'm sure they were cut by tow ropes in the days of horse-drawn barges. There are six or seven grooves, concentrated within a few yards a short distance down from the lock gates, just the position that they'd be in if a horse was pulling a barge out of the lock on its way downstream.

rope grooves You can see striations running parallel to the grooves. I don't imagine that even tough hemp rope would be capable of cutting through solid sandstone, but if the ropes had picked up grains of sand - quartz grains - they'd be quite capable of cutting down through the rock over the years. The deepest of the grooves has been filled with cement.

Bumble Bee Nests

bee The vegetation on the bank of the towpath downstream from the lock has just been trimmed. In three places, each 50 or 100 yards apart, a dozen or so Bumble Bees are franticly hovering about. I guess that the regular flight path to their nests has been blocked by the trimmed debris. next page

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

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