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common blue damselflies

Defragmented Landscape

Wednesday, 7th August 2002, West Yorkshire

cumulusEvery few months I feel the need to clear the junk files from my computer and defragment the hard drive. With all sorts of fragments of tasks crowding around me I feel as if it's my brain that's in need of defragmentating today. What better way to do that than to take a walk?

On the spur of the moment I decide to get a lift into Wakefield with Barbara and walk back on a route which follows mown grass rides alongside a golf course and a sailing lagoon before crossing the river Calder to continue along the canal towpath.

In front of me an expanse of playing fields stretches towards a row of Lombardy poplars which are dwarfed by the towers of cumulus building in the distance over South Yorkshire and the Peak District.

Fairy Rings

fairy rings Picked out against the mown grass are rings of deeper green, taller growth. Inside at least one of the circles, which range from a few feet to a few yards across, the grass looks poorer and yellower. These circles are the result of the growth of the fairy ring mushroom. A few of the fruiting bodies - pale brownish mushrooms - are showing in places on the rings.

Large Aeshna

large aeshna Along with the ubiquitous gatekeeper butterflies (I'm beginning to think of 2002 as the year of the gatekeeper) the large aeshna dragonflies hawking alongside the path are the signature insects of this walk. They zoom around me like biplanes in a King Kong movie as I walk by the riverside and along the grassy rides at the edge of the golf course. They alternately flap then pause and glide as they go.

Common Blue

Millfield fishing lagoon Common blue damselflies are flying in tandem over the waterweeds of the fishing lagoon. I'm surprised that the only water birds in view are a pair of swans upending in the corner common blue damselfliesbut I'm glad to see yellow water lily, also known as brandy bottle because of the shape of its seed pods, is growing in profusion, edging the lagoon with a margin of yellow along almost a third of its shoreline.

On the sailing lagoon there are no wildfowl at all, just buoys floating silently and two boys leaping in noisily to swim.

swallow Swallows sit on the wires by the canal, reminding me that the autumn migration isn't far away - in fact for some birds it has probably started already. One swallow swoops down and skims the surface of the water with its beak - drinking as far as I can tell - leaving a bright trail in its wake.

Rameses and Rushes

riverside structure On the opposite bank of the river a small structure of rusting iron and plastic resembles, to my eyes, an Egyptian mummy lying on a plinth. Perhaps I've seen too much television archaeology recently but reeds, rivers, Rameses and the turning cycle of the seasons seem to make this an appropriate visual pun.

The Freezer and the Greenhouse Effect

freezers The landscaped area by the sailing lagoon (itself originally a sand quarry) was once a rubbish dump. I can just about accept that it might be appropriate to dump tree loppings by the shelterbelts of trees here, after all, they create a woodpile habitat and they will rot away eventually but I'm sorry to see two freezers dumped here. They're large ones, the sort you'd see in a shop.

Recent European legislation, designed to encourage recycling and reduce the escape of greenhouse gases from scrapped refrigeration units, has led to a logjam in the process of disposing of refrigerators. This is one of the reasons that they are now being dumped in increasing numbers in the British page

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

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