Wednesday, 3rd December 2003
Richard Bell's Wild West Yorkshire nature diary
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I drew it I thought this small tree was an alder, because of those
tightly budded catkins (right) at the end of the bare branches
but poplars have catkins too, and I guess that's
what it is.
addition to the wildlife interest provided by the shrub beds, the
Cathedral Retail Park car parks have a watercourse, Balne
Beck, flowing through but mainly in culverts under
Standing by the beck next to the remains of the old Denby Dale
Turnpike road bridge (it's almost engulfed by the modern road) by
Sainsburys supermarket, I draw this plant growing at the edge of
the beck at a place where the stream appears, momentarily, between
looks to me like watercress but, on its muddy bank
by those cloudy waters, I wouldn't want to risk eating any. Watercress
and toast was a regular breakfast of Charles Waterton,
naturalist and conservationist (1782-1865), Squire
of Walton Hall near Wakefield. He must have walked by this bridge
on many occasions: the Denby Dale Road Turnpike was authorised by
Act of Parliament in 1825 to link Wakefield and Barnsley with Manchester.
The stream looks murky today but in Waterton's time, and later,
it became very polluted. At one stage, so our local history teacher
told us, cows drinking from the beck were said to have died as a
Ifs and Butts
I find myself thinking of events further back in time. The medieval
town's archery butts, where men were obliged to practice with the
longbow, were down here on the flat meadows by the beck (somewhere
near the present Kentucky Friend Chicken, if I remember rightly).
I have to call in at Manygates Further Education Centre
to the south of the city. Overlooking the traces of medieval strip
farming in Manygates Park* stands a Victorian memorial commerating
Richard of York (1411-1460) , who was
killed during, or executed soon after, the Battle of Wakefield
was fought on the fields - 'Wakefield Green' - between Sandal Castle
and Wakefield Bridge on the 30th December 1460.
Tradition has it that Richard Plantagenet, Duke of
York and Lord of the Manor of Wakefield, was beheaded at Manygates.
A group of willows that grew there were know as the Duke of York
Trees (shown in an engraving from Walks about Wakefield
by W.S. Banks, 1871).
And if Richard hadn't been killed at Manygates . . . would we have
- the tudor dynasty
- an English Reformation
- the disolution of the monasteries
- the King James Bible
- Pilgrim Fathers and others setting out to colonise the New World
. . . ?
Walking by the memorial, on my way to call in at the office, I
look over the ridges and furrows of the park, deserted on this dull
misty day, and think of that December day in 1460 when, standing
on those same strips of ground, you might have heard the whistle
of arrows and clash of battle.
I imagine that Britain might have been a very different place if
it hadn't been for the way events unfolded here at Manygates.
*'The proper name for this
open area is Castle Grove Park.' writes Gerrard
Kittson of Sandal, 'Previously belonging to Castle
Grove House which was where the housing development
called Miller Avenue now exists.
'Manygates Park is
the name of the grounds of Manygates House which
lies to the west of the A61 Barnsley road at Haddingley Hill.
Manygates House, until recentley part of Leeds University Campus,
was for many years a Maternity Hospital.'
That interests me because
I was very nearly born at the hospital. My mum and dad turned
up there but, this being the 'baby boom' years after the war,
they were redirected to the Manygates Hospital annexe: Walton
of Wakefield a painting, available as a print, by Graham
Turner, who exhibits at www.studio88.co.uk
of Wakefield at J S Sargent's the Overtown
Miscellany site which features Sandal
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