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Monday, 26th January 2004
Richard Bell's Wild West Yorkshire nature diary

oakA flask of coffee gives me a welcome excuse for a pause at the halfway point on a walk I'm checking out at Barwick in Elmet, east of Leeds. I find a bough of a hawthorn to sit on at a corner of Kiddal Wood, which seems especially peaceful in comparison with the busy A64 Leeds-York road that runs alongside it.

nuthatchWhen I'm checking walks I miss a lot of the wildlife because I'm so focused on the directions. Within a few minutes a nuthatch flies to the trunk of the old oak tree in front of me.

But I'm soon back to pathfinding and, as part of this walk zig-zags across open fields, my directions read like a treasure map of the featureless stubble:

Two hundred yards after passing the wood there is a post, and precious little else, to tell you where to turn left (east). In a further 100 yards another post directs you to turn sharp right (south). In another 200 yards it's left (east) again, then 150 yards and sharp right (south) . . .

signpostOne signpost stands on the crest of a ridge on this magnesian limestone scarp. Three lapwings fly off as I stomp towards it along the narrow path across the winter wheat.

Potterton Beck

Potterton Beck flows down a fold in the ridge from a scrubby piece of woodland by the A64, marked 'Jacob's Well' on the map. As I walk upstream at first the beck is well defined, flowing amongst the trees to my left, but when I come to a small piece of rough ground, disturbing a few sheep, the stream bed, now a shallower, grassy v-shaped ditch, is bone dry.

Potterton Beck
Potterton Beck course
Potterton Beck

At the other side of the rough ground the stream appears again, narrower but flowing as normal. There's no sign of a man-made culvert so I guess the stream has carved itself a channel underground: dissolved itself a channel underground might be a better way to put it, as slightly acid rain or groundwater can, over time, dissolve limestone.

Magnesian Limestone

magnesian limestoneThe creamy coloured magnesian limestone of this ridge was laid down in a dying sea some 250 million years ago in the Permian period when Britain was in a desert region of the supercontinent Pangaea. Magnesian limestone contains dolomite, CaMg(CO3)2, a double carbonate of magnesium and calcium. next page

Richard Bell

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