Dewsbury to York

Friday, 22nd October 2004, page 2
Wild West Yorkshire nature diary

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railway cutting near BatleyPlants in the railway cuttings between Batley and Morley include snowberry, a garden escape which, as the name suggests, has white berries at this time of year. Rosebay willowherb is now no more than dry canes with the springy remnants of their seed cases still showing on the stems and a few scarlet or yellow leaves clinging on lower down. The patches of willowherb - also sometimes known as fireweed - on the embankment are probably growing where small fires had opened the bare soil to the light.

Buddleia bushes - another garden escape - are more common as the railway gets into the city. Like the willowherb, buddleia colonises waste ground.

Native plants on the embankments include occasional oak saplings, stands of slender silver birches clinging onto their ochre autumn leaves, dense tangles of blackberry and bracken, a robust fern that prefers dryish slopes: it can't compete on the richer soils on more level ground and it doesn't do well in damp depressions or in hollows where heavy frosts can develop as cold air rolls down slopes. Bracken fronds have mostly turned pale straw-colour now.

sketchbook pageLeeds

Sycamores are now stripped of their leaves and their bare branches, which I haven't seen for 6 months, conjure up a feeling of waiting at bus stops on cold, dim, damp winter mornings.

There are stands of yet another garden escape, Japanese knotgrass, extending sometimes for tens of yards in a band alongside the railway.

The best subject I can find as we pause in Leeds City station is a red box (top left on the sketchbook page, right). More inspiring, but flashing past too quickly to be drawn, are glimpses of older quarters of the city like the Corn Exchange and the White Cloth Hall (dating from 1770, see link below) as the railway follows a viaduct and embankment eastwards out of the city centre. The line then goes through a monumentally deep brick-lined cutting that looks as if it comes from a Gustav Doré fantasy.

The cuttings through the creamy magnesian limestone which we pass through before coming out onto the Vale of York have been netted in mesh to prevent rocks falling onto the line.

Field near Church FentonVale of York

Rather than drawing individual trees I cobble together a landscape from elements glimpsed as the train goes by, as I did on the journey to London a few weeks ago. Here's a field - or rather a compilation sketch of several fields - near Church Fenton.

trees near YorkThese trees (right) were sketched as we went by hedgerows and villages on the approach to York. We were surprised to see just how high the Ouse had risen; riverbank trees on the river side of the floodbanks were visible as twiggy crowns sticking out of the flow.

Some vintage Pullman carriages were being drawn out of a siding on the approach to York. Pullman carriages are individually named, like the carriages in one of the Thomas the Tank Engine stories. The two we saw were 'Derwentwater' and 'Rydal Water'. I must say that, despite having heard the forecast that there might be 4 inches of rain in the Lake District today, when I read those names I wished that I was walking today on the shores of one or the other of them. Next Page

Related Link

White Cloth Hall, Leeds

Richard Bell,

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