Monday, 9th February 2004
Wild West Yorkshire nature diary
Whittaker's is about the biggest engineering works around Cressley. All down the side of the erection shop there's the name spelled out in white bricks - DAWSON WHITTAKER & SONS, LTD, ENGINEERS. This is so when you're on the train you'll know what that big mucky place was you passed just before Cressley Junction.
A Kind of Loving, Stan Barstow, 1960
I've known Horbury since I was six yet there are still streets that I've never been down and I don't ever remember having walked to the end of Forge Lane before. On long red-brick wall there are huge worn white-painted letters, 3 or 4 feet tall. We have to stand across the street to read them.
In it's way this is a literary landscape. Stan Barstow doesn't like to have his fictional locations too closely identified with a specific place but surely this old sign is one that appears in his first novel. To paraphrase that opening paragraph from A Kind of Loving, chapter 2, II:
Roberts' was about the biggest engineering works around Wakefield. All down the side of this wall there's the name, still spelled out in white lettering on the bricks - CHARLES ROBERTS & COY. LTD. This is so when you're on the train you'll know what that big mucky place was you passed just before Horbury Junction.
Barbara's Dad worked at Charles Roberts, as did 4, or 5, generations of her family. The firm made railway wagons, Blackpool trams and, during World War II (when the factory was bombed), tanks. The works are now Bombardier Transportation railway engineering works.
Roberts' Lagoon ('Robertses Lagoon' would be how you'd hear it pronounced) at the end of Forge Lane was recently the scene of a tragedy. A car plunged into the lake. The passenger was trapped but the driver managed to escape. Today bunches of flowers mark the spot. There's no access by road to the lake shore.
This long narrow fishing lake was referred to as 'The Blue Lagoon' in newspaper accounts of the incident. These catkins are growing on an alder at the lakeside.
There are 24 tufted ducks on the lagoon and later, on the river near Millfield Lagoons we see a single drake goldeneye. It's diving in a calm, deep section of the river. Usually when I see goldeneye there are a few of them together. I'm discussing this with Judith, a retired junior school teacher and a keen birdwatcher so I suggest that a lonely goldeneye would be a good subject for a children's story.
'You'd save a bob or two on reproduction as the illustrations could all be in black and white,' I remark, as always with an eye to practicalities.
'He could meet a tufted duck - called Terence,' suggests Judith enthusiastically.
'Yes, I could imagine Terence being very talkative and objecting to being called 'Terry'. And I like the way you're introducing children to the notion of gay couples!'
I'll spare you the plotline we came up with about Terence and Godfrey adopting
a duck egg.
Richard Bell, firstname.lastname@example.org