Paths and Errands

Wednesday, 27th April 2005
Wild West Yorkshire nature diary

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Chickenproof lettering

I'm getting so tense working on some lettering in the studio that Barbara suggests I should go out for a walk and about time too; it's the first time I've been further than the post office for two and a half days. I leave Barbara hoovering about the house while I stride out for an hour and twenty minutes-worth of wilderness. Well, as near as we get to wilderness in the parish of Sitlington.

Stoneycliffe Wood

bluebellThe wood is at it's best at this time of year with soft grass at its greenest, bluebells just starting in flower, the odd patch of wood anemone and, further up the valley, wood sorrel. There are drifts of fresh wild garlic by the stream and I'm pleased to see that by the 'Coxley Dell' building site a strip of it has been left to flower. Drier, open grassy banks in the wood are dotted with white stitchwort.

Grey clouds soon loom from the west but by the time the rain starts I can already see the blue beyond and I soon dry off. After the graft of studio work it's good to surround myself with natural sounds - rain, the brook, the birdsong after rain - and with the intimate detail and texture of woodland: moss, tree bark, rocky outcrops. Not that I stop and take a good look, but it's so refreshing just to be surrounded by it as I walk.

New Hall

jayWhen I emerge at the top end of Stoneycliffe Wood near New Hall, I pause and have a drink of water. There's the deep narrow wooded valley behind me, blackface sheep grazing in pastures to my left and, to my right, a gently sloping track running up on the embankment, part of an old colliery railway. A jay flies out of a tree by the track.

It's good to travel because you realise how special your own home patch is. Mallorca has impressive scenery but this beleaguered corner of West Yorkshire still has a lot going for it: the woods, hedges, lanes, the skies and the stream. The fresh green foliage and the clear blue of the sky after the shower are as colourful as anything Mallorca can offer, in fact olives, almonds and holm oaks are drab compared to our spring birches and willows.

bull v. calfA Little White Bull

There's some head-butting going on in a field by New Hall farm. It's actually the bull calf that is the instigator and the sturdy white bull is joining in with avuncular indulgence, like a dad playing football with a toddler son.

anvil-topped cloudWhen I see the anvil-topped storm cloud that has just passed over, I'm surprised I didn't get wetter. It takes up almost 180 degrees of the panorama, dwarfing the towers of Ferrybridge power station in the distance, spreading from Leeds to Pontefract and moving north east; its leading edge has probably reached York already.

The going has been pretty good but at the foot of Sun Wood there's a deeply pummeled muddy bridleway and I have to hang onto the fence to pick my way alongside it (thank goodness the horses can't get at the last six inches of path right against the fence!) but then I'm almost home. Next Page

Richard Bell,

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