Coxley Valley after the Flood


Richard Bell's Wild West Yorkshire nature diary, Wednesday, 1st August, 2007

deckingAT THE ENTRANCE to Coxley Valley, two men are working on a structure that looks like a huge raft, partially launched into the stream. In fact it’s the decking that appears in one of my photographs of the floods 6 weeks ago (see 15th June). Undermined by flood erosion, it is so solidly constructed, with an interlocking framework of railway sleeper-sized hardwood, that it needs dismantling before it can be moved.

eroded pathHopefully we won’t get another series of floods like those we had in June but, if the beck’s recent history is anything to go by, the chances are that this decking will be awash at some stage in the next five to ten years.

The obstruction created by the new solid timber fence alongside the stream-side path and the constriction in the stream's narrow floodplain caused by the embankment that the new houses stand on will probably result in greater erosion on this sharp bend in the course of the stream.

Overflow Channels

We picked our way along the eroded path (right), which reminds me of a dry creek we walked down in Texas last year. The path, such as it is, will soon be closed for reconstruction.


Further up the valley, above the two small dams, which held during the the flood, you can see where the beck has remodelled its channel. A path on the downstream side of a bend has been washed away while nearby a new pool has appeared, marking what was evidently an overflow channel.

The stream looks so placid today that it's hard to imagine that it's capable of such force in reshaping the valley.


sandstoneEven at the top end of the valley the flow was sufficient to scour away debris on the stream bed to reveal a pondfresh-looking exposure of the bedrock, which here is sandstone (left). You could previously see a part of this outcrop, but it wasn't as clean and extensive as it now is. I suspect the stream might have swept away any moss and liverwort that had colonised the rocks.

The water table is evidently still high; at New Hall Farm, a small pond has extended to become a ford across the track (right). The resident family of mallards evidently appreciate this.



highland cattleStocksmoor Common Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserve is usually boggy in places but today we found it impassable. The Trust has introduced highland cattle to keep back the encroaching silver birch from this rare example of semi-natural grassland but the stout fence they’ve erected means that it’s impossible to skirt around the boggy sections of footpath. The cattle were enjoying the shade of the woodland edge.

The main part of the reserve is now open access land and it’s good to see wild flowers such as tormentil (and, if I'm right, the similar cinquefoil) spreading amongst the tussocks, now that the grazing has let more light in. Several species of dragonflies were hovering and chasing over the pond, which was constructed not so long ago (within the last five or ten years) but which blends into the landscape now that the marginal and aquatic vegetation has become established.


emporer dragonflyAt this time of year there’s always the carrion whiff of stinkhorn wafting through Stoneycliffe Woods. You can smell, but you don’t often see, the fungus. At the top end of the valley we saw one growing right next to path, its glutinous spore-bearing head completely covered in black flies.