Rambling round the Valley


Richard Bell's Wild West Yorkshire nature diary, Saturday, 5th January, 2008

geeseblackbirds APART FROM the usual gaggle of Canada geese accompanied by moorhens down on the narrow pasture between canal and river we saw very few birds.

At the entrance to the wood there were plenty of blackbirds, but we’ve seen as many in our back garden during colder spells. This morning, on my way to post some of my published sketchbooks to Albuquerque, New Mexico (I’m amazed how far afield my sketchbooks go!) I saw a grey wagtail flitting about on the silty, drift-rubbish-strewn edge of the river.wagtail


flood damagewillowThe most dramatic sight in our end of Coxley Valley was the results of the watercourse corridor clearance work, carried out last month. The chainsaws were whirring for days as they took out a lot of the old crack willows that lean drunkenly across the beck. There’s a tributary stream which previously you were hardly aware of before because it was lost amongst tall willows. They're all neatly stacked in what should prove useful habitat piles.

It looks pretty drastic but even this piece of flood management hasn’t solved all the problems; water is bubbling up at the entrance to a small paddock by Coxley Mill and flowing down the footpath into the stream. A culvert about 50 yards long runs from another old mill (currently being reconstructed by a mill-engine enthusiast). Clearing any blockage in there is going to be difficult.

The potholed path (left), damaged in last summer's floods was repaired and resurfaced in early autumn.

A Lost Dam?

beckThe clearance of some of the tumbled willows opens up the view of the floodplain near the old quarry. It looks to me as if this flat area is the silted-up bed of an old dam, probably providing a back-up for the corn-mill which used to stand downstream, where the Capri Restaurant now stands near Horbury Bridge. The car park in front of the Capri is where the dam for the water-wheel lay, although it’s disappeared under some 10 feet of back-fill, but the shape is still there, in the outline of the car park and filling station next door.

So my guess is that there was a second dam, 200 yards or so upstream, to top up the mill dam. When you walk into the wood you climb an earthwork which could be the remnant of the dam wall, then near the old quarry spoil has been piled up so that there's a steep embankment along the side of the floodplain and this corresponds with another banking, now an old hedgerow, which I suggest was once the opposite bank.