Liquorice Country

Richard Bell's Wild West Yorkshire Nature Diary, Thursday, 29th April 2010

milestoneANOTHER MILESTONE, and while I admit you wouldn't want to go far out of your way to see something like this, I think it conjures up a little of the pleasure of getting out on a walk and seeing such common objects of the countryside; things that have been around for a while and which add character to a particular place;sign the sort of inconsequential detail that I think works better in a drawing than in a photograph. There can be a friendly softness about a drawing, while a photograph can have a documentary aloofness to it.

The millstone sign for Ackworth village (right) probably wouldn't even register as you entered the parish driving at 40 miles per hour along the A-road but when you're walking you have the time, if you're so inclined, to take in such details.

For me it raises questions such as 'where did that millstone come from?' or 'did the much-weathered boundary stone that it is mounted on have some previous use or significance?'

I can have a stab at answering such questions in my own parish, as I've absorbed bits and pieces of its history over the years, but I'd have difficulty researching the answers in a parish I'm not familiar with, such as here in Ackworth.

grafittistileOld Stile

I like objects that have a history, even if I can't find out everything about that history. In fact a little bit of mystery makes them all the more intriguing. For instance, the Victorian graffiti on this stone stile; a little research reveals that the 11th September 1891 was a Friday and that the 17th September 1901 was a Tuesday. We will probably never know who 'J N A' or 'C N P' were. I guess that in both cases a man carved the initials so we might be looking for a 'John' and a 'Charles' with their respective sweethearts being an 'Alice' or an 'Anne' and a 'Pauline' or 'Patricia'.

Queen Victoria died on the 22nd of January 1901, so these two dates straddle the end of an era. Presumably our 'John' was too old to have volunteered to serve in the 1914-1918 war, although he could conceivably have served in the Boer War. Was our 'Charles' called up? If so, did he become a casualty in the trenches or did he return to his 'Pauline'?

If they did marry, perhaps there are surviving grandchildren who remember them well. But there it is anyway; as you cross the stile, a little reminder of the first long summer of the Edwardian era.

fieldsRidge and Furrows

manhole coverI've been drawing these from the photographs that I took on the 11th March. For information, the photographs would have been fine, but I prefer these simple pen and wash drawings because the fact that I have thought them worth drawing hints at the interest that I felt when I walked up the track towards the ridge of Castle Syke Hill for the first time.

More lettering in the landscape; this time in a manhole cover on Castle Syke Hill which was cast at 'The Model Foundry Co. Ltd., Ferrybridge'.

lodgeparkHere's the entrance lodge at Purston Jaglin that I photographed as I mapped out my walk in March. I like to include distinctive places that serve to confirm to walkers that they're on the right track. I was able to pick up a few facts about this and other places on the walk by chatting to the locals.

It often happens that the most difficult part of a walk to describe is the first bit; getting people out of the car park and heading off in the right direction. Once you've done that on this walk you've got a mile of open country walking towards the ridge - easy - but you try telling people how to get out of a park! You can't just say 'turn left at the next tree.' In this case I thought it was worth including a vignette of the point where you leave the path around the park and head off up the slope.


Purston Park

Parks are a real asset to the area but while in the current election campaign we've heard about the need to protect frontline services such as health and education, I've never heard anyone promising to protect the green spaces budget, although I'd argue that they can make a huge contribution to our health, our continuing well-being and our general background levels of happiness. Unlike exam results and waiting times for operations, you can't conveniently express the contentment generated by parks as a statistic. Drawing Purston Park for my book somehow underlines its importance for me. When I was there I was so concerned with finding my path that I didn't really relax and simply enjoy the place.

Purston HallGetting things in proportionPurston Hall

Finally, a little about the pitfalls of drawing from photographs. I've got a scary amount of landscape vignettes to draw for my walks book over the next 6 weeks, I guess about 150 of them, so I decided to try and keep the size of each one quite small. For Purston Hall (left), I started by drawing the branch framing the view to restrict the size of the eventual drawing. This proved to be a bit too small for comfortably fitting in the architectural detail so I abandoned it and started again, this time drawing the facade of the house, top left to bottom right (since I'm right-handed) at a slightly larger scale.

Again it was by settling down to draw the hall that I realised what a gem of a building it is. If time was no object I'd go back and make a study of the carved stone details around that central upper window. The hall dates from the Regency period, roundabout 1830.