High Summer

Richard Bell's Wild West Yorkshire Nature Diary, Tuesday, 17 August 2010

hawthornred cloverSOME MORNINGS it can seem like autumn but on other days you can tell that it's now high summer.

I sketched the red clover and a red-tailed bee visiting a birdsfoot trefoil flower at Walton Colliery Nature Park. We were there with the Wakefield Naturalists' Society a week ago on Sunday. It's hard to believe that this was the grey, derelict site of the colliery that I used to pass on the train down to London in my student days. It's now a popular country park with extensive woodland, open areas and ponds.

red-tailed beeCyclists hurried through on the Trans-Pennine Trail, strings of pony trekkers trotted by and there were plenty of families and Sunday morning dog walkers enjoying the easy paths meandering through the greenery.


hedgeIt's a perfect example of what can be done with derelict land. Well, almost perfect. Dogs love the water's edge and wardens decided they needed to create a quiet area for waders. They excavated a small scrape in a quiet area behind the main pond and built a comfortable stone and timber hide, complete with wheelchair access through a little copse of birches. A quiet area for the birds and the keener birdwatchers. Who could object to that?

Unfortunately, as with so many places, we're really in the hands of a small minority of vandals and they've completely destroyed the hide and it's now off limits to the public because it's too dangerous.


dragonfliesIn our own little back garden nature reserve, two large Aeshna dragonflies (also known as brown hawkers) zoom around in a dogfight over the pond.
hoverflydrone-flyAt Barbara's mum's kitchen a drone-fly buzzes as it attempts to get out of the window so I release it and a related hoverfly that is sitting patiently in the other window.

Stank Hall barn

Stank Hall Barn

If you read my last diary entry, you'll know how upset I was losing one Victorian envelope, so you can imagine how I felt when I saw Stank Hall Barn at Beeston, south Leeds, when Barbara and I were checking out my Middleton Woods route from Walks in the Rhubarb Triangle last Wednesday. A few of the tiles had been removed a two years ago but it looks as if half the roof has been stripped since I last came this way. Stank Hall Barn dates back to the early 1400s with a rebuilding in 1492 so it not only predates the United States of America; it also predates Columbus's voyage of discovery to the Americas. The new blue roofing felt and timber laths on the roof show that restoration is now underway.

black catstretchingOur friends Diana and Malcolm have an elegant black cat but when we called on them Malcolm was waiting for the results of an allergy test.

'If he has an allergy then it's going to be a tough decision who goes; Malcolm or the cat', Diana explains.

There was a Seaside in the City event on Saturday and I was there in Tourist information, signing books and chatting to walkers to get some ideas for my next booklet.

As we chatted, I kept noticing the donkeys going by; a popular part of the seaside event. Watching how calmly the donkeys walk along and seeing how much the children enjoy riding them, I feel that I'd love to go on a long walk with a donkey for company, carrying my drawing kit and a tent.

One of the walkers tells me that she met a woman at Whitby who was intending to set up a donkey walks group, offering gentle exercise to people with psychological or physical problems. The gentle pace of walking with a donkey helps you get into a calm rhythm. You start to focus on the donkey and forget your own problems.

fleeces cloudsDonkeys are often used in this calming therapeutic capacity by people who look after race horses. Like so many of us, the race horses are always in a hurry, always focused on winning through; what you might call highly strung. Having a donkey in the same paddock is a calming influence on them.