A School in Stone
Wild West Yorkshire nature diary, Wednesday, 3rd February 1999
The first alder catkins, at the landscaped edge of a supermarket car park, near Barnsley. It stands on the site of the old colliery. Links with the geological past are being severed in this former pit village.
The old school, built of tough blackened sandstone, is now, sadly, due for demolition. It may look good from the outside, though the head teacher likens it to Colditz and explains that the interior needs so much work that the best option is to rebuild.
Over the century or so that it has stood there, the lintel of one of the doors has weathered to reveal cross-bedding - traces of the build up, layer by layer, of an underwater sand dune. This sand bank, now solid sandstone, was deposited in a brisk current in a river delta 300 million years ago.
Behind the school, excavations for the new building are already underway. Black shale and yellow clay reveal marine conditions offshore from the delta. The current here was barely detectable, allowing finer sediment, including black organic matter from the coal forests on the delta, to settle out.
Throughout the day, I talk about our local wood and how it provided the inspiration for one of my children's books, but by the time I get home the wood itself is disappearing into gloom.
Richard Bell, wildlife illustrator
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