August 2003

Thursday 7th August – Old Mill – Outings have been severely limited over the past week as I have, yet again wrenched my ankle. Ridiculously, it was on the same paving stone in the garden that I turned it on last year! Up on the large flat area on Harborough Hills, where the old glassworks stood, much is afoot. There have been several large stores here for some years. One business, which had the end plot, closed and the building became derelict. Now it has been demolished and the whole area of rough grass beside it has been fenced off. Digger and drillers abound. Annoyingly, the fence has made the track to the wild area between the Dearne and Oakwell impassable.

Home – The garden flourishes. We have had record temperatures this week, although today is overcast, but still hot and muggy. The Broad Beans and peas have finished and been removed. Runner and French Beans are now prolific. I have dug another row of potatoes; the crop is certainly not as good as last year, but the potatoes look good and sound. Cabbages are coming on well and are the tomatoes, which seemed to have a poor start. Likewise the courgettes are now catching up after a slow start. Apples are steadily falling but not really ready to eat. They are also full of Apple Moth damage, so clearly the traps were less successful this year. However, they are highly suitable for juice extraction in my new fruit press and cider making is imminent.

Sunday 10th August – Barnsley Canal – Yesterday was the hottest day for many a year. The temperature seems to have fallen little overnight, but glowing clouds are now building up and a breeze ruffles the trees. The foliage is now at its most dense and sounds emerge from hidden beaks. A sharp kik comes from a mass of Oak but its producer, a Great Spotted Woodpecker is unseen. Likewise, cries of young Moorhens emerge from the impenetrable reed beds. The young Sparrowhawk calls across the valley but again is not visible. A dead Brown Rat lies on the tow path. It looks recently deceased, but is already attracting the attention of Green Bottles. A Speckled Wood butterfly lands briefly on Dill the Dog’s back, probably discovering the large white area is not the flower it was hoping for.

Saturday 16th August – Barnsley Canal – Down Willowbank and along the canal. Thistledown floats on the air. Thistles, Ragwort, Great Willowherb and Hogweed have all gone to seed. Haws, hips, Blackberries and Elderberries are all ripening fast. Over the sandy coloured grass on Willowbank, Swallows chase insects a few feet off the ground. A Whitethroat disappears into a bramble patch with a grunt. Croaking Grey Herons fly high overhead. Everywhere is dusty from the days of sunshine and no rain. A Speckled Wood butterfly flits past. The pond at the bottom of Redbrook hill has almost disappeared, just a clump of grasses and Bistort stand in a ring of muddy water. The paucity of the pond is as much to do with a drainage ditch as lack of rain as sparkling water runs down to the canal. Dill the Dog trots up the ditch getting her legs nicely muddy. The canal is choked with Bulrush and water weed. Young Moorhens trot across the surface. It is long slog back up Willowbank, but my ankle holds out well.

Saturday 22nd August – Barnsley Canal – There is almost a feel of autumn today. No bird song at all, just a few chirrups from Great and Blue Tits. Suddenly a noisy twittering flock of Goldfinches flies over. It is grey and almost raining. However, it does not rain properly which is annoying as the garden needs the water. A tiny dark ochre coloured Toad crawls across the path.

Sunday 23rd August – Barnsley Canal – Magpies are chattering on Willowbank and down near the River Dearne. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flies across the canal and into a copse of Willows, where it chips away quietly. Dozens of Wood Pigeons sit on the electricity wires that run along the valley. I head down from the old lock and across to an ancient trail across the flood plain. A stream runs through here and is too wide to jump across. There are widely spaced stones in the water, but I miss and have wet feet. Dill the Dog happily splashes through. The River Dearne is very low. Bill tells me the authorities have removed six burned out stolen cars from the area in the past week, but there is still one partially submerged in the river. Like the annoying yobs on their unsilenced motor bikes on the old railway, this kind of behaviour brings a feeling of sadness that such a valuable resource such as this valley can be so abused. It may soon even worse as outline permission has been given for six open-cast coal pits in the valley. Blackberries are ripening fast and I gather enough for some pop-overs and a crumble with windfall apples from the garden. Seven Grey Herons stand in the stubble field over the river.

Tuesday 26th August – Fleets Dam – Another grey morning with a hint of autumn. Black-headed Gulls, sans black heads fly a circuit around the lake, then descend on any individual which has found something that may or may not be edible. Fish are jumping out of the water – possibly decent sized Roach. Unwanted bait has been left on a bird table, which is being guarded jealously by a Robin. Japanese Knotweed is rampant, driving out our native flora.

Sunday 31st August – Grange Gate – At first sight it would seem the summer flowers are finished. The most obvious are the last throes of Willowherbs, but wandering up the old railway track, it becomes clear there are many more flowers going strong – Common Toadflax, Trefoils, Canadian Golden-rod, White Melilot, Tansy, Bladder Campion and Yarrow. A Chiffchaff makes a half-hearted attempt at song. A Pheasant croaks, a Jay grates and Magpies chatter. Climb up the steep crumbling sandstone bank into Sessile Oak woods. Apart from a few Earthballs there are no fungi at all. Back along the track, a Jay flies over, unusually high and exposed for such a secretive bird. The apple trees are bearing no fruit.