Wednesday 1st August – Kilderee – I go for a short walk with Shiona, the nine year old niece of Brigid and Dill the Dog. Shiona says it is “Sad you are leaving tomorrow, but if you don’t go, you can’t come back. That’s what I always say!” Later we all go for a walk around the lanes nearby. There are beautiful but empty houses everywhere. People seem to prefer to build new houses, almost always bungalows, rather than restore the old. Brigid says that some of the houses have been empty since she was a child – the owners just left everything and emigrated, often to America. Their families will not sell the property as this would cause problems with access to land and anyway, the owners may return. We pass farms, fields of cattle and sometimes sheep, bogs and woods. From the top of the hill we see the ruins of Lowberry Castle, a 17th century fortified house. Brigid tells that she was always warned to keep away from the ruins as there was evil there. Angela confirms later that the house does indeed have an evil history as a place of highwaymen and robbers – the walls were built with mortar mixed with bulls’ blood. We really walk too far for Dill the Dog who is utterly exhausted and cannot show the slightest interest in the herds of cows and occasional mighty bull that watch her intently.
Thursday 2nd August – Irish Sea – We catch the high-speed ferry back from Dun Laoghaire, a port just outside Dublin. The ferry is far less interesting that the slower one on which we travelled out to Ireland, but it certainly is fast. The wake from the water turbo-jets lingers into the distance. There are far fewer seabirds to be seen, some Manx Shearwater, Fulmars, Gannets and a few assorted gulls.
Monday 6th August – Home – The day has been busy sorting out things for our imminent move. The house sale is proceeding, although we have nowhere to move to. In the garden the Broad Beans have finished and the French Beans just starting. There will be some mange tout peas this week. I carry a can of water down to the greenhouse to douse the tomatoes – they are doing well. A Hedgehog is standing motionless in front of the greenhouse door. I wonder if it will stay there whilst I get my camera, but as soon as I move away it scurries back into the wilderness that is the bottom of the garden. Swifts are still screaming overhead.
Saturday 11th August – Eardisland, Herefordshire – A small village on the River Arrow, a few miles from Leominster. Very picturesque as a Black and White village (so called because of the half-timbered houses with their white walls delineated by blackened wooden beams), so in many ways it is surprising we are here to view a property. It is a cottage, the middle of three in a little terrace. It was constructed around 1588. Even more surprising is that we decide it could well be the one for us. We are camping in a field just up the road with rather primitive loo arrangements – a privy set on top of the waste disposal with a waist-high fence enclosing it. As we are setting up in the late mid-afternoon, a Common Buzzard seems to be getting very excited about farmworkers in the adjoining field loading straw onto a lorry. The bird is sweeping across the field and up into the trees or electricity pylons, crying the whole time. We spend a pleasant evening in one of the two local pubs, The Cross. Throughout the night, Tawny Owls are calling. A Buzzard starts mewing just after dawn.
Monday 13th August – Home – I awaken at about 2:00 in the morning and spend a bit of time outside staring at the sky. Tonight is the peak of the the Perseids, the dusty debris shed by Comet Swift-Tuttle, discovered in 1862. The first records of the meteor showers come from Chinese records of 36CE. They are also known as “The Tears of St Lawrence”, from the story of Lauentius, martyred by the Romans on August 10th in the year 258 AD by cooking him alive on an outdoor iron stove called a gridiron. It is said Laurentius cried out, “I am already roasted on one side and, if thou wouldst have me well cooked, it is time to turn me on the other.” That night, as Laurnetius’ family and friends carried away his body, they noticed a number of bright streaks across the sky – the Perseids. I see four meteors and a satellite passes over, but I have been unable to identify it.
The Fleets – The River Dearne is quite low now. Someone has finally sawn up the two tree trunks that were laying across the path to the lake. This makes life a lot easier for Dill the Dog, who has been struggling to clamber over them. Himalayan Balsam is in flower and beginning to produce their explosive seed pods. A few Black-headed Gulls, some juveniles, a quartering the water. Grey Herons are in their usual resting spots.
Tuesday 14th August – Sheffield – The train to Sheffield is a little two-carriage diesel, a bit tatty but it gets there. The concourse of Sheffield station is another matter altogether. It has been more than tatty for years and then a building site for what seems like many more. But now it is finished. A long sweeping silver wall runs up to the road, getting lower as it moves away from the station front, a continuous curtain of water flowing down the wall. On the other side of the pathway is a fountain where the water pours over the edge of the retaining wall with waterfalls rising behind it. Although it is raining the whole water feature makes a dynamic introduction to the city. Up a brand new road system and by Sheffield Hallam University. A wall here has a multi-coloured channel in it down which water flows to spin round and disappear down a bowl at the end. Over the road and there is the Millennium Galleries. An escalator rises past half a dozen rusting bells. Galleries celebrating the industrial heritage of steel making lead off the main thoroughfare which leads into the Winter Gardens. Here a fine collection of tree ferns and other architectural plants are displayed. Outside the side entrance there are several large stainless steel balls down which water flows, reflecting the surroundings. From here paths cross the Peace Gardens and on into the city centre. All up Division Street there are new buildings rising from former rough ground used as car parks. Devonshire Park is being given a major makeover.
Saturday 18th August – The Grey Horse – Up the pub for a few pints. Bill arrives accompanied only by Otis, his daughter’s German Pointer. He tells me that he has had to have his old spaniel, Prince, put to sleep. Prince had suffered from failure of his back legs for some time, but otherwise seemed in fair health. However, Bill found him collapsed and unable to move the previous Monday. The vet stated that there was little that could be done and it was really time for Prince to go. It is so sad to lose an old friend.
Monday 20th August – Fleets Dam – It has been a miserable week, not only because of the indifferent weather but also because of more problems with a knee. Moving my left knee is very painful – the doctor does not know if it is gout or arthritis, “But it doesn’t matter,” he states cheerfully, “the treatment is the same!” So each morning I wait for the extra-strong anti-inflammatories he has prescribed to kick in. This morning there is a considerable improvement, but the weather is dull and so cold for the time of year (there was a frost in Scotland last night). I set off around the Fleets and Dill the Dog immediately loses me, so I have to head back to her. I get within ten feet of her before she sees me. She then makes it clear that she is not interested in a walk anyway. A Grey Heron is croaking loudly as it flies over the water. A few Black-headed Gulls fly around and a couple of Great Crested Grebes swim about without seeming to have any purpose. Blackberries and Elderberries are ripening.
Tuesday 21st August – Barnsley Canal – A dull and overcast morning. There are plenty of ripe Blackberries, so I collect a small bag to mix with apples from the garden in a crumble. Elderberries are also ripening. Swathes of purple Michaelmas Daisies are flowering on the canal bank. Eighteen Mallard, all identical as males are in eclipse, fly up from the water at the base of Willowbank. Many flowers are now coming to the end of their season; clovers, Ragwort, Burdocks, Black Knapweed are all turning to seed. There is no sign of any Cinnabar Moth caterpillars on the Ragwort, which is disappointing. Water Mint is in flower along the edge of the canal and Gipsywort flowering beside the path. A Blackcap is ticking in a bush, like two pebbles being tapped together. Haws are turning red. The canal is covered in green algae and weed and there is a stench of decay. By the old dock there are the wheep calls of Willow Warblers from all directions. Dog Roses have large red spiked bedeguar galls on their stems made by the gall wasp, Diplolepis rosae. Huge areas of Himalayan Balsam cover areas down by the Loop in a pink mist. At the bridge both Great and Rosebay Willowherbs are flowering, although the latter are coming to an end. These willowherbs once covered large areas of Willowbank, but have now been replaced by the invasive Himalayan Balsam. A small flock of Greenfinches flies off and a larger flock of Goldfinches is twittering in the bushes. On the way back, Dill the Dog manages to fall over and roll down the steep bank into the reed bed on the edge of the canal. She ends up on her head in the reeds but manages to right herself. She is clearly confused but by yelling at her I manage to get her to turn around and extract herself. My bad knee makes in difficult to get down the bank, but I manage to reach down and drag her out by the scruff of her neck. This is painful to her so she is further distressed by thinking she is being punished for falling down. Sometimes it is so difficult dealing with an old and somewhat senile dog.
Thursday 23rd August – Penistone – It is a glorious day – bright sunshine in a cobalt sky. Off across the show ground. House Martins sweep across the grass and over the trees and down into the railway cutting. The path rises towards the new extension to the cemetery. Rosebay Willowherb stands tall and brightly pink, although the flowers are now restricted to the top of the plants and below are the long, thin seed pods, some of which are unfurling to release the fluffy white seeds. A patch of Harebells are china blue against the now fading green vegetation. A Gatekeeper butterfly suns itself on a leaf. A Speckled Wood flits by. A Chiffchaff makes a weak attempt at his song then falls silent. The new cemetery is yet to receive its first tenant. The path drops down a mown hay field to the disused railway, now part of the Trans-Pennine Trail. There are some small flagstones laid into the ground, remnants of an old crossing. The path returns into the cutting. Knapweeds and Field Scabious are abundant, frequently providing feasts for bees. Heathers blossom up on the steep rocky face of the cutting. A Great Willowherb stands over six feet high. A very pale example of Musk Mallow is flowering in a tangle of vetch stems. Another specimen is pure white. Flies sun themselves on bramble leaves. A large mass of Wormwood lines the path.
Friday 24th August – Blackburn, Rotherham – Droppingwell Road leads off the A629 into Rotherham. The road passes wrought iron gates carrying the name of Grange Colliery, which was sunk in 1891, at its peak employed 800 men and had its own branch from the Great Central Railway in the Blackburn Valley. Production ceased in 1963. The road passes through woodland. Blackburn lies off to the north. The village was originally in the valley below, beside the railway line. It is mentioned in the Domesday Book – Blacheburne meaning a dark-coloured stream (Old English, blac and burna). Now the majority of it, consisting of 1950s semi-detached houses, lays along the hillside above the M1 motorway, indeed about half the village was lost when the motorway was constructed. I wander across a grassy playing field with climbing frames etc. and up into the edge of Barber Wood. There are brief snatches of bird song and a lot of chattering from Great and Blue Tits. A path runs above the housing estate. Grey Squirrels are common, one bounces along the path before seeing Dill the Dog and beating a hurried retreat – it need not have bothered as she does not see it. Her eyesight seems to have reduced to just a few yards now. The path enters a meadow below the woods. Ripe sloes adorn the Blackthorn. Clouds of gnats fill the air. It is getting hot under the clear blue sky. I return through the streets, which are very quiet. It seems odd that during the summer school holidays there are no children playing anywhere (Kay later points out that it was only 9 o’clock in the morning and all the youngsters will still be in bed or watching childrens’ television.....)
Saturday 25th August – Scout Dike – A strong wind sweeps across the reservoir under a grey sky. Coots and a couple of Moorhens are bobbing on the water. A pair of Grey Wagtails squeak as they patrol the sloping stone base of the dam. A digger is making piles of soil and stones in the field on the far side of the dam. The grassy slope of the dam is spotted with flowers – Black Knapweed, Field Scabious, Hogweed, Red and White Clover, Ribbed Plantain, Dock – some with green spikes, others have turned rusty red, a few Ragworts and Hawkbeards and a patch of Dog Rose.
Sunday 26th August – Cawthorne – A turning off the main road leads past a green into the village of Cawthorne. The name is stated by some authorities to have come from the Old English, Caltorne, meaning Cold Thorn Tree. However, Tiplady in his “History of Cawthorne” (out of print) states that an Anglo-Saxon authority suggested to him that the name was Calt, again meaning cold, and orne, a later spelling of ern, a house. He suggests this means Cold House, i.e. “a house where no man dwells”. As with much of this area before the Conquest, the land belonged to the Saxon, Ailric but was passed to the Norman, Ilbert de Laci by William I. The road bends past the old Co-op. Just along a short way is one of the many milestones on the Barnsley-Shepley road. This one states “Lane Head Road, Cawthorne”. Of course, this was the main route before the bypass was built. A bridleway, once called Cliffe Hill Lane, leads off the road and descends past old garden walls. An apple tree overhangs the track with ripe apples way out of reach. The track winds down to Cawthorne Dike where there is a ford and footbridge, Cliffe Hill Bridge on the 1855 map. The track down to the bridge has deep gouges in it, doubtless caused by this year’s floods. The path leads a short distance onto the village cricket pitch with its fine pavilion. The path continues into Cawthorne Park, part of the gardens of Cannon Hall. A large pond is covered by lily pads and a bridge crosses the stream. A large family group of Mallard are preening below the bridge. A Grey Heron sits hunched on a branch downstream. Back to the cricket ground and up another track, Dark Lane, into the village.The track passes through a farm, with a large farmhouse and barn conversions. There is a fine garden with a pond surrounded by flowers.
Bank Holiday Monday 27th August – Fleets Dam – Another bright sunny day with blue skies, can summer finally be here? The River Dearne is low, a sparkling veneer of water slips over the weir, in the sunlight a mist like steam rises above it. Swallows and House Martins sweep low over the lake, the latter dapping on the surface. Grey Herons fly about, croaking. They settle down, two in a tree, one on the old iron staging and one on a fishing platform. These platforms have all been reinstated after many were washed away in the floods. Some leaves in the undergrowth still have their coating of mud reminding one of the floods. Leaves on the tall willows are beginning to turn yellow and a few are already falling. Clouds of mosquitoes hover over the path.
Cawthorne – Another visit to this village, this time with Kay. We wander the same route as yesterday but now the Cawthorne Victoria Jubilee Museum is open. This is a splendid institution, founded in 1884 by Revd. Charles Tiplady Pratt (ibid.) when the collections were housed in one of two cottages that stood on the site of the present building. The collections soon outgrew the cottage and the Revd convinced Sir Walter Spencer Stanhope and his brother Roddam, of Cannon Hall, that a new building was required. Roddam was a member of the pre-Raphaelites and, whilst mainly living in Florence on health grounds, was keen to see a museum in Cawthorne. He enlisted friends, such as John Ruskin, and the old cottages were demolished and a new museum built. The foundations were laid in 1887 – hence Victoria Jubilee Museum and the new building opened in 1889. In 1953, Mrs Stanhope offered the museum to the Museum Society for £100, provided by an anonymous benefactor. A new extension was added in 1983 and the entire museum refurbished in 1997/98 by means of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The museum is wonderful – a real old Victorian mix such as objects from the “colonies”, stuffed birds and animals, coins, china, fossils, domestic bygones, a two-headed lamb born in 1987, a 9½lb “gall stone” from a horse (actually now labelled with the correction that horses do not have gall bladder, so it is an intestinal stone), a small room of memorabilia from Lord Mason, for many years MP for Barnsley and art from locals such as Abel Hold, Samuel Swift and Roddam Spencer Stanhope. Not an interactive, interpretive display in sight!
Wednesday 29th August – Rockingham – From the car park next to the Rockingham Arms, I head up the road a short distance and take a path into the woods. It is dark and cool in here, with Rooks calling overhead. The path emerges into a long avenue leading to the Holy Trinity Parish Church. Over the iron railing is a large golden wheat field. Some has been harvested, although it seems odd no harvester is working on such a bright morning. Wood Pigeons fly up from gleaning the stubble. The avenue is lined on one side by woodland and the backs of buildings in the village and on the other by a row of trees, mainly Sycamore and Oak. Blue Tits are dancing hither and thither through the tree tops. Wood Pigeons appear and disappear in the green. Rooks fly over, their black wings ragged from the moult. In places the grass verge is covered with thistledown and molehills. Near the church, Swallows sweep over the grass. The Swifts left a couple of weeks ago and Swallows and Martins are following them, according to observers, earlier than usual because of the poor weather. Another, much shorter avenue leads up from the main street. There are the stumps on the walls and in the gate posts where iron railing were cut away during the Second World War, ostensibly to help the war effort, but much of the iron was never used. Of course, many of the railings such as these here were never replaced.
Thursday 30th August – Hartcliffe Hill – From Penistone, westwards hills rise and fall before the true heights of the Pennines. Hartcliffe Hill is part of the ridge that runs from the valley created by the River Don along to Hunshelf Hill, where again the Don cuts through. A bridleway leads off round the hill, although it is more a narrow path, not easily traversed by horse. The sky is grey and the wind blows fiercely. To the west the Moors are misty and skulk gloomily on the skyline. Yellow Gorse flowers, purple Heathers and pink Rosebay Willowherb brighten the dull green covering of bracken. Oaks are stunted and twisted whilst Mountain Ash bears a few vermilion berries. The path turns sharply right and steeply up to the top of the hill. The small plateau is undulating; deep hollows from which stone has been removed to build the miles of drystone walls surrounding the fields here. The ground is covered by Bilberry plants, Vaccinium myrtillus L., also known as blaeberry, whortleberry, whinberry (or winberry), myrtle blueberry and fraughan. I pick a few ounces. Across a field is the Hartcliffe Folly, built in 1856 by a linen merchant called Henry Richardson. Richardson also built Hartcliffe Lodge which stands on the road that the path re-enters. Richardson later became the first Mayor of the borough of Barnsley. Near the stile that leads the path onto the road is a stand of beaters, poles with a rubber flap fixed to them, used to beat out fires. These would once have been made of bundles of twigs and were a common sight on Ashdown Forest in my younger days. From the road, the view looks over Langsett and Midhope reservoirs and up the wooded slopes to the Pennine Moors.
Friday 31st August – Upper Denby – A narrow footpath leads down from a small housing estate on the north-eastern edge of this small village. It runs between drystone walls with Oaks and other small trees on one side and fields on the other. A Hazel has a good crop of nuts. The path opens out into field and then back into a narrow path where curious cows peer over the wall. A small skein of geese flies over, surprisingly silently. The path was formerly called Coalpit Lane. It now proceeds over Town Fields to a bridge over the Sheffield-Huddersfield railway line. Beyond there are harvested wheat fields but no sign at all of Denby Colliery which stood just the other side of the bridge (this absence is not surprising as the colliery is not shown on the 1893 map). Down the field and the path meets the Barnsley-Holmfirth road, the old Barnsley-Shepley-Lane Head Road, mentioned a number of times herein. Down the road passes the gates of Norcroft Grange (post-Victorian) and on to Dunkirk. The name is marked on the 1851 map, but the Dunkirk Inn is not there, and the inn marked is “The Waggon and Horses”, seemingly where a house now stands. The Dunkirk Inn was built in 1866 and was then called “The Junction Inn”. The road leads into Lower Denby where the old Town School is now a desirable residence. The road curves round at a junction. To the left is the original Denby Lane, once the main thoroughfare, not as now the road through Lower Denby. A short distance along is a barn like conversion called “Papist Hall”. An interesting name as in 1743 Church of England officials recorded that “in the chapelry of Denby there are 130 families, only nine of which are Quakers. There are no papists or other kind of dissenters”. But there had been witches (or at least, allegedly)! Two local women, Anne Shillitoe and Susan Hinchcliffe, were accused of witchcraft by a Clayton West resident, Mary Moor in 1674. They were charged and taken to Barnsley Court, where they were sent for trial at York. Another poor soul, Betty Roberts was accused of witchcraft in the 18th century. My road lies up under the railway, past the pinfold, where stray animals would be held, and back into Upper Denby.