February 2001

Thursday 1st February – North Lincolnshire – In the morning, freezing fog has resulted in numerous crashes and subsequent delays. In Grimsby, the sun shines brightly. On the return journey, as the day darkens, the fog has lifted somewhat. Trees, grass and dead umbellifers are coated in white frost. A Grey Heron swoops towards the motorway and lands in a ditch running parallel to the carriageway. A large flock of Fieldfares stand motionless in a field of winter wheat.

Friday 9th February – Barnsley Canal – A sharp frost has frozen the mud to a rigid mush – although it is hard, the ridged furrows compress under my boots. Chaffinches are pinking, but otherwise things are quiet.

Wednesday 13th February – Barnsley Canal – A cold night has partially frozen the canal and mud. However, a boot easily crunches through thin ice to the water below. And there is much water as the canal has overflowed again at the base of Willowbank. A thin, narrow tube of fog hovers maybe one hundred feet above the River Dearne. The dawn chorus is developing with Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Robins and Chaffinches all singing. A Willow Tit buzzes near the bridge. Mallard drakes grunt and females quack as they circle on a flooded river loop. A pair leap up noisily out the canal and circle off and down to the river. Bulrush heads are still complete chocolate maces.

Sunday 18th February – Another frosty morn, with a hazy sun rising above high cirrus clouds. Bird song grows stronger daily. Greenfinches wheezing song has joined the chorus of Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Robins. Great Tits are in immaculate attire as they flit through the Hawthorns. Horses are tethered at the bottom of Willowbank by a still flooded canal. Their frozen droppings are easy to collect for the compost heap.

Sunday 25th February – Barnsley Canal – A slight snowfall and frost has again partially frozen the tow path. Bullfinches meep quietly in the Hawthorns. One sits on top looking like John Bull in his gaudy rose waistcoat. Much of the countryside is now out of bounds because of the outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease across the country. This situation drives it home just how unnatural and disgraceful much of modern animal farming has become.