Sunday 1st June – Barnsley Canal – A Reed Warbler is singing from the reed bed on the Loop. All the Hawthorns which were coated in white flower only a week ago are all now dull green and rust coloured. Elderflowers are just beginning to emerge. Jasper, Peter’s Alsatian/Wolf Hound cross is in the canal. Dill the Dog disdains such behaviour in her old age!
Tuesday 3rd June – Home – Mowing the lawn seems to take forever. Some parts have to be hover-mowed first before using the cylinder mower on it. There are enough clippings to mulch nearly all the potato crop. These, broad beans and peas are all growing strongly. Runner and French beans are planted out and are beginning to sprout upwards. The nesting box at the bottom of the garden has a family of Blue Tits. A little, squawking yellow face appears at the hole waiting for a parent to return with food.
Sunday 8th June – Barnsley Canal – After a night of rain, and the threat of more to come, the air is fresh and full of bird song. Greenfinches, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs all declare their presence. The great cracked Willow at the bottom of Willowbank is alive with shrill Long-tailed Tits. A Willow Tit buzzes down near the River Dearne. Dog Roses are in full bloom, some Hawthorns are adorned from top to bottom in the delicate pink blossom. Swifts and House Martins sweep across the sky. A Mallard duck leads her large brood through the reeds on the canal.
Thursday 12th June – Fleets Dam – A Blackcap sings lustily across the River Dearne. The foliage between the river and the willow carr ponds is lush and verdant. Chiffchaffs are still in song, indeed may be calling for their second brood. Elderflowers fill the air with their musty scent. Dog Roses here are a rich deep pink.
Saturday 14th June – Barrow – Down the track that used to lead around to part of the Barrow Pit, now all gone and landscaped. A Little Owl sits on an electricity wire surveying the grassland below. An old Horse Chestnut has dead branches sticking out the top of what otherwise looks a healthy tree. A pair of Greater Spotted Woodpeckers dart out and head off down the hillside. A large clump of Everlasting Sweet Pea grows beside the track.
Tuesday 17th June – Barnsley Canal – The last few days have been hot and dry – a nightmare for hay fever sufferers. There is a slight breeze this morning and threatening clouds building. A Wren sits atop a dead Hawthorn and sings its little heart out. The dry weather has stressed the Hawthorns and the path is littered with tiny immature Haws. Suddenly the rain hits and Dill the Dog and I shelter under the trees. The canal bubbles as raindrops bounce onto the water’s surface. This does not worry a pair of Moorhens which cross the water in their jerky style picking at insects on the surface. Just as suddenly, the rain has gone and the sun breaks through again.
Sunday 22nd June – Brodsworth Hall – Between Barnsley and Doncaster stands the Brodsworth Hall and gardens, owned by English Heritage. The estate was bought by Peter Thellusson, a banker in the 1790s. His property and fortune accumulated for three generations until inherited by Charles Thellusson in the 1860s. He decided to demolish the house and rebuild it. Some features from the old house were retained and much has been added to over the years. In 1931, Charles’ grandson, Charles Grant-Dalton inherited the estate and in turn, his daughter Pamela Williams who gave the property to English Heritage in 1988. The amazing thing about the house is that it is full of objects from the whole lifetime of the building. Room after room are decorated with chintz and filled with Victorian, Edwardian and later furniture and contents. In the kitchen stands a huge iron “Eagle” range. Cupboards of pewter and copper moulds, knives, pots, pans and implements of all sizes and descriptions. Some bedrooms contain pictures and details of the life of the occupants, especially their love of sailing, including a collapsible boat. Along with more modern WCs, there are also “thunderboxes”, designed before Thomas Crapper invented the flushing loo. These contraptions, although effective, were unpopular because of the loud noise they made whilst pumping the water, so many still preferred to use chamber pots. The gardens are undergoing extensive refurbishment after falling into decay and becoming overgrown. Italian white marble statues stand by the drive. Formal gardens lay behind the lawns. Magnificent Cedars stand high, but many Yews have had to be drastically cut back as they had taken over the place. A summerhouse stands above the gardens giving a beautiful view. A quarry that supplied some of the stone used in building the hall runs alongside the Target range with a small building, the Target House, built somewhat in the style of a Swiss chalet at one end. An “eyecatcher” is at the other end, a small architectural façade. In the woods is a small cemetery of pets from 1894 to 1988.
Friday 27th June – Barnsley Canal – A dull morning with a slight breeze carrying the scent of wood smoke. A far from mute Mute Swan is grunting on the canal. (I learn on Saturday at the pub that the RSPCA had to come down to remove a fishing hook from this swan’s beak earlier in the week.) A Sparrowhawk zooms through the trees and over the path, leaving much chattering by smaller species in its wake. A Kingfisher darts past, piping loudly. A Water Vole leaves a wake in the weed as it swims under the great Willow.