June 2004

Tuesday 1st June – Ruthin – Before we leave for home, we pay a Windowvisit to the rather splendidly named, Collegiate and Parochial Church of St Peter. The church was started in 1310 by John de Grey. The present nave was constructed in the latter half of the 14th century, after the town had recovered from the ravages of the Black Death. Damage occurred during the uprising of Owain Glyndŵr when, in 1402, the 3rd Lord de Grey was taken and ransomed. In 1508, the de Greys sold the Lordship to Henry VII. The roof in the north nave was started around this time and still has a magnificent collection of roof bosses. By the 1540s the church had gone into decay, although still used. The chancel was pulled down in 1663 and further decay occurred, although there must have been a sound and substantial tower as the “Great Bell” of Ruthin church was cast in 1683. Urgent repairs were ordered by Royal Brief in 1714 and further restoration work carried out in 1720/1. Much more work was carried out in the early 19th century. The East Window is a fine piece of stained glasswork, made in 1856 and inserted three years later. A memorial carved by Roger Wynne to Gabriel Goodman and Roger Mostyn is next to the altar.

Monday 7th June – Barnsley Canal – It is very warm despite the dark clouds crossing the sky. Dog Roses have bloomed, covering many a Hawthorn and other shrubbery with a mass of pink. A Little Owl sits on a fallen, dead tree. Blackcaps are singing from thickets. The meadows are spotted yellow with Buttercups. A Little Grebe with a chick is diving in the canal. A Mistle Thrush stands atop the tallest tree up the hill – the view it has must be magnificent. A Grey Heron stands hunched in a dead tree on the Loop. A Green Woodpecker calls from across the valley.

Tuesday 8th June – Home – Today saw the first transit of Venus across the face of the sun since 1882. There will be another in June 2012 but the next after that will not be until 2117. I used several layers of photographic negative to look at the sun, removing them one by one until a reasonable view could be obtained. It was still difficult to actually pick out the black dot that was Venus, but I managed it. Given the number of astronomical events I have missed over recent years because of cloud cover, it was gratifying to see such a rare one.

Thursday 10th June – Silkstone Fall – The woods are cool and shady, whilst it is warm and humid in the open air. Young Robins and Tits flit through the trees. Four beautiful Black Labradors pass; they are sleek and shiny. One walks beside me and gently licks my hand. The other three investigate Dill the Dog, who is unimpressed and stumps off with her tail down and hackles raised. A little later, something brown disappears around a bend in the path. A moment later it is back, a Brown Hare with a spaniel on its tail. It suddenly sees me and freezes; a look of panic in its eyes. It then bolts into the undergrowth and through the trees, still being chased but it will escape. The dog’s owner is calling it back. I comment that he has not got much chance until the hare is lost. Dill the Dog wanders around the bend and wonders what the fuss is about.

Sunday 13th June – Barnsley Canal – Clear blue skies, hot sun and a gentle breeze – bliss. Wild Roses and Elderflower are in full bloom and scent the air. The effect of creamy Elder and pink roses is stunning. Although bird song has reduced, there is still a constant chorus of Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Robins and tits. Speckled Woods have emerged; beautiful cream spots on chocolate wings.

Wednesday 16th June – The Fleets – The forecasted dull weather fails to materialise and it becomes a warm day again. Two terns hawk around the lake, hovering and diving after small fry. They are not interested in the large carp that are still churning the water in the shallows. The duck Mallard now has nine ducklings which are as big as her. The whole area between Honeywell and the lake has now been gouged and flattened; I am still not aware of what is going to happen to this area. I have been told that it is to improve the amenities – whatever that means.

Thursday 17th June – Barnsley Canal – A Chiffchaff continues to call from a Hawthorn at the bottom of Willowbank. Dog Roses and Elder are beginning to go over and are no longer the magnificent display they were just a few days ago. But, of course, there are many new bloomsFoxglove to replace them. Honeysuckle is just opening. Ragwort will be in flower within a few days. In the canal margins, Woody Nightshade and Purple Loosestrife have blossomed. Foxgloves have opened their pink mittens with the deep pink spots in the white throat.

Saturday 19th June – Barnsley Canal – There are a number of Blackcaps in song along Willowbank. Young Moorhens jerk their way to the safety of the reed margin. Young Dabchicks just dive. A turquoise flash further up the canal is all I see of a departing Kingfisher. Swifts are sweeping low over the Loop after insects. A Song Thrush with a beak full of goodies flies low across the canal, up the hill and into the undergrowth. I take photographs of Dog Roses, which range in colour from pure white through to an intense pink.

Monday 21st June – The Fleets – The longest day of the year – half a year gone already! It has rained heavily over the last day or so, but the river is not as high as I would have expected. However, the accumulation of rubbish at various points have all been cleared. There are House Martins and terns over the lake. Both are masters of the air, the terns glide and bounce on the air, the martins slip and twist through it. Everywhere is still very wet. A tern (I do not bother to spend the time checking whether they are Arctic or Common Terns) plunges into the water and rises with a small fish. Black Horehound (a noticeably odorous plant that was once thought to cure rabies) and White Mignonette are both flowering profusely on the other side of the lake. A Cormorant flies over the lake – the first I have seen for a while. Beside Old Mill Bridge, the enormous flower heads of Giant Hogweed stand like dinner plates balanced on poles seven or more feet above the ground.

Wednesday 23rd June – The Fleets – Heavy overnight rain and now the River Dearne has risen. Water like milky gravy thunders over the weir. There is no rubbish left anywhere along the banks. Two strange objects have appeared in the centre of the lake. They appear to be drum windmills, maybe to deal with the algae problem? (A subsequent search on Google shows this to be the case; although the company making them seems to have gone out of business). It is apparent there is more than one brood of Mallard on the lake. Close to the river side is a family of eight, well grown. There is another group of full sized ducklings away across the water and as I complete the circuit of the lake, another brood of five very young ducklings appears with the mother.

Wednesday 30th June – The Fleets – Ominous grey clouds cover the sky. It is dark in the woods. White trumpets of Bindweed almost shine in the gloom. Blackberry bramble is also coming into flower. A pair of Great Crested Grebe are on the lake. A Coot moves away from the fringes as Dill the Dog approaches. A Grey Heron plunges onto the water, picks up something and lifts off again. At least four terns are circling the waters along with a few Black-headed Gulls. House Martins skim the surface.