Wednesday 1st June – Barnsley Canal, Old Mill – A sunny afternoon. Not much is stirring apart from a few Blue Tits squeaking in the willows of the steep incline above the canal. Near to a clump of water weeds, a Jack Pike lies motionless just under the surface of the water. It looks about two pound in weight. It is either oblivious of my presence or disinterested as it does not move.
Saturday 4th June – Barnsley Canal – A water main has burst in Hall Balk Lane. The tarmac has lifted away from the kerb and various repairs in the road have also lifted up out of the surrounding surface. On Willowbank there is a cooling wind, but it is warmer down the hill in the more sheltered areas along the canal. A Cuckoo is calling from the valley near the Loop. Blackcaps are singing across the area. There is a blast of Hydrogen Sulphide from the drainage tap in the rough meadow below the canal. At the end of the canal, several Sky Larks sing. A Meadow Pipit flies off. Cuckoo Flowers and Ragged Robins bloom in the marshy area beside the track. Ox-eye Daisies are in flower in the drier patches. Across the pasture towards the woods. A semi-circle of Fairy Ring Champignons pokes out of the grass. Bright blue eyes of Germander Speedwell wink out of the grass.
Monday 6th June – Old Royston – A path leads down a steep wooded slope to join an old railway. This is the old Huddersfield line. Another line just across the way, still occasionally used, goes to Leeds. The path is now full of ballast and the trees are probably fifteen to twenty years old, although the line is shown as dismantled on the 1985 OS map. Dill the Dog is unimpressed by the stones underfoot and tries to walk on the grassiest parts. A Wren ticks angrily. The woods thin into rough grass with Silver Birches. Coltsfoot grows in the pale grey ballast. Fields appear either side of the path and then it meets the Royston to Wakefield road. The wheat is standing high and green. A field of peas is in flower. I head back down towards Ryhill and turn off onto the Trans-Pennine Trail along a section of the Barnsley Canal. The canal is stagnant and green as it curves round towards Old Royston. A Whitethroat leaps into the air in song. The woods thicken again and the canal cuts through a low cutting in the sandstone.
Barnsley Canal, Old Mill – There is much clanking and roar of heavy machinery coming from the other side of the valley, so being nosy I head across the old aqueduct bridge to investigate. Up the hill are workmen and diggers. A notice informs that a coalmine roadway has collapsed in Mottram Wood and to make safe it is being dug out and filled. I head back down to the bridge. A pair of Wrens have nested under some Ivy on top of one of the piers that carried the aqueduct. They are collecting food from Hawthorns opposite, whose flowers have died to a rusty brown leading to a premature reddening of the trees. On the canal, a Mallard has eight ducklings. A Moorhen rushes across the water to the safety of the thin reed margin with a loud chik chik and much flicking of its black and white tail.
Tuesday 7th June – Barnsley Canal – A Little Owl is chased across the horse paddock by an angry female Blackbird. The latter returns to a fence post, which I imagine was the owl’s hunting post, and continues to pink pink furiously. The Little Owl shakes its feathers and tries to regain some semblance of dignity. A Sedge Warbler is singing its scratchy, buzzing song from a reed bed. Mallard ducklings are walking across the canal on the thick growth of Water Hyacinth. A couple of young Little Grebe dive; they are well grown.
Wednesday 8th June – Netherwood Country Park – Eastwards towards Darfield. A bright and sunny morning. The path winds around various industrial estates. The area is old coal mining sites, mainly paths through grass and Silver Birch scrub. Drainage ditches cross the ground feeding into the River Dove. A large warbler flies up into the top of a birch. It continues to flap its wings furiously for a while and then settles. Its plumage says Garden Warbler, but there seems to be an eye stripe from behind the eye and its behaviour is not typical. The path meets the road and I head back west. Grasshoppers are noisy in the pastures. Back in the country park, Swallows sweep across the closely mown grass. A Green Woodpecker calls from the more mature woodland. A Pied Wagtail scurries across the grass disturbing insects which it then acrobatically catches with leaps into the air. Robins, Blackcaps and Song Thrushes are singing. Yellow Water Lilies adorn the pond and Yellow Flag rise above the drainage channels. Hemlock and Comfrey are also crowded in the channel.
Thursday 9th June – Penistone – Wander along the Trans Pennine Trail for a while. It is noticeable that there is little bird song, apart from a loud Wren and a quiet wheep from a Willow Warbler. Further along, young Great Tits are noisily demanding food. Swallows sweep down the track before shooting skywards and out over the surrounding fields.
Saturday 11th June – Robin Hoods Bay – We arrive at the camp site late morning. The site is lower down the hill than the one used previously. It is busy but we find space for all those coming – four tents and a camper van. It is a poignant trip for Dave and his Camper Van, after fourteen years the van is to be scrapped. Dave has purchased a new one, a Mazda Friendee Bongo but it is sad to see the orange and white VW go. The walk to Robin Hoods Bay is down a fairly gentle slope; far better than the normal steep hill. It crosses the old railway from Robin Hoods Bay to Ravenscar and on across fields of cows. A very large bull watches us but is content to chew the cud. The path then travels along the side of a deep ravine that is intensely green with Oaks, flower leaves and wonderful ferns, including many Hart’s Tongues. Just beyond the ravine we enter the village and discover there is a folk festival in full swing. We end up upstairs in The Dolphin where a singaround is in progress. Dave easily gets persuaded to borrow one of Stephen’s guitars and give a couple of songs. It is then off to the fish and chip shop. After stuffing ourselves, we then head for the beach. It is now head down and search the Jurassic rocks for fossils. We locate many in large boulders – shells of oysters, limpet types, scallops and plant material. I find a splendid little piece of tree trunk with the bark still attached. It then occurs to me that the tide has turned. By the time we reach the sea defences the water is already lapping around them. Fortunately, there is a path up the cliff. We come back down into the village and have a few pints outside The Bay whilst an impromptu folk show takes place. Then back to The Dolphin where, disgracefully, we stay until closing time.
Sunday 12th June – Whitby – We cook a gigantic breakfast of bacon, black pudding, sausages, kidneys, eggs, tomatoes, beans and rolls. It is now raining and getting the tents dismantled is a damp process. We then head into Whitby. The town is a wonderful old fishing port, but full of tourists, although the rain has reduced the throng. We discover the kipper smokehouse will not be open for another ninety minutes, so Kay and Dill the Dog make their soggy way back to the car. I wander around for a while, and then meet up with Dave and we decide a pint is in order (shandy in my case as I intend to drive shortly). The rain is now pelting down. We head over to the smokery and buy half a dozen pairs of dark brown kippers. I then trudge up the 199 steps to the abbey and over to the car park.
Wednesday 15th June – Old Waggon Road – It is trying to rain. Scarlet Field Poppies are like blood splattered across the green rape pods. Swallows sweep along the track over stagnant pools in the ruts. A Hare feeds on the edge of another field of rape. House Martins are thick in the air like the flies they are chasing over the sewage settling tanks. A Dunnock sits motionless on the fence. There is an interesting looking building in Low Mill Farm. Beside a normal looking stone barn is a ruined building with an arch that tapers to a wall with a small space in it. It looks like a furnace and reading Brian Elliott’s splendid “The Making of Barnsley” (Wharncliffe Publishing Ltd) confirms that this indeed is a furnace probably last worked in 1840 by Henry Hartop.
Thursday 16th June – Langsett – A trail leads away from the car park at Langsett Barn alongside the reservoir. The edge of the water is only occasionally visible through the thick plantation of fir trees, mainly Larches. A Mistle Thrush is being noisy high in the trees, rasping for all its worth. A few remaining Bluebells will shortly be submerged under rapidly growing Bracken. A Grey Squirrel runs along the path and up a tree, producing a half-hearted chase from Dill the Dog. Foxgloves stand high; one is a lovely creamy white. The space between the plantation and the path is an opportunity for other tree species to grab a foothold – Oaks, Mountain Ash (Rowan) and Sweet Chestnut all take advantage. Large old wooden fence posts stand along the path, rotting away with their bases driven deep into the thing topsoil and gritstone below. An abandoned quarry has greened over. Heather is splattered with “cuckoo spit” – the foamy protection of Frog Hopper larvae. The quarry floor under the main face is now a pool. Back on the path and a small Bracken is growing in a hole in the side of a Larch where a branch has fallen away. A surprise shrub is a Laburnum, mainly a garden plant in the United Kingdom although it is wild on the continent. A stone stairway leads up into the woods. It is dark and foreboding in here, but a merry Robin hops through the trees, singing. Chaffinches and Blue Tits are also chattering around me. The path meets a wide track through the forest used by the loggers. To one side is a large stock pen built of dry stone walls. It is overgrown and the huge gate posts stones bear no barrier. It is odd to see a number of trees that have been blown over and left.
Sunday 19th June – Birmingham – We have an overnight stay in the great Midlands city. The night was very hot and humid and as I set off with Dill the Dog. I am hot and she is panting. We head out along the Fazerley branch of the Birmingham canal system. The canal is dropping steadily here and the Aston flight consists of at least ten locks. A Lesser Black-backed Gull flies upstream. A Carrion Crow is searching around the locks for any morsels. Dog Roses are in bloom. Under the Avenue Road Bridge. HP Sauce is emblazoned on a tall building in the distance. A domesticated trunk of Honeysuckle blossoms. Where an old basin once took in commercial longboats, there is now just a cut-off lock and a massive new development of offices. Then it is back to the very unsightly industrial buildings with windows blocked with breeze block or long expanses of wall with a single handleless door. A Moorhen steps daintily across the run off channel beside a lock. Drake Mallards are in eclipse already. A long wall says “EC Compressors – Welcome to the Heartland” in coloured brick. Below is a brick mural of a canal boat called “The Lady Maria”. Just beyond is Thimblemill Road Lock and what, I assume, was once the lock-keeper’s house, a substantial home still in use. A pair of Canada Geese and three gawky goslings watch from the other side of the lock. Blackberry, Bindweed and Ragwort are all in flower. A young, tailless Magpie scurries away into the undergrowth. A Wren sings from an old iron fence; its song is different to the ones I hear around Barnsley – clearly still a Wren song but different.
Wednesday 22nd June – Barnsley Canal – A classic June day – bright sunshine, blue sky and fluffy white clouds. Elderflower blossoms cover their trees in creamy circles. Bladder Campion, Dog Roses, Zigzag Clover and Ox-eye Daisies all flower in profusion. A Little Owl sits in the fallen dead tree on Willowbank. I have learned the area between Tinkers Pond and the canal is the local bleachers where linen, once a major industry in Barnsley, was laid out to dry. A pair of Tufted Duck are on the canal but depart on sighting Dill the Dog. A Reed Warbler sings from a dense growth of reed where the drainage ditch from Greenfoot empties into the canal. A Sedge Warbler flies into a small Hawthorn and regales the area with its scratchy song. A Grey Heron stands erect in the field beyond the River Dearne and a small flock of Lapwings moves over. The fact that they are flocking up brings an unwelcome reminder that the mid year is past.
Sunday 26th June – Barnsley Canal – Another sunny day after a week of mixed weather. Locally, there has been some rain, but nationally there were flash floods in North Yorkshire last weekend and the Glastonbury Festival site was under several feet of water on Thursday. The canal is now incredibly green with new rushes grown high and about to flower and, further along, a thick carpet of water weeds. A Coot hurries its young, black bundles of fluff with a bright red spot on their heads, into the reeds and then lets out an explosive pink at Dill the Dog. Young Moorhens, nearly as big as their parents but still a dull brown colour, swim across the few bits of open water. A Chiffchaff is in song. Many young birds flit around the Hawthorns. They are hard to identify as they are in many stages of plumage change. One young Great Tit is having difficulty with its balance as it feeds on the twigs of the great Willow at the bottom of Willowbank. A Willow Tits disappears into the thick leaf cover. There are several Bullfinches around; one splendid pink breasted male meeps quietly as he flies past. A Little Grebe wails from the Loop. The air is swarming with insects. Elder blossom is beginning to go over. There are a couple of small groups, hardly herds, of horses beside the canal. They are all looking in fine condition, which is pleasing as this is not always the case here. Wood Pigeons are numerous, flying off noisily with the white stripe on their wings reminiscent of a wartime bomber. Grey Herons stand in the field beyond the River Dearne. A Kingfisher sits on a low branch over the water at the bottom of Willowbank.
Wednesday 29th June – Barnsley Canal – Thunder storms rolled up the country overnight, although they had lost a lot of their energy by the time they reached South Yorkshire. The morning is grey, but the air is fresh. Swifts scythe across the sky. A Coot pinks and Great Tits call. A pure white Foxglove stands tall on the edge of the canal. The Little Owl is missing from the dead tree. House Martins feed low over the field by the Loop.
Home – The garden is growing well. We are cropping Broad Beans and Lettuce. Runner and French Beans are growing well. Tomatoes are slow but will pick up in the next few weeks. Potatoes are a worry with several cases of Blackleg already. The roses in the front are a glorious display.