October 2000

Sunday 1st October – Winscar – The reservoir high on the moors reflects the blue sky. An autumnal coolness pervades. Meadow Pipits pipe. Smoke rises from a chimney in the small group of houses below the dam at Dunford Bridge. The moors, conifer plantations and pastures are multi-hued greens. A Moth, probably one of the yellow-underwings (it, unhelpfully, does not expose its underwing) is feeding energetically on a thistle.

Friday 6th October – Barnsley Canal – A bright chilly autumn morning. Grass is drenched with dew. Pinking Chaffinches call from either side of the canal. A family of Dunnocks chase around bramble thicket. Hips and Haws are shiny red, awaiting the winter thrushes to disperse their precious seeds. A plop and a few ripples marks the departure of a Water Vole from the bank into the green surfaced canal. In the shade of an Ash, the grass is whitened by a hint of frost. A Willow Tit searches the interior of a Hawthorn, calling incessantly. Water Speedwell is in flower in the canal.

Saturday 14th October – Barnsley – A charm of Goldfinches feed on the heads of Teasels by Redbrook industrial estate.

Ingleton – A village on the route from Yorkshire to the English Lake District. It lies on the confluence of two Pennine Dales’ rivers, the Twiss and the Doe. The Twiss drains Kingsdale and the Doe drains Chapel-le-Dale. The floors of these dales end high above Ingleton, so the rivers plunge down through gorges to the village. A walk takes one up the Twiss to Kingsdale and then down the Doe back to Ingleton. Inevitably it is raining. In the car park are clumps of Honey Fungus, which gets cropped later for dinner. We set off up Swilla Glen. Dill the Dog is hyperactive, chasing around the wet grasses and getting gloriously muddy. The River Twiss is coloured like strong tea from the peat on the dale. The surrounding gorge is early Carboniferous limestone, which is folded and tilted. A fallen tree is studded with coins hammered into the wood – a strange piece of sculpture. There is then a great fault, the North Craven Fault, in the rocks and it becomes Ordovician Shale. A bridge crosses the rushing waters and another fault and the rock is now a mixture of Ordovician slates and sandstones. The difference in the erosive qualities of these rocks results in spectacular waterfalls – the Pecca Falls. The waters thunders down the gorge frothing like Guinness. The country now opens out with high dale sides above and scree lining the steep grassy slopes. The path leads to Thornton Force. Here the upper part of the cliff is horizontally bedded Carboniferous limestone, whilst the lower part is vertically bedded Lower Ordovician slates. At the junction of the beds, the slates have been planed off and the limestone rests on a level surface. This is called an “unconformity” because the beds above and below the erosion surface have a different angle of dip. This results in a 14 metre waterfall. The geology is fascinating. The muds and sands of the Ordovician Period, after being folded up into mountains, have been eroded through the Devonian Period and then, in the Carboniferous Period, a warm shallow sea covered the area. The shells of countless millions of sea creatures formed the limestone. The path crosses the end of Kingsdale and heads across past Twisleton Hall and drops down to Beezley farm. The track is blocked by gates in between which the Dales sheep have been herded. They are being shorn in a small open shed. Fortunately, there is a little path around the sheep, or else we would have problems as Dill the Dog is fascinated by so many in one place. There are more sheep in the next section of track and we hurry past, as it is clear they are not going to be intimidated by a small white dog! The path enters more old woodland and the River Doe plunged down deep, dark gorges, over Beezley Falls, through Baxenghyll Gorge and Snow Falls. Oaks are twisted and Rowans grow out of cracks in the rocks. Back down towards the village are the remains of old quarries and a modern quarry is hidden in the hills. We are utterly soaked by now and a chip shop is very welcome.

Wednesday 18th October – Grimsby Docks – Dozens of Great Black-backed Gulls stand on the roof of a fish shed as sea foods are prepared in the many storage areas along one of the maze of sheds and preparation area on the docks. One occasionally swoops on a discarded piece of fish, starting a massive squabble involving Great Black-back, Herring, Common and Black-headed Gulls. In one of the harbours, now housing yachts instead of trawlers, other gulls are washing in the fading light before heading to their roosts. A Cormorant flies over. Red lights stare from the tall Italianate tower which is part of the lock mechanism.

Sunday 22nd October – Darton – A heavy frost tints the green grass white. Slowly, a few trees are turning to golds, reds and browns but many are defiantly still green. Hawthorns are still heavy with berries, although the arriving winter thrushes will soon strip them. Yesterday, Fieldfares flew over the M1 at Calder Vale. Fresh, dark molehills have been thrown up.

Monday 23rd October – Barnsley Canal – Everywhere is wet after overnight rain. Three Mistle Thrushes fly over Willowbank. Another is being harassed next to the canal by some small finches, probably Goldfinches. A Willow Tit buzzes. A Robin ticks. Bullfinches feed on the last of the Elderberries. A Great Tit complains loudly as our passage past disturbs its meal on fluffy Bulrush heads.

Monday 24th October – Grimsby Docks – Black-headed and Common Gulls come for some stale bread thrown into the harbour. A pair of Cormorants dive. A Kingfisher speeds along the dock and disappears into the piles. It is not clear whether there is a route under concrete hard and sheds or if the Kingfisher is fishing from the wooden struts of the dock. A number of Great Black-backed Gulls stand on the dock near to an area which is slowly collapsing. Many more are standing on the fish sheds.

Sunday 29th October – Hoyle Mill – Squabbling Canada Geese soon forget their disputes of status when I throw them bread. However, Black-headed Gulls are quicker and get much of it. Gales have raged all night, blowing out the central heating boiler. For once it relit without the usual frustrations. A Green Woodpecker flies across the Dearne Valley. A Grey Heron stands on decking on the riverbank. Acorns are scattered over the woodland floor and dried leave crackle underfoot. There is little in the way of fungi left now. A Jay flies deeper into the woodland and another, more distant, Green Woodpecker yaffles. Goldcrests, Blue and Great Tits move through the bushes.