September 2002

Wednesday 4th September – Home – The day starts grey, but not misty as yesterday. Now there really was an autumnal feel about the early morning. It brightens during the day. I pick pounds of Runner Beans and leave many more behind. I am going to make some Runner Bean Piccalilli with the glut. Tomatoes are also coming thick and fast. I must pull the Beetroot soon; although they not large, I do not want them to turn woody. A leucistic Robin visits the bird table regularly. House Martins are feeding high above. Great Tits hang on to the peanut feeder. White butterflies flit across the garden.

Friday 6th September – Barnsley Canal – A loud cackle from a large Ash tree beside the canal splits the morning air. But the Green Woodpecker that made the utterance remains hidden from view. Groups of rasping Mistle Thrushes fly over – the end of summer is nigh! Questioning wheeps come from the depths of Hawthorns; Willow Warblers asking if it is time to depart for southern lands. The Hawthorns are loaded with scarlet berries, a feast laid out for returning guests, the winter thrushes. There is much movement between bushes around the old dock and up to the bridge – Whitethroats, Blackcaps and Long-tailed Tits in particular. Beyond the bridge and out into the open, the meadow up the hill is tinged blue with Field Scabious. Thistles and Great Willowherbs are laden with fluffy white seed heads, ready for a breeze to distribute them across the valley.

Sunday 8th September – Barrow – Mistle Thrushes are again evidence in good numbers on the track that runs down and round the old colliery site. Large numbers of Chaffinches are feeding in the stubble and returning noisily to the trees lining the road. A Jay chacks loudly and slips through the trees.

Thursday 12th September – Grange Gate – Walking up the old railway track on a grey, dull and very quiet morning, It is hard going as my knee is very painful. Only an occasional tick from a Robin, chirp of Blue Tit or chack from a Magpie breaks the silence. The Dearne looks greasy and sluggish. Bushes are laden with fruit – Haws, Elderberries and Hips. A Canada Goose stands motionless on a track worn in the field by motorbikers. The remains of a pigeon are scattered over the grass – wonder what got it? A passing Peregrine maybe? Bullfinches slip through the Hawthorns. Mallard wing down the valley and alight on the river, starting off the Canada Goose that honks long and loudly. A Grey Heron stands on the water’s edge and then decides it will quieter elsewhere. The area is composed of greens and browns with large amounts of reds from berries. However, there are splashes of yellow from Toadflax, Hawkbits and Broom and a subtle patch of blue Hare Bells. Up on hillside in the Oak scrub I locate enough boletus fungi to make a large pan of soup. Tit flocks are moving through the trees here, Long-tailed Tits especially vocal.

Saturday 14th September – Penistone Fair – Maybe a little disappointing with the lack of animals – only a few cattle (but they were magnificent – huge DraysBelgian Blues (does my bum look big – you betcha!), lovely little jet black Dexters, golden Aquitaine Blondes and hefty Charolais). The beer “tent” was particularly disappointing, a trailer selling expensive fizz! We missed the Lurcher and Ferret show and got bored with the show jumping. The heavy cart horses were splendid though. A trailer carried a beagle pack. I was tempted in the poultry show by a pair for £15, but they looked a bit on the light side to be good layers. The vegetable competition had clearly been fierce. Maybe I could have competed in the Runner Bean, Tomato and Beetroot sections, but the rest of them were way above my standard. There was the usual display of gleaming motorcycles, cars and lorries. Of particular interest was a Norton motorcycle with a Wankle Rotary engine; apparently only 100 were built. The standing engines puffed and puttered merrily.

Thursday 19th September – Old Mill – Above the canal on the old glassworks site. There has been an area of high pressure over the country for the last week resulting in dry but dull grey days with a touch of dampness. There are scattered patches of Michaelmas Daisies which are of varying shades of purple, some pale violet, others deep purple. Mistle Thrushes rasp as they cross the hill. A Chiffchaff persists in singing despite the need to head south, although maybe he will be one of the increasing number over-wintering, although these are often German birds. A cock Pheasant calls loudly as he is disturbed by a dog and flies off over the valley. Greenfinches occupy the tops of trees. There is a temporary fence around a hole in the path, “Danger Keep Out” signs. Maybe an old shaft has opened up. House Martins soar overhead. Large green Acorns adorn Oaks.

Monday 23rd September – Barnsley Canal – The Autumn Equinox, from now on more night than day. The area of high pressure has remained over the country. The weekend was mainly dull but this morning is bright and sunny. A Robin is singing, another is ticking angrily. There are large patches of bright yellow-green spongy algae on the canal. In some patches it has turned a nasty brown. A Grey Heron squawks down the river.

Home – Out come the last of the Beetroot. They have performed well, nice round roots that cook nicely. Most are pickled but a couple saved for a vegetable dish later in the week, and one is grated into spiced rice. Out too come the Red Onions. They really suffered the attentions of Grey Squirrels and replanting and bolting has not helped. There are a couple of decent bulbs but most are sad affairs. The outdoor tomatoes are still looking fine. The application of Bordeaux Mixture seems to have kept blight at bay. It is an interesting argument about using Bordeaux Mixture with many saying it is not organic. However, it seems that one either sprays or loses the entire crop to blight, so the argument is to spray or not bother to grow at all!

Thursday 26th September – Barnsley Canal – Another pleasant sunny day, although there is enough coolness in the air to say “Autumn is near”. Mistle Thrushes are moving around the Hawthorns with only occasional rasps. Willow and Long-tailed Tits are vocal. I leave the tow-path and go down into the rough meadow. Down here it is clear how rank the pasture has become – long grasses and dense tall thistles fouled by horses. Brambles creep though the grasses trying to trip me. However there are some excellent Blackberries in the shaded spots. Those in direct sunshine have already rotted. A Green Woodpecker calls from up the valley. On returning, a small flock of Starlings tours the area. Suddenly there is a dreadful screeching from near the river. A Magpie investigates but moves off. I suspect a Water Rail, but I am still not sure.

Home – Another four pounds of Runner Beans to turn into piccalilli. I can choose the beans from the dozens hanging on the plants. Many will now be left to dry. Almost all the pears have fallen from the tall old trees at the bottom of the garden. I was not vigilant enough and there are holes gnawed into them by rodent teeth. In the evening as I finish watering (what an extraordinarily dry month this has been) a bat flits overhead.

Friday 27th September – Grange Gate – A few Fly Agaric toadstools are emerging under Willow and Birch scrub. They are late this year, probably due to the lack of rain. A Green Woodpecker yaffles in the distance. Long-tailed Tits squeak as they flit through the bushes accompanied by a few Blue and Great Tits. An odd song comes from the scrub, a bit like a thrush family but slurred and jumbled. I eventually find the songster – a juvenile Blackbird still learning his lines. Up on the steep hillside under the Oaks I find only one cep (which turns out to be badly wormed). We really need a good rainfall.

Saturday 28th September – Old Mill, Harborough Hill – There has been a small landslip on the exposed edge of sandstone behind the retail park. Some decent sized boulders have come down as well as a lot of sandy soil. Two Grey Herons flap down the river valley. Below by the canal a Jay and Moorhen call. Robins are getting into their winter song cycle. A Carrion Crow caws, to no apparent effect, from high on an electricity pylon.

Sunday 29th September – Deffer Woods – It has been a long time since I visited this managed woodland between Cannon Hall and High Hoyland. Blue Tits are noisy in the tall Oaks. There is an occasional flower on the rhododendrons. It is a nicely mixed woodland with ranks of conifers broken by deciduous species. At one corner there is a small circular shelter with a bench that overlooks a valley of fields. Cattle crop the grass and sweet corn stands high. On returning down the long straight trail to the North Lodge, a Great Spotted Woodpecker calls angrily at a Jay which slips off through the trees. A slight breeze causes leaves, twigs and acorns to shower down around us.

Monday 30th September – Wombwell Ings – High cloud, slight breeze and bright sunshine – a beautiful September day. The scene is autumnal, ploughed fields and tiny green shoots of winter wheat. I head up the old road, over Marles Bridge and then follow the River Dearne towards the old railway (Cudworth-Mexborough line). The A1-M1 link road crosses the river here, a wide concrete affair with no redeeming features. Just the other side is a slope covered with roses; hips glowing vermillion in the sun. There is also a Burnet Rose with flattened black hips. Up onto the railway and look across at Old Moor Wetlands. There is still much talk about the RSPB taking over the site, but this has been going on for several years now. The wildfowl numbers are building, as is the size of the Lapwing flock. Wigeon are whistling, Canada Geese their usual argumentative selves, Cormorants standing drying their wings, Mute Swans upended in the water, feeding on the bottom and a pair of Redshank winging across the pools. Dill the Dog bounds up to a Doberman which promptly turns tail and runs away!