March 2001

Thursday 1st March – North Lincolnshire – The thinnest dusting of snow contrasts with the much heavier falls to the west. The Lapwing flocks are breaking up now, it is uncommon to see more than a dozen together now. Rooks carry twigs back to the large rookeries in small woods near the motorway. The gull numbers have also reduced and are mainly Black-headed Gulls now. Grey clouds loom in the west and to the north, the clouds are being enlargened by billows of white steam rising from the cooling towers of Ferrybridge and Drax power stations.

Saturday 3rd March – Yorkshire – All public footpaths, canal tow-paths, nature reserves and open land are now closed to the public as the Foot and Mouth outbreak spreads. Despite the brilliant sunshine, the countryside is deserted. Weirdly, people are getting close to panic buying meat, despite the growing concerns at the way it is being produced here. The Ministry for Farming and Fisheries seem to be spending their time devising safe ways of getting animals to slaughterhouses. There have been comments from government about culling wild animals to stop the spread of the disease. Strange times getting stranger!

Wednesday 7th March – Home – Suddenly the weather becomes milder. It rains overnight and the last of the snow vanishes. By mid afternoon the temperature has risen to 15°C. The ice has melted on the water features and the goldfish emerges. There is a pair of toads clasped in springtime rapture. Daffodils are close to flowering and many other shoots and seed leaves are appearing. Returning from the pub, a large frog hops away along the driveway.

Sunday 11th March – River Don, Sheffield – We join the Five Weirs Walk along the River Don at Salmon Pastures. Beside the path is a carved wooden salmon signed by J Thompson 1998. A large stone plaque with the inscription City of Sheffield Education Committee Salmon Pastures Schools 1908 is set into a bank. The site of the schools is now rough ground covered by Silver Birch and industrial premises. Catkins hang from Willows. Another Thompson carving, this time a seat depicting a salmon swimming through a tyre after a large hook. Many of the trees beside the river have been either chopped down or greatly pruned. The river is bordered by decaying stone walls with large factories, some emitting the sounds of clanking and metal working. An island below Burton Weir has flattened vegetation. One of the factories has wire grills surrounding the drainpipes. Vegetation trapped in the grills shows that the water in last year’s floods rose many feet above the current river level. It also explains the flattened vegetation and lopped or downed trees. Across the Norfolk Bridge built in 1856 and we lose the riverside path. The route into the city centre leads along streets of industrial buildings. A stone railway arch has been widened by laying a platform across the bridge supported by