Ramblings

September 2004


Saturday 4th September – Fleets Dam – House Martins and Swallows are swooping across the lake in the early morning sun. Shoals of fry are feeding near the surface, whilst larger fish create swirls out in the deeper water. Steam rises above the weir and there are columns of midges over the water.

Coxes Lock, Addlestone, Surrey – Bright sunshine has brought out people in droves. The motorways are choked with heavy traffic. By the lock, young people sit and talk, anglers cast their lines and three motor cruisers move gently between the narrow lock walls. The ratchet is turned and the sluices open and the water churns outside the lower-side gate. The boats slowly sink into the lock until the water level inside matches that of the river below the lock, the gates are opened and off they go. A Coot preens itself on the canal. There is a dam across the lake that fed the old mill. Its top is just under water and a row of Canada Geese stand on it, looking like they are standing on the water. Beautiful damselflies (either Agrion splendens – the Banded Agrion or A. virgo) flit over the channel that fed the mill. Their bodies are an iridescent green-blue with large black patches on their wings. There are also some damselflies with clear wings and blue/black striped bodies – probably Common Blues.

Friday 10th September – Barnsley Canal – It appears that Autumn has arrived. A heavy mist hangs over the whole area. Scattered snatches of Robin song pierce the gloom. A Chiffchaff starts his song but soon falters. A Wren arrows across the canal. The water is covered in green waterweed; tracks in the weed show the movement of mainly Moorhens. A Green Woodpecker cackles, hidden in the trees. Hips and Haws are ripening red.

Monday 13th September – Fleets Dam – Bright sun and high winds heralds the passing of a front that was the remnants of Hurricane Frances. The third major hurricane of the year, Ivan, is sweeping through the Caribbean towards Cuba and Florida. Its effects will be felt here in a couple of weeks. The seed pods of Himalayan Balsam are spring loaded. Pick one and it splits into strips that curl back exposing the seeds. Having one go off in ones hand is a quite disturbing feeling.

Sunday 19th September – Saltaire – A French Market is being held in the main street of the village built by mill owner Titus Salt for his workers. Stalls display piles of crusty loaves and croissants, fruit and vegetables – peaches, greengages, artichokes, smoked garlic and large piles of yellow girolles, which we call Chanterelles, a trumpet shaped mushroom. There are stacks of dried sausage of many varieties, including a stall of German ones. A display of candied fruits is multicoloured. Succulent pastries drip with honey and there are cheeses from Normandy – deciding which to buy is difficult.

Tuesday 21st September – Barnsley Canal – It is cool with wind gusting through the willows, shaking them violently. At home apples are falling in large numbers. Here, Elderberries hang black and pendulous from their drooping branches. Blackberries are beginning to turn dull as yeasts form on the over-ripe fruits. Hips and Haws are brilliant reds. A Chiffchaff tries to sing but is discouraged by the wind and now slight rain. A Robin makes a better attempt, but Blue Tits content themselves with short, sharp squeaks. A Blackbird calls its alarm. Shooters with gundogs are after Mallard. I am ambivalent about this; they are exploiting a natural and local food source but I would rather they did not do it on my patch.

Saturday 25th September – Greenfoot Lane and Barnsley Canal – Greenfoot Lane runs down from the Gawber Road, where the hospital now stands, to the Wakefield and Leeds railway line. Just before the railway is a stand of Hazels beside the Junior School. Most the cobs have gone but there are a good number of small, tightly closed, pale green catkins, which seems odd. A path leads to a narrow tunnel under the railway embankment. The walls of the tunnel are rough hewed stone whilst the arching roof is brick. Horses use the tunnel, especially for shelter in inclement weather, as evidenced by the amount of droppings underfoot. The field beyond the tunnel leads to the open pasture on the hill above the canal; a northerly extension of Willowbank. A Jay flies over, followed a few moments later by a Great Spotted Woodpecker which flies high over the valley before dropping down into trees on the flood plain. The sky is grey with threatening clouds, the wind gusts and there is the hint of rain in the air.