Ramblings

September 2007


Saturday 1st September – The Grey Horse – A rather poignant moment when Bill arrives on his own. Dill the Dog greets him and then stands in the middle of the room looking around for her friend Prince. He’s gone, says Bill sadly. It takes a few more minutes before she realises the old spaniel is not there and lays down quietly.

Monday 3rd September – Bagger Woods – These woods lay on a hillside near Hood Green to the west of Barnsley. It is cool and quiet wandering own the path between the mixture of broadleaves and softwoods. No bird song in the air, just ticks, wheeps and chirps of tits and warblers. A Wood Pigeon coos then flies off with a crack of its wings.

Green Moor – A village on the ridge between the valleys created by the Don and Little Don rivers. A pair of seats overlooks the valley through which the Don flows. A road runs along the hillside a short distance from the wooded valley floor. Above lies Huthwaite Wood, then Huthwaite Common and on the hilltop is Thurgoland. Just below the seats and the current retaining wall is an older wall which would have lay beside the old track down to California quarry. Sandstone quarries were Quarryworked on a large scale in the area. During the 19th century stone paving was transported by sea to London. There was a Greenmoor Wharf at Southwark, and some of the stone flags around the Houses of Parliament came from these quarries. Rail replaced the sea route, going from Wortley Station where there was a stone sawmill. Behind me is the Green Moor Church, a Methodist chapel. The road is called Castle View, although I am unclear as to what castle is being referred to, Stainborough Castle seems too far away. Sheep graze the rough pasture below. Up Chapel Lane and past the old Church Hall which is an activity centre for the Boys Brigade. Rooks are worrying a Kestrel over the fields behind the houses lining the road. The lane reaches a T-junction and I turn left along a rough track which has been laid with fine large flags at some stage, but only a few now remain. A footpath leads up the hill beside the cricket field. The drystone walls at each end of the pitch have been painted white. A Pied Wagtail stalks across the grass. A flock of Meadow Pipits, some chasing each other and swirling and Stocksbridgeswooping in the air, crosses the top of the field.

Towards the summit is the Isle of Skye quarry. This was the first quarry in Green Moor. By the Victorian era it was owned by Booth and Co. The boulders extracted were the largest in the area and had a fine sheen and pale green colour. The quarry was up to sixty feet deep but closed at the end of the 19th century. A good number of rough rectangular slabs still lay in piles around the area. A Painted Lady butterfly is feeding on the masses of purple Heather. At the top of the hill is a toposcope on a stone plinth. The map points out, to the east, the great power stations in East Yorkshire, Ferrybridge, Eggborough and Drax. As usual, York Minster is lost in the haze. To the west, Hunshelf Bank drops steeply down to the steel mill and town of Stocksbridge, then the land rises to the Moors rolling along the skyline, their peaks just gentle rises – West Nab, Cakes of Bread (fifteen foot high tors of gritstone weathered to resemble loaves of bread), Back Tor, Featherbed Moss, Margery Hill (just the highest at 1791 feet), Pike Lowe and Holme Moss. A little, brightly coloured butterfly flits up from the grass, a Small Copper. Along the hill top to the Jubilee fire basket and then back to the cricket field. I sit here a while in the sunshine. The view of the ridge is somewhat marred by mobile telephone masts and electricity pylons. Swallows sweep over the closely mown grass. A large plume of black smoke followed by billowing steam rises in the distance from Royston coking plant. Crane Flies are numerous, clattering into my face. The moon is pale, high in the sky.

Tuesday 4th September – Finkle Street – A lane runs off of the junction for the A616 trunk road and the A629. Rough Lane runs through fields of rough meadow and harvested grain. Large numbers of Wood Pigeons are gleaning the latter. To the north-west is the steep escarpment of Hunshelf Bank and Green Moor where I wandered yesterday. The hedgerows are looking tired, the leaves have lost their shine and brown patches are appearing. The lane rises and then drops down into a valley of rocky fields. A disused quarry stands at the edge of a field of sheep. A small stream, mainly rocky pools, runs through the valley. The road rises again. A flock of over twenty Red-legged Partridge fly up from the edge of a field. The road comes to a T-junction at Moor End Farm. The metalled road ceases and farm tracks take over. Further up the hill across a field is a wood called The Height. Noisy Jays are screeching, hidden in the trees. A Yellowhammer flies over. The northwards track drops down past fields then through a gate onto Gosling Moor. The moor is a hillside with a sparse covering of trees, Oaks and Silver Birch. Large cobbles have been laid in the track, but it is now rough and broken. The track descends to Gosling Moor Farm and Finkle Street. The name Finkle Street is quite common and has various explanations. One is that Finkle comes from the Old Norse meaning a bend or dog-leg. There is a old Danish word, vincle meaning a corner. A footpath leads eastwards and then south, back over the fields towards Rough Lane. The path passes through a gate into a very marshy area. Dill the Dog makes heavy weather of it and soon gets shiny black legs; I get wet feet.

The path continues across a field of cows. To avoid the cows we follow the edge to a gate, on which there is an owl pellet, and then across to the far side and through a collapsed wall. Again, Dill the Dog struggles over the fallen stones. (It may be added that she is in a foul mood and clearly does not want to be out walking anywhere!) On cow stands and stares at us the whole way, the others continue to graze. The trunk road provides a constant background noise. A Hare disappears behind a wall. Up the field several birds squeak and disappear. They look like large Guinea Fowl, but were probably female Pheasants. I go up to check but they have gone. Some male Ring-necked Pheasants are across in another field. Suddenly a Common Buzzard appears gliding near the road. They are becoming much commoner around here in recent years. Up the field and back into the cow field. Here is a stile of stone steps over the wall. Dill the Dog has to be helped over, a messy job as she is still very muddy. The path becomes very boggy again. Yellow vetches and blue Devilsbit Scabious grow amongst the sedges. Another stile takes the path onto Rough Lane.

Wednesday 5th September – Huddersfield – I have been promising myself a trip on the Penistone-Huddersfield railway line for many a year. So off I go. The train arrives at Barnsley late, but at least it is here unlike the Leeds train that has been cancelled, leaving a lot of grumpy people on the platform. The fare is reasonable in comparison with driving, taking parking costs into account. The problem is that the fare structure cannot accommodate couples or families, except on some special routes, and two or more people paying this level of fare makes the car a more economical (if, obviously less environmentally friendly) option. The train heads out to Penistone past wheat fields that have been mostly harvested now. One field has been ploughed and farrowed. A lot of the journey to Penistone is through woodland, dark and still. After Penistone the line crosses a long viaduct over the River Don and then over the A628. Through a longish tunnel and then the fields near Gunthwaite. There are many deep cuttings and then another very high viaduct over the River Holme and Denby Dale. On past Shepley and Stocksmoor station and into another long tunnel, emerging near Brockholes. The line is single track and the unused platform at Brockholes has the old station house, now looking like a private dwelling, but still with a long sign saying London, Midland and Scottish Railway on the wall and LYR etched windows. Three more stations, Honley (where on again the unused platform there is a closed stairway with the original iron railings, so many having been removed during the Second World War), Berry Brow Huddersfieldand Lockwood and the line joins the main Trans-Pennine route at Springwood Junction. Shortly we enter Huddersfield Station. From inside, the station looks like a fairly typical Victorian affair, but leaving the front entrance reveals a far more magnificent vista. The main entrance is a classical style façade designed by James Piggott Pritchard in 1847-8 with a Corinthian portico of the consisting of six columns in width and two in depth. Two smaller entrances in a similar style sit at each end of the main façade, both now leading into pubs. Pevsner regarded the station as one of the best early railway stations in England.

On the station forecourt is a large statue of Harold Wilson, former Prime Minister and scion of Huddersfield. Opposite is St George’s Square. In the centre is a circular garden with a circular central wall which looks like it ought to contain a fountain or something. Opposite the station is Lion Buildings, with a large stone lion on the roof, built in 1853. To the right is another imposing building, once building society offices, with Britannia on the top. Opposite this is the George Hotel, built in 1851 on the site of an earlier one built in 1687. It was here in 1895 that Rugby League was born. Past the Lion Building and into the main shopping streets. Many of the imposing Victorian buildings, built in pale sandstone, remain although there are some unfortunate modern interlopers. (Do architects really think steel, concrete and glass edifices are in keeping with Victorian architecture? Or are they just interested in their own egoist designs regardless of their inappropriateness.) There are yards, often with the names of old taverns, behind the shops, many seemingly used just for storage. The Art Gallery has a nice exhibition of Japanese prints from the early 19th century and some modern works.

The parish church of St Peter is surrounded by scaffolding and the tranquillity inside is rather marred by banging and workmen shouting into