greenhouseWe’re almost there with the vegetable garden as this morning we got around to planting the Jet Set onion sets in the bed between the shed and the greenhouse. We spread an old piece of garden fleece over them because we always get a few pulled up by the birds. We push them back in again but until the sets start sprouting we have to take a guess as to whereabouts they came out so we end up with a few gaps and a few being overcrowded.

First Swallow

swallowsIt felt like the start of summer today as we looked out and saw our first swallows, a pair of them, perched on the telephone wires. They stayed there for more than two hours. I’m sorry that I haven’t got a suitable barn or outbuilding for them to nest in.

Garden Shed

shedhedgehog droppingWe found a fresh hedgehog dropping this morning, on the end slab of the top of the low retaining wall of herb bed, nearest to the house. Less welcome, but seemingly inevitable, hedgehogBarbara says she’s also spotted rat droppings as she edged the lawn. Yesterday our next door neighbours found a dead one at the end of their garden.

BiscuitBiscuit, the pony with attitude, hasn’t made an appearance in my sketchbook recently. Apparently he has been sold. If Biscuit had been a player on my team, he would definitely have been up for free transfer. But I’ll miss him.

The nestbox as it was when new. It needs a clear out inside but I didn't get around to doing that during the winter.

The nestbox as it was when new. It needs a clear out inside as I didn’t get around to doing that during last winter.

Latest from the blue tit box on the patio; blue tits were in and out of it a couple of weeks ago. A house sparrow briefly investigated it but bumble beeall we’ve seen in the last week is an occasional bumble bee hovering by the entrance hole and going inside.

For the first time in forty years as a freelance I got my accounts started, finished and even submitted my tax return online in just one day. They’re simple enough – working out the proportion of printing costs against book sales is as complicated as it gets – blue titbut in previous years there always seemed to be one mystery item that would hold me up.

Now I haven’t got that hanging over me, perhaps I’ll feel more freedom to get off and draw.

The Brig Barn Mystery

Brig BarnShip InnWas this outbuilding at the Ship Inn at ‘the Brig’ (Horbury Bridge), a barn or a stables? As there is a pulley to the left of the upper door/hatch could it have been a warehouse? Perhaps it was connected with the woollen or rag trade?

The lean-to, if we can judge by that matching window, appears to be part of the original building but the extension at the back looks like a later addition.

BarnfantailsTwenty or thirty years ago the upper storey was used as a loft for fantail pigeons. The entrance hatch and landing platform are still there in the middle of the upper door.

As I said the other day, there’s supposed to be a unique ladder or staircase inside but, from this side of the surrounding fence, I haven’t been able to spot it as the demolition continues.

I can see that the inner wall is modern-looking brick, the roof timbers sawn timber, so it is probably early twentieth century rather than early Victorian or Georgian. We can be sure that the stone-built, flag-roofed Ship Inn is at least 150 years old because it gets a mention (an unfavourable mention!)  in Baring-Gould’s account of Horbury Bridge in 1864.

Middups and Shippon

Ship Inn

What a shame that they’re demolishing this building that has been part of the townscape for so long. This was originally the rear of the inn, as you can see in the map below. The present main Wakefield to Huddersfield road through Horbury Bridge dates from the mid-twentieth century.

cowsThe field behind the Ship Inn was known as the Middups. Perhaps, like the place name Midhope this meant a secluded field in the middle of a valley.

It was in this field that local weaver and talented musician David Turton calmed a bellowing bull by tuning up his bass viol and playing a chorus from Handel.

The Ship sounds a likely name for an inn next to an inland waterway but alternatively it might refer to a shippon or cow shed.

Horbury Bridge 1906

Horbury Bridge

Ordnance Survey map of Horbury Bridge in 1906 superimposed on an Apple Maps aerial view. The old ‘barn’ marked in yellow.


Horbury Bridge, Ordnance Survey 1906

My thanks to Paul Spencer who pointed out, via Twitter, that there was a blacksmith’s close to the old ‘barn’. He sent me a copy of the Ordnance Survey map of Horbury Bridge for 1906 which I’ve superimposed on a present day aerial view. The ‘barn’, which I’ve highlighted in yellow, isn’t shown on the 1906 map but its footprint doesn’t overlap the older building – long demolished – immediately to the north, so it could be a century old.

Aerial view from the Apple Maps app.

Aerial view from the Apple Maps app. Note the new road which dates from the mid-twentieth century.

I’ve always wondered exactly how the Old Cut, abandoned and filled in during the twentieth century, fitted in to the layout of the Brig.

The river bridge of the early twentieth century was narrower than the modern version and crossed the river at a slightly different alignment.

Link; Account by Baring-Gould of the story of David Turton and the bull. This doesn’t mention that this took place in the field known as the Middups. My source for that was Horbury man Bernard Larrad, born (c. 1895-1980), who also told me that he had a photograph of himself as a baby sitting on Baring-Gould’s knee. Why he was so honoured wasn’t explained. As far as I remember, Bernard didn’t claim to be related to Baring-Gould.

Last of the Leeks

last of the leeksIt’s been a beautiful day, sunny and settled; perfect for making progress with the veg beds. We’re concentrating on getting our failsafe regular crops in. Broads beans last week, Vivaldi potatoes, beetroot and perpetual spinach today. We also sowed a row of radishes but I wouldn’t describe them as failsafe, perhaps because if they do take and don’t get perforated by flea beetle we invariably miss them at their best.

We’ve cleared all three of our raised beds including the one with the leeks in. The freezer is now full to capacity after Barbara managed to fit in several bags of chopped leeks. It’s hardly the time of year for leek soup so hopefully we’ll find something else that we can make with them.

Song Post

blackbirdThe blackbird that I heard practicing its phrases in the dawn chorus mid-March has added grace notes and decorations to its basic song. At lunchtime today he was giving a burst of song from a perch on top of the telegraph pole next door.

Grow for Flavour

Grow for Flavour, James WongAt this time of year everything seems possible in the garden. There’s still time to plant whatever we want to grow. Perhaps if I spent as much time gardening as I do getting myself inspired by reading about it and watching Gardener’s World, I’d get a bit further.

Veg beds as they were in 2012, which, as that's 3 years ago, is the way they will be this year.

Veg beds as they were in 2009 and 2012, which, as we try to keep to a three year rotation, is pretty much what we’re aiming for this year.

I’ve enjoyed two recent books which offer different approaches to which varieties of vegetables to grow and how to grow them. Kew on a Plate takes the view that for taste we might try going back to the heritage fruit and vegetables that predate the standardised, high-yield varieties required by the supermarkets. There’s been a tendency to go for varieties with a long shelf life, which are tough enough to survive transportation, but that doesn’t always go hand in hand with improved taste. But things are changing and most supermarkets are now making efforts to offer a range of locally grown produce.

leeksThe book tells the story of the project to reestablish the Royal kitchen garden at Kew. One problem that the gardeners had was with the heritage soft fruits which attracted the attention of grey squirrels, foxes and probably even a few human visitors who found them just too tempting.

Raymond Blanc devised the recipes, often inspired by his memories of the kitchen garden of his childhood in a village in Franche-Comté, eastern France.

barrowIn Grow for Flavour, James Wong takes a rather different view. For instance he reminds us that it’s not always true that heritage varieties are the tastiest.

He looks at simple ways to boost flavour, for instance by cutting down on watering. Overwatering results in bigger fruits and vegetables but often at the cost of diluting the flavour.

Trials have demonstrated that it’s possible to get improved results by deliberately putting a plant under a modest amount of stress, by tricking it, for instance, into thinking that it should start producing more fruit or into protecting itself from attack by pests, sometimes producing bitter-tasting compounds which result in a more complex flavour.


James Wong, Grow for Flavour

The Kew on a Plate garden

Out Like a Lion

wheelie binsNo dawn chorus this morning or if there is we’re not going to hear above the whistling, rattling wind but at 4.30 we hear the recycling bin, which we’ve put out on the pavement, blow over. I don’t want any paperwork I might have put in there blowing down the road so I pull on some jeans and grab my jacket and wedge it back under the lamp-post.  But it blows over again 15 minute later so I have to trot out again and bring back to the shelter of the porch until breakfast time.


buzzard I-SpybuzzardA buzzard circles above the wood then heads over the meadow and garden towards the house. Looking up through my sloping roof-light window I can see it almost vertically overhead as it passes over my studio, the pancake patterns beneath its wing picked out by the afternoon sun.

However many times I see it fly over, I don’t think that I’ll ever get over the excitement that I feel when I see a buzzard. Even when it’s flying over our suburban street, that circling silhouette conjures up wild places for me.

I-Spy BirdsI saw my first buzzard in the Lake District, aged nine, on Wednesday 31 August 1960. I know the date because I still have the I-Spy Birds booklet that I started on that holiday.

I-Spy BirdsBirds of prey in general made a big impression on me, so much so that I chose them as the subject for a school project.

Birds of Prey

 Aged of nine or ten I already had big ideas about the kind of books that I’d like to write and illustrate. The gold label and ambitious title suggest that I was aiming for something authoritative.

I was struggling to work out how to produce the stand-out illustrations that I saw in books and on the Brooke Bond tea cards that I collected. Using large hogs-hair brushes and school powder paints wasn’t going to help.

from my Birds of Prey booklet

There’s some evidence in this handwriting of the essential tremor that I remember having since age seven. No wonder I’ve always found drawing and writing something of a challenge.

The method used for teaching joined-up writing or ‘real writing’ at my junior school was to keep the pen in contact with the paper throughout the word then go back to dot the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s. By the age of nine I’d already given up this method for my personal projects, preferring more compact block capitals which allowed me to fit my text in amongst my drawings. 
Observer's Book of BirdsI treasured a copy of The Observer’s Book of British Birds which I kept in my gabardine pocket, even though it was unlikely that I’d spot a Montagu’s harrier or a Dartford warbler in the school playground.

buzzardUnfortunately I found myself unable to emulate Archibald Thorburn’s elegant illustrations in the wax crayons available to me in Mr Lindley’s class. But I’ve added my own touch with the background; the Lakeland hills and crag where I’d recently seen that first buzzard.

Sunday morning with Scrivener

using Scrivener

Full screen distraction-free writing in Scrivener.

 I like to keep things as simple as possible, which why I’ve pared down the pens and watercolours in my art bag to the bare minimum. It’s the same with writing. You might assume that pen and paper would be the ultimate in simplicity but if you’re like me and you go over and over your text trying to make it clearer and more succinct you can end up with an almost illegible mess of crossings out and rewrites.

Notes for my 'Walks around Ossett' booklet.

Notes written while researching my ‘Walks around Ossett’ booklet.

Lamy Safari fountain pen

Of course I’m talking about writing for books and magazines here; this online diary has to be more rough and ready!


Corkboard view in Scrivener

Corkboard view in Scrivener

My favourite program for distraction-free writing is Scrivener, from Literature and Latte, the people behind the Scapple mind-mapping program that I was using yesterday. Scrivener enables you to bring together your research and rough drafts. A useful option is the corkboard with post-it notes representing each section. You can easily rearrange them to improve the flow of your story.

This morning I’ve got my Onward Christian Soldiers Scapple mind-map propped up in front of my iMac and I’m writing a rough draft of each of the aspects of the story. I’m in distraction-free mode because I don’t want to get bogged down with my research. I’ll come back to that later when I’ve got the flow of the story established. If I can’t get readers hooked, all those names, dates and places won’t be of much interest anyway.

Over the last month I’ve occasionally updated friends on how I’m getting on with my article – the equivalent of an elevator pitch – and I find myself going back to certain vivid anecdotes. It’s a good test that if I find a story interesting, my Dalesman readers will probably find it interesting too.

pencil 3b


Scrivener is described by Literature and Latte as ‘your complete writing studio’ but it’s worth going for Scapple too you’re doing a lot of research and brainstorming.

Sabine’s Mission Impossible

Scapple NotesmissionI’ve been writing my Wild Yorkshire nature diary for the Dalesman for more than two years but the article that I’m working on now for the 150th anniversary of the hymn Onward Christian Soldiers is rather different and I’m struggling a bit to decide what approach I should use. I’ve used a program called Scapple to pull my ideas together. Scapple is like a looser version of Tony Buzan’s mind-mapping technique where you start with one idea and make all kinds of connections to it.

Baring GouldCertain aspects of the story stand out vividly for me; the encounter between Sabine Baring Gould (who wrote the hymn) and local tough guy ‘Old Nut’. Or the way meetings in the upstairs Mission room were sometimes interrupted by street urchins throwing stones or even dead cats through the window.

old nutI like the way that Baring Gould later used his literary talents to exact a fitting revenge on ‘Old Nut’s’ favourite pub, The Horse and Jockey. In his novel Through Fire and Flood, which is based on his experiences at the ‘Brig’, he has the pub swept away in a flood. He evidently derived so much satisfaction from this literary method of settling old scores that he introduced a thinly disguised version of The Horse and Jockey into a later novel, The Pennycomequicks, and, would you believe it, it too gets swept away again by the raging waters of the River Calder!


Scapple, the mind-mapping program, seems very versatile. I printed out my mind-map and added the cartoons by hand.