THIS IS just the relaxed kind of drawing which I like to use my fine-nibbed ArtPen for. Adding colour, even the subdued colour of old brick and stone and grey winter skies, adds another dimension and more information, and helps to establish mood and atmosphere.
The views are disjointed because I was limited to drawing the details that I could see through the gaps in the vertical blinds at Barbara’s brother John’s when we called to see him and Margaret this morning.
Alder, Spring Mill Beck
Working on my latest booklet of local walks, I’m discovering the odd footpath that I’ve never walked on before, then there are others, like the one beside Spring Mill Beck (above), that I’ve known since childhood but walked on only a handful of occasions. Some footpaths don’t connect with any of my regular routes so, although they might be nearer to home than some of my favourites, there’s rarely the opportunity to visit them.
My first memory of this path alongside the beck between Ossett Spa and Horbury, was of walking it with my younger brother Bill in the 1960s when I was in my early teens. We spotted a Toad on the path ahead of us and this was such a rare find that we decided we’d take it home so that it could live in the moist, ferny atmosphere of father’s greenhouse. We’d heard that having a Toad in the greenhouse was a natural form of pest control. I wouldn’t relocate a Toad for this reason today!
Bill caught it and carried it home, a mile through the streets of Horbury, in one of his shoes.
Bill and I used to climb up the quarry face at Storrs Hill but today’s children don’t have to go further than the local park to climb. Since the last time I walked through Carr Lodge Park in Horbury these climbing rocks have been erected in the play area. The rock in the foreground isn’t suffering from a mystery virus; those spots are climbing holds inserted in the rock. If no one had been looking I’d have been tempted to give it a try!
Years ago, when I led a series of Calder Valley Walks as a further education class, these slopes between Ossett and Dewsbury were the western limits to our explorations. It wasn’t one of our regular routes and my memory of our occasional winter visits is of trying to locate an indistinct footpath that zigzagged aimlessly across a dark, muddy, misty, featureless ploughed field. I’m pleased to discover, coming back a decade later, that the wayward footpath has now been replaced by a new logical version which follows a ditch straight down the slope.
It’s amazing how much the landscape has changed since I was last here; the new footpath now leads to a plantation of poplars, planted with regimental precision, which have grown ten or fifteen feet tall since my last visit. I have memories of these as ‘whips’, freshly planted in plastic rabbit-guards. ‘It would be interesting to come back here, to see how it changes’, I suggested, looking at the newly landscaped slopes.
There’s new planting too on the banks of the Calder with an area of willows which I guess have been planted as bio-fuel. Old maps of the Calder valley show osier beds where willow was grown for basket making. The baskets were hand-made on an industrial scale by Burdekins, now located at Flushdyke near Spring Mill but today a furniture store. The bulk of their trade was for textile mills including large baskets for spindles of yarn and wheeled baskets for the rag recycling trade. Baskets for pigeons and pets were a sideline for them.
The name Runtlings may be Old English for ‘the meadow with the ditch’.
‘Ings’ can mean ‘meadow’, ‘hill’ or ‘place’. ‘Rene’ of ‘ryne’ is a ‘ditch’ or ‘channel’ and a ‘run’ is a ‘stream’. But I wonder if the name might derive from ‘hruna’; a tree trunk or log used as a conduit for water.
Drawings to follow! Please come back in a day or two . . .
St Mary’s Church, Gawthorpe, 102 years old this year, stood close to the western boundary of Ossett, between Chickenley Heath and Ossett Street Side. I drew it in 1999 shortly before the vicar, Rev. Paul Maybury, moved on to Holy Trinity, Ossett’s cathedral-sized parish church, which is 50 yards long with a spire, at 226 feet, almost rivalling that of Wakefield Cathedral, 3.5 miles to the east, which at 247 feet is the tallest in Yorkshire. Ossett’s spire tends to be more prominent when seen from the local countryside as the church stands at 357 feet above sea level – over 200 feet higher than Bichehill where the cathedral stands. St Mary’s never had a tower, just the belfry at its east end above the chancel arch.
It closed in 2002 and there were plans a couple of years ago to convert the building into luxury flats but the state of the housing market must have made that scheme impossible.
It was a shock to drive past today and see that demolition was in progress. I know that the spirit of a church lies in its congregation and the building is just the place they meet but it’s also a monument to the craftsmen who built it so I feel that it’s a shame that it has proved impossible to find an alternative use for building.
Gawthorpe St Mary’s Cricket Club, founded in 1928, still play at Slazenger’s Sports Club, Horbury, but the pub where the committee met across the road from St Mary’s Church has also closed. The pub is an attractive stone building that is suitable for residential use so it isn’t boarded up like some pubs that have closed recently.
Demolition of St Mary’s, 6 January 2011
A woman walking past with her dog told me that yesterday the pulpit was still in place but that has disappeared today. She remembers the church as a focus for the community with school services taking place there and her sister’s wedding.
As you can see the building was built to last. The fittings have been stripped out but presumably the stonework will go to architectural salvage. Hope they saved any stained glass. I wonder if the churchyard trees will be allowed to remain.
I was surprised to see the church organ amongst the rubble. You’d think it would have been worth advertising on e-Bay.
It’s surprising to find so much open space between suburban Ossett , one of its industrial estates and junction 40 of the M1. From Spring Mill Lane, now closed to traffic, there are views across the playing fields and the 9 hole Springmill Municipal Golf Course south across the Calder Valley to Woolley Edge and east to the scrubby scarp slope of Lupset. Most of the wildlife interest here lies in the narrow valley of Spring Mill Beck, landscaped in the 1970s or 1980s as a public open space and now popular with dog walkers.
On the pond – which I guess is what remains of the old mill dam – there were fifty Mallards, mainly drakes with a pair of Moorhens skulking along the bank.
I wouldn’t have guessed that this bundle of twigs was a squirrel’s drey if I hadn’t seen one Grey Squirrel follow another into it. It must be a snug fit for them.
The male – often several males – pursue the female during courtship, which takes place in December and again in May.
In the plantation beyond the dam Long-tailed Tits made their way through the branches while Blackbirds foraged in the leaf litter below. A flock of Goldfinches flitted about in bushes close to adjacent back gardens, perhaps attracted to bird-feeders there.