Flock to Ossett

THE LAST NUMBER that Drighillton Band play at the Flock to Ossett carnival is Singing in the Rain. Fortunately it stays fine until the grand parade that rounds up the proceedings when papiere mache sheep are paraded around the market square. At Halifax at the Diamond Jubilee celebrations a few weeks ago, heavy rain turned a papiere mache spit roast ox soggy and it fell into the flames and caught fire. No such disasters today.


IT RARE for me to produce any kind of print so I took the opportunity of joining the children who were making monoprints from thin sheets of expanded polystyrene in the Faceless theatre company tent at today’s Horbury Show. My friend John Welding has designed the artwork on the tent, which is a cross between a bouncy castle and a large igloo so I decided to draw that as simply as I could on paper (along with the Faceless 9ft tall Heron and accompanying Ornithologist, who had just made a tour of the showground), then traced it through to the other side of the paper to get a reversed image, before scoring the lines through onto the polystyrene.

I’d greatly overestimated the ability of the bobbly textured polystyrene to produce a fine line so John’s design of interlinked hands doesn’t show at all but, there you are, a finished print in 30 minutes or so.

The Boathouse

We took a walk around Newmillerdam this afternoon and discovered that the Friends of Newmillerdam were serving hot drinks and cakes so I was able to sit and sketch an oak tree from a cafe table at the lakeside.


THE NAME of Cluntergate is thought to come from the Viking klunter meaning logs or blocks and gata meaning a path or road.

The dialect word clunter is either a big lump or a clattering noise. I can picture Cluntergate being a muddy thoroughfare up the slope into Horbury with logs laid down along the boggier parts. Any cart approaching this way would clatter as it negotiated the logs.

This little Jack Russel terrier was tethered outside a shoe shop on Horbury High Street. It gave such a friendly greeting to each passer by that I wondered if one of them was going to prove to be its owner, but as we went off to our next port of call it was still there, patiently waiting.

A Walk in Wharfedale

THIS SUMMER we’ve had so much cool rainy weather and few mornings like this; warm but not sultry; clear, bright sunlight and intensely blue skies with fair weather cumulus. With trees in full leaf and verges frothing with Cow Parsley the countryside now has the fullness of summer but grasses, flowers and foliage still have the un-nibbled freshness of spring.

We’ve missed out on this, a favourite spring walk through Wharfedale, in the last two or three years and when we arrive at Skipton we discover that we can’t get to our starting point at Bolton Abbey by bus because the county council has been cutting back on rural services (except at weekends), so we opt for a taxi. But we start our walk from the bus stop and just over the wall, down in a culverted water course, the first bird that we see is a Dipper flying low just above the water under a old stone bridge, which I guess is where it has its nest.

‘Have you seen any Kingfishers?’ a couple ask us later on the walk. No Kingfishers but we’re pleased that despite the recent heavy rains there’s a lot of activity around a Sand Martins colony in the riverbank at Gibson’s Mill, where a pair of Oystercatchers are standing on the sand below and a Grey Heron stalking in the pasture beyond.

Whenever I see Bolton Abbey, whether its on television or on a calendar, I always think that it’s about time we visited it again and at last here we are. Some day I’ll buy the guide book and study the ruins but today we’re here for a riverside walk, so we backtrack along the Dales Way to its official starting point in Ilkley.

Addingham is perfectly placed for a coffee stop and when we reach Ilkley we take a break on a bench in the shade of riverside trees overlooking the Old Bridge where the sign ‘Bowness 82 miles’ marks the start of the Dales Way.

A Kind of Loving

ONE OF THE OPENING events in the Flock to Ossett arts and crafts festival is a rehearsed reading in Holy Trinity church of John Godber’s new adaptation of Stan Barstow’s novel A Kind of Loving. It works well with just six actors – two playing Vic and Ingrid and the other four taking all the other roles; a dozen or more characters.

As with the novel, the story is told from Vic’s point of view; he’s the only character who can break into a scene and tell the audience how he feels about the way things are going. That’s something that you miss out on in John Schlesinger’s film version and in the television adaptation that Stan himself made in the 1980s. The dramatic device of talking directly to the audience doesn’t fit well with the kind of everyday realism that a director needs to create as a believable setting for the the story in a screen version but on stage you’re not in the actual locations, so the audience is already having to use its imagination to picture the characters on a bus, in a drawing office, in the park and so on, so there isn’t the same jolt that you might get if a character turned to the camera and explained how they felt in a gritty northern drama.

This limitation must have occurred to Schlesinger because his next film was about another young man working in a northern city, Billy Liar, but in that we keep drifting into the alternative reality, a minor European principality, that the hero keeps escaping to in his imagination.

Introducing the read-through, Godber explains that he took all the dialogue he needed directly from the novel, adding only a handful of words of his own, but there’s a Godber feel to this adaptation in the pace, the ensemble playing, the vividly sketched characters and the humour.

But really that’s all in the original novel too. I think that the reason that I hadn’t realised, for example, that there was so much humour in the novel, humour that comes from observation of character, was that I read it when I was Vic’s age -about 21. The main thing that I took away then was how easily Vic went from being free and independent, with all sorts of ambitions in his life, to seeing control of his life slipping away as others, particularly to his mother-in-law who is truly scary but not in a pantomime villain kind of way.

At twenty one, just starting at the Royal College of Art and with no clue as to how I’d support myself through my work, let alone a surprise instant family and mortgage, it read like a cautionary horror story.

I can see the wider picture now and smile, even while I’m sympathising with Vic and Ingrid’s dilemma.

Links; Theatre Royal, Wakefield; John Godber Company; Flock to Ossett

Ackworth School

A QUAKER SCHOOL since 1779, the main buildings of Ackworth date from 1757 and were originally built as a Foundling Hospital, taking in homeless children from London. Two decades later the Society of Friends bought the then empty Hospital and 84 acres of land surrounding it for £7000.

We’re here on a Wakefield Naturalists’ summer field meeting to explore the grounds, which originally included 5 acres of garden and orchard in addition to the the 1¼ acre quadrangle.

Gold Spot

Francis Higginbottom, science teacher at Ackworth School, our guide this morning has left a moth trap on overnight. Perhaps because of the recent unsettled weather there are only half a dozen moths in it, including this Gold SpotPlusia festucae. This moth is found in damp habitats, such as water meadows and riverbanks. The trap was set up a hundred yards or so from the River Went. Those gold spots have a metallic sheen to them.

Bird Life

A pair of Sparrowhawks is nesting in a sycamore by the cricket pitch and Long-tailed Tit had built, and now abandoned, having reared a brood, this nest, which incorporates spiders’ webs and lichen.

Nearby on the ground there’s turquoise blue Starling’s egg.

Bird Count

THE BIRDS looked so miserable in the non-stop rain yesterday that we decided to postpone doing the RSPB garden bird survey until today. A shame; if we’d stuck to the hour that we’d originally planned we’d have been able to include a young Grey Heron that flew down to the raised bed behind the pond, then flew off again when I opened the studio window to shoo it off, as I don’t want it to eat our frogs and Smooth Newts.

We also missed out on the Nuthatch which has been a regular visitor but the survey is supposed to be a snapshot of what turned up during a particular hour and, as you can see from my sketches (above), we saw most of our regulars, for instance the Blue Tits, which are looking dull and bedraggled after all the work they’ve put in feeding their young recently. We didn’t see the fledglings leave the nestbox, as this usually happens early in the morning, but we noticed that the parents were coming to the feeders then heading straight back to the wood, so presumably they’ve taken the youngsters there.

Also putting in appearance during the hour, as you can see from my sketches, were Great Tit, Wood Pigeon, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Dunnock and Greenfinch.

Honey Fungus

THIS DENSE cluster of mushrooms on a stump by the lakeside track at Newmillerdam Country Park is Honey Fungus, Armillaria mellea, which will attack both dead a living trees and shrubs. It’s also called the Boot-lace Fungus because of the long black cords of its rootlike hypha.

I made this drawing with a 0.8 brown Pentel Drawing Pen and watercolours from a photograph taken on our walk today.

Rhododendron is in full bloom. This introduced shrub can be invasive but kept under control in a park setting like this it makes an impressive display at this time of year. The glossy evergreen foliage provides shelter for Pheasants and other birds in winter.

Grey Feather

I PICKED UP this feather by the stream in Coxley Valley. The most obvious bird to leave a 6 inch (16cm) wing feather (a secondary?) like this in the wood would be a Pheasant but this feather is greyish brown and whitish, rather than the brown and tan that I’d expect a feather from a female Pheasant to be. If I’d picked it up on the coast I would have assumed it was from a juvenile gull, and of course it could be; they do fly over the wood.

Another thought was that it might be a Tawny Owl. We do get them in the wood but there’s no sign of a downy fringe to this feather, even under a microscope at 60x. It’s this downy fringe to the feathers that makes owls so silent in flight, compared, for instance, with the clattery take off of a Wood Pigeon.

It’s just occurred to me, looking out of the window that the pylon wires cross the valley at that point. Any bird sitting on the top wire – or for that matter in a tree-top below – could have dropped this while preening and one bird that will occasionally sit and preen on a perch overlooking the wood is a Sparrowhawk. The colour and pattern would be about right for a large female.

The adult female is dull brown on the upper wing, barred on the lower wing, so if you imagine this as a right wing feather the right (plain) side of the feather would show on the upper wing while the barred (left) side would be overlapped by the adjacent feather of the upper wing, so the barring would be visible only from below.

Branched Oyster Fungus

IT LOOKS like a paler version of Oyster Fungus, which you find growing in clusters on stumps and fallen logs in the autumn but Branching Oyster Fungus, Pleurotus cornucopiae, appears earlier in the year, and can be seen growing on elm, oak and beech stumps and logs from spring  to autumn. These were growing on a fallen Silver Birch in Coxley Woods between the two dams.

In his field guide Marcel Bon warns that although edible it’s ‘not of high quality’ and says that the white flesh has ‘a strong smell, sometimes rather unpleasant’. Michael Jordan describes the odour as ‘slight, of aniseed’. A related species, the Pale Oyster, is grown commericially, as is the Oyster.

Horn  of Plenty

The species name of the Branching Oyster, cornucopiae, refers to the mythical horn of plenty. In specialist books on fungi this funnel shape is referred to as infundibuliform. In anatomy, a infundibulum is a funnel-shaped cavity or structure.

In Kurt Vonnegut’s 1959 novel The Sirens of Titan, one man (and his dog) gets trapped in a ‘chrono synclastic infundibulum‘. I’d worked out the first part of this; chrono is time, the prefix syn means united and clastic in geology means broken pieces. So these clumped up fragments of time had formed a funnel-shaped structure.