TillyTillyIt’s so difficult drawing Tilly the bookshop border collie because she’s always alert to what’s going on so, even if she’s quite settled, her ears keep changing the direction they’re pointing in, which gives her a different expression.

I try using the brush pen version of the Pitt Artist Pens that I’m using in my current sketchbook but it’s a marker pen version of a brush, so it’s difficult to get the same life into the line that you would with a more responsive sable brush.

Tillysugar and saltBesides, it’s detail that I like. I’m always aware that I’m failing to catch what’s in front of me but a character like Tilly is a real help in that whatever I do manage to catch of her takes on a certain character on my page. It’s as if she has the ability to project something of her presence into the sketch.

Adding the black and tan watercolour also helps give the right impression.

Stones of Sitlington

A preview of my article for the next edition of Coxley News. The Parish of Sitlington, south-west of Wakefield, includes Netherton, Middlestown and Overton.

dogstoneThe Dog Stone

Also known as the Stocks Stone, can be found on a corner east of the church at Netherton. Did the village stocks once stand here? Its worn upper surface suggests that it might have been used as a mounting block.

Turnpike Road Milestone

milestoneNow preserved near Lady Ings Farm on Low Lane, Middlestown, my guess is that it must originally have stood at the junction of Low Lane and New Road, on the left as you climb Middlestown Hill, because the inscription on the other side is ‘TO Huddersfd 9 Miles’.

New Road dates from the early 1840s and was a turnpike, replacing an earlier turnpike route along Sandy Lane which had been approved by an Act of Parliament in 1759.

The toll bars were removed in 1882.

quarrystone2Coxley Quarry Stone

This carved stone, downstream from Coxley Dam was, so I’m told, carved by a man who lived in one of the cottages at the bottom of Coxley Lane. He had time on his hands because, like so many in the 1930s, he was out of work. He once rescued a boy from Coxley Dam.

Bumblebees in the Blue Tit Box

 bumble beebee at the nestboxWe’ve seen blue tits and sparrows taking an interest in the nestbox on the wall just outside the back door but it looks as if this year bumblebees have taken possession.

grubberThe rosettes of leaves of ribwort plantain and dandelion are spreading like a colony of green starfishes over the corner of the lawn that gets the most trampling by the shed. The rosettes are ground-hugging so that they escape the blades of the mower, so I try taking some of them out using a tool called a grubber which I push in and rotate to lift out the whole plant, taproot and all. taproot

There’s then a small hole that needs filling with soil. It might be a good idea to spread a bit of grass seed on the bare patch too, but I’m sure that bumblebeeat this time of year the surrounding grass will soon spread to fill the gap.

The Stones of Ossett

granite sett

arms of Ossett

Like most towns, Ossett has developed in part because of the underlying rocks. The winding gear of a coal mine appears on the town’s coat of arms, reproduced on the paving stones of the precinct behind the town hall.

But the granite setts alongside it have come from further afield. The igneous/metamorphic base layer that forms the foundation for the British Isles is buried too far beneath Ossett to be accessible, even from the deepest coal mine.

quartz vein

batholithIt’s hard to believe that something so solid was once molten but in some of the slabs you can see streaking that suggests that there were currents flowing through the magma as the granite started to cool and crystallise. Quartz veins indicate that mineral-rich fluid was once able to flow through what is now impermeable rock.

Cross Bedding

cross-beddingcross-beddingYou can see some of the local rock in the old walls along New Street (which despite the name, is Victorian) to the south-east of the precinct. This cross-bedding in 300 million year old coal measures sandstone reminds me of the gritstone edges of the Pennines, and the weathered formations at Brimham Rocks.

deltaThese layers were deposited by a river, or a river delta, as underwater sandbanks. Coarser sediment was deposited at the start of each pulse of the current, finer sediment as the current started to ebb.


iron clawconcretionThis ironstone ‘claw’ attracted my attention. As I understand it, iron tends to precipitate out of solution when the freshwater of a river meets the brackish water of the delta.

Sometimes it is obvious that a concretion of iron must have formed within an underwater sandbank because the ring of iron cuts across sedimentary structures in the sandstone.

iron rollBut in other places, it looks to me as if a layer of iron has formed on the bed of the river and that this has since been rolled and ruckled, while still pliable.


weatheringThis pitted surface looks like the result of weathering picking weaker parts of the rock.

Newts playing Possum

moss cushionnewtCleaning the greenhouse involves removing cushions of moss which have grown along the edges of the panes. Under the staging newts play dead when we remove the bags we’d stowed down there in the dampest corner.

crowmagpieA carrion crow is an unusual visitor to the garden. A pair seem to be considering nesting at the edge of the wood and they’ve been engaged in a long-running dispute with the resident magpies.

We’ve got a moth mystery. Small mothmoths (not the species I’ve illustrated, most of these have a little ‘snout’) keep appearing in the lounge. We’re wondering, since they seem to magically appear in the evening or first thing in the morning, if they’re finding their way in through some hole or crevice, for instance the hole where the telephone extension comes into the room. They seem to appear in that corner.


weeping willowchiff-chaffWe’re so used to our resident birds that the warbler, probably a chiff-chaff, recently returned from north Africa, in the freshly green hawthorn hedge doesn’t seem to belong.

starlingA pair of starlings regularly come down to the pond, bathing and foraging around it.

sparrows and blackbirdHouse sparrows and a blackbird are busy on the bean bed where we spread the tomato compost. Ants were starting to nest in the buckets of dry compost.

The big news at Wakefield Naturalists’ this evening; there’s been lots of peregrine activity around the cathedral. A young male seems to be making a claim to the nest platform attached to the tower.


startlingssparrowIt’s good to see starlings making a comeback. Once ubiquitous, they haven’t been much in evidence in recent years but most mornings a few of them gather on the rooftops across the road. Sparrows should have a good year too to judge by how many times I’ve seen a pair of them mating. They cup and saucerikea mugalways perch on the gutter on the corner of the house diagonally opposite us. Perhaps this is the best spot if you want to avoid a stealth attack from a sparrowhawk.


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.