Continuing to archive Richard Brook’s slides of potential wildlife habitats in the Aire and Calder valleys in the 1970s and 80s, I came across this spread, which Richard had photographed, from a Yorkshire Post Magazine from 1986 which sums up what was at stake. Journalist Derek Foster, who interviewed Richard at the time, writes:
“. . . the birds still come, though in dwindling numbers, and the question is; can they wait until 2001 to resume the good life they have built up over a hundred years?”
Richard has made a note on the slide that the aerial photograph of Fairburn Ings dates from 1983.
So ‘wonderland’ or ‘nightmare’? I don’t think that Richard, even in his wildest dreams, would have predicted that spoonbills, which haven’t nested regularly in Britain since the 1700s, would ever nest in an area that at that time was so largely dominated by colliery spoil tips but which is now the RSPB Fairburn Ings Reserve.
Stanley Sewage Farm, 1973
It might have taken some imagination to see the potential in derelict spoil heaps but the reed beds at Stanley Sewage Farm, which Richard photographed on Tuesday, 11 September, 1973, already looked like a nature reserve.
In recent years, Stanley Church (far left) has been demolished and I’d be surprised if those rhubarb forcing sheds, in the field on the right, beyond the reed bed, are still there.
Looking up the Calder Valley, this is the bed at the south-east end of the sewage farm, with the houses of Ferry Lane, Stanley, in the background. This does look more utilitarian, and, looking at the photograph, I can recall the smell that lingered around sewage lagoons.
Finally, here’s the main bed with the houses of Aberford Road, Stanley, in the background. I think that large brick building on the left must be the former Stanley Picture House, built in 1930. According to the Stanley History Online website, this was once known as ‘The Clog and Rhubarb’.