Market Day

I’ve dropped a few sketchbook drawings into a comic page template. I don’t know if I’ll ever master the technique of hand-drawn lettering using a graphics pad but at least with these frames from Clip Studio Paint, I’ve at last succeeded in creating the effect of a drawing bursting out of a frame.

Drawings from Ossett; di Bosco, Horbury Bridge; and Epworth, North Lincolnshire. The two on the left are pen and watercolour, the building on the right was coloured in Clip Studio.

I’m struggling to take in all the options available but I’m learning; for instance, when exporting a comic page like this for the web, you’d think that the sharpest JPEG image would be the best but a midway quality setting produces a smoother image, fewer artefacts, such as fringes around the lettering.

Town Hall Pigeons

town pigeonpigeon9.20 a.m., Market Place, Ossett, 52°F, 13°C: A town pigeon perches on the antenna on the town hall roof then flies off in a stiff winged display flight. A stubble of rush-like spikes prevents these feral pigeons, descendants of the rock dove, from using sills, mouldings and cupolas as cliff ledges but the strings of Christmas lights still festooned across the facade provide an alternative perch. One has found a niche on a jutting corner.

elder on town hall roofpigeonIt’s not much more than a year since the building was given a major restoration but already two elders have sprouted and are blossoming in crevices in the stonework.

A black-headed gulls flies over and a swift soars around hawking for insects.

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.

The Woman over the Window

caryatidThere are carved heads on keystones above the entrance and the windows of this Venetian palace style branch of the Wakefield and Barnsley Union Bank (now occupied by Barclays) built in Ossett in 1870. The Santa Claus lookalike above the door seems to be a portrait, perhaps of the first manager, but this woman over the window has classical proportions and probably represents a mythological figure.

The man in a winged helmet over another window is probably Mercury but it would be nice to think that he was Osla the Viking, who, according to one interpretation of the town’s name, settled at ‘Osla’s seat’ or ‘Osla’s ridge camp’ a century and a half before the Battle of Hastings.

Gable Ends

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.

Spring Mill Beck

Spring Mill Beck
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 toadatmosphere 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!

Carr Lodge play areaBill 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!

The Runtlings

Poplar plantation

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, Gawthorpe

St Mary's Chickenley, drawn in 1999

church porch and bell towerSt 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 demolitionwas 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

St Mary's, 6 January 2011A 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 church organfittings 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.

Spring Mill

Spring Mill DamIt’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.

Spring Mill

moorhensOn 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.

Squirrel's dreyI 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.

long-tailed titIn 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.