You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2009.

We’ve been exploring the river Calder, m’husband and I. Everyone seems to ignore it these days, apart from remarking on the odd flood, and yet it played such a major part in the development of these valleys by providing one of the earliest forms of transport and then carrying away major amounts of industrial waste from the mills.

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These days it’s much cleaner – m’husband can remember seeing huge swathes of orange dye floating along when he was a boy – but it still gets very full at times. I think that is why this bridge is so clean compared to the rest of the filthy sandstone in the area – see the blackened church tower in the upper right of the picture above?

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In contrast, the old mill on the left above the bridge in this pic – I think it used to be Wormaulds and Walkers – has been sandblasted back to a pristine state. I prefer the natural, water washed pinkiness of the bridge stones.

About 30 years ago an overflow was constructed which relieved a lot of the flooding pressure around Dewsbury.

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Several friends have reported that it has been pretty full this winter, but we must have had enough of a break from high flows for this swan to build its nest there. Here’s hoping we don’t have a load of heavy rain before the eggs hatch.

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Here’s a shot looking over the flood plain, which at this point lies to the south of the river. Kirklees Council is working on a new Local Development Framework, which allocates land use up to 2026, and I was co-opted onto a Dewsbury focus group. One of the proposals is to concentrate the government’s forecast demand for new housing on this flood plain (my focus group said “what the hell!”) which is currently zoned for industrial use. We’ve since found out that this proposal is for floating homes on a concrete platform, which I am told is used extensively in continental Europe but never before in the UK. Hmmm. My personal preference is to turn a lot of it  into a watersports park, as they have further down the river in neighbouring Wakefield, but I can appreciate that it will save a lot of green belt land being allocated for housing.

At present, North Kirklees (my bit) is heavily built up and South Kirklees is mainly rural. This is partly because some parts of the south are so steep and hilly that there’s no flat land for new industrial development. There are some large flat areas on top of high ground around Skelmanthorpe, but the ‘southerners’ want to retain their rural nature, while the ‘northerners’ have had enough of taking the lion’s share.  According to the woman at another planning consultation last night, it will be a few more years before everything is settled. I think we may see some interesting battles in the meantime.

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The underside of one of the many railway bridges crossing back and forth over the river. This one is still in use, carrying the Leeds-Huddersfield line. Due to the nature of the landscape – hills and valleys – river, rail and canals are all snuggled together in the valley bottoms.

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Here’s the canal, aka the Long Cut of the Calder and Hebble Navigation. At this point it’s only a couple of hundred yards from river but, as the river makes a loop to the north  the cut continues on a straighter east-west path, allowing water-borne cargo to skip the shallower areas of the river. The foothpath on the bridge above it is, I think, very old, as it leads to Lees Hall which was build around 1530. There is more information about it here.

Coming soon: m’husband gets all excited about unused railway lines.

Holly, the 10-year-old springer spaniel and eternal toddler, died this morning due to pancreatis and heart failure.

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Holly, seen here playing tug-of-war with Sparky, was always ready for a walk, especially if it involved woods and water.

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She was bred as a working gun dog, but after being dumped at a rescue kennel she was adopted by SarahP and her hubby. Holly became very vocal when there was anything exciting going on (like water, or things to fetch) and Sarah believed that was why she had been got rid of as it made her no good as a working dog.

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Despite being diagnosed with heart problems a couple of years ago, Holly’s zest for life never failed her. Her illness and death came as a double surprise because the dog we’ve been watching anxiously is Ben the Great Dane, seen here looking on at the tug-of-war, as he is noticeably going downhill by the week. Holly was fine and dandy until about a week ago.

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Holly belonged in the woods and water. If there is a doggy heaven, I think it must look like this:

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Rest in peace, Hol.

The crocus (croci?) are out:

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These beauties grow wild along the footpath which winds round the back of the houses, on the way to the Tops

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When I first moved up here, over 20 years ago, I thought the clumps of flowers must be the result of someone throwing old bulbs over their garden wall. But they keep on popping up all over the path, so I’m assuming they like the conditions enough to throw out seed.

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I love to see the flash of colour of a clump, then get really close to appreciate the yellow/orange stamens.

And then, as I round the corner on the path, I get to shift my focus and enjoy the sight of the valley unfolding before me.

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As made for Son-in-the-Middle.

Any preferences as to which shot is better? The sharper, with-flash, image above, which shows the white choc chips which studded the luscious brownies?

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Or the atmospheric, no-flash-just-candles shot (plus slight camera shake, courtesy of me)?

The brownies were still warm as we ate them with possibly the best  ice cream ever – Mackies Traditional. It’s smooth and white, with no flavourings (not even vanilla) except milk. Glorious.

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It’s Red Nose Day! Here’s son-in-the-middle and third-and-final son dressed in red, with noses on, ready for non-uniform day at school.

After dressing and filling their schoolbags they tried to raid my purse for the £1 donation each was required to give in order to enjoy a day without uniform. I pointed out that seeing as I had bought the noses, chipped in several times already to various Red Nose collection buckets, and funded Middle’s red clothes buying spree, I thought they should be making their own contribution.

M’husband had already tried to argue with Son-in-the-middle that maybe, just maybe, funds should be donated to charity rather than spent on new red plimsols (see below).

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Middle was having none of it. And, I have to say, part of the loveliness of Red Nose Day for me is the feelgood factor – that you’re actually being encouraged to have a good laugh and enjoy yourself at the same time as donating to some extremely worthwhile causes. I am teaching tonight, so I’m going to take along some Red Nose muffins and ask class members for a donation.

SarahP took me and BabyF (henceforth to be known as Little Fish) to Crufts to admire the dogs. It was the first visit for both me and Little Fish and, once we had managed to tear SarahP away from the Irish wolfhounds (her heart dog) we were both quite impressed.

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The wolfhounds kept eyeing up Little Fish as if he was a tasty snack.

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SarahP assured me that they are actually very gentle. Unfortunately for those with small children, these dogs are so big they don’t have a clue where all their limbs are. Once he was mobile, Sarah’s elder son,Young Aragorn, learnt to flatten himself against a wall as soon as he heard one of their wolfhounds coming through the house. 

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More big dogs: an Afghan hound having a relaxing grooming session.

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Two otterhounds; another of Sarah’s favourites. I could understand this fixation with big dogs more if she wasn’t so totally not a bloodsports person.

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A borzoi (a type of Russian wolfhound, I think Sarah said. And yes, she wanted one of those as well, plus a bloodhound. Sheesh).

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Me, I lost my heart to this handsome boy: A Belgian shepherd dog, who was actually there for the obedience classes

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I was also extremely taken by this little fella; a wirehaired daschund.

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Son-in-the-middle is desperate for a daschund, and if one like this came available I would be hard pushed to say no. Best friend Ruthie, however, looked at my pictures, sucked her teeth and started muttering about slipped discs.

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And the prize for the best ‘take me home, I’ve had enough’ face goes to the Basset Griffon Vendeen. Perhaps one day I’ll get a basset – preferably a Basset Fauve de Bretagne. Sorry, I didn’t manage to get a decent picture. Just take it from me, they’re adorable, yet also look like good fun and not too hard to keep clean and healthy.

There’s a small area of woodland, on the top of the hill above Bretton village, which is used for cut timber. Consequently, there’s always something interesting to see when I walk Sparky out that way.

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I like looking at the log stacks, and the different sizes of tree trunk and branch.

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Damp wood means fabulous fungi.

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I love to see how little pockets of grass and plants establish themselves when the logs are left undisturbed for a while.

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I took this shot using the panoramic setting. That’s Emley Moor Mast in the haze on the hill on the right. At this point Sparks and I are on the green lane running from the woods down to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park – a lovely walk with wonderful views.

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Back in the woods, I stopped to admire the moss cushion growing on top of a small stump. The glory of that green makes me glad to be alive to see it.