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.

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