12 August 2019

The Inglorious Twelfth. As a reward to myself for hoovering the entire house, I headed up to the Moor this afternoon in ironic search of hen harriers. Needless to say, I didn’t see any.

The weather was better than forecast: occasionally sunny, with a strong but pleasant westerly breeze. I climbed to the trig point, then headed along the Edge, pausing to take photos of the rocks that appear on the cover of On the Moor. I used my graduated grey filter to reduce contrast between sky and land, and was pleased with the result. Note to self: I know they’re a tremendous faff, but use filters more often.

Sheep Stones Edge
Sheep Stones Edge

The heather was in bloom: less spectacular than I’d hoped, but impressive in places. Once again, I didn’t see any red grouse, which is very unusual. I assumed they must have had an eye on the calendar, and were keeping their heads low.

On my way down from the Edge, I encountered a bequadbiked gamekeeper. We exchanged pleasantries, having met once before a few years back. He told me there would be no shooting this season, as grouse numbers are down by 65%. He blamed this on last summer’s hot, dry spell seeing off more chicks than usual. He also condemned the recent ban on shooting crows under general licence, claiming curlew and grouse chicks were being eaten in droves. I opined that eating other species’ chicks is what carrion crows do. He agreed. He also mentioned he’d seen a lot of grouse nests this year, so was hopeful for next season.

Spotted a couple of swifts at Johnny House. I thought they’d all gone by now. Perhaps these were migrants from farther north, just passing through. Having checked the nearly dead tree was still only nearly dead, I headed down through the tormentil and heather.

Later, as I drove through Booth en route to Halifax, a roe buck trotted out of a gateway straight in front of my car, occasioning an emergency stop. It bounded off down a footpath, seemingly oblivious to its near-death encounter.

📷 More photos from my walk »

10 August 2019

A truly dreadful day of heavy driving rain. Jen spotted a male bullfinch on the bird table first thing this morning. Not being into birds, she didn’t know what it was, but she knew it was different. I’ll make a birder of her yet. We only get bullfinches a handful of times each year.

While Jen was gabbing with her mum mid-afternoon, I took Rosie the reluctant cocker spaniel for a short drag up the track. Rosie absolutely hates going out in the wet. Long trails of beech mast ran down either side of the track. Floodlines of sorts. The mast must have been washed down from Crow Nest Wood during one of the many recent deluges.

Can we please go home now?

8 August 2019

[ Wirral ]

Woken at Dad’s at 05:30 by Molly the cocker spaniel barking downstairs. This is sometimes, but not always, a sign that she desperately needs to be let out into the garden. So I dragged myself out of bed, got dressed, and headed downstairs, only to find Molly excitedly waiting for me, her tail going 48 to the dozen, with one of her soft toys in her mouth. She just wanted to play. Molly is 12 years old; I am 54. So we played.

6 August 2019

The local jackdaws and rooks have begun congregating in large, acrobatic flocks. A few times each day, a couple of hundred birds fly past the house, en route to nowhere in particular, as far as I can tell. Seeing crows in large numbers is always a thrill—especially on windy days, when they swoop and interweave seemingly for the sheer joy of it.

In the unlikely event I’m wrong about reincarnation, I can think of far worse creatures to come back as than sociable corvids.

2 August 2019

Yesterday evening, Jen pointed out there was a lot more traffic on the lane than usual. It continued throughout the night. We assumed the main road down the valley must have been closed overnight as part of the flood-relief work in Mytholmroyd. Sadly, it turned out to be something far more dramatic: local landmark Walkley’s Mill had caught fire. It was damaged beyond repair, and its demolition began today.

Walkley’s Mill
Walkley’s Mill (pre-fire)

28 July 2019

A deluge of rain for most of the day. Flood sirens in the evening. A horrible sound. Far more horrible for those living in the valley below.

The local moors will have been baked hard after the recent hot spell, meaning rainwater mostly rushes off, rather than sinking in, channelling into Hebden Bridge and other settlements downriver. Water-catchment is why Hebden Bridge is where it is. Milltowns were built for mills, and mills required reliable water supplies. But you occasionally get too much of a good thing. Fingers-crossed there’s no flooding.

Postscript: Online river-level graphs show it was a close call, but there seems to have been no major flooding.

27 July 2019

A day of heavy rain. I’d promised to walk Rosie the cocker spaniel, but it was too wet for the woods, so I took her for a drag along the canal. Rosie does not appreciate rain. As soon as we turned for home, our roles were reversed, and she began to drag me.

We passed a chap sheltering beneath a rainbow-coloured umbrella. Even for Hebden Bridge, he looked pretty odd. Then I remembered it was the start of Hebden Bridge Pride Festival. Before I’m accused of intolerance, it wasn’t the rainbow-coloured umbrella that made him look odd, but his attire. Heaven knows, I’m no fashion guru, but I’m prepared to go out on a limb and say lederhosen is never a good look.

26 July 2019

An afternoon stroll around Withens Clough reservoir with Jen. There was a pleasant, light rain: so light as to not make us wet, but sufficient to cool us down. Canada geese honked across the water. A gentle breeze stirred the grasses at the side of the path. And that was about it. We had the place pretty much to ourselves, seeing only one other couple out walking their dog.

The ruined farm with its lone tree at the head of the valley looked as atmospheric as always. Very Wuthering Heights, although the supposed inspiration for Emily Brontë’s trainwreck-masterpiece is another Withens, Top Withens, several miles away across the moors.

Ruined farmhouse, Withens Clough.

25 July 2019

The hottest UK day on record. Utterly horrid. I don’t handle hot weather at all well. Even as a toddler, it made me miserable.

My car’s external air-temperature thermometer read 34°C as I headed along Height Road in the evening with the air-conditioning cranked up to eleven. The blast of hot air as I stepped out the car to open the garage instantly took me back to Hong Kong, 1997, disembarking from my plane at the tail end of the monsoon season, mistakenly assuming the ridiculously hot, humid air must be due to all the nearby jet engine exhausts.