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2:40pm Friday 29th November 2013
AT this time of the year, many of us will be thinking about the Christmas decorations that will shortly festoon our homes and offices. During this ancient Christian festival, I would imagine that natural green plants will feature prominently, either in the form of a Christmas tree or in the shape of other leafy decorations.
3:47pm Friday 22nd November 2013
AT THIS time of year we can be misled into believing that all aspects of the countryside go to sleep. Certainly some do – flowers and trees take a rest and either cast their leaves or cease to flower; some of our wild creatures will seek places to hibernate or alternatively set off to travel immense distances to be certain of finding food and shelter in warmer places. This can lead us into thinking that our countryside is temporarily deserted.
12:16pm Friday 15th November 2013
1:27pm Friday 8th November 2013
12:15pm Friday 1st November 2013
THE arrival of November is often overshadowed by events associated with Hallow’een on October 31. Even into modern times, the festivities of Hallow’een (Hallow Evening) have been linked to festivals that commemorated the dead.
4:02pm Friday 25th October 2013
FROM time to time, I am asked why an inn at Crayke, near Easingwold, just north of York, should be named the Durham Ox when it is a considerable distance from Durham. The reason is the long association between this village and Durham, along with Crayke’s link with St Cuthbert, plus an ancient Scandinavian legend set in Crayke castle. There is no space in this diary for that legend but it will surely follow.
4:09pm Friday 18th October 2013
THIS region seems to have more than its fair share of castles, some in ruins and others occupied. They range from the tiny Danby castle in Eskdale which is a ruin in a farmyard to the mighty fortresses of Richmond and Scarborough. There are those which are occupied such as Durham Castle, Gilling Castle, Castle Howard and Mulgrave Castle and some that have disappeared such as Kilvington Castle near Thirsk and two at Kirkbymoorside.
4:34pm Friday 11th October 2013
WHEN my wife was tidying the garden, she moved a pile of plant pots that were tucked away in a quiet corner to find a pair of golden eyes staring at her from the darkness into daylight. She called me because she was uncertain what the creature might be – it was those beautiful golden eyes that provided the answer. It was a toad, more formally known as the common toad.
4:18pm Friday 4th October 2013
3:10pm Friday 27th September 2013
AS I write these notes, our local swallows are preparing for departure to Africa with their new families. It seems barely possible that this season’s young birds will soon be flying thousands of miles at such a tender age, although some of them may be several months old. Swallows may have two or three broods while here, the first being as early as April or May, particularly in the South of England when they return from Africa.
12:40pm Friday 20th September 2013
NEWS that Yorkshire has been named as one of Europe’s finest tourist destinations will come as no surprise to Yorkshire folk. Instinctively we know we’ve got the finest countryside and folk who live here consider their home patch to be more of a nation than a mere county. Not for nothing is it known as God’s Own Country.
3:13pm Friday 13th September 2013
TOMORROW, September 14, was formerly known as Nutting Day and it used to be a school holiday to allow children to gather hazel nuts. This was important because there was an old belief that the Devil went around collecting nuts on this day and the objective was to get there before he did his worst.
2:53pm Friday 6th September 2013
3:29pm Friday 30th August 2013
2:45pm Friday 23rd August 2013
3:18pm Friday 16th August 2013
OUR neighbours have a cherry tree which, in some years, is laden with juicy red fruit. Because it is near our conservatory, we can freely observe the activities of various birds as they take advantage of the tempting offerings. There is no doubt they consume far more cherries than the owners of the tree.
2:39pm Friday 9th August 2013
ROSEDALE, deep in the North York Moors, is famous for three things that are no longer there. One is the priory, second is the iron ore mining industry and third is the chimney that gave name to the steep hill at the southwest of the village.
3:34pm Friday 2nd August 2013
3:38pm Friday 26th July 2013
RECENTLY I was asked why so many criminals and rogues have become heroes. It is not an easy question to answer but I have heard it said that such villains often make superb soldiers because they are not afraid of other people, however violent, and in addition they have no concept of dying. In other words they are fearless, and that is often the prerequisite of a hero or heroine.
3:41pm Friday 26th July 2013
BATS are peculiar animals that do not appeal to everyone, particularly those who are afraid of them. Despite rumours of bats being blood-suckers or getting tangled in women’s hair, they are quite harmless to humans. They feed on insects and so they can appear to be scarce during the winter when they are hibernating. Some will migrate to warmer countries and they have been known to turn up on ships and oil-rigs as they make their tough journeys overseas.
4:35pm Friday 19th July 2013
DURING a research trip into Yorkshire’s Eskdale (where I was examining a newly-discovered cross post at Glaisdale, one of several located around the North York Moors, which I believe to be wrongly called witchposts), my wife and I decided to pay a return visit to Westerdale.
2:52pm Friday 12th July 2013
IF there is one similarity between a grey squirrel and a weasel, it is that neither of them has any road sense. Quite heedless of oncoming traffic, they will dart on to the road from the security of the verge and very sadly many get killed. I have no statistics to confirm numbers of these deaths; I am merely relying upon my own observations. If there is any benefit from this carnage, it is that the sad little road-kill carcases provide food for a wide range of other wild creatures.
3:05pm Friday 5th July 2013
IT is some time since I last visited Redmire in its beautiful setting on the slopes of Wensleydale high above the River Ure and almost within the shadow of the remarkable and historic Bolton Castle. Recently, I read somewhere that although the castle can be seen from a huge area of Wensleydale, the castle itself has no views of the river. I must go for a look around to check out that story – a task for the future.
4:49pm Friday 21st June 2013
FROM time to time I receive information from people who have noticed black rabbits in the wild. The inevitable question is whether these are rabbits whose ancestors were wild or are they domestic ones that escaped from captivity?
3:57pm Friday 14th June 2013
5:33pm Friday 31st May 2013
3:11pm Friday 24th May 2013
A FEW days before settling down to compile these notes, a stranger hailed me at Helmsley Market and asked if I could tell him about the Skinningrove merman. My response was that I could indeed provide information about this mysterious creature and promised to do so in this paper.
3:32pm Monday 20th May 2013
4:19pm Monday 13th May 2013
THE collective nouns for birds usually produce a few curiosities and questions. Some examples concern members of the crow family. For example: a murder of crows, a mischief of magpies, an unkindness of ravens, a conceit of jackdaws, a clamour of rooks, a chattering of choughs and a band of jays.
4:23pm Tuesday 7th May 2013
2:40pm Friday 26th April 2013
3:59pm Friday 19th April 2013
12:20pm Friday 5th April 2013
I T is not often that we notice jays around my part of Yorkshire despite their colourful plumage. Members of the crow family, they have beautiful warm buffcoloured bodies, distinctive blue patches on their blacktipped wings which also have some white feathers in the wings’ central areas, and neat little crests of black and white.
2:23pm Tuesday 2nd April 2013
AS I look out of my study window upon a covering of snow and the remnants of the previous night’s frost, it is difficult to believe that Easter is upon us. However, I am writing these notes a couple of weeks in advance so there is time for the weather to change and hopefully provide us with sunshine for the holiday weekend.
2:48pm Friday 22nd March 2013
ONE of the best known wild animals in this country is probably the grey squirrel. If we do not see several in our woods or fields, or raiding our bird feeders for food, we are highly likely to be aware of them in town parks and formal gardens. In the latter case, they are well fed by human visitors who encourage them to stay and make their homes nearby. In some cases, these cheeky squirrels show no fear of humans and will even take food from the hand.
2:44pm Friday 15th March 2013
THIS morning, as I write these notes two weeks ahead of publication, the sun was shining as I awoke and a thrush was in full voice in our cherry tree. He remained for more than an hour before moving a few yards into some neighbouring silver birches and finally performing from sycamores behind the house. All those trees are leafless as I make these notes but clearly he senses that spring is in the air and equally clearly, he is declaring his presence to other thrushes and marking the boundaries of his territory. In the near future, there may be a thrush’s nest somewhere nearby.
11:21am Friday 8th March 2013
ONE of the interesting facets of writing about the countryside and local communities is that the same surnames often appear profusely in certain places. Clearly, it means that those particular families have lived there for many generations, whether or not they originated there or moved in at a later stage.
2:44pm Friday 1st March 2013
WHEN I was a child, much of my early exploration beyond the boundaries of my home village was upon the neighbouring moors. It was around that time that I became interested in the local history and legends of my locality, along with an understanding of the wild life that surrounded us.
12:18pm Friday 22nd February 2013
I BELIEVE it is fair to say that many of us will have been brought up to remember the sequence of colours of the rainbow by recalling the well-known mnemonic Richard of York Gains Battle in Vain. For those who did not have this pleasure, the initial letters refer to red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.
12:24pm Friday 15th February 2013
SCARECROWS of the traditional kind – an old stuffed coat with a head and hat to make it look like a human standing in the middle of a field – are now more likely to be found in our villages during some kind of celebration. They often feature in competitions for the best scarecrow and last year someone built one in the highly realistic form of a policeman, then stood it near the 30mph speed limit signs.
10:46am Friday 8th February 2013
MY brother has been researching our family history and has produced something of a surprise. For many years, we thought that our grandparents lived at Rosedale and were amazed to learn that granddad walked from Rosedale to Skinningrove and back every day for his job at the iron works.
12:56pm Friday 1st February 2013
TOMORROW, February 2, used to be one of the most important days in the rural calendar. Before the Meteorological Office messed about with alterations to the first days of spring, summer, autumn and winter, February 2 was widely regarded as the halfway stage of winter. It has long been known as Candlemas Day.
12:42pm Friday 25th January 2013
THE North York Moors are known for many reasons, not the least of which is because it is England’s largest area of open heather. There have been other claims too – for example, that it is one of the last great unexplored and unexploited parts of England. It contains hundreds of square miles of beautiful and spectacular scenery both inland and along the coast with some of Britain’s highest cliffs and it has also witnessed the world’s first flight in a manned aircraft.
12:23pm Friday 18th January 2013
THERE was a time not long ago when Thirsk was widely regarded as a somewhat dismal place with more than its fair share of heavy goods vehicles parked in the market place. There were lots of transport cafes to cope with their drivers’ hunger and, in turn, they attracted customers, not all of whom were very pleasant. It was widely considered to be not the sort of place to visit for a happy day out, except perhaps the racecourse.
11:43am Friday 11th January 2013
AS I compile these notes, two weeks or so ahead of publication and shortly before the end of 2012, the surrounding countryside remains saturated following constant rain. The ground is waterlogged so there is nowhere for the water to drain away. To add to the problems, many land and road drains are blocked.
11:06am Friday 4th January 2013
MANY of us will, by this early stage of the New Year, have completed our festive activities. Gone will be the remains of the Christmas dinner, the celebratory bottles, cakes and mince pies. The nights are getting lighter as each day passes and so we think of warmer times and getting outside into the fresh air more frequently.
4:24pm Monday 31st December 2012
12:33pm Friday 21st December 2012
ONE of the older traditions at Christmas is the use of candles. There is something rather special about them and the light they produce, perhaps because they are no longer an essential part of the domestic scene.
12:50pm Friday 14th December 2012
ONE of our regular outings is to the top of Sutton Bank, near Thirsk. With such a fascinating and busy history, that area never fails to produce something of interest and my most recent visit, a fortnight ago, was no exception.
12:17pm Friday 7th December 2012
YESTERDAY, December 6, provided a potent reminder that the Christmas season is upon us, despite Christmas meaning different things to different people and despite the fact that some shops have been displaying Christmas goods and decorations for several weeks. Indeed, in early November I spotted an advert for Easter eggs in one newspaper.