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11:33am Friday 7th March 2014
A RECENT news item in a national paper recorded that builders had won an appeal which allowed them to build large numbers of houses on two village greens. This was despite opposition from the respective local councils and the villagers themselves.
4:08pm Friday 28th February 2014
OUR bird feeders are well patronised, especially by blue tits, but in the last few days, a pair of yellowhammers have visited us. This is by no means common, although we have welcomed yellowhammers in the past. I found this quite unusual because I have always associated yellowhammers with open moorland or wide areas of quiet countryside.
4:38pm Friday 21st February 2014
LOOKING back over my youthful birdwatching years, I have no recollection of seeing tree sparrows either in our garden or around the surrounding countryside, although we were visited by dozens of house sparrows. In simple terms, those two species are so very much alike that it is far from easy to make a positive identification so in those youthful years I might not have noticed the difference!
3:53pm Friday 14th February 2014
LEYBURN is the undisputed capital of Wensleydale which is the broadest and arguably the most beautiful of the Yorkshire Dales, and yet it is the only one of the major dales that is named after a village rather than a river. In spite of Leyburn’s dominance, the dale gets its name from nearby village of Wensley and one of my regular queries is why this should be so.
2:23pm Friday 7th February 2014
2:23pm Friday 7th February 2014
3:56pm Friday 31st January 2014
THE remarkably mild weeks of December and early January have apparently created some disorientation among our wildlife. I’ve received reports of daffodils blooming weeks earlier than usual while in several places snowdrops have appeared both in the wild and in our gardens.
4:29pm Friday 24th January 2014
COUNTRY folk have long been revered as highly capable forecasters of our weather. I can recall some villagers from the North York Moors hanging seaweed under the eaves of their garden shed where it was used to forecast rain – if the seaweed was damp and slimy, it heralded rain, but if it was hard and dry, then fine weather could be expected.
3:54pm Friday 17th January 2014
4:43pm Friday 10th January 2014
4:15pm Friday 3rd January 2014
ONE of the curious features of January is that so many birds join flocks mainly comprising their own species, but sometimes mingling with others. It may be that they recognise that there is safety in numbers, and another theory is that, when feeding, most of the flock members can satisfy their hunger whilst one or two of them keep guard.
12:37pm Monday 6th January 2014
11:50am Friday 20th December 2013
IN the December days preceding Christmas there have always been celebrations of a very mixed kind. They range from the customs practised on Old Christmas Day (Dec 6), by way of the Halcyon Days that bring a patch of milder weather to the celebrations of St Lucy’s Day (Dec 13), the feast of St Thomas which is today (Dec 20), and then tomorrow we remember that it is the shortest day of the year which is also known as Candle Auction Day, Gooding Day and more formally as the Feast of St Thomas the Apostle, who is often known as Doubting Thomas.
1:11pm Friday 13th December 2013
THIS weeks’ Diary comes from Dorset, where I undertook a short visit to spend time with my family as I researched the locality for future novels and articles, as well as being a guest author at the Venus Business Women’s Awards in the New Forest.
3:13pm Friday 6th December 2013
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.