Although the Walking group cannot currently organise a programme of walks, many members are able to get their daily exercise by enjoying a country walk. Here Hanneke Dye, UWFS Secretary, takes us on a walk she took in early May.

Chris Alder

An early Start

Good morning,

The sun is shining and it is 7.45 in the morning. To break the monotony, I am going to take you on a short walk from my home in Hebden to Burnsall and back, encompassing all the study groups.

On leaving the house at just after 6am I was greeted by one of the resident male pheasants calling out to let me know his presence. In the field next to Hebden Hall Park, two partridges scuttled away. I have seen these pretty birds most mornings. Birdsong accompanied me.

On arriving at the swing bridge over the river Wharfe, industrial archaeology came to mind. This bridge was built in the Victorian times.

I stood on the suspension bridge for a while, looking for trout, instead the dipper flew at speed in the Burnsall direction, its whistling sound going before it. Yesterday, as I neared the bridge, a statuesque male heron stood in the middle of the stepping stones, I tried to take a photo, but it spotted me and flew off, its large wings carrying it away.

Next postman’s steps, secret-looking steps rising through the dark wooded valley beside it. It is said that these steps were once used, before the bridge was built, by the postmen as they more or less connect with the stepping stones over the river.

Botany is very well represented on this walk, especially yellow flowers: pretty pale-yellow primroses, celandine, the bright shiny marsh marigolds, and plenty of dandelions. There are bluebells galore, among the white wood anemones and the white flowers of the pungent wild garlic. Herb Paris is in flower too.

I learn, through going on the regular Saturday walks with the Field Society, to walk with “my eyes open”. Looking into the river I noticed a pair of ducks followed by 6 little balls of fluff. I wondered how many of these downy ducklings would be left tomorrow. Yes, it is the turn of ornithology. Then, to my delight, I spotted the very colourful Mandarin Duck, it was on its own today, where is the other male gone that accompanied him yesterday?

Drake Mandarin Duck

Drake Mandarin Duck © UWFS, Image by Marg Smith

My favourite bird came into sight, but I heard it before I spotted it, its melodious glorious song overhead, yes you have guessed, it is the curlew. I am fortunate to hear curlews singing most days.

A Curlew © UWFS, Image by Hanneke Dye

A Curlew © UWFS, Image by Hanneke Dye

By now I reached the spot where there is a seat and a plaque about Burnsall, where otters have been spotted. No such luck for me, however I have heard that otters have been seen  near Linton bridge. It would be nice to have another talk on otters.

I was greeted by a flock of ewes with their lambs, but as soon as I approached, the lambs ran to their Mums for protection.

I counted 14 moleheaps. These always remind me of Jean Reinsch, who was a member of the Field Society almost from its beginning. She advised to poke the heap with a stick as you may be lucky to find a flint axe, as she had found a few over the years. She used to organise the walks.

On the opposite of the river the noise of cawing was very loud. Jackdaws were having their morning meeting near their large nests.

There are both male and female goosanders a plenty on the river, it is interesting to see them dive and wonder where they will reappear.

I noticed the noisy wrens darting in and out of the trees, robins showing their red breasts, chaffinch and tits all wanting to be heard.

At Burnsall and back

Burnsall: St. Wilfrid's Church

Burnsall: St. Wilfrid’s Church

I decided to veer off to the right past Allan Stockdale’s house and into the church yard, the church represents not only religion, but fits well into archaeology and vernacular buildings groups. Twelve Anglo Saxon sculpture fragments are found within plus stone coffins and Celtic crosses. The path I followed along the river dates back to Viking times, and Burnsall each year holds a Viking Festival, although this year there will not be a Festival owing to Covid 19.

I passed Burnsall school dating back to 1602, next the Red Lion pub and back to the river path. Swallows were flying overhead. Looking behind me, I admired the five-arched Burnsall bridge.

More ducks with ducklings greeted me, and then I saw the heron flying relatively low over the river, and hoped it would not eat too many of these downy balls.

Geology is not forgotten, the white limestone scuff always intrigues me. Dippers often make their nest in there, but not yet this year. Small cave-like openings here and there, quite mysterious.

River Wharfe at Loup Scar

River Wharfe at Loup Scar

There are a lot of pigeons this year, often 6 – 8 pigeons fly away as I near where they are sitting on the tree branches. I spotted a coot on the rocks in the river, I see it most days.

Coming back to postman’s steps, a blackbird is singing in the wood and a thrush is flying away.

Back over the suspension bridge, or as my children used to call it, the wabbly bridge. I once again stare in the water, I can count the stones on the riverbed, but no trout. Large gulls swoop down on rocks further along the river.

A flock of 30 sheep without lambs have appeared in the field, not bothered that I am passing. Out of the gate and as I close it, I notice a stone that someone has deposited there and it says: “Stay Strong”. One of my neighbours appears in the lane, whilst we have a chat, keeping our distance, a buzzard came into view being chased by one of the large gulls.

It flew quite low and we could see the white feathers underneath its wings.

Walking back up the hill, I look at the lovely mosses growing on the walls, the garlic mustard is in full bloom interspersed by the pink cranesbill flowers. In the field I noticed what in Holland are called Whitsun flowers, very delicate light pink small flowers on a high stem, I cannot remember the English name for these delicate flowers.

Turning back into Hebden Hall Park, a couple of goldfinches greet me; what a lovely way to end this walk.

I hope you have enjoyed joining me this morning.

Hanneke Dye