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Three photos, each taken a year apart. The lecture hall plateau has changed from rough ground covered in rubble and stone through to a mud-bowl with the beginnings of paths and observing pads and finally it has emerged as a lush green lawn with brilliant white edges and clear pathways. Looking good.

Inside, the building is coming along well too. Wal decided to stop ‘hanging around’ from the ceiling and repaired the hole caused by his sudden decision to take the quick way down. It now looks as good as new. He is taking things a bit easier at the moment and has been spending time developing diagrams and animations for the website. Hopefully they will be up for perusal in the next few weeks.  

We have also been busy repairing drainage ditches so that water flows down the sides of the tracks rather than washing down the track and eroding it away. Fingers crossed that it works, especially as August is turning out to be a rainy month. Wal has put in two gate posts at the entrance and has been busy playing with the digger on the marquee plateau so that we can put some fencing up across there too. My wildflower meadow is one step closer.

 

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Invertebrate monitoring is great fun. It is good to get out and about in the nice weather and do something that has a purpose. I enjoy kick sampling in the brook and catching the small swimming creatures with my super large pipette for identification. Wal is better at identification than I am, although it does get harder when the water is more like tomato soup (see first photo).

Compare the two river photographs. The first is of Midgleden brook at site 2 (see river monitoring page) before the reed beds at the Coal Authority mine water treatment plant. The water is fairly clear although there is still a lot of staining due to the iron. The second photo is upstream at site 1 - Woodlands View. The water is incredibly orange and the rocks are covered with a reddish brown sludge as you can see from the final photo. Surprisingly there is still life to be found in this part of the brook but the contamination makes it hard to locate and it tends to be limited to stoneflies, worms and the occasional leech.

Wildlife elsewhere on site is varied. There are many tortoiseshell and small white butterflies, and I am sure that I have seen some small skipper butterflies too. The bright green leafhoppers have done really well; I have never seen so many at WV before. We had loads of cuckoo spit (foam encasement of the leafhopper nymph) earlier in the year so I was expecting rather a lot, but the numbers exceed what I imagined. I will have to try and photograph them for the blog, along with some of the other creatures that inhabit the site.

The baby rabbits have grown well and are semi tame. Wal likes chatting to them as he works and they often snooze nearby in the sunshine. They have even recently taken to helping out with the digging. They quite like sheltering under the car, which leads to a mass panic when it is time to go home as the car engine quite obviously startles them.

The pond was almost completely empty of water so hopefully all this rain will fill it up again. Small frogs are everywhere on site, leaping out of the long grass ahead of us when we go for a walk. I’ve not seen any newts for a bit but they tend to hide amongst the rocks to keep moist.

There are still plenty of jobs to keep us busy this summer but we will take some time out to do some photography and exploring.

 

Hours of Fun.

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Last week brought good weather, which has enabled us to complete the last of the fencing on the top plateau. The grass we sowed has broken through and is providing some tender offerings for the local rabbit population.

Rabbit numbers have exploded this year, due in no small part to the efforts of the local farmers to exterminate the foxes in the area. Whilst we understand that they are trying to protect their lambs from being taken, it is a shame that it has to be done at the expense of another creature. The irony is that with the increase in rabbit numbers, there is also an impact on the available grazing for sheep, due both to the competition for the grass (yes, there are that many rabbits) and the erosion and collapse of some of the sloping land accelerated by the burrowing efforts of the bunnies.

I have developed a fondness for our bunnies but at the same time would not be averse to putting one in the pot if the need arose. You might not believe the last part of that sentence if you had seen me burying a juvenile rabbit that I found dead near a bag of sand the other day. The only things missing were a headstone and a wake.

On the subject of funerals, I somehow have escaped the need for my own after taking the quick route down from the ceiling void after replacing some light fittings that I had refurbished. Luckily I have gotten away with some very sore (possibly broken) ribs, the only cure for which is rest and painkillers. I find it comforting to know that I wasn’t wrong all those years ago when I told my PE teacher that the parallel bars were not for me. After hanging from the joists for a few minutes, the decision to make a semi-controlled descent was an easy one to make, the hardest bit being the landing.

I am now spending most of my time chilling with the bunnies and the frogs, as any serious manual work is temporarily out of the picture. 

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Wal and I made the most of the nice weather at the start of last week by completing a number of outside jobs. Wal managed to get our elderly petrol strimmer working and was able to strim most of the edges up and down the sides of the track. We look rather tidier now. Due to a vast amount of semi buried rocks on site, he managed to break all of the strimmer blades which means that it will be a while before that job can be done again – unless anyone has a really, really long cable for my electric strimmer.

A couple of friends joined us for the day on Tuesday, and volunteered to help us out with some jobs. Well, you don’t have to offer twice!  We kitted them out in suitable gloves and gear and set them to work on the ‘mud and rock’ pile. This is the last big pile of rock and rubble outside the lecture hall that needed sorting and the soil spreading to fill in the last few hollows. Between us we shifted almost the entire pile by teatime. This will now allow Wal and I to finish the last bit of fencing on our top plateau. A good job well done!

The rest of the week was rather damp. This is good for the frogs and newts in the pond but less good for us. However it did allow us to recover from the aches and pains of moving a couple of tons of muddy rocks. We have not been unproductive though. Wal has been learning how to use his new Raspberry Pi and I have been sifting through the history archives. It is amazing what you find out. Many individuals did an incredible amount of work on site in the early days. Some of their contributions have been recognised in the names of certain features. I know for a fact that one young lady’s efforts at nettle eradication on a small slope outside the lecture hall led to it being known as ‘Nettie’s niche’. What took me days with gloves and a wheelbarrow is now done in minutes with a strimmer. Sigh.

This week has been too wet for working outside so Wal set to work painting the ceiling in the main room. This required taking down all the lights, filling and sanding where areas of ceiling had been patched due to rodent damage from when the building was empty. Four coats of paint later and it once again looks good. We know need to refurbish 18 original light fittings as replacing them would cost money that we can ill afford at the moment, due to our recent nocturnal visitor. Many thanks to all that have offered assistance, financial and otherwise.

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All of this rain and sunshine is great for our plant life. The wild flowers are currently giving us an amazing display of yellow and white blooms: Ladies Smocks (Cardamin pratensis), Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), Creeping Buttercup (Ranunculus repens) and one large Oilseed Rape plant. The Rowan trees have amazing fluffy white flowers and the Common Broom (Sarothamnus scoparius) is like a bright yellow explosion across North Woodlands. Down in Midgelden Brook, the Horsetails (I think?) are also starting to sprout.

The rabbits are proliferating like… rabbits. Wal has nicknamed the pair of baby bunnies on the lecture hall plateau Boris One and Boris Two. He can get quite close to them now and watch as they run and play.  They seem to be living in the woodpile behind the pond. We have also spotted a Deer in Midgelden Wood and seen the Fox trotting around the lower part of the moor. Wal was rather perturbed one evening last week when he was stood outside watching the Rabbits, and a Bat collided with his head! He thought that their echolocation was better than that.

The first Swallows have been spotted. As usual there was one, which seems to scout ahead of the others. A couple of days ago we saw a pair engaged in aerial acrobatics across the site. Hopefully the rest of the family will be following soon, especially as they tend to arrive with the fine weather.

Here’s hoping that we have some sunshine for our working parties this week.

Hours of fun!

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I have some bad news from the Woodlands View Education project. We were broken into on Monday night at about 11pm. Wal and I are angry and upset at the action of the selfish and cowardly individual who feels that he has the right to brazenly wander in, damage our entrance and help himself to our resources.

As the friends of Woodlands View are aware, both Wal and I have worked very hard on this project for a number of years and we are totally self-financed (with help from family and friends). This is a big set back for us at the moment, and we are heart broken that someone would do this. As usual, it is not that anything of great value has been stolen, but the damage that has been done by someone so inept that they must resort to brute force to get in.  

We would like to thank our youngest friend for the offer of a Peppa Pig tool kit to help us repair the damage and to all of our friends who have helped us out in various ways this week – even if it has just been listening while we rant and rave!

Just in case, this guy was apparently stood at the entrance from Bacup Road, watching until he thought the coast was clear and several cars passed him so there is a chance he would have been seen.

Onwards and upwards!

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Happy Yorkshire Geology Month!

Geology – it rocks!

Bad puns aside, Yorkshire Geology Month kicked off at the start of May with a series of events including a walk across the Todmorden Moor Geology and Heritage trail. I had been planning to do this walk for a while so was delighted when I saw it advertised on www.yorksgeolsoc.org.uk/. There are a number of events over the next few weeks, including another walk on Tod Moor, which sound rather interesting.

Anyway, last Sunday afternoon's walk gave me that chance to have time off from mowing the lawn and to wander around the trail with a number of experts. 

Geologist Alison Tymon met a large group of us at the Tower Causeway end of the moor. She expertly introduced us to the geology of the landscape and started the walk.  A little further up the trail Sarah and Robin Pennie of the Todmorden Moor Restoration Trust met us to talk about the Stone crusher, mining and other industries that had taken place on the moor over the centuries. It was the work of TMRS, along with several other organisations that established the geology and heritage trail. Check here for more details http://todmordenmoor.org.uk/trail.html

It was a really interesting and informative afternoon and it was great to meet the geologist who discovered the shark fossil on one of the spoil heaps.  I’m not really jealous!  Alison, Sarah and Robin were full of fascinating information and local knowledge. For example I hadn’t realised that the old valley name of ‘Dulsgate’ means the Devil’s Road and that just over the hill from WV is a quarry stuffed full of fossils in sandstone. There is also an amazing sandstone bed, which shows channels and ripples from an ancient sandbank that runs behind the TEG composting plant.  

A big thank you to everyone involved in organizing and running the walk – it was a really nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

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We have had some beautiful weather over the Easter period. Blue skies with fluffy white cumulus clouds during the day (with some high cirrostratus clouds producing sundogs at the end of one afternoon) and stunningly clear starry skies at night. 

After a hard day at Woodlands View, Wal and I were able to take a wander next door to the @stronomy Centre to have a look at the planet Mars through one ofthe 16” telescopes. Mars is at opposition at the moment, so it was great to have a closer look at this lovely red world. We couldn’t see any ice caps at the poles but we did see a darker area on the planet. Although the view was a bit wobbly due to heat haze from the surrounding hills, there were instances when the image steadied into perfect focus. Mars is well worth a look, even through a small telescope or binoculars. 

Mars is of great interest to our friend John Keegan (a.k.a Katharode). He hangs out online at PlanetFOUR. PlanetFOUR is one of the many Zooniverse projects - "a citizen science project designed to help planetary scientists identify and measure features on the surface of Mars . . . the likes of which don’t exist on Earth. All of the images on this site depict the southern polar region, an area of Mars that we know little about, and the majority of which have never been seen by human eyes before.”  By improving their understanding of these features, scientists can gauge the weather systems better which will be of great importance to humans when they come to land on the planet sometime in the future.

Kitharode has been involved in the project since it launched over a year ago, and is one of the moderators on the site. He is very interested in the ‘Spiders of Mars’ and other features such as 'fans', 'blobs' and 'yardangs'. He was telling us about the long dark tracks formed by dust devils on the surface of Mars.  Apparently these windy swirls can be hundreds of meters across and several miles high! Astonishing. Mars is a very interesting, dynamic place with plenty of opportunities to make new and exciting discoveries. Kitharode has given us many fascinating insights to this alien world with its high winds, enormous mountains and changeable icecaps. One day, when Woodlands View finally opens, he will be able to share his enthusiasm for the red planet with everyone.

Hours of Fun!

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The mass hatching of the tadpoles happened last week. They all seem to be happily hidden in the pondweed and growing well. The pond is full of life including Water Beetles, Mayfly larvae, Water Boatmen and Caseless Caddisfly larvae. There seems to be large numbers of midge larvae or their pupal stage hanging in the water as well. I’ve had a bit of a tidy up around the pond area, weeding, trimming and adding rock to the rockeries.  The woodpile is now well grown in and is providing a dark, damp habitat for a variety of bugs and beasties. A number of butterflies have been spotted on the sunnier days this week and Wal says that many Tortoiseshell butterflies seem to have come out of hibernation in the lecture hall.  We rescue as many as we can safely catch, or leave the doors wide open so that they can make their escape.

A number of annual jobs have been completed. The gates to the car park and the lecture hall windows have been re-stained. The westward windows take a real battering over the winter; they always look as if they have been sandblasted by the end of March. The water channels along the side of the track have been cleared and track repairs have been done – yet again!   

Weeding is an ongoing job but is getting easier each year (I hope). There is an ongoing battle with the nettles and thistles. We don’t want them on the plateaus (lecture hall and constellation) but do want them in the wild areas. Nettles are great food sources for caterpillars and the purple thistle flowers are really pretty in the summer and well loved by the bees. I think that the best thing is to call it a draw - I’ll dig most of them up in the spring and they will re seed in late summer ready for next year. Sigh.

The grass that we sowed last year is coming up well and is looking quite lush in places. I even gave it its first trim around the paths on the lecture hall plateau. I am sure that I will be complaining next year about the constant mowing and strimming that will need doing, but for now it is really great to see the area greening up again. Perhaps we’ll let a couple of sheep in for an afternoon to keep the lawn trimmed. Hmmmmm.

Meanwhile, Wal has been busy inside the hall repairing some of the old partition walls and completing the odd jobs that needed doing. He has also been enjoying the sunny weather and the opportunity to do some outside jobs as well. Progress has been good.

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I took a wander up on to Todmorden Moor to enjoy some fresh air and exercise, and to have a look at the wind turbines that now dot (or blot) the hillside above us. We can see three of the five turbines from Woodlands View, although they are mostly behind the pylons and wires from our perspective. Whatever your opinion on the wind turbines they are mighty impressive structures and very, VERY tall.

It was a lovely day for a walk; the skylarks were singing, the sheep were bleating, and the long horn cattle were giving me the evil eye. It was sunny, but cool enough to be comfortable while marching uphill across tussocks, reeds and muddy farm tracks. I stopped off at the lower coal mine area, which is just visible to us at WV. There was an interpretation board on a rock, which told me a little about the early mining in the area. Then it was onwards and upwards to the Sandy Road Colliery on Flower Scar Road. 

There was another interesting interpretation board on the spoil heap of the Sandy Road Colliery, and a view of all five wind turbines. It was old energy verses new energy. I was surprised by the number of people who were strolling by, also enjoying the slightly warmer weather and who all seemed interested in reading the interpretation board. The boards are part of the Todmorden Moor Heritage Trail. I am hoping to follow this trail all the way around sometime over the Easter holidays if the weather is suitable.

In other news: the frogspawn is starting to wiggle; we should be reporting on a mass tadpole hatch any time soon. We have seen over 20 newts in the pond. This means that there are many times that number hiding in the area. There are also large numbers of magpies who are setting up nests in some of our mature trees on site.  Spring has certainly reached the top o’  t’hill.

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We carried out our first river-monitoring mission this weekend.

On Saturday, the ever supportive and enthusiastic Judith from the Calder and Colne Rivers Trust came up to Woodlands View to check on our technique as we took our first sample from Midgelden Brook above the mine-water treatment works, where the brook bounds South Woodlands.  This area has been tested in the past and nothing was found apart from a leech. 

The brook was running well and the water was fairly clear, although at first glance there was no sign of life.  We took three samples, doing a 30 second kick in each location.  Unfortunately, and to Wal’s great amusement, I had a hole in my wellie and it rapidly filled with exceedingly chilly water.  Still, it helped to weigh me down which was advantageous as the current was fairly strong in places and the bacterial mats made the rocks quite slippery. 

I also performed a rock check, turning over stones and shale in the middle of the brook to look for any creatures that may be clinging to them.  While this method was successful last week in the beautiful waters at Gibson Mill, I found nothing in Midgelden except scum and orange staining.

Wal carried the bucket of water back up to the lecture hall and we started to investigate the contents.  To our surprise we spotted a small stonefly and then my Dad pointed out a large Cased Caddis.  Wal found Caseless Caddis, and Olives.  There were a couple of other invertebrates as well but these do not form part of the monitoring.  Overall, we achieved an Angler's Score Index (ASI) of 4. This was totally unexpected and really pleasing as the water is slightly better than we thought, although it is still not as good as it should be.  However made a good comparison for the water lower down around the treatment works, which we investigated on Sunday.

Sunday's results were slightly more promising. Although in the first site at the treatment works we only achieved an ASI of 4 - the same as on Saturday at Woodlands View, we found another species on the list (Flat-Bodied Heptageniidae) and found an increased number of Stoneflies. Site 3 was lacking the Heptageniidae, but overall we had 4 species and with the numbers found, we achieved an ASI of 5.

 

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Wal and I spent an enjoyable Saturday splashing about in a local river and hunting for water-based mini beasts. 

We are taking part in the Anglers’ Riverfly Monitoring Initiative and have been learning how to identify several types of aquatic invertebrates that will act as an indicator of the heath of our local stream.

The Riverfly Partnership leads an initiative to allow various groups such as anglers and conservationists to monitor the invertebrate life in their local watercourses and to take action that will help conserve the river environment.  The monitoring scheme is used alongside the work carried out by the Environment Agency and ensures that the water is checked regularly so that any issues are detected and dealt with quickly, and hopefully before any major damage is caused.

The monitoring technique is really simple – even a physicist like myself could understand it! 

Take a 3-minute kick sample from the riverbed

Wash finds

Identify and record creepy crawlies (or should that be swimmy crawlies?)

There are 8 types of invertebrates that are used in monitoring the health of the rivers. These invertebrates are mostly the larval stages of riverflies with the exception of the freshwater shrimp  In our kick sample we found a monster stonefly, many flat-bodied Heptageniidae which look like Darth Vader , and several caddis fly larvae, both cased and uncased. There are other invertebrate species that may be found, but the 8 that we looked for are the best indicators of water quality.

As Wal and I are going to be keeping an eye on Midgelden Brook it is unlikely that we are going to find more than one or two of these species, at least to start with.  We will be setting up a monitoring page with more information about the Riverfly Partnership and our work on Midgelden, but more information on the initiative can be found here: http://www.riverflies.org/ 

Thank you to Judith, Stuart and Melvyn for a very informative and fun day learning how to do something that is going to benefit our local environment. Also thanks to Gary for the lift from Hebden Bridge Station.

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Woodlands View is situated on a plot of land that has undergone many changes over the years.  It has been the site of factories, mining operations and farming.  Signs of this past history are all over the place if you know where to look.  One artifact we are lucky enough to have is an entrance tunnel of an old mine.  I have been told that this tunnel leads under the site and out onto the moor somewhere.  For safety reasons it has obviously been blocked up for a long time.  Not only is there a wall sealing the entrance but also a large pile of rock and rubble to stop careless explorers.  A couple of weeks ago Wal and I noticed some damage to the entrance which we obviously needed to repair a.s.a.p.  Whether the damage was caused by a combination of the weather and sheep, or by unwelcome visitors is unknown.  One of our future projects is to build a rover to investigate the tunnel as far as we can (no way are we letting people inside it!) so we took the opportunity to photograph the tunnel as far as our cameras could see.  The entrance is now safely sealed again but we know that tiny stalactites are growing slowly in the gloom.

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Wherever I go, I’m always on the look out for fossils.  Whether it is a beach, river bank or gravel driveway, I am scanning the ground for interesting rocks.  When it gets too dark to look down, I then start to look up- at the stars.  Last weekend I was collecting rubble from the bank around the Constellation Plateau to use for track repairs, when I found a small chunk of Stigmaria.  Stigmaria is the name given to the root fossils of some Carboniferous plants.  While it is only a small fragment, no more than 7 cm across, it is in slightly better condition than the big lump that features on our Geology page.  I know that it is not that impressive compared to some of the fossil finds that people make in Yorkshire and Lancashire but it is still really exciting to find a part of something that must have been growing at Woodlands View over 300 million years ago. 

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Wal has reported that the frogs have been croaking like crazy this last week.  Its been lovely and sunny, which makes a nice change.  So, yesterday I went for a look in the pond and found this years batch of frog-spawn.  It seems to be a month earlier than it was in 2013, but then this time last year, we still had snow on the ground.   

I've managed to do a load of weeding while Wal has been busy inside the building.  It's been nice to work outside and get some fresh air after being cooped up all week.  I found several caterpillars - a couple of bright green ones and a huge hairy beast in brown.  

Some of our spring bulbs are putting in an appearance, they are much later up on t'hill than they are down in the valley where the plants are already in flower.  Wal had to put some extra fencing up to stop the sheep getting onto North Woodlands and eating the trees and bulbs.  The trees are starting to come into bud now - I can't believe that they are three years old! 

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As I do various jobs around Woodlands View, I often hear the phrases 'I think that Linda would have approved', or 'I remember when me and Linda were...'

I am unfortunate in not having had the chance to meet Linda Simonian but I feel that through stories that others have told me, I actually know quite a lot about her.

A few years ago, I would never have imagined that I would be moving up North and getting involved in what has been from the beginning, a labour of love; together with all the emotion, stress and financial demands that come with it. I hope that we are continuing in the spirit of what Linda started together with Peter Drew, back in the early Eighties, and that she would, as I am often told, 'approve'.

There is nothing special about today's date, I just think that I should show some appreciation for someone, who although we never met, has changed my life for the better.

Hebden Bridge Web - Lives Remembered - Linda Simonian

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Our first proper blog post I suppose.

We have added a map showing our location to the About Us Article  (located in the Main Menu) and also a rather nice animated orrery (Solar System model) to the Planets Article (located in The Sky menu).

Enjoy

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