Monthly Archives: November 2019

26th November, 2019 Twigmoor Woods 3,

I have a copy of a leaflet published 1992 (see above cover page), Glanford was then the middle tier of the county council local government structure of Humberside. Glanford’s area covered the region between and around Barton and Brigg, it had existed as a local government area before the creation of Humberside County in 1973 as an area within the jurisdiction of Lindsey County Council (the ‘north riding of Lincolnshire’). Although it doesn’t state it much of the text will have been prepared by Miles Hopper (s.p.b.). I will record here a few of the comments written under the side heading of ‘Birds and Plants’ with a couple of personal observations.

‘Along with nearby Broughton Woods, Twigmoor was well known to visiting Victorian naturalists for its variety of wildlife’ (s.p.b.s).

‘Some of the once common birds such as nightjar, woodlark, redstart, whinchat and hawfinch have gone or are now in very low numbers’. Miles was philosophical about declining populations arguing that population totals rise and fall naturally.

‘The tiny goldcrest breeds, usually in the scattered yew trees where their nests are hard to spot. During the winter they often join mixed flocks of other insect eating birds that roam the woodlands in search of food’. It is always interesting to watch flocks of mixed species, usually a winter feature – starlings and sparrows, ducks and geese – it shows a brotherliness in Nature.

‘The dense rhododendron thickets are popular winter roosts and often hold large numbers of finches and other species that flight to the woods at dusk’.

‘The mixed woodland and heath habitats hold a wealth of flowering plants’ … where the ‘blown sands’ lie on peat ‘acidic conditions are created while shallow sand over limestone allows lime loving flora to thrive’.

‘Hundreds of years of rabbit grazing (s.p.b.s) has created almost lawn-like areas of low grasses and ground hugging flowers’.

‘A notable summer-time feature of the woods are the numbers of dragon-flies’.

 

25th November, 2019 Twigmoor Woods 2.

The above 25” map extract shows Twigmoor Woods south of the M180 and to the west of the road leading south from the A18 en-route for Kirton Lindsey, the phrase ‘Gull Ponds’ is used on the map but these are now more wetland/marsh than ponds. In the south-west corner of the map extract is shown an area of lowland heath, now a type of natural environment that is very rare. The lowland heath is not criss-crossed by footpaths as is Twigmoor Woods. In the top-right corner of the map extract is a small section of Broughton Woods, an area designated as ‘ancient woodland’ as surviving documentary evidence shows that parts of the Woods have been regenerating continuously since 1600 at least, if not before. Few of England’s woodlands are designated ‘ancient’. Broughton Woods is also criss-crossed by a network of paths, accessed from the roadside of the road leading into Broughton village from Barton and Appleby, much of the course of this road following the route of the Roman Ermine Street.

Twigmoor Woods is very well worth a visit to view the diversity of trees and shrubs, the latter especially so in May when the large azalea and rhododendron bushes are in full flower. The ground is hummocky and can be muddy under foot after heavy or continuous rain. The soil is sandy, an area of ‘cover sands’, wind-blown unconsolidated sand blown east after the retreat of the last ice-age’s ice-sheets, c. 20,000 years ago. Much of the land around Scunthorpe is cover-sands, this explaining why the town is surrounded by fine woodlands, the soil being very ‘thin’ for arable agriculture and prone to any seed-beds being wind-blown in the spring.

Cover sands were also once much used as ‘coney (rabbit) warrens’, it was easy for the rabbits to dig their burrows within the walled or fenced enclosures. Brigg was, in Victorian times, a national centre for the curing and processing rabbit skins and for the making of rabbit-skin hats (warm). Rabbit meat figured in most local cooking pots.

24th November, 2019 ‘Free movement’ of gulls.

The unprecedented levels of rainfall throughout October and November (particularly) have led to much flooding with ground saturated and a resulting build-up of surface water. In Pearson Park, Hull this has resulted in a large percentage of the Park’s grass areas becoming shallow lakes showing, as water always does, the slightly lower-lying areas in a surface that normally appears quite level. Ducks, geese and gulls clearly found this new environment very appealing, the ducks and geese normally on the Park pond moving en-bloc to a newly created pool while another water area became colonised by a large flock of gulls. Whether this was just the attraction of the new or that the grass base to the pool presented new opportunities I can only guess as we have not learned to talk their languages (sadly).

Slightly further afield on Oak Road Playing Fields (otherwise known as George V p.f. as they were being developed by Hull City Council early in his reign) even larger areas of standing water had formed, these colonised by thousands, literally, of seagulls.

Of course many gulls spend little time at the coast especially so if they can find ample food supplies in urban areas, plus flying out to the countryside when any field is being ploughed or cultivated this unearthing grubs and worms, and nesting sites on the ledges of buildings and the like.

This theme reminds me of Twigmoor Woods in North Lincolnshire, south-east of Scunthorpe. Back in the inter-war years it was a destination for many bus-trips so people could explore the diverse plants/shrubs and trees but also the bird-life, in particular a colony of black headed gulls living in and around the ponds (now mostly dried-up) all through the year and nesting in the trees. I was told this by the late Miles Hopper, naturalist and writer, who lived in Barton.

(will continue theme of Twigmoor Woods and woodland around Scunthorpe next time).

18th November, 2019 Restoration Project Pearson Park, Hull 7.

The final element of the Pearson Park Restoration Scheme as listed on the public information board (s.p.b.s) is ‘Refurbishment of statues and memorials around the Park including Queen Victoria and Prince Albert statues and the drinking fountain’. From the outset I have to admit that I am no fan of statues – they make ‘great’ individuals (usually dead) who future generations may, on the basis of further evidence or changing attitudes, think less highly of – witness present disputes about statues of colonial dignitaries (Queen Victoria was given title of ‘Empress of India’ at a time when the ‘sun never set on the British Empire’). Another tendency with statues was for the sculptor to make the figure appear grand more than to be realistic.

This was achieved by Earle (a well known local Victorian sculptor who, I presume, created these two statues) by showing Prince Albert in a statesman-like pose and with a hair-style like that of a Roman emperor which, from the evidence of an early portrait photograph dated 1860 (one year before his death), he did not have. Queen Victoria is portrayed with a mass of flowing garments, her face possibly ‘youthful’ for someone in their late 40s but the real give-away is the fact that the sculpture shows her seated in a chair typical of those seen in Roman mosaics – a beautiful empress. Minutes of the Parks and Cemeteries Committee of the Municipal Council from the early 20th century record that at one point the Queen (statue) ‘lost’ two fingers. Problems with acquiring a matching marble resulted in the whole hand having to be replaced – which hand is not recorded.

Albert and Victoria were married in 1839 two years after she had become queen. They visited Hull on a state visit in the 1850s, Paragon station hotel afterwards becoming the Royal Station Hotel. Pearson Park had not been established at that point. Albert died in 1861, Victoria in 1901.

13th November, 2019 Restoration Project Pearson Park, Hull 6.

The next element of the Restoration Project as listed on the information board is ‘Landscape Improvement Works’. This is more open-ended than the other elements but, presumably, includes such things as the installation of a road-side kerb separating the park land from the peripheral road around it. This has been a big job as it has been done properly and is ongoing, but not with far to go.

As quite large areas of the grassland of the Park are currently shallow lakes (with having had what must be one of the wettest autumns on record) and, I think, there is an intention to build-up these low-lying areas.

I am hoping that ‘Improvements’ includes draining and cleaning the ornamental pond/lake. Minutes from the early days of the Parks and Cemeteries Committee of the Municipal Authority show that this was done annually/regularly, and draining the water away so the cement base could be cleared of accumulated sludge seemed then a relatively straightforward task. Incidentally, at the moment, most ducks and geese normally on the pond/lake have deserted, preferring one of the newly formed shallow lakes where the grass should be – free movement of wildlife.

(to be continued).

11th November, 2019 Restoration Project Pearson Park, Hull (5).

The next element of the Restoration Scheme as stated on the information panel is ‘Improvement works to the ice-cream kiosk’. The present building serving this purpose is seen above, right of centre, middle distance, with at one end public toilets and at the other end the park ranger’s storage ‘shed’. Immediately behind this building is a paved area with ‘fitness machines’ fixed to the ground and much-used by local people along with the perimeter road used by joggers (‘how many laps today?’). In my mind this raises the issue of green-flag status and listing for park-runs. The former is a hotly contested status whereby government inspectors award a municipal park a green flag (literally) as evidence of its range of facilities and its good management, my experience of Baysgarth Park, Barton on Humber being so awarded makes me think Pearson Park should be competent once the restoration is complete. Park runs are sites to which people travel for a ‘park-run’, this encouraged by the local authority.

In the early days of buildings in municipal parks there to sell refreshments they were called ‘pavilions’ and were rented to someone on an annual basis, the tenant hoping to profit from the venture. In Hull they were regulated by the relevant committee (Parks Committee up to 1899, the Parks and Cemeteries Committee thereafter) the tenant at West Park often complaining about ‘hawkers’ at the Park gates capturing trade. I’m not sure if they could have sold ice-cream back in the late 19th century with having no electricity supply, in fact the Committee Minutes give no clues as to what merchandise was sold. It would for sure then have been more common for people to bring a pick-nick and to be more independent in making-a-day-of-it at the local municipal park.

I believe the ‘kiosk’ is to get an awning to give out-door customers some shelter. It is currently the only place to get a cup (plastic) of tea for 50p.