11th June, 2019. Reed’s Island, Ravenser (Odd), Sunk Island.

Currently taking dog first thing to Middlegate on the side of the scarp slope of the Lincs. Wolds as the rights of way across to the Humber bank from Sluice Road are blocked-off with the construction of a reserve clay-bank as part of the Humber Estuary Flood Alleviation Scheme implemented by the Environment Agency. In so doing I noticed (having not been up Middlegate for some while) a curious development on Reed’s Island.

Reed’s Island stands close to the south bank of the Humber Estuary just into Winteringham parish beyond the large cement works (see above). Over the past two decades or so the island has been eroded from its north side southwards with the prediction that it would soon be gone. However over the last year or two a massive mud flat has built-up along this north side of the island, covered with water only at spring/high tides, this in-turn pushing the deep water channel used by shipping further into the Estuary. This relatively new mud-flat is showing a green hue, this (presumably) showing some salt-resistant wetland vegetation trying to get a foothold. In other words is Reed’s Island likely now to expand (again)?

The photo above was taken on my phone hence the poor quality, the only morning I remembered to take my camera the view was too hazy after a night’s rainfall.

The history of Reed’s Island in its heyday as a grazing and shooting area has been documented elsewhere.

As I have written about before, the Humber Estuary has a history of islands that have come and gone a well documented example being Ravenser (Odd). This island developed in the ‘bight’ immediately west of Spurn Point, although given that back then Spurn Point itself was somewhat further east we cannot be exact about the island’s site. Ravenser developed on a mud-flat island, this built-up in the late 13th century, became vegetated and then in the early 14th century had a town and port built thereon.

(To be continued).

8th June, 2019 Churchyards as places of resort 3.

Two essential elements to making churchyards ‘places of resort’ are benches (seating) and a hard-surface perimeter path around the church building, this latter to facilitate a visual taking-in/study of the external features of the building – building stone/brick, roofing material, architectural style (often varying in one part from another), curious features etc. It is almost certain that no matter how many times one does this perambulation one’s eye will detect something new each time.

The photo above, chosen at random, shows the west end of the church at Holme on Spalding Moor in the East Riding of Yorkshire. It shows a small area of peripheral scrubland (s.p.b.), this continued around the site and I think, if I remember correctly, there may be a couple of benches on site, but, as with most churchyards, more could be accommodated. In the case of Holme on Spalding Moor churchyard it has to be stated that if one has walked up the hill to the churchyard and then round the church anyone, young or old, would welcome a bench (there is a small car park on site from which the above photo was taken).

Of course the perennial counter argument is that any sort of facility invites vandalism by thoughtless users, a line of thought that I myself think is very important to consider. On the other hand the obvious retort is no facilities, no visitors. Also cash-strapped parochial church councils can hardly be expected to always fund benches and access paths and with local authorities in similar circumstances the only avenue left is individual benevolence, but with personal greed applauded in society then where can one turn?

Negativity aside I think this is an initiative worth considering, churchyards as places of resort for the general public.

5th June, 2019 Churchyards as places of resort (2), nature reserves.

The photo above shows a section of Paull churchyard, south-east of Hull. Looking south the view shows a section of the Humber Estuary in the middle distance with one of the industrial sites on the south Humber bank beyond. It shows that the southern part of the churchyard has been left for Nature to colonise, the site extending beyond the trees to the right.

In the 1990s there was a resolve by the Established Church to promote natural biodiversity by encouraging parochial church councils to allow a section of their churchyards to revert to Nature as seen at Paull. Certainly Lincoln and York diocese were active in this regard and I imagine others were also, this, presumably, reflecting a decision in Synod.

It always struck me as a most encouraging development, churchyards are, by definition, relatively untroubled by everyday hustle and bustle and often these days relatively undisturbed even by burials. Although rules apply to any proposal to remove headstones (often just to the perimeter of the site) nevertheless it is a plain fact of life that over time grave sites become unvisited and uncared for. Therefore it is in such parts of a churchyard that evidence of the dead can become a site to promote life (biodiversity).

Some members of parochial church councils continue to dislike ‘untidy’ churchyards, some to the extent of only being happy when the churchyard is on a par with the most manicured front lawn. Is tidiness a virtue in this regard, I think not. An obvious compromise is to allow wild flowers and grasses to flourish but to keep pathways trimmed to allow access to the churchyard and he building’s exterior without trampling the undergrowth.

The above picture was taken in March but doesn’t show-up the carpet of primroses in flower then gracing the churchyard.

(To be continued).

3rd June, 2019 Churchyards – places of resort.

Having, for some months now, discussed the issue of cemeteries as places of resort, as well as municipal parks and recreation grounds, it seems reasonable to discuss churchyards in the same context. By places of resort we mean places where some detachment from the home and the hustle and bustle of the street can be gained, but not too far from one’s immediate locality. Places of relative quiet, places to think or read (or study the mobile phone), places to observe Nature, places for contemplation, places to sit, maybe doze.

One essential facility in places of resort is somewhere to sit. This can take the form of benches, many differing styles are on the market these days and made from a variety of materials such as wood (tropical hardwoods although long-lasting are today seen as an encouragement to the destruction of tropical forests and so are generally avoided by public bodies), metal (long lasting but cold to the bum) or strong solid plastic (made from recycled materials). In a couple of the Hull municipal parks land around the bandstand was raised, terraced and sown to grass to provide amphitheatre-type seating on a relatively small scale. The photo above of one section of the churchyard at Burton Stather, the site at the crest of the scarp slope overlooking the Vale of Trent to the west, shows a single standard treated softwood bench, fine in itself but why only one? Is it cost, is it a response to the argument that ‘they just get vandalised anyway’ or is it a response to the argument expressed as ‘who wants to sit in a churchyard anyway’?

Incidentally the ‘bulge’ in the churchyard is, of course, a product of centuries of burials (interments), this resulting in the need for most churchyards to have peripheral retaining walls – see the Article on Burials and the development of Barton Cemetery in the Articles and Publications section of this website.

(To be continued).

29th May, 2019. Plants in ‘places of resort’.

As far as I know the only remaining formal flower beds still maintained by the Hull Council Parks Dept. are at the western end of Queen’s Gardens in the town centre (see above). Bedding plants are regularly planted or replaced, these, I am sure, propagated by the Parks Dept. In the early days of Hull’s municipal parks and cemeteries ornamental flower beds were a singular feature, maintained by the staff and following the annual inspection by members of the Parks and Cemeteries Committee it was usually minuted that they were very impressed with the ‘floral displays’. This is in no way an implied criticism of today’s Parks Department as they are (inevitably) starved of cash for everyday maintenance and councils now have a wider spectrum of responsibilities.

The early development of these municipal parks involved discussion of tenders to have built conservatories and greenhouses. The former were large expensive structures with heating apparatus enabling the cultivation of plants too tender for the outside climate and with an internal access path for visitors (public) to see at close quarters. As with plants, shrubs and trees in the park proper great efforts were made to name and give some details of the plants seen, this perceived as being part of the Parks and Cemeteries Committee educational responsibility. Greenhouses were generally for the parks staff in which to propagate the plants which would be on display in the park or cemetery once weather permitted. There is even evidence of a greenhouse being provided in Castle St. disused burial ground. A knowledge of horticulture and interest in it was a prerequisite for working in the municipal parks and cemeteries.

In the 1890s West Park benefitted from the demise of the Botanical Gardens across the Scarborough rail line in that the Trustees of Hymers College, whose building and grounds replaced the Botanical Gardens, offered for sale the conservatories and heating apparatus that they had inherited.

23rd May, 2019 Birdsong in Places of Resort 2.

When considering birdsong a distinction needs to be made between ‘song’ and ‘call’. The former is more complex and often has melody, whereas the latter is usually more strident and monotonous, an alarm signal warning of an approaching threat. Blackbirds have a particularly loud alarm call which, in my experience, is recognised as such by other birds and mammals, a form of species interaction. Male (cock) pheasants also have a loud alarm call given out when they take to the wing to escape (evolution hasn’t yet accepted that this puts the species at a singular disadvantage if the predator has a gun). Generally, in my experience, it is the blackbird that is the last to stop ‘singing’ at dusk and the first to be ‘singing’ before dawn which means that in May, June and July they are giving themselves only about five hours rest, and yet their hard work pays off as they remain one of the most common garden birds.

The song of the skylark (‘the lark ascending’) doesn’t seem to comply with the ‘song’/’call’ distinction. When hovering above ground their ‘song’ is initiated in response to a threat and yet is sweetly melodic, perhaps a strategy to divert the attention of the threat away from its nest on the ground. Incidentally skylarks are unlikely to be a bird of the municipal park as they nest on the ground usually on arable land, if on grass they would quickly be made extinct by the grass-cutter. Picture above copied from Collins Complete British Wildlife, p. 108.

Some birds have non-vocal methods of communication, a cock pheasant ‘thudding’ its wings, woodpeckers ‘hammering’ tree trunks or branches. Charles Darwin referred to this as ‘instrumental music’. Sound waves from a woodpecker’s ‘drumming’ reverberates across a long distance. I used to hate heading the ball when playing football, surely it could do harm, and now the pendulum is swinging my way. The woodpecker’s skull has so evolved as to prevent his drumming causing brain damage.

One more comment on birds audible communication is that some species keep in-touch while flying in the dark/migrating. Particularly noticeable in the Humberside region in this respect are geese.