Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Yellow Peril!


Another year and another season of worry for farmers and horse owners alike. The Country Landowners Association joined forces with the British Horse Society and other like minded groups to attempt to rid parts of our countryside of Ragwort. Unfortunately certain Highway and Rail Authorities feel unable, because of limited funds, to do the same. Since bi-passes sprang up throughout the valley banks of yellow flowers coat roadside verges at an alarming rate.

What appears a delight to passing motorists, could when it spreads to nearby fields, spell certain death for farm animals and horses. Under the1959 Weeds Act, Ragwort is listed as an injurious weed and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has the power to serve Ragwort clearance notices if it poses a threat to agricultural land, and to take action against those who do not control it. It is time Highway and Railway Authorities were made more aware of their duty to those who live and work in the countryside.

Further information about Ragwort removal can be obtained from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, British Horse Society Welfare Committee, DEFRA or local vets.



Monday, 17 June 2013

Archived articles from my Newspaper Column

Frazer's Ilkley

Kill or cure?

Ilkley supplied e-coli in great quantity until an enterprising excavator driver deprived the populace of it’s wholesome brew. The gentleman who had water from the Canker Well tested some years ago, suggested those who took it daily built up a resistance few today appear to have. Might this be true for other out breaks in our ‘Whiter than White Society’? If we took fewer baths, opened more windows, turned central heating down and used feet instead of wheels, we would save the environment in many ways. Do we really need to wash clothes as often, using more and more water? Do we really need central heating so high or use cars for short journeys? If we’re honest, our answers should be NO!

Wharfe, don’t run!

Again the Wharfe valley escaped nature’s fury. One wonders, had conditions been different, how high the river would have reached? Again, the question of a bridge atop Burley’s mill dam must be considered. If, in years to come the Wharfe floods with similar if not more volume than the Derwent, will Burley’s bridge plus dam survive? If not, we will lose more than the view! Without stabilising river banks up-stream Burley’s bridge could easily be ‘a bridge too far’!

No Brass!

Bradford’s ‘no brass’ tactics are wearing thin, as are Ilkley’s mature trees. How many removed would, with selective tree surgery, have survived to see a few more generations? Those moving into the district should be made aware of their responsibilities to trees and, where necessary, be heavily fined if tree removal is proved un warranted. Perhaps equalling in Stirling the weight/height of the tree, then trebling it. Selective tree surgery is more advisable than none selective felling. If you accept ‘short cut’ policies, you have only yourselves to blame. What takes ten minutes with a chain saw, often took a hundred or more years to grow! Simply put “To create a little flower is the labour of ages.” - William Blake (1757-1827),

A Little knowledge can be dangerous

The theatrical term ‘bums on seats’ should equate with forthcoming local elections. In past years leaflets were hurriedly pushed through letter boxes. Catching canvassers in the act nigh on impossible. If at all. How is one to know anything about prospective candidates from bits of paper? This years elections will bring great changes in local council chambers. Are we to enter a new millennium on the back of ‘little knowledge’ or, made more aware of those who will receive our cross. Front door apathy leads to polling booth apathy. Will there be a re-run of 1997 or, something more worthwhile?

A silent dawn.

I’m often amazed at people who appear blind to problems of their own making. A resident bemoaned the lack of bird life in their garden and blamed it on all manner of things. Little realising their pets were the likely answer. Apart from damage to ground nesting birds on moorland, most dogs prefer to leave birds alone. Whereas the feline species is recorded as killing a quarter of a billion wild birds and small mammals a year. When next we hear of birdless gardens perhaps we should look to the owners pets for the answer.

The Leming.

Listening to Local radio it appears Ilkley’s wish for more fragrant facilities are within reach. Following intensive research a company are to award their first ‘Limited Edition Millennium Interacting Natural Generator’ to a deserving Yorkshire tourist town. Fondly known to it’s creator as The Leming. This generator of Public waste could replace Ilkley’s outdated inconveniences. The ideal position for this first of many should be the former Winter Gardens site. Being near to the Town Hall, would cut even more costs as the generator relies on a steady supply of bureaucratic garbage. Being fitted with CCTV, the units are vandal proof. It is expected the first will be ready by the end of March to be fitted early in April.

The larger the better.

A warning to Wharfedale gardeners preparing for local flower and veg shows. Be on your guard. On Radio 4 recently, I found the reason we no longer see large Melons on supermarket shelves, they are ‘politically in-correct’! Why? Because certain members of the community refer to parts of the female anatomy as Melons. And politically correct buyers inform growers only small varieties will do.

Could the reason we hear of low sperm count in males, be under ripe Plums on the same shelves? Over sensitive political correctness has gone too far. Experience with commercially forced Rhubarb showed how impassioned pickers become and not for reasons the politically correct think. Only those who’ve worked Yorkshire’s Rhubarb Tri-angle will understand the subtleties of early morning forays into candlelit forcing sheds. Try putting the latter under political correctness, if you dare!

Halcyon days.

Work in one of the town’s ghylls brought about the unmistakable sight of iridescent blue wings flashing upstream. It’s many years since this took place and hopefully, as work commences with overgrowths of bracken and bramble being removed, more will witness the once common Kingfisher flying by. We may also see a more permanent return of the Dipper, Wagtails and other partially hidden waterside birds, animals, insects and plants.

Peace at any price!

Visiting an elderly relative this weekend, it struck me how noisy our once quiet Sunday afternoons had become. No-longer the gentle whirr of mower blades or distant chatter across garden fences. Our ears were filled with so-called music from multi watt Hi-Fi’s, banshee screams of electric gadgets and the ever present roar of traffic from nearby roads.

It appeared the only time peace descended was during heavy rain or a power cut. A once therapeutic activity of Sunday afternoon gardening has given way to a level of noise induced stress which, in a modern work environment, would be banned. There’s more to organic gardening than compost heaps and flowers. It’s the feeling of being one with Nature.


Burley’s quest for a footbridge reminds me of American microbiologist Barry Commoner who wrote, ‘The first law of ecology is that everything is related to everything else.’ Perhaps the Bridge Association would join me in requesting Bradford do something to stop erosion of river banks in East Holmes Fields Ilkley. Unless stabilised trees washed down river will test the strength of their proposed bridge. Far better to spend time upstream making things safe than wait for future disasters.

Little things grow into big things and big things cost money. Burley’s bridge and Ilkley’s trees and river banks are all related by virtue of being on, beside and eventually over the Wharfe. Lack of foresight now could cost future generations dear and, the Bridge Association cannot say they have not been warned. Ecology is not just about plants and animals. It’s the whole environment, including Burley’s perceived new bridge.

Find a Flag!

Ilkley and it’s Moor has seen many attractions over the years since becoming a Spa Town. Derek and Christine Arnold, tenants of White Wells on Ilkley Moor believe they are the first to add a fair ground organ to the list, along with other attractions for the many visitors expected at their Yorkshire Day festivities. Hopefully, IMOR’s publicity has helped Derek’s wish to double last years £500 donated to Airedale Hospital’s Cancer Ward. Readers may be aware of the ‘Quest for a Flag’ by Ilkley's 'Most Outspoken Resident' to have a Yorkshire Flag flying at White Wells on 31st July-1st August.

Following extensive radio coverage by BBC’s Andy Peebles, Liz Green, even Wogan and independent stations only one reply was forthcoming. Undeterred, contact with PR companies brought a lady wishing to buy a Yorkshire Flag specially designed for the 1999 festivities. It is being made at this very moment. Asked by BBC Radio Leeds Mark Brearley if Frazer Irwin would find a Yorkshire flag for Yorkshire Day, Ilkley Business Forum spokesperson David Giddings quoted, ‘If Frazer has been as determined as he has been over the past few years, he’ll find it and do it’.

Please close the Gate!

Is it any wonder Ilkley people are fed up with various Bradford Metropolitan Departments. Countryfolk know the folly of leaving gates open and dangers this habit presents. It appears training given to certain refuse collectors includes leaving gates open. Allowing stray sheep and other animals including un-wanted persons access, while giving young children freedom to wander into an un-safe world. Pointing this out to the culprits only leads to outright denial, or worse still, they haven’t time to shut gates. If rate payers hadn’t time to pay local taxes, they would soon be brought to account. Perhaps if refuse workers were given the bill for damage done after leaving gates open, they would think twice before doing it again. Maybe the reasons Bradford don't receive many complaints, are because residents have neither the time to listen to taped music or push telephone buttons.

Heat exhaustion!

Recent hot weather brought a rise in insect numbers, large and small and strange ideas from pedestrians. A mid air collision over Ilkley went un-witnessed by many in the town. A pair of large Dragonflies collided while hunting over Mill Ghyll stream. The reactions off passers-by when shown them ranged from great interest to being told they were very dangerous and shouldn't we call in the Pest Officer! The latter left me puzzled, until being told they were 'man eaters' and hadn't I seen them at the cinema? Killer bees is one thing, but man eating dragonflies! Who's fooling who?


Nesting season.

Last year twitchers observed a rise in numbers of the Great Twit

Global warming and increased leisure time brought this species to our open countryside. Observers noted Great Twits were often accompanied by domestic dogs. While the latter species reek havoc amongst ground nesting birds, be they wild or game, Great Twits are often oblivious to this carnage. Modern agricultural practice is not without problems, but Great Twit and their dogs must take some blame. 

Unfortunately, followers of the southern Greater Twit appear equally oblivious to countrymen’s fears, by advocating the species be given free range status. Not only ground nesters, but ewes and lambs are at risk on moorland and in field. Unless a sense of responsibility is brought to Great Twits, harmonious free range status will be reduced significantly. Keep all dogs under control on open moorland, in the nesting season, otherwise Skylarks amongst others will be nought but faded pictures in books.

From 14.08.2010

Ilkley B'aht Moor

28 May 1998

While reading the Garden of Cyrus atop Ilkley Moor, it struck me how alike an early 20th Century electrical Railway telegraph (as referred to in the Windsor magazine - 1904/5), was to the Quincuncial Plantations of the Ancients. Though to describe Ilkley Moor as a similar Lozenge, would be pushing things too far. The network of plantations springing up across it’s northern face, may in part be natural, but many are artificial. And while those stones and boulders with cups and spirals upon their forms are often given a mystical nature, one must consider the effects by trees on these artefacts. Given that a majority may or may not have been buried for over five millennia.

But, why are we allowing such plantations to take over the near untamed character of Ilkley Moor? Agrarians who spend their lives in close unison with Nature know and respect her powers. Is it fear or lack of this respect which prompts Urban Man to plant trees, in wide open spaces? This is, after all, Yorkshire! Were it Sardis, one could understand Xenophon’s feelings, but his treaties on the Horse are of more importance to those people of Wharfedale who follow in his tradition. At least try to! 

Had Dr Thomas Brown visited Ilkley he would, no doubt, view Ilkley Moor with an eye of incredulity. For those able to see and hear, speak and think for themselves, have often quoted how moorland for which this town became known worldwide, is taking a downward spiral and has been for over a quarter century. How long are you, the residents of this Town, going to allow this spiral to continue? That which many of you moved to this area for, is in part, fast becoming eroded, grown over and worst of all, forgotten. Compaired to the Garden of Cyrus, your valley is becoming lost to the humours and vapours of modernity.

For what will Ilkley be remembered at the end of the third Millennia?


LOST! Middleton Woods - Middleton in Wharfedale

Over past years, Councillors, Residents and the Press, have repeatedly quoted, “.......development of housing on the former Middleton Hospital site, could be detrimental to an area of ’ancient woodland’ apparently called Middleton woods..........”.

How many have stopped to wonder, just where are Middleton woods?

I have beside me various maps of this area, surveyed and printed from about 1895 to 1990, respectively. Each different when describing woodland across the river, now called by some as ‘Middleton Woods’.

In 1895, there were between Low Hall and Low Laithe, Coppy Wood, Stubham Wood, Hudson wood and Nail Bank Wood. No mention of Middleton Wood. In approximately 1900/4, there were Coppice Wood, Stubbing Wood, Middleton Wood and Nail Bank Wood. Hudson Wood seemingly disappearing. The map of 1952 ( revised in 1959 ), shows Coppy Wood, Stubham Wood and Hudson Wood. Nail Bank Wood and Middleton Wood, going the way of Hudson Wood on a previous map. Also, what was formerly known as Holmes Spring, between Low Laithe and Carters Lane, had become another part of Hudson Wood. Which seems very odd, given the large area of open land between the former Holmes Spring and a previous Hudson Wood.

On the 1990 map the whole area had become Middleton Woods, thus removing any ancient woodland names from that part of the locality, forever.

Some years ago, when involved in trying to stop a development down south, an application from another party was thrown out because of the vagueness in naming an area of woodland. Are we to suppose the same could happen here? If they are to be called ‘Ancient Woodland’, then their ancient’ names must be upheld, too. While there are some who would say Coppy and Coppice, or Stubham and Stubbing are variations of the same. One can’t say this for Hudson, Nail Bank or Holmes spring!

Changing names, has lost this Valley much throughout the past hundred years. Too much. Wheatley is a prime example. We all make little mistakes in research, but the above is so glaringly obvious, one wonders how the Parish Council have missed it, worse still, allowed it to happen.

Curried Oysters

I wonder how many folk realise Bradford, the Curry Capital, is twinned with Galway in Ireland. And one thing Galway is famous for is the Clarenbridge Oyster Festival - http://www.clarenbridge.com/  - perhaps someone in the 'Twins' could pick up on this fact and publicise it more. To make it easier for them here's a Yorkshire link - http://www.bradfordirish.com/wordpress/?p=287