The Finsley Gate swans gained three young today, with two eggs in the nest still to hatch. I did not want to get very close and so a better photo has to wait for a longer lens on another occasion. Born into a home of thrown down plastic waste, but born none the less.
There is no fresh water at Finsley Gate Wharf as the mains supply is disconnected and the canal is clearly an unpotable option (its waters a medium for travel but never for satisfying thirst or for washing).
Yet a map from the early Nineteenth Century shows a well tucked away in the south west corner of the site, that has been progressively lost to each successive survey of the land. In a map of the 1890s it appears as a small pond, but is gone from recent cartographic record. I decided to venture out and see if there was any trace still to be found. After much clambering about in dead ferns and creeping bramble and continually on the watch for assorted sharps, I found the well head.
Its waters now greet the surface through a cast concrete rectangle, designed to take the customary sort of ‘manhole’ covers found on municipal drains. There is something saddening about the site of a spring of pure water, reduced to being a sump for run off from the nearby warehouse – and then casually disregarded and forgotten with the dereliction of closure: and when this well was the loci for local life in the first place.
The three maps are from MARIO (Maps & Related Information Online) – Lancashire County Council’s interactive mapping website at http://mario.lancashire.gov.uk
The Canada geese at Finsley Gate have hatched their young and today they took them on a journey around their home. They progressed across the concrete, nibbling at mosses and grasses growing between the cracks, and seeming to enjoy tiny fragments of rust from an old stop tap cover. I followed them into the former kitchen garden of the canal keepers house, where they all tugged enthusiastically at jungle like swathes of ‘sticky’ stemmed cleavers or goosegrass as it is sometimes known, because it is so loved by them.
New Nettle shoots are appearing in the former kitchen garden and demand to be foraged for a particular Finsley Gate tea. Roots of dandelion will be cleaned and baked for a distinctive coffee.
The highest home in Finsley Gate belongs to the crows nesting in the tall trees occupying the south side of the site towards the rear of Springfield Road.
The former kitchen garden of the wharf keepers house has been rescued from a dense entangled thicket of brambles, but any sort of new growth is waiting yet for some warmth to the soil and air. The mature cherries on site are in bud though, and across the canal great yellow sunbursts of renegade forsythia, pepper perspectives by the bridge. Red flowering currant, native to the west coast of the USA, is creeping through railings bounding the freshly demolished site of the Lambert Howarth & Son factory across the canal.
Every Monday Craig makes a round trip from Sheffield to assess the structural stability of the buildings still standing at Finsley Gate. Surrounded by litter on land and on water, we reflected on the fascination of what gets thrown out and on the happy associations these discards can sometimes trigger – for Craig the sighting a Raleigh Burner covered in mud at the bottom of a drained lock (the hot transport item of his childhood). I got all enthused over a marble.
As I was balanced on top of the Egg this morning refixing the Egg’s chimney, Roger and Judy on a morning stroll called across from the bridge and I invited them over to take a closer look. We spoke about the need to spend time looking, if we are to ever really notice anything about our surroundings and blue tit landing on a nearby bush triggered their insights into local wildlife. Beside the canal they had spotted merganser ducks that I associate with the sea shore, as well as wagtails, an owl and once a fleeting glimpse of a kingfisher. On opening the curtains one morning a fox was walking along their back alley wall. I’ll be on the look out for all these neighbours now myself.
On a rainy day one week ago, Woody and Buzz Lightyear delivered the Exbury Egg to Burnley, where it now sits with some synchronicity on this site of a former boat yard for the Leeds Liverpool Canal.