A Fitting Tribute

Richard Brook, for many years our Conservation Officer, died, aged 74, a year ago on 20 April, 2017. I showed some of his slides of local wetland habitats on members’ night, including this surprisingly open view of the top end of Newmillerdam, as it was in 1973.

In the 1980s, Richard ran a commercial nursery specialising in daffodils and developed the award-winning ‘Tripartite Narcissus’. It has three flowers on each stem and is still available globally. Last year it was exhibited at The North of England Horticultural Society’s Spring Flower Show at Harrogate.

Richard’s Tripartite Narcissus on the Order of Service from his funeral.

A friend of Richard’s from the Daffodil Society laid some on his coffin at the end of his funeral service.

Richard’s cousin, Philippa Coultish, tells me that the family has now sold Richard’s house at Crigglestone and cut back the jungle that had grown up around it over the past ten or twenty years: “All the daffs are coming up in the garden. The people who have bought it are excited to have the garden…I dont think they realise how fast it will all grow in the summer!”

By coincidence in yesterday’s Gardener’s World, on BBC2, Nick Bailey did a piece on daffodil breeding, interviewing Johnny Walkers, Honorary Vice-President of the Daffodil Society at Hever Castle, Kent, so, as I’d been in touch with him via Twitter, I told him of the coincidence of it being the anniversary of Richard’s death.

“I hope it was a fitting tribute,” he tweeted in reply.

Richard was a pioneer in habitat mapping; this method of recording habitats wasn’t adopted by Natural England (then the Nature Conservancy Council) until some years after he had first used it to record local wetlands.

Leventhorpe Lagoon, 1973

I’ve been making a start on archiving the colour slides taken by Richard Brook (1943-2017), for many years the Conservation Officer of the Society. He photographed the East Ash Lagoon at Leventhorpe from the lagoon’s northwest corner on Sunday, 2 September, 1973.

He could see the potential of these lagoons as nature reserves and he documented every one of them – along with subsidence flashes and sand quarries -within five or six miles radius of Wakefield, so his collection of slides form a unique record of post-industrial West Yorkshire. I’m putting together a small selection of his slides for members’ night.

Richard Brook

Richard giving the conservation officer’s report at a meeting in the Unity Hall, February, 1981. Sketch by Richard Bell.

Richard Brook, conservationist, plant breeder and 60s music fanatic, who joined the Society in the 1960s and served as excursion secretary and later conservation officer, died on 20 April, aged 74. Extracts from his diary (below) were compiled by Richard’s second cousin, Ann  Brook and read at his funeral on 8 May by her sister Philippa.

The ‘Tripartite’ mentioned in the May entry refers to his award-winning ‘Tripartite’ narcissus, which he developed in the 1980s when he ran a commercial nursery specialising in daffodils. The Tripartite has three flowers on each stem and is still available globally. Last month it was exhibited at The North of England Horticultural Society’s Spring Flower Show at Harrogate.

Aire Valley Wetlands

In the 1970s, he compiled the Society’s bird reports and a survey of the Aire Valley Wetlands. Thanks to Richard’s family, we now have a limited number of copies of Birds Around Wakefield 1974-1979 and Aire Valley Wetlands available. The habitat maps, which Richard compiled by studying aerial views and making numerous field visits, were ahead of their time.

We’d also like to thank Richard’s family for passing on his photographs, which form a unique record of the post-industrial landscape of the Aire and Calder Valleys around Wakefield.

Sandal Brickworks, 9 September, 1973.

Richard’s observations taken from diaries of 2010

Heard nuthatch in Wakefield Park.
Cloudy, cool, drizzle after dark.

Song thrush…
Sitting in a laurel bush.

Saw orange tip butterfly.
Killed one large fly.

19th of May. Blossom out!
Tripartite faded in the heat and drought.

Young Goldfinch came to the seed feeder.
…saw the first gatekeeper

Robin singing an autumn song.
First picking of Victoria plums.

Cloudy, cool, slight North breeze.
Sparrow hawk, hiding in the pear tree.

Evening dull, with light rain.
Buzzard over the garden again.

Warm sun and cloud in the morning,
sweet blackberries ripening,

Green woodpecker laughing.

Pair of jays came to the water bowl.
White frost, sunny, calm and cold.

February meeting: Extra-ordinary AGM

This is an advance notification that at February’s meeting we will be calling an extra-ordinary AGM to re-present the WNS accounts. The reason for this is to comply with the Charities Commission rules which states that we should present the accounts to the members 14 days in advance of our AGM. As we were unable to do this due to the original AGM being too soon after Christmas to get in all the bank statements from the peregrine account, our auditors have suggested we make the AGM null and void. However, the Society doesn”t wish to have to repeat the AGM business, hence an extra-ordinary AGM to present the fully audited accounts. This should only take five minutes and we would advise thta the accounts are now online for anyone to look at ahead of the meeting.

After the business, we will be heading off to Spain to have a look at some of the iconic species of birds that this vast country has to offer, such as this beautiful pin-tailed sandgrouse.

Pin-taiked Sandgrouse

RSPB Old Moor flower walk

Primarily a bird watching paradise, Old Moor has developed into a varied habitat for wildflowers, butterflies, damselflies and dragonflies.   On our short walk today we were able to enjoy meadow brown butterflies, ringlets and small skippers amongst the purple loose-strife, great willowherb, meadowsweet, bush vetch and meadow vetchling. Marsh (hybrid) orchids and common spotted orchids were coming to their end but marsh bedstraw, ribbed melilot and common centaury were just coming into flower.  The ponds were enriched with common blue and blue tailed damsel flies hovering above the water lilies, broad leaved pondweed and yellow iris.

Small skipper

Small skipper

Greater willowherb

Greater willowherb

common centaury

common centaury

Solar eclipse visible in Wakefield

The past week has been exciting for anyone interested in the Sun. Last week, on Friday, I photographed the Sun and captured a picture of a large group of sunspots. One day later, a coronal mass ejection (CME) – a huge explosion – associated with the spots sent millions of tonnes of material towards Earth. On Monday, this material hit the Earth’s atmosphere, causing widespread displays of the Aurora Borealis and turning the night sky green on St Patrick’s Day in some places.

Then, four days after the “St Patrick’s Day storm”, the moon moved across the face of the sun to create a partial eclipse earlier today. The cloud was a bit of a nuisance but it didn’t spoil the day. On the pictures, you can see a sunspot in the top left quarter of the disk.

Solar eclipse

Solar eclipse

Solar eclipse

Solar eclipse

Solar eclipse

sun spots

sun spots

Solar eclipse

Solar eclipse

John Laws

I have just heard the sad news that our Vice-President and long serving member, John Laws, passed away on Friday 6th February after a long illness. John and Catherine joined the Society in the late 80s and have been regular attendees of the indoor meetings ever since. Our thoughts are with Catherine and the family. John’s funeral will take place at St Helen’s Church, Sandal on February 23rd. I will post more details when I have them.

Badgerlands by Patrick Barkham

Memebers may be interested to hear Patrick Barkham speak at the Morley Literature Festival, here are the details that were emailed to me:

Patrick Barkham: Badgerlands – a Talk
Sunday 13th October at 11.30am
Morley Town Hall, south Leeds
Part of Morley Literature Festival

Britain is the home of the badger, with more per square kilometre than in any other country, and 2013 has seen badger culling brought to the nation’s attention by Brian May and thousands of protestors. Yet many of us have never seen one alive and in the wild. Nocturnal creatures, badgers vanish into their labyrinthine underground setts at the first hint of a human.

The Guardian’s Patrick Barkham follows in the footsteps of his badger-loving grandmother to meet the feeders, farmers and scientsts who know their way around Badgerlands: a mysterious world in which these distinctively striped creatures snuffle, dig and live out their complex social lives.

Tickets: £4 available in advance via 0844 848 2706 or on the door.