What we’ve been doing

River Foss Society keeps busy with a packed calendar of walks, visits, litter picks and canal boat trips. There’s more about these in our newsletter, but the reports below will give you an idea of the variety of things we do.

March 10 Foss Walk 1 Circular Farlington via Whenby

The first walk of the year was a circular of around 5 miles based on the Blacksmith’s Arms in Farlington. Despite a horrible rainy weather forecast, eight of us turned out, and whilst we did have some light drizzle, it was by no means unpleasant. Underfoot it was obvious how much rain we have had recently with puddles everywhere and a fair bit of mud. The paths we took were generally easily passable, although we had to climb one gate which a kindly farmer had tied up with binder twine as you’ll see in the photos below. There wasn’t a lot of scenery to be seen as it was rather misty, but the countryside in that area is slightly undulating and always easy on the eye.

Part way round, at Whenby Lodge Farm we noted how high the water was in Farlington Beck, and saw next to it a large lagoon heavily contaminated with manure (stacked nearby), which was duly reported to the EA. Coffee and nibbles came out at Whenby church after which, having completed the walk by 1245, we partook of a welcome lunch at the pub. A most enjoyable morning out – thank you Bob for organising it!

17 April Walk 2 Circular Sheriff Hutton via Stittenham

April 17 was cloudy and windy for the start of our second seasonal walk welcoming 13 walkers. This followed a circular route and with the Right of Way path temporarily closed, it started on a grass verge on the Sheriff Hutton to Bulmer road. We used the “Ebor Way” and then turned Right onto the “Centenary Way”.  The right of way path was ploughed out and we had to walk further onwards to pick up the path.

After Stittenham Wood we walked a very muddy path into Stittenham, where we had refreshments in the garden of Richard, a keen walker who owns a B&B in the village. He welcomed us into his garden to sit on the seats he keeps in the garden for any walkers passing. We continued on the “Centenary Way” to Low Mowthorpe Farm and up to Mowthorpe Lane where we turned left to Sorwood Thorns and joined the “Ebor Way”. We then walked south to to return to the start.

This walk had some problems with walkers maintaining varying paces. At one point the group spread out almost a mile. Whilst a lamb was returned over a fence to its mother, one group charged ahead, but unfortunately did not know the route and accidentally walked through a farm yard. This caused delays in meeting up at the end of the walk.  Our walks are social and encourage mixing so we do not use a ‘backmarker’ but that in this instance it could have helped.

May 10th Walk 3 – Barmby on the Marsh, Derwent Barrage

Five walkers met on 10 May at the Tidal Barrage at Barmby on the Marsh. Like the Foss Barrier, this controls water from the Ouse flowing back into the River Derwent.  Enjoying a dry, sunny and warm day, the group first visited the Barrage and Lock then followed a route along the Ouse flood bank.

Passing the remains of the impressive bridge and embankment of the now disused railway, the group turned from the Ouse, eventually climbing the flood bank of the Derwent and then finishing the walk at the Barrage.  Unfortunately the pub was closed so the group headed home after this interesting walk.

 17 May Boat Trip through central Leeds with viewing of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme

Arriving at Canal Wharf in Leeds by various ingenious transport methods but on time (thanks again), 27 members and friends were joined on board Yorkshire Hire Cruiser’s the “Kirkstall Flyer” built in the 1980’s as restaurant trip boat, by Stuart McKenzie (Canal and River Trust).  Canal Wharf is opposite the recently redeveloped Granary Wharf area.

Leaving the mooring at the east end of the 126 mile long Leeds & Liverpool Canal, turning and dropping down through Leeds River Lock into the River Aire, part of the Aire & Calder Navigation, “Kirkstall Flyer” passed magnificent old riverside buildings, many now converted into flats and offices.  As Leeds Lock was approached the entrance to Clarence Dock was passed along with the Royal Armouries Museum.  Leeds Lock was drained earlier in the year for a pair of new lock gates to be fitted.

Stuart, whom many had met on visits to the Tees Barrrage, then gave a talk explaining that as Freight Operations Planner/Harbour Master for the C&RT he has many responsibilites which include the River Tees and Barrage as well as more locally to Leeds including part of the River Ouse.  As “Kirstall Flyer” progressed Stuart then explained details about the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme, Phase One, intended to reduce any future flooding such as that occurred at the same time as the River Foss flooding in December 2015.

[Stuart also explained that the C&RT is responsible for most Canals and some Rivers in England and Wales although not the River Foss (CYC).  It is also being re-organised from 10 areas to 6 Regions wth one still being in Leeds].

It was fascinating to see how a 600m stretch of land known as Knostrop Cut island had actually been removed to allow the river and cut to merge into a very wide river to create additional capacity for flood water.

As Knostrop was approached it was explained how new type moveable weirs in the UK had been built at Crown Point, passed earlier, in Leeds City Centre and at Knostrop.  Then everyone disembarked to see the Knostrop weir from a bridge across the weir built to connect the Trans Pennine Trail with the north bank.  The sun came out to improve what was already a cool but dry and pleasant day.

Shortly afterwards “Kirstall Flyer” turned at the Thwaite Mills Museum mooring for the return journey.  Everyone enjoyed an excellent buffet lunch with special thanks for the vegetarian food offered.  The Bar was open all the time for the purchase of both hot and cold drinks.

Although boat trips can often get delayed “Kirkstall Flyer” arrived back at Canal Wharf on schedule and John Millettt thanked skipper Adam assisted by crew Simon, caterer Sharon and Drew running the Bar and particularly Stuart for providing so much information from his 40 years involvement with waterways.

A walk around York’s Walls

Neil Moran led a group of around 20 members along the city walls from the art gallery to just beyond Monk Bar. Despite a freezing wind, we all enjoyed a most informative and entertaining walk and talk. Neil mixed Vikings, Romans and medieval times together to make a picture of the changes York has gone through.

We started with an explanation of what Bootham Bar had been and why it is as it is now – not every age has been as considerate of the city’s history as ours is!

Behind the Minster we learned about the standardised layout of the Romans with lookout towers spaced by the soldiers’ ability to shout from one to another.

At the end we passed the icehouse, apparently supplied with straw-wrapped ice from Scandinavia and used for food storage in the summer months: it was a reminder of times past to hear of the variety of meats consumed by the Vikings. No wonder so many bird species struggled to survive!

Visit to Top Hill Low Nature Reserve

On Sunday 10 June eight members visited Top Hill Low nature reserve, near Hutton Cranswick, East Yorkshire. The 290 hectare site is mainly woodland and meadow, surrounded by open countryside bordering the River Hull.

The site is owned by The Yorkshire Water Authority with its large reservoirs and lagoons forming part of the treated water plant which supplies most of the city of Hull with fresh water.

We had the good fortune to have as our guide Richard Hampshire, the site Warden, who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the reserve and who pointed out the main items of interest, including the extremely vocal Marsh frogs. Beside the path, a grass snake was seen warming itself in the midday sun.

The reserve pathway verges are a profusion of wild flowers, with carpets of Red Campion, St John’s Wort, Ox-eye daisies and a host of other wild flowers including Marsh and Bee Orchids. During our tour round the reserve we saw or heard forty-two species of birds, the viewed highlights of which were Green Woodpecker, Little Egret, Ringed Plover and Whitethroat.

The reserve is well worth a visit.  We were told that during the winter when the ‘D’ lagoon is drained for maintenance it exposes a base of thick silt which apparently encourages hundreds of wintering birds creating quite a spectacle.

Walking through the King’s Fishpool: 1067 to 2017

On 13 June, we were privileged to have John Oxley lead this walk on a very warm evening.  John, the archaeologist of the City of York, took the subject of ‘Walking through the King’s Fishpool 1067 to 2017’. Our journey started at the Blue Bridge, heading to the Fishergate Postern, St Deny’s Church, Walmgate, then following the Foss to Hungate, Layerthorpe Bridge and finally on to Monk Bridge.

At various points along the way John described the differences in the former topography of the landscape and surrounding area. He then told us how the Foss was dammed to create the King’s Fishpool. John also highlighted historic locations along the route including the former fish market on Foss Bridge, the Hungate burial grounds and an earlier Layerthorpe Bridge with its raised centre section for the passage vessels of the Foss Navigation.

Our final stop was at Monk Bridge where John described how the original structure was also altered for the passage of vessels. He explained that the knowledge gained from various archaeological digs had indicated the structure of various bridges crossing the Foss.

This was an extremely interesting walk and talk, made more so by John’s enthusiastic delivery, and he was warmly thanked by the twenty one members and friends in the group.

Two day walk

The entire 28 mile long Foss Walk is walked annually in two sections on consecutive days. This ensures that the Society has a full knowledge of the state of footpaths and the presence of any obstacles.

The walk this year was on 22 and 23 June, two hot and sunny days.  On the first day four walkers started at Blue Bridge with six more joining at Huntington.  The walk then followed the official path via Strensall, Sheriff Hutton, Farlington, Crayke and  Oulston to its end at Easingwold. Two unavoidable re-routings were followed due to footpath closures caused by slippage.

On both days the walkers found footpaths generally dry but obscured in many places by grass growing very high. Some stiles were also overgrown and difficult to use. The summer crop of oilseed rape made footpaths in some fields hard to follow as the front walker had to separate the plants to get through. And, as reported before, the Foss Walk remains sadly short of signing and waymarking.

Along the way, they walkers found friendly hospitality at stopping places and had managed to achieve two targets: enjoying their walk and keeping on eye on the state of the Foss Walk.

Litter pick 28 April

On what turned out to be a fine morning, 12 RFS members and two visitors met, as usual, at the Footbridge along Foss Islands Road. The CYC boat on this occasion was not being used because of the small amount of litter floating on the water.

Hence we split up into 3 groups to make a concerted effort of removing litter from along the river banks from our start point downstream to the River Ouse at Blue Bridge. As a result of an earlier reconnoitre of the river banks most attention was directed to the Rowntree’s Wharf and Wormalds Cut area, the Castle car park, and Castle Mills lock.

As can be seen from the photos, a successful litter pick was made and this resulted in our collecting 14 bin liners full of rubbish, as well as several larger items including an old Xmas tree, a large plastic seat, a microwave oven and many large polythene sheets which were removed from the water at Wormald’s Cut.

Most of the bin bags were disposed of at the tip in James Street, and the heavy bags and bulky items were left in a safe place to be collected by the City Council. Grateful thanks go to all those who turned up on the day.

A visit to the Calder & Hebble Navigation

Having commented in a previous report about participants always arriving in good time, who should be five minutes late this time?  The organiser (and two others)!  On 2 July, the maximum of 12 members and friends boarded “Lady Rhodes” at Shepley Bridge Marina, Mirfield, on another lovely summer’s day.  “Lady Rhodes” is a 55ft narrowboat, one of five boats operated by the Safe Anchor Trust, a long established award winning local charity providing access to the waterways for disadvantaged groups.

The marina is close to a lock at the east end of a cut (a canal section of the C&H Navigation) usually made to avoid a meandering section of river, in this case the River Calder.  Travelling west along the cut and arriving at an open Ledgard Bridge Flood Lock, “Lady Rhodes” joined the River Calder but then at Battyeford Lock again joined a cut.  After passing through Battye Flood Gates and reaching Cooper Bridge Lock “Lady Rhodes” rejoined the river.  Immediately after passing through open Cooper Bridge Flood Gates the Huddersfield Broad Canal was seen leaving to the south before becoming the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, one of three canals passing over the Pennines and including the famous Standedge Tunnel visited last year.  On reaching Kirklees Low Lock, “Lady Rhodes” was turned and retraced her way back to Shepley Bridge Marina.  (Flood Gates and Flood Locks are used to control a river in times of high river levels).

The trip went through surprisingly pleasant and peaceful countryside but, perhaps because of the heat, only a heron, cormorants, the usual mallards and greylags at a lock were seen with very few boats actually moving.

Thanks are due to contact Kevin and crew Graham, David and Andrew from Safe Anchor Trust. (Lateness was due to trains from the north being delayed due to a Network Rail points problem at Darlington!)

Evening walk 5 July

Another beautiful, sunny evening with a light breeze was enjoyed by 13 walkers. We started off at the Fox Inn, Stockton on Forest and walked through fields admiring the wide vistas, up a quiet country road, through a wood and back to the pub where we tucked into a delicious meal.

Litter pick 21 July

On 21 July nine members turned up at the footbridge on Foss Islands Road; two were dispatched to work on the boat/pontoon. The remainder were split up into two groups: one group concentrated on the area at the rear of Rowntrees Wharf, then proceeding to the Castle Mills Lock area; the second group covered the river banks downstream up to the Castle car Park, once again the most polluted area for litter.

We then all met up at Castle Mills lock. All members were wearing an RFS tabard, which clearly gave us some good publicity; there were several reports of communications with the public, mainly visitors, which were both jovial and positive. In all we collected 10 full green bin liners and filled the two builders bags which were strapped to the pontoon. There were three large items recovered from the river bed. Grateful thanks go to those members who turned up on the day.

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