July 2019




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7th July


Hubcap and I enjoyed a treat yesterday: a sunny Saturday trip to the annual Pennine Camphill Community summer fair. Held in the grounds of the 1903 mansion Boyne Hill House, (now student accommodation), the fair is a popular and well established local event with stalls and displays to showcase the talents of its residents, (young people with learning disabilities). We took full advantage of the stalls and bought lots of lovely things (pictured) at bargain prices:

a big basket for gathering our apples from the Beckside orchard (£10); a ceramic platter (£2) and two mugs (£1 apiece), also for use at Beckside; and a printed silk scarf, silk-screened linen bag and hand-woven woollen bag, all destined as gifts for family and friends. As well as being happy to acquire such delightful items, we were happy to support this worthy cause - the Community is a non-profit-making educational charity, dedicated to teaching crafts and life-skills to build students' confidence, employability, and ability to live independently. We had a good browse around the stalls to the accompaniment of music from Wakefield Orchestral Wind Band, then paid a visit to our chums from the Frei Compagnie, who had set up camp in an idyllic spot and were getting plenty of interest from members of the public. The last time we were at this event, in 2017, we'd also been in medieval costume as part of the show - and I must admit, it made a very pleasant change to come along as a regular visitor, nice and cool in my T-shirt and shorts, to enjoy looking round the camp without having to help pack it up at the end of the day! So well done to our stalwart re-enactor friends (including Sir Wayne demonstrating armour and weapons, Xellun doing have-a-go archery, and Christine and Stephen with their hand-made medieval toys) - they put on a great show despite the heat, as you can see from the pictures below.

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21st July: Beckside Update!


Thanks largely to Hubcap’s hard work, an incredible amount has happened on our little patch of paradise since last I wrote about it. His biggest achievement, in response to our fear of more terrible droughts like last year, was to increase water catchment and storage so that we can keep our fruit trees watered. Initially, he hoped to tap into a spring that flows through the site, but had no luck in finding it. So the next best thing was to dig a big hole, (capacity c. 3000 litres), line it with a pond liner, and connect it to the rainwater-butt on the wood store via a length of buried pipe. Using all reclaimed materials, he gave it a low surrounding wall and a lid to stop creatures falling in, then fashioned a filter system (pictured) from an old dustbin, layers of foam and fleece, a container of activated charcoal, some plastic tubing, and a new hand pump (the only significant expense). Regular pumping has transformed a stinky soup of decaying earthworms (which sadly fell in before he built the wall) into beautiful clean, clear water good enough for our livestock to drink (when we eventually get some). We were also delighted when a customer gave us a 500-litre water tank to rig up somewhere else on site - another reassuring provision against future shortages!

Meanwhile Beckside’s burgeoning growth and biodiversity never cease to amaze and delight.  2019 brought us a third generation of friendly pheasants - there’s always one in the brood bold enough to answer Mick's whistle and come for bird-seed, and this year it was a lovely hen he christened ‘Sneezy’ (see below, a grand-daughter of our first pheasant chum, Dullard), who did us the honour of bringing her ten chicks to meet us! (Sadly, only one has survived to maturity). Frogs and newts returned to spawn in our tiny pond (you may be able to make out the little froglet sitting on the edge in the picture below); we also have moles, hedgehogs, small rodents and the raptors – foxes, owls, crows, magpies and sparrow-hawks - that prey on them; a great population of other birds, including blackbirds, robins and tits; plus insects galore - butterflies, dragonflies, moths, beetles, flies and hoverflies, not to mention our hives of busy bees - feeding and breeding among the grasses and ever-increasing range of wildflowers. Literally everywhere you look is now teeming with life - including the beck, which after Mick’s dredging and damming to increase its depth is now home to shoals of sizeable chub, attracting regular visits from a local heron. Altogether, it's become a perfect microcosm of traditional English countryside, created in less than five years from a piece of derelict wasteland; I marvel at it every time I go there, and hope you enjoy these images of its lush summer loveliness.

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