We left a cold wet Rochdale with a forecast for better weather in East Yorkshire where we headed for a place that was new to everyone but the leaders. the Pocklington Canal, and it did not disappoint. Built over three years to connect Pocklington to Hull via the river Derwent, and completed in 1818, the canal carried coal, lime, manure & general merchandise to Pocklington, and timber, flour & corn in the opposite direction. It closed in 1934. Restoration work since 1971 has re-opened half of it. Our walk started at Canal Head, near Pocklington, and followed the un-restored section to the village of Melbourne, a distance of 5 miles. Needless to say, this unnavigable section offers much more to the naturalist
The weather continued cool and breezy, so not a day to tempt out many butterflies, just the odd brave orange tip. It was also too early in the year for the dragon flies that are a major attraction here in the summer. None the less we had a brilliant day out with constant spring birdsong, colourful flowers and tree blossom. A few carder and buff tailed bees braved the breeze and a brown hare on a ploughed field sat a while and then hared off on its long legs. The only fungus was some old turkey tail on a tree stump.
The old tow path provided a safe and easy walk: the only hills were mole hills. Beside the path were long sections of old hedge or tall trees, through which mainly arable farmland was in view. All these different habitats meant a variety of common plants were in full flower. The overgrown canal contained lilies. flag iris, water plantain and several species of reeds and rushes. Cowslip, cow parsley, bush vetch, garlic mustard, both kinds of bluebells provided delightful sights and aromas. But I think most would agree that the day was one for the birders, with so many newly arrived summer migrants establishing their territories. For many of us it was our first sighting this year of swifts, sand martins, reed and sedge warblers, blackcaps and whitethroats. We saw swallows collecting mud for their nests and a lapwing sitting on her eggs. Other mute swan pairs already had rafts of fledged cygnets.
It was not only migrant birds that were singing their hearts out, there were yellowhammers, a song thrush a pair of curlews and the key-jangling sound of corn buntings, now quite rare in the north. Raptors were represented by a buzzard and kestrel, and finally when were were back on the coach, a red kite.
For certain, the Pocklington Canal will reappear on the RFNS calendar in the future.