Thursday, 10 March 2022

Aggression in the natural world. Claiming territory. Rights of way. Bridle paths.

Ignoring the problems of the wider world, here are some territorial grabs going on closer to home.

One of my regular circuits of the area, my most frequent morning running route, takes me up the main road, off onto a side road, past one former millpond, through some woods (well, a few trees), past another former millpond, up the road that skirts the top of the village and then back home. For years and years a regular inhabitant of the first former millpond has been George, a white goose so stately in appearance that my Spanish sister needed convincing he was not a swan. In fact, we have always referred to him as a swoose. I don’t really know who christened him George but I suspect it’s the bloke who lives at the bottom of the lane, in a house with a large picture window looking out over the millpond to the hills beyond, not quite taking in the old Roman fort at Castleshaw.   

I have recently posted on Facebook quite frequent photos of a pair of swans who have once more taken up residence with us. Romeo and Juliet one of my nodding acquaintances calls them. We’ve begun to take them for granted as part of our landscape, they have been there for so long this time. The other day I came across a couple anxiously scanning the pond and the surrounding field. As I am a nosy parker, I stopped to ask if they were looking for the swans. But no, they were looking for George who seems to have disappeared. 

Troublingly, they had spotted a heap of white feathers, too far away for anyone to be sure what they were unless they had heavy duty boots on to go through the squishy terrain. They went on to tell me that they have witnessed the male swan being rather aggressive towards any other waterfowl in the vicinity, chasing them off. They fear that Romeo the Swan might have done in George the Goose, asserting his territorial “rights” and possibly protecting the place he has chosen to raise a family. 

It is to be hoped that this is not the case. Romeo and Juliet might regret such action. George has been a useful extra parent or babysitter to broods of goslings belonging to the Canada geese, who have never quite accepted him as one of their own but have tolerated his being around. Watch this space!

Last week when I returned from my foray to Uppermill market I noticed another bit of territorial stuff going on close to home. 

The main bridle path around here is the Donkey Line. Long ago it was a working railway branch line, serving local textile mills among other things. The story goes that the line took its name from a claim that the original service on the railway was a carriage drawn by a donkey. However, it has never been proven there really was a donkey or horse-drawn service on the line. But the name has stuck. 

One of its claims to fame is that the most illustrious train to run on the Delph branch was on 21/22 June 1960 when the Royal Train conveying HM the Queen Mother between York and Chester stabled overnight on the branch, which at the time had been closed to passenger services for 5 years, but was still open for goods. 

But finally the line was permanently closed and the track removed. All that is left is the old station house, now a private residence, and a few information boards. It is however a very pleasant, now tree-lined, bridle path. Access to the path has always, to my knowledge anyway, been through a patch of waste land in front of what remains of an old textile mill - a mill which mysteriously and I am told quite spectacularly caught fire some years ago. 

A fair few years ago the owner of said waste ground fenced it off and declared it private property. To give him his due, he did organise a set of steps up from the main road to the Donkey Line. But maybe that was not him. Who knows? The steps were fine provided you didn’t want to access the Donkey Line with a baby buggy, a bicycle or a horse! And provided you didn’t mind taking your life in your hands by stepping off into the traffic if you went down them! Within a short time people took to ignoring the private property signs and making their way round the fencing, most of which was summarily pulled down. 

Now, on Wednesday of last week, as I returned from Uppermill I noticed work going on to level the bumpy entrance to the waste ground. Yesterday there was a barrier made up of what looked like large concrete lego bricks. There was just space to squeeze my bike through the space. It seemed that work was going on to remove asbestos from the ruins of the old textile mill. Fair enough. Something is being done with the old ruins at last, but will a housing estate spring up there before we can blink? Will we still have right of way to access the bridle path. The steps I mentioned before are now in a rather lamentable state, the final step sliding down dangerously into the road. We shall see!

Today I planned to walk my small grandson in his buggy along the path. The space my bike had fitted through was too narrow for the buggy. I had to take the small boy out and lift the buggy over. This was not a serious problem as I had intended to have him trot along the bridle path anyway, but we did have the remains of some muddy puddles to circumvent. However, we had a pleasant stroll along the Donkey Lone, although progress was slow as he had to stop to examine sticks and stones, pretend to fish in the stream alongside the path, greet any number of dogs, and charm their owners with his smile. 

When he decided he needed carrying we had a bit of a fight to get him back into his buggy. I blame his mother who will perch him on one hip and push the buggy one-handed! This is not a skill I have ever developed. Fortunately his wails of protest stopped when we came across the patch of water with large frogs busily mating, as they do there at this time every year. Thoroughly satisfied, he gave in and went to sleep! 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

No comments:

Post a Comment