Fauna and Flora of Mill Farm in the 1950s


by Colin Miller 


If you took a walk up into the first pasture amongst the daisies, buttercups and mayflowers (cuckoo flower or lady's smock) on a bright morning in May you might hear the trilling of a skylark. Look upwards towards the sound, about 100 feet up it would be practically stationary, its wings fluttering away as it sang. Walk up into the next pasture you might hear the plaintive cry of a curlew as it flew around looking for somewhere to settle.

In the small wooded area at the end of this field the tap-tap of a woodpecker could sometimes be heard. Hens were kept In this area, and wood pigeons would be around looking for grain. Down by the banks of the mill stream a waterhen (moorhen) could often be seen paddling about in the watercress and marsh marigolds. A dipper might be seen standing on a stone in the stream, dipping away as it looked for water beetles. If you were very quiet you might disturb a heron that had been standing fishing in the stream; when disturbed it would fly away with slow flaps of its huge wings. Stream-dwellers included brown trout, bullhead, eel and probably freshwater crayfish.

In late April the house martins arrived. They would begin to build their nests or check over old ones under the eaves on the rough stone of the farm buildings, and collect mud from the banks of the stream. They would swoop low over our heads; they did not seem to mind us but but they would buzz the cats. In the orchard grew a lot of ramsons, or wild garlic. When trodden on they gave up a strong pungent smell.

From mid June the meadow flora included red clover, buttercup, mayflower and dog (ox-eye) daisy, and the grasses: rye, timothy, wild oat, and Yorkshire fog. Walking along the path by the river Hindburn there might be a flash of blue as a kingfisher flew by. You might hear, but rarely see, a jay, its harsh cry coming from the woods. Cuckoos made their annual visit and could be heard calling. On a cool night the hoot of an owl might be heard giving a certain eeriness.

In July, sea trout began to run up the river to find their spawning grounds higher up in the hills; they could be seen jumping up the waterfalls at the force. Otters were said to live on the river, but I never saw any; every now and then there would be an otter hunt with hounds, not a pleasant noise.

When part of the second meadow was ploughed up to grow vegetables, weeds appeared: groundsel, chickweed, dandelion, nettle, broad- and narrow-leafed plantain. The disturbed ground also attracted lapwings, which were not normally there. There were rabbits about in the hedge bottoms higher up the fields. Where there were rabbits there would be stoats, though they were not seen very often, being very shy creatures. In the hedges in the autumn there would be rose-hips, hawthorn berries, hazelnuts and crab apples. In the second pasture grew common thistles and a few rushes.

In the garden grew potatoes, carrots, beetroot, radish and lettuce; rhubarb and strawberries; and gooseberry, raspberry, blackcurrant and redcurrant bushes. There were also the pernicious weeds, mares-tail and ground elder. Hops grew in the hedge, as did blackberries and some gorse. There was a large apple tree and a pear tree. In the orchard were more apple trees and a blue plum tree, and in the paddock next to the house was a larger blue plum tree. At the back of the house, tomatoes and chrysanthemums were grown in the greenhouse, and there were flowering bulbs and more blackcurrant bushes. There were blackbirds, thrushes, starlings, house sparrows, wrens and various tits.


CM 2020
Page created 12-02-2020. Latest update 16-02-20
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