Monday, 30 June 2014

Clever clogs

This little imp ...

is just far too clever.

Earlier today I was adding up some figures.  To be precise, I was adding 16 + 16 + 16, which I'd written in a column, not a row.  Yes, I could have probably done it in my head, but I prefer to see things written down.  I must have been having a brain freeze or something, because instead of the correct answer, I wrote 32 as my total.  As anyone who's even half awake knows, this is only 2 x 16, and not 3 x 16.

Clever clogs, who was sitting next to me at the time, glanced over and said, "6 + 6 + 6 isn't 2, Mummy, and the answer is 48."

Not only was I quite flabbergasted at my own stupidity (and amused that it was pointed out to me by a five year-old), I was equally flabbergasted at his quick mental arithmetic.  He'd added up the first column, carried one over to the tens column, and got the right answer in a flash.  Go home ed!

Proud mummy moment :)

Until next time. x

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Chevet cycle and walking path

After a busy morning of math, literacy and reading, it was off to swimming for us today, followed later in the afternoon by a short walk as Small was tired from his efforts in the pool.

Among the many disused railways in the region that are now walkable is the former Midland Railway branch line which ran from Royston Junction through to Horbury.  It seems hard to imagine that the main line, from which our branch line diverged, was so busy that it was quadrupled in 1900 to cope with the sheer volume of traffic running along its rails.  Now, it is a sad remnant of its former self, reduced to a single track that hardly ever sees a train.

The single remaining track can just be glimpsed through the trees
What galls all the more is that instead of utilising still existing parts of railway routes, like this section, to carry the HS2 line from London to Leeds, the government wants to build the new HS2 line a short distance away from infrastructure that's already in situ.   Surely this ready-made line could be restored, recycled and reused, with new sections only built where it's actually necessary?  It would appear common sense has nothing to do with it!

Not only will the proposed HS2 route totally bypass Wakefield, so bring no benefit to the district whatsoever, it will also destroy part of Waterton Park, which was set up as the world's first nature reserve by Squire Charles Waterton.  It seems it will also decimate part of Angler's Country Park and Haw Park Wood as well.  As for the artist's impression of the new "viaducts" they plan to build, let's just say Isambard Kingdom Brunell and George Stephenson would be turning in their respective graves.  A viaduct, where one must be constructed, should be an impressive piece of engineering not some bloody great eye sore.  But I digress!

Bridge over the railway at Royston Junction
We began our walk at Old Royston, which is where the Chevet branch line began, and diverged away from the former Midland Railway's main line.  The route links here with the Trans Pennine Trail and one can do the walk "properly" by following the blue TPT sign at right, and coming back on yourself under the railway bridge.  We didn't though, and we went down the steps which lead down from the abuttment on the left of the picture.

Three arches. Two for the former main lines, the closest for the branch line
Looking back towards the branch line arch from the bottom of the steps
Small heading off down the track
A left-over from railway days?
Another impressive 3-arch old railway bridge
After passing wooded embankments, and grassy embankments that were teeming with rabbits, we soon came to this old 3-arch bridge with two small arches either side of a large central arch.  This shot is taken looking back at the bridge, as the approach side was covered in some sort of vines.  It doesn't carry a road of any sort, and is only just marked on my new map.  My old map has it as "FB" denoting a footbridge, but neither of the maps show any sort of path crossing it so I'm not sure what it was for.

No doubt of this path's railway past, plenty of old ballast remains
Looking across towards Notton Grange from the Chevet Branch Line footpath
and looking the other side over the wheat fields near Monckton Manor
Just past here, the former railway cutting appears to have been filled in as the path suddenly slopes quite sharply upward, remaining level until it slopes down again just before the bridge which carries B6132 over the former railway, near Notton.

The path slopes back down to its original level here to pass under the B6132
The bridge carrying the B6132 over the former Chevet branch line
Brick arches reinforced with metal on the roof of the bridge
Path up to the car park off Smawell Lane
We left the path just beyond the bridge over the B6132 to go up to the car park which is just off the turning into Smawell Lane, having walked around 1.5km.  Not a long walk, but enough for Small who was tired from swimming.

The Chevet branch line itself continues to be walkable for perhaps another 6km, going through picturesque countryside and past Newmillerdam Country Park.  The path now terminates at Wood Lane, thanks largely to the efforts of Wakefield's cycle group who have worked tirelessly to ensure this traffic-free path's existence to connect this route to the Trans Pennine Trail.

When we got home it was time for tea - which, for the benefit of my overseas readers is what we northern Brits call our evening meal - so I went harvesting in the garden.  I managed to find a few peas, picked some strawberries and a lettuce.  The outer leaves of the lettuce were rather manky, but the inner part was still perfectly edible.

Today's harvest
These were teamed up with some chicken kievs (95p for 2) and a garlic baguette (35p), both from Aldi.  A delicious meal and only 65p per portion, making it very frugal indeed.

Until next time. x

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Impromptu chess

We had planned to go for a walk today once our morning 'academics' were over and done with, but it started to rain.  We did play "munching flies" again, and I had no luck at all in persuading Small that raisins made better flies than marshmallows.

As I had some shopping to do, we headed to Pontefract instead this afternoon for the twice-weekly visit to Aldi.  When we came out, it had stopped raining so we headed up the hill to Pontefract Castle, or what's left of it anyway.  It's free!

There are two parking spaces for the disabled right outside the main gate, which avoids having to try and walk or push a wheelchair up the hill.  A small building by the gate sells hot and cold drinks and has info sheets.

Just up from the main  entrance, there's a herb garden with an information board explaining what the various herbs were used for.

Click on the picture for a large version that should be readable!
Small wasn't too keen on lingering to read all about herbs as the lavender was in flower and was full of bees.

He spotted a large chess set that had been set out on the grass, and took off to investigate.  Needless to say, we had to have a game.  I'm hopeless at chess, so housemate had a game with Small and explained some of the rules to him.  He didn't win, but he did do well and managed to take quite a few of housemate's pieces.

As I said, there's not too much left of Pontefract castle but it seems a fair amount of work has been done to preserve what is left, and quite a few information boards have been added since I was last there.

The big grassy area in the centre is often used for events and reinactments, and I noticed there's a performance of Macbeth coming up soon.

Small wasn't too interested in any of the history of the castle.  He enjoyed exploring, but when, at one point, I told him he was standing in what was originally a 5th century chapel, he said that was "boring" and ran off to the chess board again.  Oh well!  He's only 5, so hopefully he'll be a bit more interested when he's a bit older.   I enjoyed it :)

Until next time. x

Monday, 23 June 2014

Munching flies is fun

Quite often when I'm browsing around teacher created products, mainly those from the USA, I see items that involve food of some sort.  I can't honestly say it's a method I'd consider using too often though, as the majority of the foods are of the sugary snack, sweets, candy, biscuits, cookie type.  I do like the idea of using Oreo biscuits to show 'phases of the moon', but apart from that our use of food when we're learning is strictly limited.

Today was an exception.  Part of our "Frog Frenzy" unit had a section called 'munching flies' to help kids learn subtraction.  We had a flower and frog counting mat, and two dice - one with flower numbers, the other with frog numbers.

First, Small rolled the flower die, which has the larger numbers.  He counted out the right number of mini-marshmallows onto the flower.  We were probably supposed to use raisins or something black to represent the flies, but all I had to hand was the marshmallows!

Next, he rolled the frog die, which has smaller numbers.  He moved the right number of marshmallows over onto the frog, who "eats" that many marshmallows.  Needless to say Small loved pretending to be the frog who got to eat the taken away marshmallows!

Last, he recorded the numbers onto his sheet, and worked out how many marshmallows were left on the flower.

This was probably a bit too easy for him, but if the amount of giggling going on is anything to go by, he had great fun while he was learning, and wants to do it again tomorrow.  I think I may try to persuade him to use raisins for his "flies" next time!

Until next time. x

Saturday, 21 June 2014


I've been rather out of action for most of this week, as on Tuesday my back decided to go KERUNCH for no particular reason, and I've been moving very gingerly ever since.

We managed to get to a home-ed meet up at a local park on Thursday afternoon, and as there weren't too many others there this week, Small wasn't overwhelmed and found another little boy to play with.

He had an appointment with the nurse on Friday - he's been looking very pale since a recent viral infection - and the doctor had suggested a blood test to check his iron levels.  I remember having to take iron tablets as a child, but I certainly don't remember having to have a blood test.  If memory serves me well, my doctor took one look at me, told my mother I needed iron tablets, and that was that.

I quite expected a major meltdown, as Small had been adamant all week that he didn't want to have a blood test.  He's seen his dad have them often enough to know what they're all about, so I can't say I blame him.  He definitely surprised me and was a very brave little boy - although he didn't think so, because he cried all the way through it - but it got done and the nurse was very impressed with him.

He wanted me to show off his war wound, so here it is!

In Tuesday's post, I published a photo of a flower I couldn't identify.  A comment was left (thank you!) suggesting it might be white campion.

my unidentified plant
The suggestion gave me a starting point so I googled white campion, and it does look very similar.  While browsing the images, a photo of another plant was suggested which was "bladder campion", otherwise known as Silene vulgaris.  I compared my picture with this one, and I think the two match.

Apparently the leaves are used as food in some European countries, but in North America the plant is considered a weed.   I'm not so sure I'd like to eat it though as it contains saponins (soapy substance) and the roots are known to have been used to obtain soap for washing clothes.  I suppose it would be a very frugal,  green, chemical free way to wash one's clothes if ever the need arose!

Until next time. x

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Railway ramble Havercroft-Crofton part 2

This post follows on from yesterday's post about our railway ramble from Havercroft to Crofton, which is about 3km in length - quite enough for little legs!

Small walking up the slope.  The camera really makes that jacket look very purple!
Female speckled wood butterfly
Dog rose
Approaching a former railway intersection
Which way now?  Intersection of two former railway lines. Here, ours passed over the other, which was part of the Great Central Railway to Nostell Junction and the East Coast Mainline Doncaster-Leeds.
Tufted Vetch
Ox Eye Daisy and Red Clover
Wetland area seen from the railway embankment
Wild grasses. Small took this one
No idea what this plant is. Anyone?

Graffiti on old abutment

Another old abutment
All four of these old abutments were still in situ; perhaps an incline led down to connect with the ECML Doncaster-Leeds line?  If there was one, it's long gone.  There's just a VERY steep drop which obviously gets traversed from time to time, but certainly not by us.

I stopped taking photos at this point as we were nearly at the end of our walk, and plus housemate had just phoned me to see if I'd seen a horse, which I hadn't.  We'd heard one, but had assumed (incorrectly) that it had gone off another way.  Apparently one had ditched its rider and bolted off somewhere.

The path dips down onto a concrete road just past here, which goes right down into the woods, or left under the road bridge from where the railway continued to Hare Park bridge and on to Crofton Junction.

We crossed the concrete road and on up the slope, which brings you to the road.  A little hedged path takes you along the roadside to a little parking area where housemate was waiting for us.  This end of the walk is also on the Wakefield-Hemsworth bus route, and there's a bus stop just down the road - go left over the road bridge instead of right to the parking area.

There was certainly plenty of opportunity for educational discussion on this walk, from plant and butterfly species to the history of the railway and the mines the area once had.  We must tick off all the living things we saw in our "spotters" books.

Until next time. x

Monday, 16 June 2014

Railway ramble

Something we're blessed with here in the southern part of West Yorkshire is an abundance of former railway lines, a lot of which are now official and unofficial walking routs.  Many of the old lines served now closed collieries, and some were left-overs from the days when each railway company had its own lines, regardless of whether they followed a very similar route to that of a rival company.

Our walk, outlined in purple
You can see the walk we did today outlined in purple in the picture above.  It's quite a contrast between this bit of map, with all its dismantled railway lines, to one from 1947 when they were all extant.  All the mines are also shown on the 1947 map, although there's very little, if anything, on the ground today to show where they once were - which is a good thing, as the landscape has been restored nicely.

The section of line we walked seems to have been part of the Dearne Valley Junction Railway, which itself was part of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway and went on to be part of the LMS post "big four" grouping.  This line ran for just over 7 miles between Shafton Junction to a junction just beyond Crofton, crossing over the current east-coast mainline between Doncaster and Leeds, via Hare Park bridge.  The only station on this line appears to have been Ryhill Halt, which was closed to passengers in 1951.  Another old map of former railways in the area can be seen here.

I love my railway rambles, and I love rambling about railways!  Time for me to shut up and let the photos do the talking.

We start at Havercroft, where the line crossed Cow Lane
Cross Beachill Drive and on up the old trackbed
Approaching a footpath intersction, where the path from Upper Hatfield Place, Havercroft (to the right),  goes to Ryecroft Avenue, Ryhill (to the left).  Our railway ramble goes straight on.
It can be quite muddy!
Cross Nostell Lane. Looking back towards Havercroft
Small, sitting on an old sleeper that's been made into a bench
The path is great for an educational nature walk
We talked about various species of plants
and we talked about nesting birds and hatching eggs
Cross Back Lane. Looking back towards Havercroft
I shall pause here, and post the rest of the photos from our walk tomorrow.  Buses pass along Back Lane, heading back towards Havercroft/Ryhill and Hemsworth, and in the other direction towards Walton and Wakefield, so the walk is accessible by public transport.

The route is walker, bicycle and horse friendly.  Local lads use it for motor-biking so watch out for them.  I'd say the route from Havercroft Beechill Drive as far as Nostell Lane is certainly suitable for motorised mobility scooters, but beyond that some of the inclines, where the former railway bridges have been removed, are rather steep and the scooter might not make it up.  It can also get extremely muddy.  Small loved it though, taking delight in wading through the muddy puddles.  Thankfully he had his wellies on!

Until next time. x