We had rain in the morning whilst still in bed. I can't remember the last time we had rain heavy enough to make a noise! By the time we had to get up the sun was coming out. I went for the paper which we read whilst we listened to the Archers and then Desert island Discs whilst Helen made some scones. At 1200 we left the boat to explore the Fairburn Ings Reserve.
To get to Castleford centre it is best to take the footbridge over the weir. I think it was a great Millennium project and the wreck of a barge could have been artistically placed. It wasn't.
From the footbridge we had a good view of the old road bridge in the evening sun with swans and cormorants.
Fairburn Ings had a 150 year history of mining and quarrying in the area. The coal seam 500 mts down, when mined, resulted in surface subsidence that has made some of the lakes that are now part of the reserve. The land was acquired by the National Coal Board and was used to bring pit slag and waste to be dumped. The rail line is still there, but not the track. In 1957 it was leased to the RSPB and the 618 acre site was recognised as a bird sanctuary. In 1968 it became a statutory reserve.
Across the Main Bay can be seen the Ferrybridge Power station. You may notice that there is no stweam from the cooling towers and no smoke from the chimneys. I believe the 3 power plants have been closed due to them being coal powered and so part of our bid to reduce carbon and global warming etc. The mines of the area fed the power stations all round here.
This gives you an idea of the height of the coal tips. There was 23 million tonnes dumped here and it was in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest slag heap in Europe. The water is the River Aire, along which we will be travelling tomorrow.
Thge tips are largely fenced off as they are still declared slightly toxic to humans! As can be seen in the valley below everything is nice and green. There was limestone and alabaster quarrying from here and there is even the remains of a ruined abbey. The reserve has recovered so well that it now has the record for the highest number of observed species in inland UK!
To the north of the reserve is Ledston Hall. It was originally a grange and chapel built for the monks of Pontefract Priory. It was then given to the Earl of Shrewsbury who in turn gave it to the Witham family. After a fewe hundred years it came to the Hastings family and Lady Elizabeth, known as Lady Betty, had an extensive garden laid out in about 1716. Elements of the garden and the house are Grade I listed.
It was nice to get another view of this the old Wheldale Colliery Basin on the south bank of the Aire. Coal that was less than 1" was loaded here to be taken to Ferrybridge power station by barge. Large size caol was taken to Fryston mine to be treated. Wheldale Mine was sunk in 1868 and started production in 1870. In around 1900 1000 men and boys produced 200000 tons. After Nationalisation 600 men produced 400,000 tons. At that time the mine had the longest continuous conveyor belt in the world at over a mile long. It was the last pit in Yorkshire to use pit ponies in 1972 and in 1982 it broke all records by producing 500000 tonnes, and it was the last mine in the UK to use steam locomotives on its sidings. The pit was closed in 1987 but the shafts were not filled in. Instead they used them to gather the methane gas from the old working to power a 10 MW power station that generates enough power for 8000 homes.
The bridge is the line into the reserve and would have carried coal between pits etc. In the distance is the Bulholme Lock from which we will be emerging tomorrow. The weather has been very good and we were also rewarded by hearing and seeing a cuckoo, and hearing another. It was surprising to realise that they did sound different, hence we could tell there were two.