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Tale Telling

Beck At The Level Crossing

Beck At The Level Crossing

We went round to the level crossing the other day and stopped to look over the fence at the beck. Just here he’s running down a staircase as he climbs down from one side of the road to the other, so he’s quite vocal. We stopped to chat. It turns out that he didn’t always come this way. He used to cross the road higher up the hill and sit around in a mill pool. He says it was quite hard work turning the mill wheel so he doesn’t miss it all that much. He’s been retired for a good few years now and he’s grown used to having more time to himself.

It wasn’t a bad job, he tells me, and there was something very satisfying about regular work. He ground corn mostly, he says, but the saw mill wasn’t idle and had reasonably regular business. They used more timber in those days. There was talk of building a canal from Carlisle to Newcastle but nothing ever came of it. It wasn’t going to come past here anyway, but for a time he did think it might be nice to flow east down the Tyne into the North Sea instead of the Eden into the Irish. Then the railways came and that was the end of his international travel aspirations.

Still, as he says, he’s retired now and his times his own.

The Long and the Short

Common Oak

Common Oak

Going up the hill yesterday, we passed an oak tree and something about it caught my eye. Now, the road snakes its way up the hill from the level crossing with some quite tight bends, so it isn’t easy to stop and take a picture safely. The Dog is used to the quiet lanes of our normal route and is inclined to sit down in the middle of the road while she waits for me to engage in my artistic activity. Occasionally, when the mood to explore takes her, she might even decide to investigate the verge on the other side of the road – this stretches the lead right across the road and we have, in the past, been embarrassed by the silent approach of a cyclist. Because our level crossing is one of the few places that gives access to the world on the other side of the railway line, this section of our route is fairly busy – as in, we will usually see two or three large trucks or a car or two on our way up or down.

With all this in mind, I suggested, quite firmly, that she consider the delights of the verge at the base of the tree in question, while I focused on focusing on the acorn in the photo. Did you notice that it was dangling at the end of a long stalk? All the other Oaks I’ve spoken to around hear have had acorns with a short stalk. According to The Woodland Trust, they are Sessile Oaks, They have long stalks on their leaves and short stalks on their acorns. This guy is a Common or English Oak and like us, he’s a southerner.

He looks to young to be retired though.

Discard

Beech Mast on the Road

Beech Mast on the Road

Today The Dog and I wandered up to the level crossing. Here I must tell you that the last three or four days have been unbearably hot and humid. I can remove a few of my customary layers of clothing but she is still wearing her full winter outfit. At the level crossing, with both of us approaching dehydration – or possibly even dessication, The Dog pointed out that by carrying on straight ahead, down the road past the rookery, we would be under the shade of the trees. Even though it meant increasing the distance between us and our final destination, the shade ahead was irresistible.

That part of the road is now strangely silent. The rooks have raised what youngsters they were able to protect from the depredations of the buzzards and moved out to forage over a wider area. There is still the occasional disconsolate mewing of a melancholy buzzard reminiscing over the time of plenty, but they too have extended their search area and are now finding that road kill is not as unappetising as they had thought earlier in the year.

The road under the Beech trees is covered with Beech mast. Some of them ground under the wheels of passing vehicles, but many just lying with the prickly husk partially open as if they had ripened and made a break for freedom. The nuts inside the cases proved to be totally undeveloped when we levered the case apart and bit the nuts open.

Far from making a break for freedom, I think that they’ve been specifically asked to leave.

A Bit of a Steel

Railway Line

Railway Line

The other day The Dog and I wandered round to the railway crossing, as we do every other day or so. We found two guys in yellow jackets there, in the middle of the crossing. One of them was obviously keeping watch for trains, while the other was walking backwards across the road, between the railway lines, making chalk marks every so often on the steel of the rail, as he did so. This was too much for both The Dog and I, so we went on down to the crossing to see if either of them were in a talkative frame of mind.

It turned out that they were both pleased to have someone ask them what they were doing, exactly. Several months ago we suffered a weekend of round the clock din and disruption while the track laying machine trundled its way across our embankment. This is a fantastic machine. It pulls up track, sleepers and ballast and replaces it while, itself, running on the track it is rebuilding and replacing. It takes about twenty four hours to to work over a couple of miles of track – and from our own experience, it is a very noisy business.

But apparently, it can’t do level crossings. They still have to be done by hand. My two guys were measuring up the rails at the crossing so that they would be able to put the new lines in exactly the same positions as the old ones. They did the work over a Saturday night – Sunday morning and I’m pleased to say we heard nothing.

As you can see the new rail is just starting to pick up a bit of a polish.

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