Tag Archives: Yorkshire

Rare harvest mouse found in County Durham

An endearing but rare animal for the North East has been found in one of its most northerly locations ever.

A dead Harvest Mouse was found near Bowburn in County Durham and reported to Durham Wildlife Trust.

Trust director Jim Cokill said: “We were alerted to this animal by a member of the public. It is a significant new record.”

The trust checked with the Environmental Records Information Centre (ERIC), based at the Great North Museum in Newcastle which collects information and sightings of wildlife in the region.

They have only 45 confirmed sightings for the region stretching back to 1974, so it’s a pretty rare creature,” said Mr Cokill.

Most of the records are in the south, around the Tees Valley, where there was a reintroduction project.

“There are no sightings from the area where this animal was found.

“Although this particular animal was dead, the report does raise hopes that there is a population living in that location and Durham Wildlife Trust will be trying to confirm that.”

The harvest mouse is the UK‘s smallest mouse and only weighs 6g.

It is mainly found from central Yorkshire southwards. Isolated records from Scotland and Wales probably result from the release of captive animals.

Katherine Pinnock, ERIC co-ordinator for the North East, said: “ This is a very exciting record because of the location. It improves our knowledge about this species.”

The find will be discussed at ERIC’s wildlife recording conference on October 11 at the Great North Museum, which is free and open to the public.

People can log any wildlife sightings on www.ericnortheast.org.uk

Harvest mice are extremely active climbers and feed in the stalk zone of long grasses and reeds, particularly around dusk and dawn.

Breeding nests are the most obvious sign indicating the presence of harvest mice.

The harvest mouse is the only British mammal to build nests of woven grass well above ground. Harvest mice have many predators, including weasels, stoats, foxes, cats, owls, hawks, crows, even pheasants and their average lifespan is 18 months.

Harvest mice usually have two or three litters a year in the wild. The young are abandoned after about 16 days.

Source –  Newcastle Journal,  26 Aug 2014

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Almanac – January 30

1649 – Charles I executed. The execution took place at Whitehall, London,  on a scaffold in front of the Banqueting House. Charles was separated from the people by large ranks of soldiers, and his last speech reached only those with him on the scaffold. He declared that he had desired the liberty and freedom of the people as much as any, “but I must tell you that their liberty and freedom consists in having government…. It is not their having a share in the government; that is nothing appertaining unto them. A subject and a sovereign are clean different things.” 

Kind of :  I know best because I’m king, and I’m king because I know best, so suck on that, scum. The same attutude (replacing king with rich) is prevalent in our current Consevative government.

Closer to the fact was the statement from The Ordinance For The King’s Trial

“Charles Stuart, the now king of England… hath had a wicked design totally to subvert the ancient and fundamental laws and liberties of this nation, and in their place to introduce an arbitrary and tyrannical government.”



1661 – Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England was ritually executed two years after his death, on the anniversary of the execution of the monarch, Charles I,  he himself deposed.



1969 – The Beatles’ last public performance, on the roof of Apple Records in London. The impromptu concert was broken up by the police.




1971 – Carole King‘s album Tapestry  released – it would become the longest charting album by a female solo artist and sell 24 million copies worldwide.




1980 – Professor Longhair died.  New Orleans blues singer and pianist. Professor Longhair is noteworthy for having been active in two distinct periods, both in the heyday of early rhythm and blues, and in the resurgence of interest in traditional jazz after the founding of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

The journalist Tony Russell, in his book The Blues – From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray, stated “The vivacious rhumba-rhythmed piano blues and choked singing typical of Fess were too weird to sell millions of records; he had to be content with siring musical offspring who were simple enough to manage that, like Fats Domino or Huey “Piano” Smith. But he is also acknowledged as a father figure by subtler players like Allen Toussaint and Dr. John.”



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Almanac – September 25

1066 – Battle Of Stamford Bridge, Yorkshire. The equally important, in many ways more important – precursor to the Battle of Hastings and the  Norman invasion of England.

An English army under Harold Godwinson, elected King of England, defeated a Norwegian invasion force commanded by Harald III of Norway.

Three days later, the Normans landed on the south coast, and the remnants of the English force had the long march south to meet them. If they hadn’t had to deal with Stamford Bridge and a few hundred miles of forced marching, the outcome of the Battle of Hastings would probably have been quite different.

Interesting to speculate what might have happened if the Norwegians had won at Stamford Bridge, since it would effectively have left three armies in the field – the Norwegians in the north, the Normans in the south, and the remnants of the English army plus whatever back-up they could draw on from the further-flung counties. Whatever, history would tell quite a different story.

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Almanac – August 24

“If the 24th be fair and clear
Hope for a prosperous Autumn that year”

Of course, nothing to stop you hoping for a prosperous Autumn even if the 24th be wet and grim. It’s St Bartholomew’s day, who was generally supposed to have been flayed alive, and therefore became, with a nice sense of irony,  the patron saint of tanners and leatherworkers.

A lot of traditional fairs were held on this day, but at West Witton in Yorkshire a ceremony called Burning Bartle still takes place on or around this day – a huge straw effigy is paraded through the village to the accompaniment of a traditional chant, then set alight.

The origins of Bartle is uncertain – various theories claim him to be a thief, a pagan harvest god, a giant who lived on a nearby hill or maybe St. Bartholomew himself [he’s patron saint of the village church]. Being burnt may be a pleasent change from being flayed alive.

79 – Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried the towns of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Stabiae ….although it should be noted that this traditional date has been challenged, and some  scholars believe that the event occurred on October 24.

1572 – In France, the beginning of the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, in which thousands of protestant Huguenots were butchered by Catholic mobs, the slaughter being authorised by King Charles IX.

All the streets of Paris rang with the dreadful cry: “Death to the Huguenot ! Kill every man ! Kill ! Kill !” Neither men, women, nor children were spared; some asleep, some kneeling in supplication to their savage assailants.

All that day it continued; towards evening the king sent out his trumpeter to command a cessation; but the people were not so easily controlled, and murders were committed during the two following days.

The large cities of the provinces, Rouen, Lyon, etc, caught the infection, and France was steeped in blood and mourning.

1680 – Thomas Blood died. Irish-born adventurer, best known for his attempt to steal the crown jewels from the Tower of London. He died at his home in Bowling Alley, Westminster, and his body was buried in the churchyard of St. Margaret’s Church (now Christchurch Gardens) near St. James’s Park.

It is believed that Blood’s body was exhumed by the authorities for confirmation—such was his reputation for trickery, it was suspected he might have faked his own death and funeral in order to avoid paying a debt to the Duke of Buckingham. Blood’s epitaph read:

Here lies the man who boldly hath run through
    More villainies than England ever knew;
    And ne’er to any friend he had was true.
    Here let him then by all unpitied lie,
    And let’s rejoice his time was come to die.

Assuming his body was exhumed, Blood’s grave is now alleged to be  in the graveyard of Saint Andrew’s church in Hornchurch, located next to the church building nearest the main road in a grave unmarked  apart from a now faded skull and cross bones.

1814 – British troops burned the White House in Washington DC.

1952 – Linton Kwesi Johnson born.   Jamaican born / UK-based dub poet. In 2002 he became the second living poet, and the only black poet, to be published in the Penguin Modern Classics series. His performance poetry involves the recitation of his own verse in Jamaican Patois over dub-reggae, usually written in collaboration with renowned British reggae producer/artist Dennis Bovell.

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Nelson Gate, North Yorkshire

NELSON GATE, Dunscombe Park, North Yorkshire

I’ve not visited this one, but its been in the news recently –

A 206-YEAR-OLD stone arch built to commemorate one of Britain’s great naval victories is standing proud again after a painstaking restoration project.

Nelson Gate, next to the A170 on the outskirts of Helmsley and originally an entrance to the Duncombe Park estate, is believed to be one of the earliest monuments to Lord Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar.

A 2011 survey found parts of its stonework had severely decayed. The end of the resulting restoration scheme was marked yesterday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by organisations which funded the project, including the Country Houses Foundation, the War Memorials Trust, the Yorkshire Gardens Trust and the North York Moors National Park Authority.

Nelson Gate has been a Grade II listed building since 1955, and can be found-

OS Grid Reference: SE6133281761
OS Grid Coordinates: 461332, 481761
Latitude/Longitude: 54.2279, -1.0607
Postcode: YO62 5EE

The official description is –

Gateway in form of triumphal arch for Duncombe Park. 1806.
Sandstone ashlar. Triumphal arch with impost and dated keystone and
superimposed Tuscan order.

Inscribed frieze; to front: ‘To the memory
of Lord Viscount Nelson and the unparalleled gallant achievements of the
British navy’.

To rear: ‘Lamented Hero! 0 price his conquering
country grieved to pays 0 dear bought glories of Trafalgar Day!’
Moulded cornice.

Its not mentioned in Gwyn Headley & Wim Meulenkamp’s   Follies – A Guide To Rogue Architecture [1986],  though Dunscombe Park is – apparently it also boasts Ionic and Tuscan Temple follies – although to be honest, their research seems to get sketchier the further they get from London.

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Mummified Cat Found In Knaresborough

Workmen converting a building in Castlegate, Knareborough, North Yorkshire, into a restaurant have uncovered a mummified Cat in “a purpose-built tomb next to the fireplace” [how they knew that it was purpose-built is not stated.]

The building itself is said to date from as early as 1450.

The owner said that they had considered putting the cat back in the wall but because the works weren’t going to be finished for seven to eight weeks they decided to give it a decent burial nearby – a course of action I hope they wont come to regret. These creatures were there for a reason, and removing them without deactivating them first sometimes results in things happening.

If it had been me, I’d have put it back in its hole, along with some kind of offering as an apology for disturbing it.

Actually, its interesting to note how many times building work seems to activate supernatural activity. I’ve always supposed it to work on the same principle as a pond where all the silt has settled – the building work acts in the same way as someone coming along with a big stick and stirring everything up. Bits and pieces that have long lain dormant on the bottom are brought to the surface, activated, and things happen.

In time, the silt will settle again and things will stop happening.

This has always seemed a reasonable working hypothesis, but I wonder if in some cases activity is triggered because renovation work has inadvertently removed some protective talisman – be it a mummified Cat or something less obvious.

The practice of secreting mummified Cats in buildings seems to have been quite widespread at one time. As far as I know [and I’m willing to be corrected on this point] no-one ever wrote down any instructions or rituals regarding the practice, but it’s not difficult to imagine how it may have originated.

In times when houses were far more vermin-ridden than today, a good Cat would have been invaluable. When a noted mouser died, it could have been buried under the hearth or wherever, in the hope that it would continue to exert rodent control measures from the spirit world.

In time they came to represent luck and protection in a more general sense.


Mr. Frankenstein

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