Biodiversity and Balne Beck

A couple of nature-related pieces about Balne Beck. The first is a curious letter from to the Wakefield and West Riding Herald from Thomas Walter Gissing, who took a keen interest in natural history. He kept a chemist shop in Wakefield and was the father of the Victorian novelist George Gissing. T W Gissing’s Materials for A Flora of Wakefield and its Neighbourhood was published in 1867.

Wakefield and West Riding Herald
Friday 26 September 1856


To the Editor of the Wakefield Journal and Examiner.

Dear sir, — I have much pleasure in announcing the discovery of some botanical rarities in the immediate vicinity of Wakefield.

My sister, walking from Balne-lane Mill towards Silcoates, discovered trifolium resupinatum (reversed trefoil), and on returning showed it me.

I immediately walked to the spot, found the plant, and in addition four others, viz, medicago falcata (sickle medick), melilotus arvensis (field melilot), medicago denticulata (toothed medick), and phalaris canariensis (canary grass).

Now I think it highly improbable that all these plants should be indigenous to that one spot of ground; but from their meagre and unattractive appearance they would never be cultivated in a garden; at least, with the exception of the canary grass, I never heard of their being used as ornamental plants. The probability, therefore, comes to me that these plants have been brought from adjacent fields with rubbish, and so sprung up in this locality. I would therefore strongly recommend all Wakefield botanists to closely inspect the neighbourhood of Balne-lane, &c.

– I am, dear sir, truly yours,

Wakefield, Sept 22, 1856.

And a not-so-constructive item. Wonder if the poor bird was kept in a cage or stuffed.

Leeds Times
Saturday 2 April 1853


On Good-Friday, a man, named Armitage, was walking along the side of the Balne Beck, when he observed a fine kingfisher on a stone in the water, attempting to gorge a fish which he held in his bill. The finny prey was too large for his majesty, however, and he could not well get off the ground with such an encumbrance sticking in his gizzard, Armitage made him an easy capture.

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