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The Footpath by Denton Brook

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The footpath was a means for people living in Brookside to get to the letterbox and Cuddesdon, but during the last few months it has been well used for recreational walks.

An American friend used to walk it frequently and called it ‘the trail by the creek’. It starts at the white iron bridge, taking the road over the brook, and in the springtime as you step off the road there is a sea of snowdrops and an unusual tree, a variety of the common alder. This is the cut-leaved alder, alnus glutinous imperialis. A graceful tree with mid-green, finely cut leaves and pale catkins. The common alder is a native of the British Isles and I have seen it established on the spoil heaps of the mining industry in the rugged north.

As you continue down the trail, with a well-established copse on your left, you reach the stone slab bridge over the brook. Here are two rare trees but only because the elms were killed when the Dutch elm disease was rife. One is a large tree and the other a sucker. The sucker shows mild symptoms of the disease occasionally but never dies off. For a couple of years a red kite made a nest in a nearby oak tree and reared a brood. Soon you come to the bank of the brook with wild roses, ferns, hellebores and yellow dead nettle. On the other side is a lovely wood with undergrowth intact. It must be a haven for birds, insects and small mammals.

Many of the trees have ivy growing on them. In a natural history book (1898) edited by a north country vicar, the author writes, ‘How much value this plant is to the songster of our woodlands and to the insect world. Among its boughs the blackbird and the thrush can find shelter ere bush or tree has a green leaf’. As with many evergreens the leaf surface is reduced to save loss of water during the winter and ivy leaves exhibit many different shapes, with some being heavily indented and some almost complete. On the opposite side there is a typical country vegetable garden. Along this small stretch of the path there are many different shapes.

As you continue there is a mixture of wild plants including brambles, elder, rosebay, willowherb, convolvulus and the more dainty convolvuus minor hugging the ground and also some majestic teasel, so called because it was used in the Bradford mills to tease the woollen cloth. There are spikes in the wild arum in the ferns. We called it fairy lamps as the pollen is luminous, but it has many bawdy common names, based on the shape of the flower.

Near where the path meets the road up to Brookside, there is magnificent weeping willow and beech tree.

John Paxton