There’s a lot of groundwork going on right now behind the ten foot high security hoarding, and all that can be seen is the tops of the diggers that occasionally raise their heads above the level of the fence. But now, today, something else is visible from the lawn below the top terrace – the tip of a huge mound of topsoil that’s been gradually getting bigger and bigger as the top layers of earth are removed from various parts of the site and carefully carried to one side. The diggers deposit earth onto the heap and then tamp it down to give it a smooth surface so the rain runs off and doesn’t sink in and turn it into a mountain of mud. And lately we’ve had plenty of rain.
I crept alongside the wire security fence and into the bushes next to the tower to get a better view, and from there I could see the whole magnificent heap. The entire site is covered to a double spade depth with this dark, rich, beautiful soil, the work of generations of Victorian gardeners enriching and fertilising the kitchen gardens that occupied the terrace. Daru Rooke the Museums Manager is calling it ‘Butterfield Topsoil’.

I’m not the only interested observer to hang around the perimeter of the building site. Despite all the noise and disruption (during the last few days they’ve been digging drains, and hitting rock) I’ve watched a young rabbit that seems to be quite unperturbed by all the commotion and looks as if it’s actually interested in what’s going on. I first saw it last week when I was sketching the old toilet block, when I noticed it feeding in the grass above the playground and then hopping nonchalently about near the old building. It didn’t seem to mind me, and didn’t even worry much when a dog-walker went by with her dog on a lead; it just flattened itself in the grass for a moment or two.

This afternoon it was sunbathing in a patch of sun on the tarmac of the footpath just inside the security fence, only yards from where I could hear major earth moving going on. Is this sort of thing interesting to a rabbit? I felt reassured that it seemed so relaxed and comfortable, and enjoyed its company.

Cliffe Castle Park in Keighley is being restored with funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Work started on site in June and I’m following progress and sketching whenever I can.

More updates on the work, photos, plans, and background information at: https://m.facebook.com/Cliffe-Castle-Heritage-Lottery-Bid-304048249751094 and at the Cliffe Castle Park Conservation Group website.  

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