Thursday, 27 October 2016

Autumn woodland

By and large, English woods are nowhere near as spectacular in their autumn colour as the renowned woodlands of North America. It's the pops of red from the sugar maples that punctuate and give vibrance to those vistas. You rarely find maples in this country in ancient woodland, since they were mainly introduced to country estates and gardens. Nevertheless, the gentle autumn tones of green and gold are pleasing to the eye.

Grass Woods, near Grassington in Wharfedale, are best appreciated in spring when the bluebells and wild garlic flower abundantly. In autumn, they have a softer story to tell.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Chestnut beauty

Sometimes, taking the wrong path can prove rewarding. I had been exploring the little church in the hamlet of Conistone in Upper Wharfedale. A small gate in the wall at the end of its graveyard seemed to offer a quicker route back to my car but I quickly realised I had strayed into the tack yard of a stables. I apologised to the lady tending the horses - and asked if I might capitalise on my error by taking a few photographs! This chestnut beauty posed nicely, with quite a wistful look in his (or her) eye.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

St Mary's Church

St Mary's Church, Conistone - a pretty little church, grade II listed, dating back to the 11th or 12th century but rebuilt in 1846. It is actively used for worship and seems very well looked after.

Monday, 24 October 2016


Not far from Kilnsey Crag and across the River Wharfe, the attractive little village of Conistone nestles in the valley bottom. There has obviously been a settlement here for hundreds of years. The tiny church dates back to the 11th or 12th century and I found an old bricked-up doorway in the wall of one house, with a date stone that I think reads 1697.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Kilnsey Crag

The overhanging limestone cliff of Kilnsey Crag is one of the dominant features in the valley of the Upper Wharfe. It was shaped by the glaciers that once gouged out the valley and now stands about 170 feet high, with an overhang of 40 feet that makes it a magnet for climbers.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Red squirrels

We visited a red squirrel sanctuary near Hawes in Wensleydale. There are very few areas in Britain where our native red squirrels manage to survive. Most have been crowded out by introduced American grey squirrels. The reds are smaller and need larger areas in which to thrive. For many years, there have been attempts at conservation and land management to protect them but you have to go to specific areas to have any chance of seeing them.

I've never seen them in the wild before. I was delighted to get the chance to see and photograph them, though getting good shots proved even harder than I anticipated. The squirrels dart around incredibly quickly, so you need a high shutter speed and a fast telephoto lens. My camera and lens were barely up to the task; the rain and consequent low light didn't help. Choosing the highest ISO possible, shutter speed of around 1/500 and much experimentation with focus provided me with a very few passable images, which I've had to process quite carefully to reduce the grainy 'noise' caused by the high ISO.

Having said all that, aren't they adorable? There were half a dozen of them scampering around, not tame but certainly unfazed, after a while, by the fifteen or so photographers. We moved slowly and kept quiet and were richly rewarded. One of them ran right over my feet and another came down to a tree branch right beside me and spent quite a while 'eyeballing' me. I didn't dare move so I didn't get a photo, even though it was so close I could have touched it. What a thrill though!

Friday, 21 October 2016

Autumn comes to the Dales

I'm starting my retirement as I mean to go on, with holidays and my camera...  I spent a week at Scargill House in the Yorkshire Dales, Upper Wharfedale to be precise. It was a photography workshop; always good to spend time with like-minded folk and swap tips and ideas. Unfortunately the weather was rather wet (after a lovely week the previous week. Typical!) though that did make for some spectacular skies. On the journey there, just near Grassington, there are lovely views - enhanced on this occasion by a fragment of rainbow.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

The Kennet in Saltaire

Here are a couple more photos of the Kennet in Saltaire, as it celebrated the two-hundredth anniversary of the opening of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal by recreating the first full navigation in 1816. The vessel is a restored working barge that is the floating museum and educational centre of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal Society.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Two hundred years

The Leeds-Liverpool Canal, which passes through Saltaire, was a decisive factor in Sir Titus Salt's plan to site his huge woollen mill at this spot.  Completed in 1816, the canal pre-dates the mill by almost forty years. This year, the bi-centenary of the Canal is being marked by various events, the most significant being the recreation of the first full navigation in 1816, when local people turned out in their thousands to greet the boats, church bells were rung, cannons fired and brass bands played. During October, the restored working barge, Kennet, is making its way along the canal, stopping off at various points for celebrations.

Despite very heavy rain, I went down to the canal in Saltaire to see the Kennet pass through. (The things I do for this blog!) There was a brass band, playing under the bridge for shelter! The church bells rang and a couple of hundred hardy souls, including the Lord Mayor of Bradford and a BBC Yorkshire camera crew were there to witness the event. Tempting to think we were indeed 'recreating' something... except that in 1816 Saltaire didn't exist and the boats would have been making their way through green fields and heading for the Five-Rise Locks at Bingley for whatever razzmatazz the townsfolk there had dreamed up.

Never mind, it makes a good 'old' picture, doesn't it?

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Wreathed in smoke...

... and smiles. It's clear just how much the people who own and care for the exhibits at these steam fairs love and are passionate about steam and machines.  They spend hours polishing them, oiling them, sprucing them up - and equal numbers of hours chatting and comparing notes, beer in hand. There are a few women (wives and girlfriends, perhaps, working on the principle "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!") but it is mostly blokes, for whom clearly this is an all-consuming hobby.

Monday, 17 October 2016

From consternation to celebration

More from Chipping Steam Fair.... This huge traction engine, an 1889 Marshall engine named Mary Margaret, was a star exhibit. Owned by M Davison, it usually 'lives' in Co. Durham at the Beamish Museum. It had been planned to demonstrate how it could power a saw mill. These big steam-driven machines were mostly used to pull heavy loads or to run agricultural machinery, by means of a continuous leather belt attached to a flywheel. They were first produced in the 1850s and their use had died out in the UK by the 1950s, though many have been preserved and maintained by enthusiasts. 

The day was dry and bright but the previous few days had been wet and the ground was soft. This massive machine (which weighs 10 tonnes) therefore had a great deal of difficulty manoeuvring and its huge wheels were sinking into the mud. There was much consternation, and then a great deal of effort and concentration, using wooden sleepers to try and gain some purchase on the turf. Eventually - celebration! They got it into place and attached the huge belt from the flywheel to the circular saw, which was powered up. It then sliced through enormous tree trunks like they were butter. Aside from a pair of goggles, there was not much 'elf and safety' in evidence for the operators!

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Traffic light colours

Possibly my favourite photo of the steam fair batch (which goes to show how bad the rest are!) I liked the shapes and the red, yellow and green primary colours, like traffic lights... and it all reminds me nostalgically of my dad's garage, somehow.

Saturday, 15 October 2016


All dressed up in their overalls; not sure if the blackened faces were earned or just for show! The kids looked a bit bored though... Perhaps, if dad is a fanatic, they have to spend a lot of weekends at steam fairs...

Friday, 14 October 2016

Green Panther

Chipping Steam Fair - This metallic green was a thrilling colour. I like the abstract image but the whole car - a 1974 Panther J72 - was rather thrilling and beautiful too. It was for sale; it could have been yours for a mere £27000!  Though how you drive one on the road, heaven knows... Imagine trying to turn out of a side road with that amount of bonnet (hood!) sticking out, before you could see what was coming! (Yup, I'm so practical...)