Wednesday, 31 March 2010

New bandstand

Another aspect of the renovation of Roberts Park in Saltaire is the reinstatement of the bandstand. There must have been a similar structure when the park was first developed, but it had long since disappeared. The new bandstand will provide a focal point in the more formal gardens on the upper terrace of the park. There is a wide promenade, and the bandstand is being erected opposite the statue of Sir Titus Salt, which stands on the roof of the Half-Moon Café. It will give him something to look at! I have always thought it incongruous that he faces away from the village and the mill that he founded.

I am looking forward to a retirement enlivened by Sunday concerts in the park. (Some way to go yet, but I live in hope!) And there is always the prospect of tea and cricket on the lower level of the park, beside the café. Saltaire Cricket Club has a long history of playing on the Roberts Park ground - a topic I will return to in the summer....

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

New seat

There's so much renovation going on in Saltaire - not just the playground at my end of the village, but Roberts Park too. (See my blog of December 21). It will be lovely when it's finished but at the moment it all feels a bit unsettling! The winter snows have left everywhere looking a bit the worse for wear. Add to that the mounds of soil, metal barriers and quantities of orange plastic tape and nowhere looks very beautiful right now!

I think, in a few weeks time, when the leaves are starting to appear on the trees and the gardeners have done some planting, the park will begin to look more attractive again.
This new, painted seat gives an idea of the way things are being improved. It's a replica, I suppose, of the original Victorian park benches. It will be a nice place to sit and watch the world go by. The refurbished Half-Moon Café is due to reopen in two weeks time - so you will soon be able to buy a cup of tea too.

With the trees still bare, you can see how Salts Mill stands above the park and how the park is joined to the village by the green metal footbridge. (At one time, Victoria Road came down right into the park but the road-bridge was demolished as unsafe in the 1950s).

Monday, 29 March 2010

The Cage - Part 2

You'll perhaps recall that at the end of last month I mentioned that a cage had sprung up at the end of my street, and they had dug up the children's playground to start renovations. Well, work continues, so I thought you might like to see an update. (The workman wielding the big mallet was highly amused when I appeared with my camera!) They have installed two climbing frames, several seats, the framework of two sets of swings, a mysterious metal pole, tons of topsoil and a blue port-a-loo (which I assume will be temporary!) There will be a winding path between what will be a toddler's playground and one for the bigger children. And at the bottom end they have levelled an area for ball games, all neatly fenced with a fancy looped metal railing.

So far, so good.... except that...
.when there was no proper 'goal' for the footballing lads, they used to use the swing frame as a substitute. You may remember this was up against the gable end of the houses (see blog March 1). Despite there being a whole gable end to aim at, plus netting on either side to a height of about eight feet, I still lost count of the number of times the football landed in my back yard further up the street.

And now, the goal-kicking will be aimed, not at a goal with a house wall behind it, but at a goal with a BUSY ROAD behind it! So, I wonder, how do they expect a three foot high perimeter fence plus a tiny bit of metal screening behind the 'goal end' of the football area to prevent the ball
bouncing into the road?
You can see what's going to happen - footballs continuously bouncing into the road, peril for car drivers, kids leaping over the fence to retrieve the ball....it doesn't bear thinking about! Don't the planners think about these kinds of things? I mentioned it in my feedback when I saw the plans. Clearly no-one listens. What's the point of something that looks nice, if it's dangerous?

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Sunset skyline

'Let me, O let me bathe my soul in colours;
let me swallow the sunset and drink the rainbow.'

Kahlil Gibran


So many people have told me they enjoyed my photo of the
sunset behind Saltaire's church that I thought I'd show you another picture I took that same evening. This one shows the silhouetted skyline of Saltaire village with all its chimneys and the distinctive shape of the Victoria Hall tower on the left.


I don't know what atmospheric conditions influence the effect of the setting sun but we rarely see such spectacular colour here. As Saltaire sits in the bottom of the valley, there isn't really a vast expanse of sky visible from any given point. The colour has to extend a long way across the sky before you really notice it. But this was glorious.

May there be just enough clouds in your life to create a glorious sunset...


Saturday, 27 March 2010

Monochrome Weekend: Old bridge

(Best viewed large)
This is bridge number 208 on the Leeds-Liverpool canal, known as Junction Bridge, Shipley. Just beside it (to the left of my photo) the canal was linked to the Bradford Canal, a 3.5 mile spur that ran directly into the centre of Bradford. That was closed in 1922 and though there has been talk of reopening it, the plans have not progressed, as far as I know.

I rather like this old bridge, though it no longer seems to go anywhere and it's all a bit decrepit. Have a look at Martin's website for some really interesting info and photos about the Bradford Canal (see comments - thanks Martin!). It says that the bridge enabled boat horses to cross from the towpath of one canal to the other. If you click
this link, there's also a photo and some comment by a gentleman named Mike Short, who seems to know some of the history of the Bradford Canal.


The eagle-eyed among you may be able to pick out the clock tower in Shipley town centre (on the right of the photo) - see my earlier photo of that.

To see more participants in The Monochrome Weekend, click this link.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Sunday by the New Mill

I've walked this way hundreds of times and taken many photos - and I quite like this one. Sometimes this stretch of the Leeds-Liverpool canal in Saltaire, between Salts Mill and the New Mill, seems a bit dark and lonely. It's often in shadow, as the buildings block the sun. But mid-morning on a beautiful spring Sunday the towpath was busy with walkers, joggers and cyclists. And there was a sense of life, as though people and things were waking up. Let's hope the coming weekend has such good weather too.

See here and here and here for other pictures of the same stretch.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

St James' Church, Baildon

I left the canal towpath at Buck Hill and walked down the hillside, across the River Aire by a footbridge and up the other side of the valley into Baildon. St James' Church is on the edge of the sprawling housing development that is Baildon these days. The attractive little church has an interesting history....

It was built in 1892 in Great Warley, Essex by the rector, the Rev Bailey, at his own expense. When he retired, he arranged to have it moved to his birthplace of Baildon - but sadly did not live to see it erected there in 1905. The church is linked to the Parish Church of St John the Evangelist in Baildon. It is a wooden building with a pantiled roof and, over time, the wood began to deteriorate. The only way the congregation could afford its thorough restoration (it is a Grade II listed building) was
to move it again, to a corner of the ground it originally occupied and sell off some of the land for housing.
It has been restored using long-lasting cedar wood (no moths in there then!), improved and brightened inside, with a new floor and eco-friendly heating. It now sits in an attractive 'Biblical' garden.

During the dismantling and restoration process, Denso Marston Ltd (whose factory, making cooling systems for cars and trucks, is across the road) once again came to the rescue (see Monday's post) and allowed the congregation to worship in their boardroom.
Hooray for a community-minded company!

For further information on the church's history, and on other historic buildings in Baildon, see this link.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Towards Buck Hill

The stretch of the Leeds-Liverpool canal along which I walked last Sunday - from Saltaire through Shipley as far as Buck Hill Swing Bridge - is not, it has to be said, the most scenic part. Although, because the river valley drops away and the canal continues halfway up the hillside, you do get some lovely views across the valley towards Baildon. However, the light was good and brought the colours out well. I always like images with water and reflections.

One of the negatives about the area is the long line of electricity pylons that snake their way across the hillside. Not very beautiful, but I suppose the cost of burying the wires underground would be prohibitive. Another negative is the amount of litter in the canal at the moment; perhaps it's there because of the winter? I don't know if British Waterways employ litter-pickers to tidy it up, but there are all sorts of plastic bottles, lumps of wood, plastic bags and other debris floating in the canal all along its length. I should have taken this lump of polystyrene out, I suppose.

Anyway, don't look at that - just enjoy the colours!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Dry-stone seat

Malyss has a fascinating blog all about benches - so this one's for her! It's on the Denso Marston Nature Reserve that I described yesterday and was donated by the company. It's an interesting design, built in the manner of the dry-stone walls that are a strong feature of the Yorkshire area. It looks to have utilised two old stone gateposts in its construction. The wall behind provides shelter from the wind, which can be quite strong here as it's channelled along the Aire river valley. The stone soaks up and radiates the warmth of the sun - so it provided me with a cosy nook for a short rest on my walk.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Denso Marston Nature Reserve

Sunday was a lovely early Spring day...far too nice to stay indoors - and anyway I need to get into training.... Shortly after Easter, I'm planning to walk the Northumberland Coastal path - five days hiking, of 10 to 13 miles a day. I think I can manage that, but I decided it would be wise to limber up a bit in preparation! With that in mind, I took a walk of, I suppose, about 6 miles, wearing my new backpack to make sure I could shoulder that comfortably (it's fine).

My walk took me in a circular route, along the Leeds-Liverpool canal through Shipley and then back to Saltaire through Baildon and along the moor edge. I took a minor detour to visit this small Nature Reserve on the way. Created in 1991 by Denso Marston Ltd, the Reserve forms a buffer between their factory and the River Aire. The land is prone to flooding, which makes it unsuitable for development, but rather than leave it unused, the company's Production Engineering Manager had the idea of turning into a Reserve for the benefit of the local community. The company employs a part-time warden and hosts visits by groups and a programme of wildlife discovery activities throughout the year.

It's a lovely peaceful spot, scattered with seats so that you can relax and enjoy it. It has this small area of pond, which has been carved out deliberately but which now looks quite natural. I think the mallard ducks thought I might have some food for them. They swam over to investigate me.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Dead & gone

It's funny, isn't it, how easily you can overlook things? This stone has obviously been here for years, and I must have walked near to it several times without noticing it. It's on the canal bank in the grounds of Saltaire's URC church. Even having noticed it, I am unsure exactly what it is. Clearly the letters L&LCCo stand for the Leeds & Liverpool Canal Company. This was the company formed in 1768 to construct the canal, to enable the transport of raw materials (including limestone from Skipton) to the developing wool and industrial centres of Bradford and Leeds, as well as the exporting of finished products to the Americas, via the port of Liverpool. The company must have ceased when the canals were nationalised in 1948. The stone looks like a gravestone for the defunct company! But I'm sure it had some proper purpose. I have no idea what the "B" means.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Monochrome Weekend: Down by the swing bridge

(Best viewed large)
I happened to be down by the Hirst Wood swing bridge, on the Leeds-Liverpool canal near Saltaire, just as a boat was passing through. There is not much traffic along the canal yet; it's only a week or so since the water was frozen solid. But there are a few hardy types who live permanently on their narrowboats; maybe these people do. They had a wood-burning stove going well, judging by the smoke curling from the chimney, and a good pile of logs on the roof to keep it burning.


I decided not to wait whilst they went down through the lock. When I set off from home the sun was shining, though without much warmth. By the time I reached this point, the clouds were gathering so I turned and headed back. Lucky I did, as I was just able to rescue my (almost dry) washing from the line before the heavens opened in a hailstorm.

To see other excellent monochrome images, visit The Monochrome Weekend site.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Vintage Fair

"The House of Rose & Brown" on Victoria Road in Saltaire is an absolute treasure trove of vintage clothing, jewellery and articles for the home. Every now and again they hold a Vintage Fair in the Victoria Hall. I've never been to one before, but I had a wander round last weekend and was amazed by the vast array of interesting things on display. I was tempted to give a good home to the teddy bear. In the end I bought myself a beautiful silk scarf for £4 - I have a very similar one in different colours that was a gift and cost at least six times that! So if you have an eye for a bargain or want something different, this is the place to go. (Lili, you'd like this!)

As well as clothing, there were some stalls selling lovely things for the home: crockery, lampshades, quirky vintage radios, kitchen paraphernalia, fabrics, cushions and all manner of patchwork and lacy things. Some of the vendors were selling articles hand-made from recycled fabric and buttons. I spotted some gorgeous cushion covers beautifully made from old sweaters, and artfully trimmed with lace and buttons. Each had an attractive label with a photo of the original sweater it was made from, which I thought was a nice touch.

Almost as interesting as the stalls were the people looking round, some in the most creative of outfits, lovingly and stylishly put together from the fruits of their previous vintage trawls. There were some wonderful hats too! There's something about vintage that chimes in with the times - recycling, good stewardship and honouring our collective history - and it's a venture that fits very well within the spirit of Saltaire. The only slightly upsetting thing is that I'm getting old enough to remember when some of those things were new and groovy!

[NB: The shop is currently closed for a refit, reopening in April , but they have an online boutique too.]

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Northcliffe Park

I saw these glorious yellow crocuses in Northcliffe Park, Shipley the other day. There aren't many yet, but in the sunshine they looked so cheerful - a real promise of joy and new things.

Northcliffe Park exists due to the foresight and generosity of a local man, Henry Norman Rae MP. During the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, there were many small open-cast coal mines in the area, meeting the demand for coal to produce steam-power for the mills and factories. When the fifth Earl of Rosse put up much of his land around Shipley for auction, Mr Rae (later Sir H Norman Rae) bought Lots 98 & 99 and, in 1920, generously gifted them to Shipley Urban District Council to be used as a public park and playing fields in perpetuity. The area is still managed by the local Council. It comprises a small area of formal gardens, playing fields, a bowling green and tennis courts, a children's playground, allotments - some of which are a horticultural project for people with learning difficulties - and a large area of (mainly oak) woodland along the valley of a small beck (stream).

The name Northcliffe was originally North Clough - a clough is a steep-sided ravine, and there are many in this area. They tend to have survived as natural areas as they were unsuitable for agriculture and development. It's an attractive area and the group called the 'Friends of Northcliffe Park' do a great job of helping manage it, promoting wildlife and encouraging people to use the park.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Snowdrops

Phew, after all that history and industry, let's escape outside. Despite it being the middle of March, however, this hardly qualifies as a 'Springtime in Saltaire' scene. The sun has little warmth as yet and the trees are not yet properly in bud. But the snowdrops are an early herald, promising better things to come. The main advantage of winter is that you see far more through the leafless trees. I think this is an attractive vista. I was standing in the grounds of Saltaire United Reformed Church, looking down to the canal and across to the New Mill with its ornate chimney. The building you see behind the tree's trunk is the back of the Stables, which is now a private residence.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Burling & mending

And finally....I've mentioned already in a blogpost the final stage of the worsted manufacturing process - burling and mending. This involved highly skilled workers inspecting the finished cloth by sight and feel, for imperfections and knots. These were then teased out and invisibly mended, to leave a perfect length of cloth. This photograph, hung on the wall of Bradford's Industrial Museum, captures the process - and the concentration required - very well. (Best viewed large)

Monday, 15 March 2010

Weaving

Once the yarn was spun it was woven into a fine, wool worsted cloth, used for suiting and other clothing. The quality of worsted produced by Saltaire's Salts Mill, especially that made with mohair and alpaca as part of the mix, was highly regarded. It had a cotton weft and was fine and lustrous, which made it very suitable for the crinoline dresses that were popular with Victorian ladies. It is said that Queen Victoria, who kept two alpacas in Windsor Great Park, sent their wool to Salts to be made into cloth for her dresses.

Some of the cloth made was kept in the natural shades of the wool, and the various different wools twisted together gave pleasing variations. But there was also a dye-house in Salts Mill where cloth (and perhaps yarn, I don't know) was dyed to order, before being dried, pressed and packaged ready for despatch to the customer. It seems the dye-house had a particularly unhealthy atmosphere and was a dangerous place to work.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Monochrome Weekend - Cogs and wheels

These are the huge cogs and wheels on one end of a spinning machine. You can see from this how big an issue health and safety would have been in a Victorian mill. There don't appear to be any guards on the machinery. Workers, especially women and children, were frequently injured or killed by the machinery - hair, clothes and scarves got caught, fingers trapped and limbs crushed, and there were reports that some children - who worked long hours until factory reforms were eventually brought in - were scalped when they crawled under the machines or killed when they went to sleep and fell into the machinery.

Thankfully, Titus Salt was not at all uncaring about his workers. In 1868, he built Salts Hospital - originally as a two-storey building with a six-bed casualty ward for accidents at the mill. In time, this grew into a cottage hospital for the whole community. (I haven't yet shown you a good picture of the hospital. I hope to remedy that before too long.)

It's interesting to see that the manufacturer of the spinning machine in the photo was a company in Keighley (pronounced Keethley!), a few miles up the Aire Valley from Saltaire. When textile production in this area died out, it affected many more than those who actually worked in the textile mills themselves.

Visit The Monochrome Weekend site for more B&W photos.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Sepia Saturday - Spinning

(Best viewed large)

Spinning
was the final stage in converting wool to worsted yarns which could be woven. The machines drew out the roving to its final thickness (count) and added twist for strength (just like a hand spinning wheel does). There are three main types of spinning machine (flyer, cap and ring)
but they all work on similar principles and mainly differ in the way the twist is made and the yarn wound onto bobbins. One of my books has a photograph of the windowless spinning shed in Salts Mill in 1947: 630 feet long, it had 16,380 cap spindles, on row upon row of machines. (See blog post here)

When I think of a textile mill, I suppose it's the spinning machines that I imagine. They would have been tightly packed together and the noise from them would have been incredible.
From the picture of the mill on the wall above, you can see how narrow the aisles between the machines were. I imagine that the children, for so long employed in these mills, would have been very useful - their smaller bodies would have more easily been able to move under and around the machines.

I think the photo on the wall qualifies this as a Sepia Saturday entry - for more fascinating entries, see here.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Bobbins

Drawing was the process by which the combed 'tops' were gradually reduced from thick slivers of wool to a 'roving' from which yarn could be spun. The wool passed through a series of machines with rollers, each designed to play its part in the gradual drawing-out process. You can see the difference in the thickness of the wool between yesterday's top balls and the bobbins in this picture. To give some idea of scale, each of these bobbins is about a foot (30cm) high. (Isn't 'bobbins' a lovely word..?) But the wool is still way too thick for weaving and has no twist to make it strong.

Now then, as a matter of photographic interest - my original photo that I was going to use was the one below. But on my photography course this week, we were looking at the effect of 'line' on a photo - and seeing how much more dynamic images are with diagonals or curves, and how it can alter the mood. So I did some experimenting with this photo, cropping and rotating it, and trying to bring out the texture of the wool a bit more. I think it perhaps makes a more interesting visual image, though in a history context the original gives a bit more information. What do you think? I'm seeking to learn and develop as a photographer, so all comments gratefully received.

I'm a day late for the themed tribute day for Paris Daily Photo, the blog that 'started' the daily photo blogs 5 years ago. It's not a blog that I've followed up til now, but apparently Eric Tenin, its author, often uses images at odd angles - so I'm on trend! Anyway, congratulations to the man for a great idea and some dedicated blogging.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Top balls (!)

The next stage of the worsted manufacturing process was Top making or Finishing. The wool slivers were further treated to make them a uniform thickness and moisture was added to enhance the suppleness of the wool. The Top ball produced was the woolcomber's finished product and the Tops could be packed and transported like this. Many of the textile mills in Bradford specialised in just part of the overall manufacturing process - woolcombers or spinners; whereas Salts Mill was such a huge enterprise that it saw the complete process through from end to end - from raw wool to the finished worsted cloth.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

The Noble Comb

The sorted wool was scoured and washed to get rid of dirt and impurities. It was then prepared (the equivalent of carding, which couldn't be used because it would break the long fibres needed for fine worsted). By this means the fibres were disentangled and aligned more or less parallel, in long 'slivers' of wool. These were then ready for combing, a process which further straightened the fibres and sorted out the long ones (tops) used for worsted, from the short ones (noils) which couldn't be used. There were various types of combing machine. The one in my photo is called a Noble comb and Salts Mill had many of these.

Funnily enough, the Shipley pub where we often have get-togethers from work is called The Noble Comb. Until I went to the museum, I hadn't realised where the name originated.
I think there must be a lot of pubs in this area whose names relate to the wool industry - The Shears in West Vale (featured on Alan's blog A Pint of the Best) being but one. There's also, of course, the famed Woolpack in the TV soap Emmerdale. (Maybe I'll go on a pub name hunt one day!)

When Salts Mill was opened in 1853, a grand banquet (see 26 August) took place in the Combing Shed - there were over 3,500 guests, so you can imagine how big the room is. It is now one of the areas occupied by Pace Electronics.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Wool sorting

The processes of producing worsted cloth in a factory are essentially the same as those carried out by the local cottage producers - preparing and cleaning the wool, carding, spinning, weaving and finishing the cloth. The difference lies in the industrial scale of the operation and the huge size of the machinery used. Bradford's Industrial Museum has examples of many different types of machine with displays explaining the processes. Since the museum building, Moorside Mill, was once a small worsted spinning mill, it's easy to imagine how Salts Mill might have looked inside - though Salts was massive in comparison.

But even in the big mills, until as recently as the second half of the 20th century, the initial processing was done by hand. When the raw wool fleeces were brought in, the wool was first hand-sorted by quality and condition. The sorted fleece was tossed into huge wicker skips beneath the workbench. Wool sorting was a highly skilled trade using sight and touch and woolsorters were proud to pass their unique knowledge down from father to son, often through several generations.

Monday, 8 March 2010

A new mill

The worsted industry in Britain started when Flemish weavers settled in the town of Worstead in Norfolk. But during the second half of the 18th century the skills, vision and hard work of Yorkshire wool merchants meant that Bradford began to take over as the centre for the trade. Several towns built Piece Halls: buildings with lots of small rooms from which local handloom weavers could sell their 'pieces' of cloth. Bradford's Piece Hall was demolished but a beautiful example still exists in Halifax, dating from 1779. (I don't have any photos of it in my collection...so there's an expedition I must make when the weather perks up a bit.) [Mission accomplished! See April 1 2010]

The Industrial Revolution in the first half of the 19th century transformed the local cottage worsted industry into big business, with the development of huge factories driven by steam. People flocked from rural villages to the towns and cities to find work. Between 1800 and 1850 Bradford's population grew from 13,000 to more than 100,000. This inevitably led to problems of overcrowding, slums and disease. In the mid-19th century, these terrible conditions prompted the wealthy mill-owner Titus Salt to relocate his entire business to the green field site of Saltaire, where he built the huge Salts Mill and the surrounding township for his workers.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

A history lesson

When I was wandering round Salts Mill recently, I got thinking that - much as I love the mill and Saltaire in its present incarnation, and enjoy uncovering its history - I really know very little about the processes that went on in the mill during its time as a worsted manufacturer. There are the paintings by Henry Carr (see 16 February) which give some idea, but hardly the full picture. In the interests of research therefore, I took myself off one day to visit Bradford's Industrial Museum, to find out more about the woollen and worsted industry, upon which the fortunes of this area rose and fell. Their displays are fascinating and I learned a lot.

Bradford was originally a small town, granted a charter in 1251 by King Henry III that enabled it to have a weekly market. This was an important development as it became a meeting place where people could buy and sell cloth. Poor conditions in the area for growing crops meant that local farmers subsidised their income by weaving cloth. People could now buy local wool to card, spin and weave it into cloth to be sold for a profit at the market. Initially this was a 'cottage industry' carried out in people's homes. Many of the old 'weavers' cottages' hereabouts have large windows in the upper storey, as good light was important for handloom weaving. And the area is criss-crossed with 'packhorse routes' along which people from the moorland villages would carry their cloth down to the markets. Eventually some of the local corn mills, powered by streams coming down from the moors, were adapted into small mills for making cloth.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Sunset

So there I was, after work yesterday, trudging home from the local supermarket with my weekend shopping... I was looking at the sky, thinking about what my photography course tutor had said about gathering a stock of pictures of nice skies. (We learned this week how to insert a new sky into a photo instead of a boring grey one - and how to make it look realistic, which is really the key.) Anyway, the sky overhead was quite pretty, blue and slightly pink. As I walked, I realised that the sunset was going to be fabulous as it developed. So, I quickened my pace for home, flung the shopping into the porch and hot-footed it into the centre of Saltaire village with my compact, before the magic left the sky. (Didn't even run upstairs for my larger camera, as I know how quickly sunsets rise and fall away.)

I took several photos. This is one I like the best. I have always appreciated the uniquely recognisable silhouette of Saltaire's church and outlined against a good sky it looks even better.
And no computer trickery needed.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Spring is in the air..

The song is right when it talks about Spring being 'in the air'...I don't know what it is ...it's not that it's any warmer - because it isn't; it's not that the sun is shining more - because it isn't; it's not even that there are buds beginning to burst out, because they aren't really...but nevertheless yesterday morning there was a definite sense in the air of something new. The birds could feel it - there was a Collared Dove roocoocooing and the ducks on the canal have started to hang around in obvious pairs.

Even more interesting, on my walk to work yesterday I saw nine Greylag Geese and three pairs of Goosander (known as Common Merganser in US). Goosanders don't frequent this stretch of the canal with any regularity, but I see them occasionally at this time of year. They are lovely birds, with a serrated bill to eat fish. The darker female is on the right and the black and white male to the left.

They weren't keen on having their picture taken, refusing to get together and pose. And I didn't have my long lens with me, so this is a poor photo really - though I did like the shimmery colours reflected on the water. Strange that it looks so rich, as the reflected building is in reality a tumbledown brick mill - not at all beautiful. It's been derelict for years and is gradually being taken over by nature.

Anyway, as you can imagine, I arrived at work with - yes - a spring in my step!

Thursday, 4 March 2010

'Salts Mill' in Salts Mill

The iconic painting by David Hockney, 'Salts Mill, Saltaire, Yorks', featured yesterday, can still be seen in the 1853 Gallery in Salts Mill, where it is hung on the end wall of the gallery. The stone nicely sets off its bright colours. I like to be able to get up close to a painting to see the brushstrokes and colours, but also stand well back and see the overall effect. You can do both in the 1853 Gallery and the painting does have quite an impact when viewed from some distance away.

I spent another pleasant hour or so mooching about in the Mill at the weekend - and yes, as always came home with a book (!) and some lovely cards. It really is a most delightful experience, listening to the gentle background music, smelling the fragrance of lilies, feasting on the paintings and wonderful books...plenty of eye-candy for the likes of me!

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Hockney's Mill

David Hockney "Salts Mill, Saltaire, Yorks" 1997
Oil on 2 canvases. 48 x 120" overall
© David Hockney


I have mentioned before (see 1 July) the link between the Bradford-born artist David Hockney and Saltaire. There are two floors of gallery space devoted to David Hockney's work in Salts Mill - the largest permanent collection of his work in the world. You can also buy prints of many of his works.

Lots of local people have this colourful painting on their wall. Entitled "Salts Mill, Saltaire, Yorks", Hockney painted the original in oil on two canvases. It's actually a fairly faithful reproduction of the Mill itself, and has become an iconic portrayal of Saltaire. It references the village houses, with their allotments alongside the mill, the all-important railway and canal, and of course the familiar shape of Saltaire's Congregational Church. Its exuberant colour and swooping lines are a neat rebuttal to the "dark, satanic mills" idea that many have of our Northern towns. Personally, I think the red train is a nice touch!

David painted "Salts Mill" in 1997, along with five wonderful landscapes of North Yorkshire. This was during the period that his friend, Jonathan Silver, who re-created Salts Mill in 1987 as the amazing enterprise it now is, was terminally ill with cancer. Hockney extended his customary summer holiday in the UK to support his friend. Jonathan died in September 1997 at the age of 47. The six new paintings were exhibited for the first time, in the 1853 Gallery, in December that year.

The above image is, of course, copyright to David Hockney and I would like to thank the artist's representatives for giving me permission to reproduce it here.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Green man

I am the face in the leaves,
I am the laughter in the forest,
I am the king in the wood.
And I am the blade of grass
That thrusts through the stone-cold clay
At the death of winter.
I am before and I am after,
I am always until the end.
I am the face in the forest,
I am the laughter in the leaves.

Mike Harding


I spotted this plaque on the wall of a house on Albert Road, Saltaire. (People have all sorts of interesting things in their gardens if you keep your eyes open.) I think it's a Green Man - an archetypal image found in many cultures throughout the world. It symbolises rebirth and renaissance - specifically the arrival of spring after winter. The carvings and images take several different forms. Though apparently pagan, they are found in many ancient churches and cathedrals, carved in stone or wood - I think the early Christian church sought to 'borrow' symbols from the pagan society around it, to help people feel familiar and imbue the symbols with 'safer' overtones. Some say it has links to Jack in the Green, a 'Lord of Misrule' character that dances in front of the May Queen in some May Day celebrations and appears in some Morris Dances.

Mike Harding (better known to me as a folksinger and comedian aka 'The Rochdale Cowboy') has researched and written about the Green Man - his book makes fascinating reading.

As it's the beginning of March, perhaps the Green Man might usher in some signs of new growth?....It was a crisp, cold, sunny day here yesterday. I fancied I could smell a faint herald of spring....something seemed a bit different.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Gone...but not forgotten

This is me being sentimental! I know this isn't a very beautiful photo, but in view of the way they have suddenly started digging up the local playground, I thought I'd put the 'before' picture on my blog. It doesn't look much, but this picture says 'Home' to me. Being painted white, this gable end beside the playground is visible from quite a long way away - you can see it from the train passing Salts Mill, so when I am coming home from travelling I am always glad to see the landmark. (I can also see it from my office window in winter when there are no leaves on the trees.)

The picture also has another significance for me. There is a local artist called Stuart Hirst, who has become well-known for his watercolour paintings of Saltaire and other towns and villages in this area. I have loved his work since I was a student in Bradford and have a couple of prints of his. He has a wonderful way of painting rainy streets - very effective. He has one painting, called "Rain stopped play" and, although it is not attributed, I am pretty sure it is a picture of this playground. (The end terrace did have two chimneys until recently, when the houseowner demolished one.) I have often wondered whether to buy the print - perhaps I will now! See what you think - you can see his profile and some of his work by clicking the links.