Tuesday, 31 July 2012

A local beauty spot


This year's unpredictable weather has meant I haven't done many whole day 'expeditions'. Indeed, I seem to have spent a good few weekends stuck in the house while the rain beats down. (Some tidy cupboards to show for it... so it's not all bad!) Any outings I've done tend to have been short and local.  
One such trip was to the local National Trust property, East Riddlesden Hall.  It has just won a Gold Award for "The Best Small Visitor Attraction in England". (Mind you, I imagine large visitors would find it attractive too!)  It's a 17th century manor house, with pretty gardens and a scenic lake.  On the day I visited there was a wedding taking place in the ancient barn, which is apparently now licensed for the ceremony itself as well as the reception.  A wedding car was parked outside the house - a vintage Jaguar, I think.  With this as the back-drop, I'm sure the happy couple will have some wedding photos to be proud of.
To read more about the history of East Riddlesden Hall, please look back to the series of three photos I posted in July 2010  - here, here and here - or click the East Riddlesden Hall label below.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Rusty?


First Team GB medal (silver for the women's cycling road race) went to a local lass, Lizzie Armitstead of Otley; second - a bronze for swimming, to Rebecca Adlington, who hails from the town I grew up in.  Proud!  But....back to Bingley Beckfoot allotments.... You'll see more about the Olympics on this blog in due course, no doubt, when I get back from London with a camera (hopefully) full of photos.
One of the allotments had this colourful chappie standing guard.  In fact there was a competition to name him, though I don't know what he was eventually called.  My best thought was Rusty - given the weather we've been having! Proper straw-stuffed scarecrows are rarely seen in fields nowadays, but local villages often have 'Scarecrow Festivals', when lots of very creative tableaux spring up in gardens and on village greens.  I wonder if the tradition of scarecrows is a world-wide phenomenon?

Saturday, 28 July 2012

The BBC at Salford Quays


So, the Olympics London 2012 has started... Fabulous opening ceremony last night.  Well done Danny Boyle and thousands of volunteers!  My favourite bit was Mr Bean. He just cracks me up.  But the whole evening was amazing.

I'm excited about my trip to London next week - though to be honest the whole Olympics thing hasn't up to now really had a lot of impact in this neck of the woods, apart from the brief passing of the Torch through the area.  I think the Chinese athletes were based in Leeds for a while to acclimatise and train.  In Manchester, they are hosting some of the Olympic football tournament at Old Trafford so there is a bit more of a buzz there.
Manchester is also now the home of a large section of the BBC, in its new headquarters in Media City, Salford Quays.  It's an impressive regeneration project around the old docks on the Manchester Ship Canal.  ITV Granada are also building new studios there, moving from central Manchester.  If you look closely you can just about see the Olympic logo on the side of the building on the left.
Of course, most of the Olympics coverage comes direct from London.  The BBC, along with other major broadcasters, have studios actually in the Olympics Park.

Friday, 27 July 2012

How does your garden grow?


A selection of plants that I found growing in the Bingley Beckfoot allotments: salad leaves (and/or maybe beetroot?), a few plump raspberries and some rather pretty bright flowers. I have no clue what they are... maybe someone can enlighten me?  Some variety of cultivated poppy perhaps?

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Work and play


These allotments at Bingley Beckfoot are so big that there is room for serious gardening and play as well.  With some lovely old apple trees providing ideal climbing frames, and plenty of room to run about, they are a lovely place to bring children to learn and explore. (In most cases I think it's probably grandchildren that benefit, as the average age of the allotment holders seems to be more of the grandparent demographic than young parents.)  I remember so well, in my childhood, many hours spent in the garden with my grandfather, who grew lots of veg and took time to show me the plants and let me help with the tasks.  It didn't teach me to have green fingers, I'm afraid, but it did teach me a love of nature in general.



Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Fun in the sun


There was fun and fellowship in the sunshine last Sunday, when my friend and her fellow allotment holders held an 'Open Allotments' afternoon, to raise funds towards their Community Allotment project. These are not the allotments in Saltaire but some a little further up the valley, towards Bingley. They are really big plots and the holders are all really keen and enthusiastic gardeners. Despite the poor weather we've been having, which has left many things looking decidedly the worse for wear, nevertheless the allotments were a riot of colour and felt like a green oasis. They are kind of tucked away down a pretty little lane and it felt a bit like entering a different and magical world. People grow a huge variety of fruit, herbs and vegetables (I saw sweetcorn, which is not a common crop over here), and flowers too. One allotment even has a bee hive. How fortunate that the weekend was, at last, dry and warm. Time to sit and chat, enjoy tea and cakes and buy some produce too. Delightful.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Blackstone Edge Reservoir


Blackstone Edge Reservoir is on the border of Yorkshire and Lancashire, high on the moors overlooking Rochdale and Littleborough in the South Pennines Heritage Area. I don't find it at all 'beautiful', but it's typical of these bleak uplands and certainly atmospheric in a shivery kind of way. This area has many small reservoirs, mostly built in Victorian times, but I have been unable to find out whether they are still used for our water supply.  If so, it's looking good for a year or two as they are all brim full!  
This area also has lots of old quarries, a legacy from the building boom of the Industrial Revolution.  The bountiful supply of soft water running off the moors, wool from the sheep that graze the uplands and a significant pre-existing handloom weaving industry meant that, when industrial technology developed, hundreds of textile mills sprang up in the region, together with the towns that housed and serviced the growing population.  The South Pennine moorland feels very remote and wild but in fact it's not far at all from the many industrial towns and major cities - Manchester, Leeds, Huddersfield, Bradford - that developed from the 19th century onwards.  The M62 motorway, Britain's highest motorway, bisects the area on its east-west route between Hull and Manchester.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Pennine Watershed landscape


Snapshots of the wild moorland of the South Pennine Watershed, an endangered habitat of heathland, upland peat bog (blanket bog) and grassland that they are now trying hard to conserve.  It's important not only for the variety of birds, plants, insects and animals found here but because it acts as a natural water purification system and takes carbon out of the atmosphere.  Much of this area is designated an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and so is protected. That hasn't stopped the onward march of electricity pylons across the moors, nor the proliferation of wind farms at these high altitudes.

The moors are breeding grounds for dunlin, snipe and curlew that overwinter in Morecambe Bay. They provide an important habitat for the now rare and critically endangered twite (Pennine finch). Only 100 breeding pairs of these birds remain, a drop of 90% in the last 14 years.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Rain


RAIN - a poem by Simon Armitage
Be glad of these freshwater tears, each pearled droplet some salty old sea bullet airlifted out of the waves, then laundered and sieved, recast as a soft bead and returned......

This is one of several poems written by Simon Armitage, commissioned by the Ilkley Literature Festival and imove; one of many cultural events happening across the country in the run-up to the 2012 Olympic Games.
Each poem has been carved, by lettercarver Pip Hall, in natural rock at a different location along the Pennine Watershed (the highest part of the South Pennines) from Marsden to Ilkley, forming a trail known as the Stanza Stones Poetry Trail. It can be walked as a whole trail (47 miles) over three days or tackled in much shorter walks to visit each location.



I sought out this one (it seemed appropriate, after the weather we've been having!) high on the moors overlooking Littleborough - a wild area of upland peat bog, windswept and often bleak.  It was an exhilarating walk, on a day when the sun couldn't decide whether to declare itself or not.  This part of the Trail follows the Pennine Way, the oldest of England's long-distance footpaths, so there were several other people walking the path, but it still felt a solitary place to be, up there on top of the world with the kestrels and cottongrass.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Sunshine!


Oh joy! Blue skies, fluffy white clouds, plants daring to lift up their heads after weeks of being bowed down by the rain.... This is a humble buddleia bush (buddleia davidii) on the allotments in front of Salts Mill chimney. They grow semi-wild all over the place - a shrub that self-seeds prolifically and colonises waste ground, derelict buildings (you sometimes see them sprouting out of the actual masonry) and railway embankments.  Though they're so 'common' and tend to be looked down on as a weed, I really like them.  I love the colour and I like that they're a brilliant food plant for butterflies.

Photo taken on my iPhone (woo hoo!)

Friday, 20 July 2012

Mrs Caroline Hill


Meet Mrs Caroline Hill.  I bumped into her the other day as she was hurrying past Salts Mill on her way to an appointment.  She's the wife of the Head of Security at the Mill, Colonel Thomas Hill and they live with their family in the Tower House in the middle of the village (see here for a photo), although she is nostalgic for life in India, where they lived when her husband was in the army and where their children were born.

In fact, this lovely lady is Sally Clegg, one of Saltaire's costumed guides, just one of a number of volunteers who conduct guided walks around the village for visitors, on behalf of 'Salts Walks'.  She was indeed in a hurry for her next appointment with a tour group, but she graciously posed for a photograph.  The guides all have a vast wealth of knowledge about Saltaire's history and development and, acting in their different roles, they really bring history to life. The walks are amusing, very informative and highly recommended.

The guided walks start at Saltaire's new Visitor Information Centre in the mill, at 2pm every Saturday, Sunday and bank holidays. It's advisable to book - full details are on the Village website. Cost: £4 for an adult, £3 for a child under 12. Groups can also pre-book specially arranged walks during the week.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

The Queen

I was unfortunately unable to spare the time from work today to stand for hours waiting for a quick glimpse of HM the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, as they visited the Pace technology factory in Salts Mill.  Plenty of people did, but maybe they were on holiday or perhaps more dedicated Royal fans than I.  I can, however, for the sake of recording history here, link you to the local paper's website.  See here for a few pictures.  Doesn't she look lovely?  She's an amazing woman and I have the deepest respect for her.  She had a packed diary today, visiting Leeds as well as Saltaire, but she seems to take things in her stride and looks quite relaxed in these photos, I think.  I hope she enjoyed her lunch and the quick glimpse of Saltaire she would have seen as the car whisked her down Victoria Road.

In full flood


Another shot of the weir by Saltaire's New Mill. You can fully appreciate the amount of rain we've had when you see how fierce the flow of water over the weir is (and how a hydro-electric plant here might make sense, to harness all that power). I found watching the water was utterly mesmerising, like watching waves on the sea - and the noise was deafening. Isn't nature amazing? Though we so often wish for the exact opposite of what is happening with the weather.... and different parts of the world seem to have swapped their weather patterns just lately.
For a comparison with the more usual view at this spot, see this:


Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Quiz


Spotted today in Saltaire and snapped on my iPhone (still rubbish at using it!)..

A quick topical quiz question.... what is this?  And why is it here?

Sustainability


This is a familiar sight as you cross the footbridge over the River Aire into Roberts Park - and one that I have had cause to study a bit more closely than usual recently.  The local council is proposing to build a small hydro-electric turbine on this weir.  They recently exhibited the initial plans (see here) and began a consultation with the local community about the idea.

Mock photo of proposed turbine housing, from Bradford Council website
I am, generally speaking, in favour of the idea of renewable energy and I feel quite strongly too that people shouldn't be in favour but then say "Not in my backyard". So I suppose at the moment I'm 'warmly neutral' about the idea.  I looked at the plans and the computer-generated mock photographs of the plant (left).  It would alter the look of this localised area quite a lot.... There would be low stone building jutting out (where the man is sitting, in my photo) to house the turbine, with a 'fish ladder' beside it to enable fish to migrate upstream more easily. After much pondering, I felt that it wasn't too obtrusive and that we would all get used to the visual change.  It would mean you'd have to walk across its turfed roof to get the view of the New Mill and the weir that you have today from the existing path (see here) - but again no doubt folks would soon get used to that. You would be able to look through a glass roof panel to see the turbine, which could be interesting, and it would be fun to see fish jumping.. if they did.

On the minus side, I'd be concerned about the noise - a continuous rumble, I gather. The water makes a noise as it is, but that's quite different from a mechanical rumble. Several mature trees would be lost. And I don't suppose the construction work would be much fun.  It seems a shame that the park would be disturbed again just when it has been made so nice and people use it a lot. I am unable to judge the overall economics of the scheme - £1.22 million to construct, to produce energy to power 100 homes... It would be good if it has some direct benefit to the local community but it won't really. It won't be Saltaire directly that gets the power or any income from it. The Council seems to be using this as a guinea-pig scheme towards its target of getting 20% of its energy from renewable means by 2020 and I'm not sure that using a World Heritage Site as a guinea-pig is entirely a good idea!

No doubt there will be plenty argued on both sides for months.  I will watch the debate with interest. I wonder what Sir Titus would say?

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Swan Upping


I fitted in a trip to Otley recently with one of my photography groups.  Most of the evening was taken up with a meal and general chat, but I did also wander down to the river, where there are always quite a few mute swans.  I'm still on a quest to get the perfect photo of a swan.  This isn't it yet!  I did rather like the way she (or maybe he, how can you tell?) was holding her feathers.  Lightroom still needs a good deal of exploring before I will be confident in the presentation of my photos - so much to learn - though it does bring out the texture of the feathers quite nicely.

It seemed a good photo to use, because a great British tradition was supposed to take place during this week - the royal Swan Upping.  It's an ancient ceremony dating back to the 12th century, when all unmarked mute swans were claimed by the Crown (for food in those days, nowadays it's about conservation). A team of Swan Uppers, dressed in ceremonial scarlet uniforms, are led up the Thames (from Sunbury to Abingdon)  in a stately procession of rowing boats and banners, led by the David Barber, the Queen's Swan Marker  - a man who has a real feather in his cap! They corral the swans and their cygnets; each bird is caught and examined before being counted and released.  It makes a colourful sight.  I learned however, just before I posted this blog entry, that it has been cancelled (like so many other events this summer) because the Thames is so flooded and dangerous.  Too late to alter the blog!  Never mind, watch the video, it's still interesting.



Monday, 16 July 2012

A farewell to Wales


Another photo taken in the golden light of an evening from the terrace of our holiday apartment.  I'm not sure what the yellow house is, but it was positioned so that it caught the last of the setting sun's rays and really glowed.  It made an irresistible scene for a photographer or artist - there was an oil painting in the apartment that showed this same view.  This seems a fitting photo to round off the holiday shots.

I'm desperately hoping now that the weather cheers up a bit so I can get out and take some more local pictures. The school summer holidays start this week, so that probably means the rain will continue!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Counting my blessings


Rejoice with your family in the beautiful land of life!  ~ Albert Einstein

This is the best birthday gift any 60-year-old could possibly wish for.... a happy, healthy, loving family.  My thanks to them for sharing the holiday with me and making it such a lovely and memorable time.


Saturday, 14 July 2012

Mermaid watch


In the evenings, the light on the Teifi estuary is often very beautiful, making the white yachts glow. The wooden mermaid sculpture apparently commemorates an old legend - the Peregrine Legend.  A local fishermen, Peregrine, captured a mermaid in his catch of herring.  In order to gain her release, she promised him that whenever a storm was coming, she would warn him. He set out with other boats on 30 September 1789, but on the way out to sea the mermaid appeared and warned him of an approaching storm. He turned back with his boat and crew but the other fishermen laughed and refused to heed the warning.  The local church records that 27 local fishermen lost their lives that night in a freak storm.

This is the first photo I've tweaked slightly in Lightroom (a jpeg; I haven't tried RAW yet).  It was able to bring back more detail in the highlights on the boats than Photoshop did, though I'm far from expert with it yet.  It looks promising though...

Friday, 13 July 2012

Poppit Sands


A couple of miles downriver from St Dogmaels, the Teifi estuary flows into Cardigan Bay at Poppit Sands.  At low tide there are lots of mudflats exposed and the area is good for birdwatching, as well as being busy with small boats. The TV programme 'Coast' showed an ancient wooden V-shaped fish trap in the estuary (see here) that they have recently discovered (from aerial photos).  It's thought to be about 1000 years old and possibly constructed by monks from St Dogmaels Abbey - quite an exciting find, which is now being explored by scuba divers.

My granddaughter, at 9 months, is a bit young to fully appreciate beaches yet but, at that age, you do your best to stimulate all their senses... touch, sight, taste.  She enjoyed exploring with her hands, feeling the rough rocks encrusted with barnacles.  She also liked watching the whirling colours of a toy windmill - and demolished a mini-milk ice lolly in double-quick time. (Broccoli, toast? Give me a lolly to suck!)  Gran, meanwhile, enjoyed paddling around in rock pools in her new red wellies!  60 is the new 6!  Happy times - even the clouds seemed joyful, somehow.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

An unexpected gift


Arrived home from work to find an unexpected gift in my mailbox.  Diane (Adventure before Dementia) has sent me this, all the way from Brisbane, Australia. She has just started experimenting with HDR and applied the effect to my reflections photo.  Doesn't it make it sing? especially the sky.  She says she used NIK HDR Efex Pro - another from the NIK stable; they seem really good programs.

It's something I haven't got into yet - and indeed I'm not always sure whether I like the HDR effect or not, although I think she's done a great job on this landscape.  I've just bought Lightroom 4 and Photoshop Elements 10 for my new Mac but it will be a long time before I am using them like a pro!  I had a very early version of Photoshop on my old Mac and I quite liked it and was very used to using it.  But things have moved on and it was way too old to even install on my new Mac.  So I am on a steep learning curve but I don't have enough playtime to do more than progress very slowly.  For the time being, photos that don't need much 'work' will be fine but others may not see the light of day for a while.  


I'm not sure whether I'm more chuffed at the amazing impact of the enhanced photo - or the fact that Diane took the trouble to play around with it and then send it to me.  Once again I'm thrilled by the power of blogging to cement friendships across the globe and to provide so much fun and learning. If you haven't visited Diane's blog yet, then I recommend that you do. It's a great blend of fantastic photography, interesting information and often-amusing personal journaling. She and her husband certainly know how to travel widely and live an action-packed life!  Thanks so much for the lovely surprise, Diane.

Mirror, mirror


This is more or less the same view as that in yesterday's post.  This photo was taken just 45 minutes later, by which time the sun had burned off all the mist.  There was no wind at all for a short while and the water was as still as a mirror.  That's quite unusual because the estuary is tidal so there are strong currents ebbing and flowing all the time.

I wish I'd got a bit of separation between the reflection of the trees and the blue boat but I only realised that with that wonderful gift of hindsight!  I would have had to get a bit higher and I'm not sure how I could have managed that. (Sometimes being 6' something instead of 5'5" would be useful!)

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Diffused


Another atmospheric shot of the Teifi estuary early one morning.  Whatever the weather conditions, it's a picturesque spot but I think there's something magical about summer mist.  It was pleasantly warm and the mist sweetly diffused the light.  I walked quite a way, down towards the beach - but I had no idea how close to the beach I actually was until I walked the same way another day!  Without the mist, everything was revealed.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Melin Tregwynt



Melin Tregwynt is a small woollen mill on the Pembrokeshire coast near Fishguard.  The mill, dating back to the 17th century, has belonged to the Griffiths family since 1912 and they produce beautiful wool blankets and other items, which sell throughout the world.  It's only a small concern, employing about 20 people but their products are found in some of the best trendy hotels and are often featured in the top-end interiors magazines.  (There's an interesting article online, here.)

We decided it was a good place to visit on a very dull and rainy day, and found the mill and shop very interesting (though the gorgeous throws and blankets were too expensive for me to justify buying).  I loved all the colours and names of the yarns.  There was a nice café too.  My daughter and I shared a fresh crab salad, delicious - and my granddaughter was content to suck a piece of bread! We also walked down to the nearby beach, which is stony rather than sand. It was very windy on that day, but wild and beautiful.


Monday, 9 July 2012

Cenarth Falls


Not far from Cilgerran is the picturesque village of Cenarth, with its famous waterfalls.  We were obliged to stop here, when my granddaughter was making her objections to being strapped into a car seat rather obvious and loud!  We hastened into a pretty little café for a restorative cup of tea - and the change of scene did much to calm E, thankfully. We then ventured up the river to the waterfalls, flowing in spate due to the recent heavy rain - and, to my great delight, we saw a huge salmon leap up the falls! It's the first time I have ever witnessed that, despite over the years going to several spots where it is said to happen.  Looking at the rush of water, you can only marvel that the fish manage it at all.  I did not, of course, manage to capture it in camera - but good old Youtube has someone's video if you want to see the spectacle.  I always thought it happened in the autumn, when the fish return to their breeding grounds, but this one must have been in a hurry to get back!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Cilgerran Castle


Wales has many historic castles, and Cilgerran is a particularly evocative example.  Set high above the River Teifi, a castle has occupied this site since the 1100s and the existing structure probably dates back to 1220 or thereabouts. It was fought over many times, and was held for a while by Owain Glyndwr during the Welsh wars of independence but it ceased to be a military stronghold in the 1400s.  It has been in ruins for at least 500 years but is still a romantic and imposing structure.  It's now run by the National Trust.


Saturday, 7 July 2012

Location, location


This was where we were staying: a ground floor apartment in one of the blocks on the right, which belongs to some dear friends of mine.  What a fantastic location.... you could sit on the terrace and enjoy an ever-changing view at whatever time of day.  I took a book (a Kate Atkinson detective novel) but in fact I spent far more time just gazing, rather than reading, especially in that quiet time before the rest of the family woke up.  There were lots of small boats coming and going, and the jetty seemed to be a favourite stopping-off point for lots of people - walkers, birdwatchers (the estuary is rich in birdlife), photographers and car travellers stopping to enjoy the view.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Early one morning


I woke early one morning and was rewarded with a beautiful, mysterious mistiness along the Teifi estuary - made me get dressed quickly and venture out for a peaceful walk with my camera. I should do it more often... the world has a different feel before everyone gets up and gets going.

This photo is actually in colour!

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Watched


I guess these must be the dogs of St Dogmaels!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Red house


A touch of red, white and blue for the 4th of July (OK, green too...) and good wishes to all my American friends.
Half the fun of being on holiday is seeing what's different from your own home area.  Saltaire's properties have slate roofs as well - but the painted stucco of the houses in St Dogmaels provides lovely splashes of colour.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Y Felin


Close by St Dogmaels Abbey is another historic building, the flour mill Y Felin.  Dating back at least to the 1640s, it is one of the last working water-mills in Wales producing stoneground flour.  It was purchased in the 1970s by Michael Hall and his wife, who restored it (including the adjoining millpond) and now produce a range of traditional stoneground flours.

My daughter bought some spelt flour, so no doubt at some point I will be able to report on the bread she will make from it.  (Unlike her mother, she's a terrific and adventurous cook!)

Monday, 2 July 2012

St Dogmaels Abbey



The village of St Dogmaels clusters round its ancient abbey ruins and the more recent church of St Thomas (see above), alongside the ruins.  The abbey stands on the site of a pre-Norman church founded by St Dogmael.  The abbey, dating from 1115, was originally home to a prior and twelve monks of the Order of Tiron (from France), a Benedictine order.  It survived, grew and developed for some 400 years, until Henry VIII's brutal dissolution of the monasteries when (like so many abbeys in England, Wales and Ireland) it was abandoned.  It was plundered for its stone, for a mansion built in the grounds (now also disappeared), so that only ruins now survive.












The abbey ruins (left) and, above, a sketch of how it may have looked.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

St Dogmaels


This was where I was heading - and thankfully, as you can see, we did have four days of rather brighter, drier weather before it reverted to type later in the week.  The village is St Dogmaels, just outside the coastal town of Cardigan, Pembrokeshire, south-west Wales.  It's an unspoilt, tranquil little place, nestled around an ancient ruined abbey on the estuary of the River Teifi, near Cardigan.