Sunday, 23 April 2017

I name this ship...

What would you call your boat if you had one? The names I notice on narrowboats often amuse me. This was a selection that I spotted just in the course of one walk, along a stretch of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal towpath near Skipton.

Saturday, 22 April 2017


St Michael and All Angels church in Hubberholme is quite small, quite dark inside and very old - but utterly charming. It was originally a 12th century (Norman) Forest Chapel, as the area around was a hunting forest. The tiny chapel was expanded at a later date and the rood loft (the remains of which can be seen in my picture below) was installed in 1558, possibly transferred from Coverham Abbey. It would have had a floor to support musicians and is one of only two surviving in Yorkshire. The church also has pews carved by Robert Thompson, 'the Mouseman of Kilburn' in 1934. I found one of his trademarks of a carved mouse, after carefully searching the choir stalls. Legend has it that one of the altars was used as an ale bench in The George pub (which used to be the vicarage) across the road, until it was rescued and reinstated in the church! The George, I have read, also signifies it is open by having a lit candle in the window, in the same way as the vicar would have notified his availability to parishioners. 

The tiny hamlet of Hubberholme, situated where Langstrothdale meets Upper Wharfedale, was a favourite place of the Bradford-born author, broadcaster and dramatist J B Priestley (1894-1984), who described it as "one of the smallest and most pleasant places in the world." His ashes were buried in the churchyard and the church contains a memorial plaque. 

Friday, 21 April 2017


The tiny hamlet of Yockenthwaite sits towards the bottom end of the very pretty Langstrothdale, sliced through by the infant River Wharfe. Its famous red post box is a rather unexpected sight in the midst of all the greenery. I suppose it serves as a reminder than even these relatively remote places are still connected to the wider world. 

The river here is spanned by a rather splendid 18th century packhorse bridge, its high arch again a somewhat unexpected sight in what is nowadays a quiet little dale. It is on the Dales Way, a long distance footpath from Ilkley to Bowness in the Lake District. 

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Buckden circular walk

Easter Monday was a promising day weather-wise, intermittent weak sunshine but thankfully dry - a fine day for a walk in the Yorkshire Dales. There's a lovely circular walk in Upper Wharfedale from Buckden round through Cray, Yockenthwaite and Hubberholme, about eight miles altogether. The first part is pretty steep, up a fine Roman road on the flanks of Buckden Pike. Once that is conquered the walk is along wide and mostly level footpaths with lovely views, then coming down into the very pretty Langstrothdale, and returning through meadows alongside the river.

The limestone scenery really looks at its best in Spring, the light colours of the rock and walls set off by blue sky, white clouds and fresh spring greens. Primroses and tiny violets were in bloom, I saw my first swallows of the year and delighted in watching the newborn lambs. The one below seemed to think mum made a fine climbing frame.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

The best of Bradford

When you say 'Bradford', it conjures up for some people very negative connotations. People still remember the Bradford riot of 2001, the 'kidnapping' of Shannon Matthews (both of which were later dramatised for TV) and other negative news stories. It is true that the city has an ethnically diverse population; currently about 20% identify themselves as of Pakistani ethnic origin and about 64% as White British. It's also a young city, with 29% of the population aged less than 20 and seven in ten people aged less than 50. (See here).  It is also a relatively poor city, with about a quarter of our children living below the child poverty line in households with less than 60% of average income.

However, despite some areas of the city being largely 'white' and a few being largely 'South Asian', on the whole people rub along together pretty well. Many young Asians are third and fourth generation Bradfordians and more 'Yorkshire' than I am. There will always be those who wish to stir up trouble, but the city has a proud record of coming together to resist those who seek to divide. Tensions, in my view, often have more to do with volatile youth and economic hardship than ethnic differences, although race and religion are always convenient scapegoats.

Art and community events thrive on the vibrant mix of cultures and the Puppet Parade really showed that splendidly. The young ones were excited and awe-inspired; us oldies - including me and the Sikh gentleman in my picture below - perhaps a little more bemused at the hubbub!

Tuesday, 18 April 2017


The puppets made by Cecil Green Arts are amazing creations made from (I guess) papier mache and fabric. There is a person inside each one who control the arms and head, quite a skill in itself I think. They're used at various events and parades. CG Arts also hold elaborate illuminated lantern parades, which I have yet to see but hope to catch one day. Their studios at Drummond Mills were destroyed by a huge fire (nothing to do with the lanterns!) last year but the group seem to have survived the disaster, found new workshop premises and recreated much of what was lost. 

Monday, 17 April 2017

I should've gone to Specsavers...

Anyone in Bradford on Saturday might have thought they were seeing things...
There was a Puppet Parade through the streets, featuring some huge puppets made by Cecil Green Arts, as part of the 'Creative Streets' festival.  

The festival is a collaboration between lots of community groups and arts organisations in the city of Bradford, including Cecil Green Arts, The Brick Box, Q20 and Punjabi Roots Academy. They've been putting on a number of events and entertainments over a couple of months in the 'top of the town'. It's an area left with lots of empty shops since so many businesses have moved down to the new Broadway shopping centre. The remaining businesses - including many independent shops and bars - are trying hard to re-invent the quarter and inject some much-needed vibe. The huge empty M&S store has become 'The Wild Woods' - an enchanted forest full of adventures. An adjacent shop seems to have been taken over as a creative workshop space where people were encouraged to make puppets and masks for the parade.

This lot looked a bit sheepish...

I don't need to explain who these two are!

Music to jig to was provided by The Ski Band ('the best street band ever'), certainly fun and lively music on some quirky instruments.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Pasque flower

This pretty plant is a Pasque flower, Pulsatilla Vulgaris, related to buttercups and anemones. I like the way it gracefully bows its flower heads. I suppose the Pasque relates to the fact that it flowers around Eastertime.

I'm using it to wish everyone reading this a very happy Easter. If you don't celebrate the festival, then have a very happy Sunday anyway.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Saturday, 15 April 2017

One, two, three, four...

One swan - heart-shaped.

Goosey, goosey - two sleepy Canada Geese.

 Three mallards - awaiting the starter's pistol?

Gang of four. Mallard drakes gather together (having a stag-do?) whilst most of the females are presumably incubating eggs somewhere. I saw hardly any females on this particular Spring walk.

Friday, 14 April 2017

In memory of...

These artistic engravings on mid-Victorian tombstones caught my eye. They're in the churchyard at St Paul's, Shipley, where most of the gravestones have been lifted and used as paths or propped against walls, to enable the grass in the churchyard to be mown easily. They all say the same thing and yet each is unique.

It seemed as good a photo as any to commemorate what is known as Good Friday, though that always seems a bit of a misnomer for what the day signifies. There will be the usual Good Friday March of Witness by the Christian churches in Shipley but that's a quiet, 'undressed' thing. I often feel we should make more of Easter. It seems to need the kind of ceremony you see in some Catholic countries: flags, icons, robes. Last year Shipley held a Passion Play but that needs an awful lot of work and it is not being repeated this year.

These days it seems that the Easter bunny and chocolate triumphs, and I'm never sure what children understand by that... After all, bunnies don't lay eggs!

Thursday, 13 April 2017


Out on a walk recently, I came across these engineers putting up new telephone lines and/or poles. It was a nostalgic sight for me, as my father was a telephone engineer and, in his working life, did his fair share of climbing poles. Like so many things in modern life, it looks possible that the job is these days 'contracted out', as I could see no evidence of BT branding on the vans.

Then I found myself humming 'Wichita Lineman'... ha! I haven't thought of that song in a long time.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Kildwick church

Despite having a population of less than 200, the village of Kildwick, situated between Silsden and Skipton, has an enormous church, St Andrew's. It is very old. An Anglo-Saxon church stood here before the Norman Conquest and fragments of 9th century crosses have been found. Much of the existing church dates back to the time of Henry VIII. It was lengthened in the 15th and 16th centuries and some restoration was undertaken in Victorian times (1873).  It is now one of the longest churches in Yorkshire and is known as 'The Lang Kirk of Craven' (Craven being the name for this part of Yorkshire, around Skipton).

It has two burial grounds, one on either side of the canal, but burials are only allowed now into existing graves. However, its surroundings are lovely. The church was locked so I couldn't go in but they have made a Lent Labyrinth in the church yard, laid out with mown grass and miniature daffodils. It was good to take a few minutes of quiet, walking and praying the Labyrinth.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

From Silsden to Kildwick

I had to take my car for its first annual service recently. I can't believe I've already had it for a year! I went back to the garage where I purchased it, in Silsden, which is a small town about 10 miles away. To while away the time while it was being looked at, I decided to walk in a westerly direction along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal towpath, since it passes through the centre of Silsden on its way to Kildwick and eventually to Skipton. It's not a stretch I know very well and, even on a fairly dull day, it proved to be a pleasant walk. The river Aire runs in the valley bottom, which tends to get flooded and boggy in this area, and so the canal is constructed part way up the valley side. There are lovely views from the towpath.

The small village of Kildwick is to the right of my photo. It has a long history and some quite old buildings. The stone bridge over the river was constructed in the very early 1300s when Kildwick was part of the Bolton Priory estate.

Monday, 10 April 2017


I had to look this plant up, and it turns out to be Butterbur (Petasites hybridus). They grow in damp places; these were at the edge of the canal. These pink flower spikes grow before the leaves, which can become huge. (I'd have recognised the leaves.) Apparently, they are in the same family as sunflowers. They have been used medicinally for a long time and extracts are known to be an effective herbal treatment for migraine and some allergies, though potentially adverse long-term effects are not well documented.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Soft light

Little to see here, in a way, and yet I thought it a beautiful scene and very peaceful. The diffused light suited the soft colours of the sky, reflected in the water, and the haze of fresh green on the bushes.

The photo was taken further up the valley, alongside the Leeds-Liverpool Canal near Silsden.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

St Mary's Church, Farndale

St Mary's is a Grade II listed church, attractively situated just outside the hamlet of Church Houses in Farndale, in the North York Moors National Park. Built of sandstone, it dates back to 1831 with additions and renovations carried out between 1907 and 1914 by Temple Moore, one of Victorian England's greatest church architects (see www.templemooretrail).  (Aptly named for such a career, predominantly in the Yorkshire moors!) It is thought there may have been an older church or friary here. As in the surrounding dale, the churchyard in Spring is a vision of daffodils, whilst the church interior is graceful yet simple, with a fine stained glass east window depicting Christ's crucifixion. The window is very similar in style to those in my own church, St Peter's, Shipley, and I would guess is from the same maker.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Church Houses

Notwithstanding the Spring daffodil spectacular (see yesterday), the three mile circular route through Farndale between the hamlets of Low Mills and Church Houses (in my photo) would be a pleasant walk in any season.

The North York Moors National Park is a good two hour drive away from Saltaire on the way to the east coast, so it's not an area I have visited all that often and there is lots to explore. Maybe I'll have chance to get to know it a bit better now I have more free time. It is a high plateau of heather moorland, cut through by deep dales (valleys), carved by glacial meltwater and the various rivers that drain the moorland. The dales, all with different characters, contain woodlands, meadows and scattered small villages or hamlets.

Farndale, the valley of the River Dove, runs north to south in the southern limestone belt. Its nutrient-rich alkaline soils support ancient woodlands of sessile oak and fertile grasslands, harbouring a wide variety of wildflowers, insects, birds and other wildlife.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Hosts of daffodils

The freedom of retirement is giving me so many wonderful opportunities to tick things off my bucket list. I finally achieved my ambition to visit Farndale in the Spring as, along with a couple of friends who harboured a similar wish, we drove over there to see the famous daffodils. They are our native wild daffodil (Narcissus pseudonarcissus), a petite and delicate flower that grows naturally on river banks and in damp meadows and woodland. No-one really knows why this obscure little dale, nestled in the heart of the North York Moors National Park, should hold such a spectacular carpet of daffodils. It's often said they were originally planted by medieval monks from nearby Rievaulx Abbey but no-one knows for sure. They have multiplied over the centuries, surviving threats from illegal picking, and now there are thousands of blooms along the banks of the River Dove. It's a breathtaking sight that is enjoyed by thousands of visitors every Spring.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017


The first blossom to appear in early spring is generally the frothy white flowers of the blackthorn tree (Prunus spinosa), such a welcome and uplifting sight against a blue sky. This was the final leg of my Newmillerdam walk, from the attractive village of Chapelthorpe back across a field to Newmillerdam. I liked seeing the ancient stone gateposts.

The crops in the fields are starting to put up bright green shoots and the hawthorn hedges are showing new leaves. It was all a bit boggy though! Another walk that necessitated muddy trousers being slung in the wash and a boot cleaning session on my return home, sigh...

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Perfect peace

By the time I reached the far end of Newmillerdam lake, there were few people about and it was a scene of real peace in the sunshine. I crossed a little bridge and walkway across the lake and plunged into Bushcliff Wood, emerging to cross a road and then meander through the Seckar Wood nature reserve.

Seckar Wood is an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) with a mixture of woodland, wet heath and dry heathland. Home to some rare plants, it was originally part of the Wentworth estate until the 1920s when it was bought by a local photographer, Warner Gothard Jnr. He managed a business that was known for producing postcards featuring montages of local and national events - anything from Royal visits to local accidents and disasters. (See here. Fascinating - and now highly collectible!)  He planned to build a house on the land but that never happened, although there is a walled pond that was at one time used as a swimming pool. Now the area is managed as a nature reserve by Wakefield Council's Countryside Service.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Newmillerdam Boathouse

This rather fancy structure, on Newmillerdam lake, was built in the 1820s by the Pilkington family, who owned the surrounding Chevet estate. It was used as a hunting lodge. It is Grade II listed and has since been restored as a visitor centre and meeting rooms (though not open when I went past). It looks kind of flooded but I think that's how it's meant to be.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Newmillerdam walk

I'm still revelling in the delight of being able to hop out of bed of a morning and go off on an expedition, on those days when suddenly the weather perks up and the sun shines. No more bemoaning the fact that I'm stuck in an office! On one such beautiful early spring day, I decided to drive south beyond Wakefield to Newmillerdam, about 25 miles away, which has been on my list to visit for a while. It's a small country park with a large lake (mill dam) and provides a lovely circular walk of about 5 miles, also taking in an interesting area of woodland and heath known as Seckar Wood.

The main road now crosses the dam, as you can see in the photo below. The building on the left with the pitched roof is, I believe, the old water-powered corn mill, dating back to the 1820s, though a corn mill has stood here since the 13th century. The mill was in use until 1960 and then became a restaurant. It is now a beauty salon and spa.

The village by the dam is an interesting hotch-potch of old buildings, interspersed with newer builds, climbing up a hillside. It provides useful amenities for the many visitors to the park - pubs, tearooms and an ice cream van. On such a sunny day, it was rather busy, with people taking advantage of one of the first days this year when it was feasible to sit outside with a drink.

Once inside the country park, the broad path skirts the lake and tranquillity is soon found. A few dog walkers, joggers and families out for a stroll, the occasional fisherman, lots of ducks, swans and other water birds but a general air of peace. Lovely.