Sunday, 5 July 2020

Celebrating the NHS

This weekend we are celebrating 72 years of our wonderful NHS, our National Health Service, and remembering those who have lost their lives as a result of Covid19. Landmarks across the country have been floodlit in blue, including the New Mill in Saltaire. It houses offices for the Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust, which administers mental health care, dentistry, community health and specialist learning disability services in the local area.

It is a poignant anniversary this year, as we consider the huge and vital role our health services have had to play in the coronavirus pandemic, and the sacrifices its staff have had to make, not least those who have sadly lost their own lives through ministering to others. (And it's not over yet...) 

The NHS is just a little older than me! Conceived during the war years, it was launched with cross-party support in 1948 by the post-war Labour government under the leadership of Aneurin Bevan, then Minister for Health. (Though initially it was opposed by many doctors.) For the first time it brought all health care under one umbrella, free at the point of need. It has, of course, been endlessly 'reviewed' and reorganised over the years, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. There has always been the headache of how to pay for a service that has become increasingly stretched, with ever-increasing demand and rising costs as technology and our expectations have developed. For the past decade or more it has arguably been underfunded and undervalued, with steady attrition and privatisation. Who knows what the future holds? One can only hope that the current crisis has focussed the minds that have the power, to make them see just how vital it is to have a joined-up health service that cares for everyone equally, as envisaged all those years ago. 

I was born into its care and it has shepherded me through many major and minor traumas, as well safely delivering the precious gift of my daughter. I am grateful to the NHS and those who work in it. I sincerely hope it will be there to see me to my grave!! (But not yet!)

Saturday, 4 July 2020

Learning about wild plants

I didn't know what either of these two wildflowers were. I was attracted to them for very different reasons. The first just struck me as being rather artistic and interesting, its spiky red right-angled stems and bright yellow flowers contrasting with the backdrop of dark water dotted with flecks of spume. It has taken me a long time to identify it but I believe it's called wall lettuce (see HERE). It was growing in a crack in the concrete of the aqueduct, not quite a wall but almost.  

The one below really stood out, the colour a piercing blue. I thought at first it was some kind of forget-me-not and, indeed, it is loosely related but I have now identified it, fairly confidently, as green alkanet. (See HERE). Apparently it's a pernicious weed that you don't really want in the garden, though here by the side of a lane against an old stone wall, it brought cheer to a dark spot. 

I love learning new things. 

Friday, 3 July 2020

You turn your back for a minute...

You turn your back for a minute and everything changes! Well, I suppose by 'a minute' I really mean three months. It must be at least as long ago as that since I drove (or walked) through the part of Shipley town centre that lies beyond the shops and market square. There used to be a drive-through automatic car-wash here. I sometimes used to take my daughter through it as a treat when she was little (in the car, of course!!) as the whirling brushes and soapy white-out used to make her giggle. The car-wash ceased to be, driven out of business by several 'hand car washes' in the neighbourhood, mostly staffed by Eastern European migrants. They work hard and generally do a good job. Anyway, this little bit of land sat idle for several years but it appears now that there is a business developing it, with a new showroom under construction. I'll take bets on what it will be... a car dealer? 

The building beyond is flats with a retail unit on the ground floor that currently (and curiously to my mind) houses a branch of Laura Ashley, the clothing and homewares chain. I say curiously because it sits well away from Shipley's main shopping centre and, though it has a small car park, seems a bit of an anachronism. They closed the branch in Leeds city centre, which always seemed as though it would attract more custom. I'm also taking bets that this branch will fall victim to the post pandemic recession. I can't really see it surviving unless high-street retail bounces back quickly.  

Thursday, 2 July 2020

One of those days!

The rain came, after a spell of hot, sunny weather, and not just rain but wind and thunderstorms too. It wasn't enticing to go out. On top of that I had a few days of feeling rather fatigued and achey - nothing serious and hard to tell if it was actual or simply a result of feeling fed up of the pandemic and the world in general... Anyhow, when I felt a little better and the rain stopped, I decided I should make myself have a walk, just my usual local circuit of river and canal, travelling light with only my phone. 

I read somewhere recently that you can take photos on an iPhone by pressing the volume control. I decided that might be easier in some situations than reaching for the white 'blob', so I tried it. It was only when I got home that I realised I'd taken screen shots and not proper photos. Doh! Never mind, they weren't going to be masterpieces anyway. 

Hirst Weir was in full flow after the rain and a group of kayakers were having a well-earned break after battling the river. I wonder if they carried the boats past the weir or if they tried white-water rafting? I hope not the latter, as it must be quite a dangerous spot with so many rocks and no clear channel through.

My walk threw up a few mildly interesting nature notes: 
a tall and striking plant by the river's edge that I didn't recognise, in appearance not unlike a foxglove but with bell-shaped flowers. It appears (after consulting my wild flower book) to be a giant bellflower. (I might have guessed!)

The local cormorant had taken up a roost in the river by Roberts Park.

The new nature reserve's wildflower meadow is rampant, though hard to tell if there are any interesting species yet. It seemed to be mostly thistles and ox-eye daisies. 

As I was returning along the canal towpath I spotted another tree newly collapsed and blocking much of the width of the waterway;  a victim, perhaps, to the recent drought followed by the strong wind and rain.  The kayakers, by now on their return journey and choosing the canal rather than battling upstream against the fast-flowing river, were having a little difficulty finding a way past the obstruction. 

Wednesday, 1 July 2020


It's poppy season. My social media feed has been filled with pictures of cornfields full of red poppies. The flat agricultural land in the Vale of York seems to be a fertile area for them and they are breathtaking. I half-wondered whether to go in search of them but, until some cafés and public toilets open, I am reluctant to venture very far.

The allotments belonging to Shipley College, where horticultural students are usually busy at work, have been largely neglected since the start of the lockdown as the College has been closed. I noticed the other day that a wildflower meadow seems to have sprung up - and yes, it has a few red poppies, in amongst a mass of straggly yellow crucifers of some kind. That's the nearest I'm likely to get to a field of them.

In my own back yard, I've had a mass of yellow Welsh poppies, self seeded into the cracks in the paving. They were really cheerful, though a spell of wet and windy weather has trashed them. They did make hanging the washing out a bit of a dance, trying to avoid stepping on them!

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

The Rochdale Canal

There's a really pleasant walk along the towpath of the Rochdale Canal through Hebden Bridge. It has lots of interest and history since many of the old mills and warehouses are still standing, most now converted into residential units. I began my walk by passing under the bridge that takes the road down to the railway station. As in many of our Yorkshire valleys, the roads, rail, river and canal jostle together in a narrow corridor. The building on the right just beyond the bridge is the Machpelah Works, built in 1840, a listed building now mostly apartments but once a fustian (cotton cloth) warehouse.

Beyond is a row of cottages, built in the early 19th century. Its traditional windows with the woodwork all painted in different colours really make it stand out as an attractive focal point.

Beyond the cottages and a mill (that's now a really great nursery where my youngest granddaughter used go), there is a small marina with a Visitor Information Centre beside it, forming an attractive open space in the middle of town. Further still and there is a series of locks and an aqueduct that carries the canal over the River Calder.

Then there are more old warehouses and houses related to the canal. The Rochdale Canal was fully opened in 1804, the first completed Trans-Pennine route to Manchester. (The Leeds-Liverpool, a much longer route, didn't fully open until 1816, although the bit through Saltaire from Shipley to Skipton was open by 1774. )

I ended my walk at the picturesque bridge, though you can of course go much further along the towpath - a very attractive walk.

Monday, 29 June 2020

HB details

A few details that caught my eye during my wanderings around Hebden Bridge. The clock was installed on St George's Street to mark the Millennium in 2000. It has rings of orbiting planets that move around the clock face.

I spotted a round arched window in a building that I think is known as Machpelah House.

Who wouldn't like a turquoise door surrounded by pink rambling roses?

The prow of a canal boat moored on the Rochdale Canal.

Detail of another narrowboat - with daisies on the canal bank.

And another pink rose. I liked the delicacy of the flower against the gritty stone of the gatepost it was growing over.

Sunday, 28 June 2020


Hebden Bridge used to be called 'Fustianopolis' or 'Trouser Town' as it was famous for making the hard-wearing cotton cloth known as fustian, which includes corduroy and moleskin, commonly used for making men's trousers. Of course, the textile industry has largely disappeared from these valleys though there's a newish company called HebTroCo that manufactures jeans and hardwearing men's wear to suit the generally bearded, liberal, creative male population of the town and elsewhere.

The (surprisingly controversial) needle sculpture in the town square represents a fustian cutting knife. It's also, I think, a sundial and the base shows aspects of the town's history. 

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Hebden Bridge(s)

The original, narrow packhorse bridge spanning Hebden Water, dating back to the 1500s, still stands in Hebden Bridge town centre. Packhorses used to have to make the arduous journey to and from the weaving village of Heptonstall high on the hill top, taking cloth to the market in Halifax.

A little further up Hebden Water is a newer road bridge, with attractive views up and down stream.

After our dry spring, the water is very low and it all looks quite innocuous. The town sits at the junction of Hebden Water with the River Calder, its watery geography further complicated by the Rochdale Canal that runs through town alongside the Calder. When it rains the rivers rise quickly, fed by run off from the high moorland all around. There have been several devastating floods, notably in 2015. Locals anxiously watch the rising of the water up the curved steps by the old bridge (see my second photo)  as they give a quick indication of how bad things are getting! 

Friday, 26 June 2020

The greatest town in Europe?

To celebrate my recent birthday, I went over to see my family for the first time since early March. As I've mentioned before, they live in Hebden Bridge, a bustling town in the Calder Valley, over the moors from Saltaire. It's a funky little town, attracting a lot of creative people, and the town centre reflects that, with masses of small independent shops. (The Co-op supermarket is probably the only chain store in town). It's a bit of a tourist hotspot too, given its history and quirkiness, so the town centre is usually heaving with people. I often drive straight through to my daughter's home on the far side of town.

It was, however, the summer solstice and I'd hoped to catch some sunset shots on the drive home. Sadly, too much cloud meant that aim was frustrated but I did have an evening wander around the town. It was much quieter than usual - a combination, I suppose, of the relatively late hour and the lockdown keeping people at home. It lacked the usual bustling atmosphere but at least you can see the buildings in my photos!

Hebden Bridge has been called 'the greatest town in Europe'. (See HERE) I wouldn't rate it that highly but it's certainly a lovely place to live and well worth a visit to explore.

The steep-sided valley is prone to flooding and the earliest settlements were all up on the hilltops. The town itself, originally just a tiny settlement around a river crossing, grew in the 19th century when weaving mills developed, making use of the area's abundant water power. Most of the buildings date from that time and the town rises dramatically up the surrounding hillsides, making use of every scrap of available land. 

This is an interesting building, called Machpelah (a Biblical reference to the cave used as a burial place by Abraham in Genesis) apparently because the land was originally bought by a Baptist minister as his burial site. These cottages appear to date from the early 1800s. Some of the windows have 'blue plaques' that tell who lived or worked here at various dates in their history. From the rows of windows in the gable, I would imagine that part of it was a weaving workshop. Prior to the growth of mills in the Industrial Revolution, weaving was a cottage industry. Many buildings in this area have multiple windows in the upper storeys to let light into the workshops.

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Dramatic skies

After all the blue sky, sunny weather we've been having for weeks, photographically at least it was a relief to get back to some cloudy and more interesting skies. Here's quite a brooding, dramatic sky above the equally brooding and dramatic canal-side facade of Salts Mill.

Applying a few textures makes it even more dramatic.

[Bloggers... Is anyone else struggling with the 'new Blogger' interface? Or is it just me? Seems such a palaver now to upload photos. Every step in the process now seems to consist of three. I keep losing photos I've uploaded because, if you upload several at once, you can't choose which ones to add to a post like you could before. If you then remove photos from a post they don't stay 'available' for the next post and you have to fish them out of the blog album, which takes ages to load. So frustrating. I hate how they suddenly change things for no apparent reason. 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it', software developers!]

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Joyful exuberance

Beyond Saltaire, the main road down into Shipley town centre is lined with business units, most of which have had a facelift in the last year or so, with new cladding and paintwork. It all looks a good deal smarter as a result. There is a small patch of waste ground between the units, which had some scrubby trees that have been felled. It has opened up a glimpse of a view over to the old mills alongside the canal and up to Baildon on the hill beyond. Red, pink and white valerian has sprung up. It's a (garden escaped) weed but it adds some joyful exuberance to the boxy industrial feel of this stretch of road. It also does a neat job of hiding the self-storage containers that have recently been squeezed in to the space behind. 

Tuesday, 23 June 2020


At the end of May, one of the beautiful, mature trees alongside the drive leading to Saltaire's URC church succumbed to the drought. Its trunk suddenly sheered in half and a large portion of the tree fell across the drive, thankfully injuring no-one and damaging nothing, as far as I'm aware. (See HERE) Since then it has been tidied up and the trunk cut into logs. I believe experts have also assessed the others in the vicinity. 

From the moment the lockdown was ordered in the UK, the weather turned dry, sunny and warm. I dread to think how depressed we'd all have been if it had happened at the end of autumn and we'd had to survive in lockdown in the dark and cold of winter. As it was, at least we were mostly able to enjoy the sunshine. We had the sunniest and driest spring ever recorded, strangely coming after the wettest February on record. It is all, apparently, to do with the jet-stream. Climate change and the warming of the Arctic region is causing it to 'stall' for long periods, stuck either to the south of us - bringing wet Atlantic low pressure systems, or to the north, bringing high pressure in from the Continent. Such extremes are unprecedented and an alarming wake-up call. If only governments would listen... I fear we will see many worse casualties than this Saltaire tree in the future.  

Monday, 22 June 2020

The calm of the lake

It's not very big but Tong Park Dam is an oasis of calm, not far from the residential areas of Baildon, so it's a popular spot with families and dog-walkers. Saltaire Angling Club owns the fishing rights so there are often a couple of fishermen sitting quietly on the banks. There was a pair of mute swans but they never came anywhere near me, so they are just white dots on the photo! There was also a family of moorhens, with three little chicks whizzing around like clockwork toys. There was very little wind (for a change!) and a heavily clouded sky lent a steely look to the water. A couple of patches of water lilies added some grace to the scene.