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Monday, 31 December 2012

Cheers to a new year

London Olympics 2012 Opening Ceremony  -  PA Photo from the web

Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.     Oprah Winfrey

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.   Ralph Waldo Emerson

With best wishes for a happy, healthy, peaceful and secure 2013.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Silent night

All is peaceful on Albert Terrace in Saltaire. The scene on this cobbled street at night probably looks little different from how it looked when it was first built in 1854. That's kind of comforting, I feel.

OK, some purist will point out that the lamps used to be gas and the mill chimney used to have a fancy top... but never mind! The sepia toning is entirely natural.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

The reason for the season

Another of Saltaire's Living Advent Calendar windows, in a house on Caroline Street, this seemed an appropriate image to remind us of the real reason for Christmas (not Santa after all!)

I heard a whisper somewhere (can't recall where) that there really was a new-born baby living at this house - and if that's true, then I wish the family every blessing at this special time of year. Enjoy your little one, they don't stay tiny for long. This time last year, my precious granddaughter was not much bigger than this. A year on and she's almost a toddler, and seems as happy and healthy as a child can be, for which I am thankful every single day. I'm going to really enjoy my Christmas Day with her.

Thinking today of all my family and friends: those I will see and those I won't, those I know face-to-face and those I know (and many I don't) who read this blog. Wishing you a very happy, peaceful and joyful Christmas, if you celebrate it, and a very good day if you don't.

'The star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him.'  Matthew 2: 9-11

Monday, 24 December 2012

Santa's coming!

As a child, I would have loved this metal rocking horse. It's in the window of the vintage homewares shop on Saltaire's Victoria Road. Only the thought of the shortage of storage space at home prevented me from popping in to buy it for my granddaughter! Together with the traditionally decorated Christmas tree, it makes an attractive and nostalgic display, especially at night when the lights are on. It seemed an appropriate illustration for Christmas Eve, when every child in the country must be waiting with barely suppressed excitement to see what Santa brings and whether he read their wish list!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Heavenly host

Another of Saltaire's Living Advent Calendar windows - this can be seen in the porch of Saltaire's United Reformed Church.  It exemplifies the best of these window designs - bold, graphic, simple - and yet somehow (to me) it gets across a feeling of joy and exuberance, of angels trumpeting the good news of Christ's birth.

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.' - Luke 2:13-14

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Spiderman gets lucky

Of all the Saltaire Living Advent Calendar windows, I think I like this one in Rhodes Street the best this year. It's different, it's amusing, it's bold, modern and colourful, beautifully executed and yet quite unfussy. 10 out of 10 from me!

I've been slightly disappointed that a lot of the windows have not come out very well on my photographs this year. Sometimes it's been a practical problem, a car or tree in the way. Though they all look very attractive to the observer (which is, I guess, the real point...) some are very pale or simply too detailed and intricate to show up well in a photograph. I have risked being run over standing in the middle of the road with a tripod but even so I have found that I need a longer telephoto lens for some. [It's on my Santa list but I don't think I've been good enough for long enough yet ;-(  ]  The Facebook page has pictures of all of the windows, taken by better photographers than me, so hop over there if you want more.

Friday, 21 December 2012


I guess most people enjoy peeking into other people's houses. I do. I've been known to go round 'show houses' that are for sale, just being nosey. I also get a magazine called '25 Beautiful Homes' to ogle the lovely interiors shown and glimpse the lifestyles that go with them. House-porn, they call it! I know lots of people blog about home decor too, and 'pin' pictures on Pinterest, so I know I'm not alone in this desire to see how other people live. Winter is the best time to peek into other people's rooms, when they leave their curtains open and the lights on. I've loved looking for Christmas lights, ever since I was a child, when it was a game we played on the journey to my grandparents' house at Christmas. So it was a delight to see this inviting scene, with its candles, wreath and Christmas tree, when I was out photographing the Advent windows in Saltaire. Sometimes 'an ordinary window' can look as attractive as the specially designed displays. It looked like someone had drawn a face in the condensation too, ha!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

An urban forest

All of a sudden a little forest has sprung up in Saltaire! Christmas trees for sale, all lined up on the wet pavement outside the greengrocer's shop.  I didn't bring one home, as my sitting room is too small - I can't fit a proper tree in anywhere, much as I like the look (and smell) of them. So I have a little carved and painted wooden tree that I bought at the German Christkindelmarkt one year. It's decorated with tiny wooden snowmen and bells, quite pretty. It wasn't until I looked at this photo that I noticed the florist's shop (Bouquets) has closed down. Another victim of our recessionary times.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Doves of peace

Window number 16 of Saltaire's Living Advent Calendar can be found on George Street. It's a flock of doves, beautifully lit. This photo hardly does it justice. In these chaotic times it was good to feast my eyes on these symbols of peace, spend a few moments thinking of the world's troubled places... Syria and Newtown, Connecticut, amongst others... to reflect, too, on why we have Christmas at all.

They have made the most of those old 1930s stained glass windows that some of the village houses have. They are a legacy from when the housing stock, which had originally belonged to the Salts company, was sold (see more here) and people could opt to buy the property they lived in. A lot of people apparently started 'modernising' and personalising their homes with these leaded light windows that were very fashionable at that time.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Late night shopping

Out in the evening with my camera on a tripod, the parade of shops on Saltaire's Victoria Road looked too enticing to pass by without a photo. I liked the different colours and warmths of the lights. The hairdresser, on the left, has sparkly chandeliers; the bakery always looks warm and inviting; the bar 'Don't tell Titus' has hot red lights that make it look like a haven in a storm. Further down, the jeweller's lights are appropriately diamond-white and the shops at the bottom of the row, which sell nice things for the home (oriental, vintage, art), have fairy lights - very pretty.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Baildon Green revisited

Although it's only a fifteen minute walk from Saltaire, the hamlet of Baildon Green always feels to me like a different planet altogether. Many of the buildings pre-date Saltaire (which lies further down in the valley, more or less at the end of the road you can see). The hamlet grew up as a small farming community; then the textile industry developed, firstly domestic handlooms, then a 'loom shop' attached to a farm and in 1840 a small mill was built. The open land was 'Common Land' (something Saltaire did not have) where people were allowed to collect firewood and graze their animals. To this day the grass on the right is grazed by goats and a natural spring forms a small pool. Baildon Green became famous for an annual Gypsy gathering. They say that over 5000 people attended in1881 but the tradition died out at the beginning of the 20th century. These days the area is a Conservation Area, so hopefully its character will continue to be preserved. (See also this early post of mine.)

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Seaside colours

Sometimes the dark and cold at this time of year starts to get me down. It's nice then to seek a dose of colour and sunshine on blogs from sunnier climes. It's even better to wake up to a sudden clear, crisp, sunny day. On just such a golden morning recently, I went out for a walk; not far, just up through Baildon Green, following the road because the footpaths were so wet and muddy. The route passes through what was once a quarry (where some of the stone that built Saltaire originated from, I believe). Looking up the hill, I liked the tones of blue, white and sandy yellow - in fact it reminded me of seaside colours!  The trees and the grasses may be winter-dead but they are still pretty.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Success in 'Le Bid'

Yorkshire will host the 2014 Tour de France! The county has beaten worldwide competition in its bid to bring the cycling race, one of the world's largest sporting events, to the North of England for the first time. On the 5th & 6th of July 2014, the county will host the Grand Départ, the prestigious opening days of the iconic cycling race. The race will start from Leeds, probably touring up into the North York Moors and then from York through to Sheffield. The exact route will be announced in January next year but as well as starting locally it's likely that it will pass not far from Saltaire on the second day too. The Tour will then move south for a final stage, finishing in London, before moving across the Channel to France. Expect to see everyone go cycling mad. I'm excited already! All credit to those involved in putting Le Bid together - Welcome to Yorkshire (the tourism body) was the prime mover. 
Allez Yorkshire!

Friday, 14 December 2012

Dancing bear

Window number 5 of Saltaire's Living Advent Calendar is particularly innovative. Created by Abbi and Craig on Constance Street, the window features this bear, wearing a very Christmassy sweater, with a robin in a party hat (so cute!) If visitors click the QR code in the bottom corner of the window with a mobile phone app, they can watch the window come to life in an animated version. (This may be a Victorian village but we're up there with the latest trends!) Happily, you too can see this delightful animation from the comfort of your own home - click here to watch it on Vimeo. It's quite jolly!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

It's that spam again...

Another anonymous fan comment (ha!) :
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Nice to be appreciated, isn't it?
(Though they do want me to look at their useful webpage: 'How to get fair skin naturally at home'.  Bathe in milk, maybe...? Let me know if you want the link to look at it for the incredibly 1st time.)

Star light, candle light

Advent.... the expectant waiting for Christ's coming - a Christian season that I find really helpful and try to observe in small ways. I love the Advent carols we sing in church, I love lighting the candles, I find it a time for counting my blessings. I try not to spend the whole of December rushing around in a pre-Christmas frenzy; there's so much happening to enjoy. Like me, many people engage in the tradition of opening windows on an advent calendar each day, counting down the days - maybe anticipating the chocolate inside too, if you go for that kind of calendar!

In December in Saltaire, as regular readers of this blog will know, the village becomes a 'Living Advent Calendar'. Each day from the 1st to the 24th December, a window display is lit somewhere in the village. Glowing each evening from dusk until about 10pm, the lighted windows form a lovely trail as the month goes on, a chance to marvel at people's creative ingenuity. It's well worth a visit if you live locally. For those that can't visit, there are ways to share. I will be posting some photos on my blog as usual and there is also a Facebook page that features all the windows, as they're lit - click here.

This one - window number 6 - is the one in Saltaire Methodist Church Hall, created by members of Saltaire Art Club. They always make a good job of it and I really like this year's display. The strong colours and bold shapes have quite an impact.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

A promise fulfilled

I promised - so here it is..... Saltaire's Christmas tree, all lit up. Standing on the lawn outside the Victoria Hall, it has a bit of a hard job competing with the floodlights that illuminate this magnificent Victorian building. (See here for a daytime photo of the Victoria Hall).  Nevertheless, it's quite pretty this year, with coloured lights that flash. They're a bit blurry in my photo as it was really windy at the time I took it.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

White Christmas?

In the church hall of Baildon St John's, someone had gone to enormous trouble to create this magical festive scene: snow, fir trees, polar bears, penguins and reindeer - and of course a sleigh. Isn't it lovely? I can feel all those schmaltzy Christmassy songs running round my head... 'I'm dreaming of a white Christmas'.... Actually, one is starting to look a distinct possibility. It's freezing cold here and sleeting.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Wreath display

Inside St John's Church, Baildon, as part of the village's Christmas festival, they had a display of festive wreaths. They ranged from traditional foliage wreaths to very modern ones made of unusual materials, and from elegant to quirky and humorous.  (See below: sparkling snowflakes, brussels sprouts and dog biscuits!) It was a very innovative idea and well worth viewing.  The church itself is small but not unattractive, with wooden pews, an elaborate metal rood screen and some stained glass windows.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

St John the Evangelist, Baildon

Baildon's Parish Church, St John the Evangelist, was built in 1848 with the tower added later, in 1928, to commemorate those killed in the 1st World War. It is not very big inside and when it was first built it was not a parish church, being then part of the parish of Otley. It is linked with St James, a pretty church I showed on my blog some time ago, and St Hugh's down in the valley.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Beat the cold!

There was pre-Christmas fun in Baildon last weekend. The village (a couple of miles from Saltaire) held a festival, with lots of craft stalls, music, dancing and of course plenty to eat and drink. There was a great atmosphere, with crowds of people enjoying the bright sunshine, even though it was cold.

One way of beating the cold is to get your clogs tapping, which is just what Saltaire's very own dance team, Rainbow Morris, were doing, dancing here outside Baildon's Ian Clough Memorial Hall and adding lots of colour to the scene. (Ian Clough was a Baildon man, a skilled mountaineer, who was sadly killed in 1970 climbing Annapurna in an expedition led by Chris Bonington.)

Friday, 7 December 2012

All lit up

I had to call at the Post Office parcel delivery office the other evening on my way home from work, to pick up a parcel from Amazon. I've done nearly all my Christmas shopping online this year, which may or may not be good for the overall shape of the British economy but has been very good for my stress levels! Anyway, that meant a trip through Shipley market place, so I took a quick snap of the LIT Christmas tree on my iPhone. It's much prettier at night than it looks in daylight... the downside being that far more people get to see it during the day (see here or scroll back to Monday) than at night. I still prefer a real tree.  The glowing red thing in the background is the clock tower in its festive garb.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Cosy glow

From the steps of Saltaire's Victoria Hall, looking across Victoria Road towards the nicely symmetrical old Factory Schools (now part of Shipley College).

You get a sense from this photo of the glow at the heart of our village on a chill winter night. The public buildings have warm-toned floodlights illuminating the stone work. Along with the street-lighting, which is not too harsh and modern, it makes it all seem really cosy.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Let there be light

No doubt, as a gran, I shall get more acquainted with this type of thing... Enterprising traders had set up pitches selling these light sabres and wands, outside the Victoria Hall.  The children were really enjoying running around with them and I must admit they looked rather fun and pretty, flashing and glowing in the dark.  I was quite amused to see one little lad - about four, I guess - whose parents had obviously not succumbed to his pleas. He just walked over and helped himself to one and ran off with it! The stallholder did spot him though and went and retrieved his stock - quite gently, I might add.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Christmas tree...

Saltaire, unlike Shipley, has a real Christmas tree, on the lawn outside the Victoria Hall. It's not very big (or maybe it just looks small against the huge building) but it is REAL. People gathered on Sunday to see the switching-on of the lights. There were a few Christmassy stalls inside and plenty of mulled wine to drink. Hall Royd Brass Band played carols. Everyone stood around and got cold.... In fact I got so cold I went home before they'd even switched the lights on. Tch!

I will go back one evening and take a proper photo, I promise.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Christmas tree?

When Gattina (Writer Cramps) shared photos of the very avant-garde Christmas tree in Brussels this year, it reminded me of the one in Shipley's town centre.  They used the same idea last year and most of the time it didn't even seem to be lit. This photo was taken in the daytime - the lights are on, but you can't see them.  Even a bit of lens flare doesn't really cheer it up...  Nul points and a definite thumbs down from me, Shipley, sorry!

Sunday, 2 December 2012


Beside the railway line, right in the centre of Shipley, is a scrap metal merchant's depot. It's huge but fairly cleverly hidden in a valley, so you hardly notice it from road level, though from the train it makes a fascinating and surprisingly colourful sight. I took this photo from the railway bridge. There are hundreds of skips full of scrap, all perched rather precariously on top of one another. I can't imagine what becomes of it in the end.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Carnegie Library

Every time I see this building it makes me feel sad. It's in Windhill, on the main road from Shipley towards Leeds, not far from the Dock Lane cluster of buildings that I showed on Thursday. Built in 1905, it was one of many libraries built with a grant from the Carnegie Trust. Unfortunately it is poorly positioned on what is now a very busy road junction. It's a long time since it was used as a library and it also had a brief incarnation as a dance hall before becoming disused and now boarded up. There was a plan to turn it in to flats, but that appears to have faltered. (I'm not sure who'd want to live right on the junction anyway.) Sadly you can see it degenerating, year by year. The windows are broken, there are trees growing through the masonry and I imagine it is damp and decaying inside. It's unfortunate that it stands in a prominent position on the way into the town and gives a terrible impression. It will no doubt end up demolished, a shameful end for a once fine building.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Windhill Old Burial Ground

You notice so much more when you're walking than when in a vehicle. I've been along Crag Road in Shipley many times but never spotted this little old burial ground, which lies below the level of the road (that was built in the 1960s) on land that would, I think, have been alongside the Bradford Canal. It really isn't much bigger than you can see from the photo. Scrolling through Google (as you do!) I've discovered that it belonged to Windhill Wesleyan Chapel, which was built in 1834 and is long since demolished (though I found an old photo of it here.) They started burials on this small plot (known as the 'front burial ground') in 1835. By 1855 it was full, so a larger cemetery was opened further up the hill on Owlet Road, though they continued to inter into existing graves until 1918. It seems that there are fairly full records existing of who is buried here and the inscriptions on the graves, so it would be quite easy to research a family tree. As you can see, it's all terribly overgrown now but that makes it look quite romantic.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Traces of history

Near the stump of the Bradford Canal in Shipley (see yesterday) is this little cluster of buildings, all connected historically with the Canal.  The Canal was completed around 1774, to link the city of Bradford with the Leeds-Liverpool waterway, which was being built at the same time, and thus to provide a trade route for the city's industry. It closed in 1922 and was filled in in the 1950s so little trace  of it survives, though you can see more or less where it went. It must have had a lock at this point because the stone building was the lock-keeper's cottage. I've read that the existing house dates from the 1800s and it may have been built on the site of, or adapted from, an older building.

The Bradford Canal appears to have suffered problems with its water supply. It closed down temporarily in 1867 but was reopened again in 1872. The red-brick building dates from that time and was a pumping station to pump water up from the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. At some point, it was converted (quite nicely by the looks of it) into a residence but for some reason is now boarded up and appears unused. I really like the garage with its large old clock and its chimney.

So, an interesting little cluster - but situated as they are in a predominantly commercial area that is rather isolated, run-down and boundaried by the railway, it's hard to see what the future might hold.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Dockfield Mills

I took a walk along the towpath of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal into Shipley, to explore a part of the town that I have not really looked at before. Despite its wealth of history, it's now an isolated and somewhat run-down area. This building was once part of Dockfield Mills, built c1900 and still bearing the original name on its parapet, though it is now called Staveley House. It is currently used as offices but looks a bit neglected. The Leeds-Liverpool Canal goes from left to right on my photo. (The cyclists are on the towpath, which is a recognised cycleway.) On the right, some modern flats and houses have been built fairly recently. The area of water in the foreground is the stump that is left of the Bradford Canal, a 3.5 mile canal branch that went right into the centre of the city of Bradford. Built around 1774, it was closed in 1922 when it became unprofitable and was eventually filled in in the 1950s.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Much to smile about

I've just had the happiest weekend with my family. Elodie is really developing into a sweet little person. She pulls the cutest faces - this one is one of her more natural expressions. She can also do a smile especially (funny) for the camera! And my beautiful daughter, as photogenic as ever.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Shimmer & sparkle

The play of sunshine on water and on the stone walls of Salts Mill made lovely shimmering, sparkling patterns. Who needs Christmas fairy lights?

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Hanging on

I have been enjoying Anita's 'Say No to Sepia' series on her lovely blog 'did you bring your camera'. Now, I can hardly pretend that the autumn colours here in West Yorkshire rival those in Wisconsin or other areas of the USA where Fall is traditionally feted as an amazing spectacle of colour.  This year though, we've done pretty well, a silver-lining in the clouds of the dreadful wet summer we had, perhaps. The weather has been sunny and crisp on enough (non-working) days to enable me to make the most of it too. Alas, I fear that sepia is now overtaking everything. The woods over on Shipley Glen are definitely past their best showing.  Here along the canal the last leaves hang on to catch the late sunshine and a few red berries add colour too.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Traffic calming measures

Since the Bingley by-pass was completed a few years ago, traffic around Saltaire has reached nightmarish proportions at peak times. Saltaire Road, the old turnpike road that bisects the village and heads towards Leeds, is often a solid, slow-moving traffic jam in the morning and evening rush hour. (My photo was taken on a Sunday.) It drives everyone mad and many hours have been spent trying to find a solution. Proposals have even included a tunnel under Saltaire!  They have now decided to turn the roundabout at the top of the road into a traffic-light controlled junction, which will probably make it safer though I doubt it will improve the traffic flow.  They have also introduced 'traffic-calming measures' throughout the village, including a 20mph speed limit and various speed bumps across the side roads.  I can testify that, so far, these measures have made no discernable difference whatsoever! Traffic shows no signs of slowing down when it's not busy and when it is busy 20mph would be an aspirational speed anyway...

The building in my photo is Wycliffe Primary School.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Heaps of sparkle

More Christmas baubles, this time fashioned into a huge and sparkling Christmas 'tree'. This is the main feature of the display in the very-up-market Victoria Quarter in Leeds: a series of wonderful Victorian arcades, now home to some designer stores, including the celebrated Harvey Nichols. All too expensive for my Christmas shopping - but good old M&S is just across the way!

I wasn't drunk at the time I took this photo (honest!) but the 'tree' is so huge and I could see the perspective was going to be wonky anyway - so it seemed a good idea to make it more so and get more of the baubles in!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

It's coming!

We're barely half way through November, but in Leeds you could have no doubt that Christmas is coming! The annual German Christkindelmarkt, held in Millennium Square, has been opened, and continues until 16 December. It has its usual mix of lots of continental-style delights to eat and drink and glittering toys, trinkets and baubles. These did look rather pretty, I have to say. Each is a little work of art, in its own way. I can remember from my childhood the excitement each year of unpacking those glass treasures, carefully stored in their tissue paper, and then hanging them on the tree. It was like greeting old friends and then each year we added one or two new ones too. Christmas seems to have lost some of its magic for me over the years but maybe this year, seen through the eyes of my granddaughter, it will feel special again.

I have just realised it's Thanksgiving today (Thursday) in the USA. (Not at the weekend as I thought).  So this sparkly picture can be my way of wishing all my American readers a very special and happy day.  I actually think we should import Thanksgiving here.  There's much to give thanks for - and that side of Christmas is rather hi-jacked by all the razzmatazz these days.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012


My home in Saltaire is, strictly speaking, part of the City of Bradford metropolitan area - and indeed many of my 'city' photos have been taken in Bradford. By train, however, it takes only a few minutes longer to get to Leeds than to Bradford. The two cities have always had a kind of rivalry and in Victorian times Bradford was a powerful metropolis, founded on wool. Leeds traditionally had a broader base and that served it well when the wool industry collapsed. Nowadays, Leeds is a much more cosmopolitan and vital place and Bradford has struggled to keep up. For shopping, Leeds is streets ahead (pun intentional!), ranked in the premier league when it comes to city centre shopping in the UK, and still investing in new shopping zones despite these recessional times. So it was off to Leeds at the weekend to start on the Christmas shopping (not my favourite activity; I wasn't 'born to shop'!) It all looked rather glorious in the cool autumn sunshine, and Leeds Town Hall, in particular, looked stately and imposing.  The building next to it, on the right, houses the city library and art gallery and a very nice Craft Centre and Design Gallery.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Sunrise, sunrise

The advantage of shorter days is that I can pull back my bedroom curtains when I wake up, and see a sight like this! (Unfortunately it presages yet more rain.)

(PS Elements did a nice job of merging two images to make a panorama. I'm gradually getting the hang of my new software.)

Monday, 19 November 2012

Leaves of Gold

'I sang of leaves, of leaves of gold and leaves of gold there grew:
Of wind I sang, a wind there came and in the branches blew.
Beyond the Sun, beyond the Moon, the foam was on the Sea,
And by the strand of Ilmarin there grew a Golden Tree.'

J R R Tolkien

Sunday, 18 November 2012

What's that duck?

I spent a happy hour or so sitting in a hide playing 'What's that duck?' at the Rodley Nature Reserve. I was quite a competent birdwatcher in my youth.... until motherhood arrived and the incompatibility of bird-watching and life with a lively toddler became apparent. It's a simple pleasure and one that I am seeking to pick up again. Hampered as I am by deafness, hearing and then spotting the myriad tree-hopping 'little brown jobs' (as we used to call the warblers and finches) is tricky. Wildfowl and waders are much easier, as they tend to stay in more or less the same place for long enough to work out what they are!

My list at Rodley included the ubiquitous mallard ducks, black-headed gulls, coots and moorhens (all of which I can spot around the canal in Saltaire) and some rather more interesting things too: little grebe, wigeon, gadwall, a solitary teal, Canada geese and a string of young mute swans gliding around. Some species are resident, some over-wintering and others just passing through, so what you see depends to some extent on luck. Of course that's what makes birding interesting.

The birds were too far away for close-up photos without a very long lens, but I had my binoculars.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Rodley Nature Reserve

Here's a place I've been meaning to visit for ages - Rodley Nature Reserve. Halfway between Saltaire and Leeds city centre, it is a managed wetland reserve in the middle of an essentially urban area. I'm not too sure how long it has been there (possibly about 15 years?) but it was developed to capitalise on a natural 'flyway' for wildfowl and waders, where the River Aire and the Leeds-Liverpool Canal wind their way through a floodplain in the Kirkstall Valley. Pools, marshes, reedbeds and willow coppice provide a rich habitat for birdlife, amphibians and dragonflies. In the summer months, hay meadows full of wildflowers attract butterflies.

It's a delightful place to wander. You can almost - but not quite - forget that you are so close to houses and factories. I like the juxtaposition, in the photo above, of the insect 'hotel' with the houses and church in the background (Horsforth, I think). Even at this time of year there is lots to enjoy - and a small café/visitor centre, run by volunteers, affords a warming cup of tea and cake if you get chilled.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Coppice pond

A visit to the St Ives estate is not complete without a gentle stroll round the Coppice Pond.  When the house was a family residence, the pond was used as a boating lake. There was a boathouse at one end, of which little remains but its foundations. Now the pond is stocked with fish - carp, tench, bream, chub, roach, perch (aren't they great names?) - and is fished by members of Bingley Angling Club. In winter the pond, being quite shallow, gets iced over. In the past, they used to crack the ice and store it in an ice-house for preserving food. The area around the pond is lovely at all seasons. I especially like it in winter, but this year the autumn colour was very pretty.

(See my other blog: Seeking the Quiet Eye for some more pretty autumn pictures.)

Thursday, 15 November 2012

The Archers

The Bingley St Ives estate is the home of Aire Valley Archers. It's a large club with over 130 members, ranging from beginners to very experienced archers. They shoot at targets using a variety of different bows. I didn't know anything about archery until I read the info on their clubhouse and on their website. As so often with these kinds of activities, it is all more complex and interesting than it might at first appear.

Image from web
It seems there are three different types of bow: traditional wooden longbows (like Robin Hood might have used) that shoot wooden arrows with feather 'flights'; compound bows that are shorter, have a complex pulley system and are more accurate; and recurve bows, which are the ones they use in the Olympics (and which seem to be what the guys in my photo have, as far as I can tell). You can only glimpse an arrow flying on one of the photos I took - they go so fast you really can't see them!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The old manor house, St Ives

The mansion on the Bingley St Ives estate, built in the 1800s and currently used as a residential home for young people with disabilities, isn't especially photogenic. There are, however, several other interesting buildings on the estate. The oldest is probably the Old Manor House, built in 1636 by Robert Ferrand, a cloth merchant. It has been altered and cottages added alongside, but there are some nice features like this old door, with its now-disused staircase. It also has a walled garden.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Sports Turf Research Institute

This is something you might not expect to find in the middle of a country park in Yorkshire.... It's an organisation called the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI). Founded in 1929, initially to provide research and advisory services to golf clubs, by the 1950s the company had established an excellent reputation for advice on all forms of sports turf and amenity grass surfaces. It is now the world's leading authority in sports turf research, design and management. Most of the major sports venues in the UK and many world-wide, owe their playing surface to this consultancy. Wembley stadium, Wimbledon, Ascot racecourse, Twickenham & Murrayfield rugby grounds, the Olympic Equestrian course at Greenwich, the 2010 FIFA World Cup venues in South Africa and St Andrews golf course are some of the big names that have been on their books. The company employs about 75 staff and its headquarters is here at Bingley St Ives.

Monday, 12 November 2012


It's quite surprising how many different enterprises the Bingley St Ives estate now sustains. The main house (not an especially grand or attractive building, so I don't have a photo of it) is now a residential home for young adults with disabilities. There is an 18-hole golf course, a fishing lake, an imaginative children's play area, a very nice little café and an equestrian centre used by both able-bodied and disabled riders. I suppose this little shetland pony (I think) and the horse belong to the riding school. They were well-wrapped up in their winter jackets and peacefully grazing the paddock in front of the house. In the background you can just see the golf clubhouse.