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Friday, 31 August 2012

The Gatehaus, Bradford

Most of Bradford's buildings are either solid Victorian edifices built in local stone or utilitarian 70s concrete, with a few neo-classical blocks built more recently.  This has to be the exception - and I find it a powerful but puzzling structure. Until I 'Googled' it, I wasn't even sure if it was office or apartments.  It turns out to be luxury apartments.  The building is called the Gatehaus and was completed in 2007. It was designed by the Shipley-based Robinson Design Group and has won several awards for its innovative design.  The glass tower shown is in fact only the central part of the complex.  I like this; it reminds me of the prow of a huge ship and I love the way the sky reflects in the glass.

It is somewhat disconcerting, as its strident modernity sits right beside one of the oldest parts of Bradford's city centre - the Little Germany district, an area of Victorian warehouses, built by German wool merchants.  These have mostly now been converted into apartments too.  The whole area was intended to be an exciting luxury residential development, but has been deeply scuppered by the failure to complete the Westfield Shopping Centre, the infamous 'hole' (see here) just down the road and the general decline of the city.  I think they are struggling to sell or let the flats.  A one-bedroom apartment is for sale at a little over £50,000.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Bradford City Fire Memorial

Bradford's City Park also holds a small but evocative memorial to the 56 victims of the Bradford City fire disaster. On Saturday 11 May 1985, a flash fire destroyed one of the stands at the Valley Parade football stadium, during a match between Bradford City and Lincoln City. The blaze started when a spark or cigarette fell onto rubbish that had accumulated beneath the old wooden terracing.  It took just four minutes for the entire stand to catch fire, and the bitumen roof melted, causing molten tar to fall onto those trying to escape. Many people were trapped trying to get out and in addition to those who died, another 256 were injured, some very badly.  It was a terrible disaster and I remember it to this day, although it was 27 years ago.  The match was being televised and broadcast so there was an immediate awareness of what was going on.

It's fair to say that it traumatised the entire city - and still casts its shadow - though perhaps some good came of it in the end.  It resulted in legislation to improve safety at all British sports grounds, and a legacy of expertise in our local hospitals and at Bradford University, which continues to do pioneering research into skin science, burns and plastic surgery.  A well-run Disaster Appeal raised millions and contributed to the scientific research.  And in some ways it brought the local community together.

This bronze memorial was given by one of Bradford's 'twin towns' - Hamm, in Germany - and I believe there is a similar memorial in that city too.  It is inscribed with the names of all those who died - from the youngest aged 11 to the oldest, 84.  It shows three figures within a broken circle. The circle represents the damaged stadium and the figures straddle the divide between life and death, honouring those who rushed to help. A memorial service is held here every year on the anniversary of the fire.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Morrison's van

This van has a story to tell.  It was manufactured in Bradford in 1948 by the vehicle manufacturing firm Jowett, which produced cars and vans between 1906 and 1953.  This was a delivery van for Wm Morrison Provisions Ltd, a company that started life in 1899 as market stall in Bradford selling eggs and butter.  Its founder, William Morrison, was succeeded as the director by his son Ken in 1952. In 1958 he opened the first of his shops in Bradford, which became the first self-service store in the area. The company opened its first supermarket in 1961 and has grown to become the fourth largest supermarket chain in UK, after Tesco, Asda and Sainsburys.  Morrisons still have their company headquarters in Bradford.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Jowett Javelin

This is a Jowett Javelin car; these were produced between 1947 and 1953 by Jowett Cars Ltd based in Idle, a district in Bradford. (A district, incidentally, about which there are many jokes... the Idle Working Men's Club etc!)  Jowett Cars was a small manufacturer of cars and light commercial vehicles, that existed for about 50 years in the first half of the 20th century.  Not surprisingly, there are a few private collectors in this area and several vehicles appear in museum collections, such as at the Industrial Museum.  I can't be bothered with what's under the bonnet but I do like the design features of old cars and I was rather enamoured of the sweeping lines of this car's grill.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Mean machine

One reason for the crowds around Bradford's City Hall last weekend was the annual Classic Car Show - a popular event for young and old alike.  There was a huge variety of cars, including a beautiful 1910 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, a Jaguar R3 Formula One racing car once driven by Eddy Irvine, a Mini converted into a hearse, numerous MG sports cars, made-in-Bradford Jowett cars and vans and a few big mean American machines.  It's nice to see that kind of variety, from ordinary little family cars to high performance super-cars and lots in between.  I'm no connoisseur but I loved this one above. A 1959 Cadillac Eldorado?

Don't get distracted by the 'London 2012' sign - this is Bradford!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Sunny City Park, Bradford

A trip down the valley into Bradford now.... Despite the various grumblings about the cost of the new City Park in Bradford city centre, it seems to be hugely popular, with families treating it as a 'destination', almost like a day trip to the seaside. (The actual seaside is a very long way from here.) The pool is a very shallow area that is drained at night and gradually fills up with water during the day, to make a very shallow paddling pool. It has water jets that spurt up rather unpredictably, to the delight of most of the little boys and some of the little girls! It is attractively framed by the outdoor cafés in Centenary Square and presided over by Bradford City Hall, with its ornate clock tower. You may remember I showed a picture of the City Park lit up by night (see here). On a sunny day, it makes an equally absorbing scene with plenty of scope for people-watching!

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Stairway to heaven

From our office window we have a wonderful view of Salts Mill and we were somewhat surprised yesterday to see men abseiling down the enormous chimney. Closer inspection, on my way home, revealed a series of ladders roped together (looking fairly precarious, it has to be said!) going all the way up to the top. The workmen were constructing a scaffold platform. The technology used doesn't appear to have changed a great deal since the chimney was first built - a few ropes and pulleys, and the planks and scaffold bars being hauled up by hand, one by one, from the men at the bottom to the men at the top.

An article in the local press says they are steeplejacks (wonderful word, I always think!) from Access Steeplejacks Ltd in Leeds, who will be working for the next six weeks or so to plug the chimney against rain, replace the lightning conductors and carry out repointing and other essential repairs. I'm glad the chimney is being preserved - but rather them than me!

At least it wasn't raining today, though you would rarely see a duller August day. :(

Friday, 24 August 2012

Bloggers' convention

I leave you to decide exactly who these characters are.... but I'm pretty sure they're some of my blog friends meeting up for a chat. And we will leave them to their cogitating, in the lovely surroundings of Kettlewell village in the Yorkshire Dales.  I hope you enjoyed the Scarecrow Festival as much as I did!

August and September are busy months for me and I have lots more to show you, so stay tuned!

Thursday, 23 August 2012

The preacher

The congregation of St Mary's in Kettlewell (see also yesterday's post) seemed very engrossed in the sermon by the visiting preacher.  Or maybe they were all asleep....

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

St Mary's

St Mary's Church in Kettlewell is a quintessentially English village church, beautifully cared-for and timelessly attractive. I especially like the churchyard, which is a lovely mixture of planted borders and wild flowers. Many of the headstones are simple hunks of rough local stone, brought in from the surrounding countryside.

And look who I spotted... Mrs Tiggywinkle, the hedgehog.... scurrying into the border.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

A Dales village

Kettlewell village, which hosts the annual Scarecrow Festival, is situated in the upper Wharfe valley, about 20 miles from Saltaire. It is a compact limestone-built village, with the added charm of the little Kettlewell beck running through the centre to join the river. Many of the houses are very old; some have date-stones from the mid-1600s, and some of them are converted from old farms and barns.  There are Anglo-Saxon field systems in the nearby valley, and Roman remains too.  The village became prosperous in the 17th century through lead-mining and at one time had a cotton-mill, as well as being a centre for the local farming industry.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Hot tub humour

'This is what happens when you buy a hot tub off eBay....'

More scarecrows in Kettlewell.... but not scarecrows as you would normally know them!  This scene made me laugh.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Purple warning

                        Is 60 too young to start?

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat

And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry

And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?

So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple. 

Jenny Joseph

Saturday, 18 August 2012


And now for something completely different... or perhaps not!

I went to Kettlewell last weekend to visit their annual Scarecrow Festival. It was my first visit and I was very impressed. There were scarecrows all over the village - a trail, in fact - and they were not just your average kind of scarecrow but really imaginative and topical little tableaux. Inevitably there were a fair number of nods to the Olympics... the Olympic torch, the cyclist Bradley Wiggins (winner of the Tour de France 2012 and Olympic gold medallist), Boris Johnson (London's mayor) stuck on a zip-wire (click here for video of that hilarious incident), James Bond with his parachute, me in my raincoat! Aren't they terrific?

Kettlewell is a lovely little Yorkshire Dales village.  I did a 'tour' of it in 2010 - click the Kettlewell label below for those photographs, of the village and the Upper Wharfedale valley.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Heading home, happy

As the crowds headed home, the evening light on the main Stadium was really pretty.  A perfect end to a perfect day...

There has been much to celebrate in this country these last few weeks (and hopefully the good times will continue throughout the Paralympic Games at the end of this month. Let's not forget those.) There was a thoughtful write-up in The Guardian the other day - here. Worth a read. I'm glad - and proud - to be British, with all that that means... and we do for once seem to be celebrating and enjoying the rich mix of cultures that we have here. I'm equally glad to able to enjoy the global sharing and insight we experience through each other's blogs. Talking of which, now the Olympics are over, I might actually have time to catch up on everyone else's posts!

Thursday, 16 August 2012


An extra treat for me was seeing the Royal Barge, The Gloriana, moored in the Olympic Park. You will recall that it led out the huge flotilla of boats during the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Pageant, rowed by 18 oarsmen and women, including our former Olympic heroes Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent. The rowbarge also had a role in transporting the Olympic Flame up the River Thames.

The boat was privately commissioned by Lord Stirling, inspired by Canaletto's paintings of 18th century barges on the Thames, as a gift and tribute to the Queen. It will have an ongoing role in promoting the River Thames and our other inland waterways, in celebrations and to support charitable events, especially those involving young people.

It's really beautiful, and a tribute to British craftsmanship. Under the guidance of master boatbuilder Mark Edwards, over 60 craftsmen from all over the UK were involved in its construction. It is made in part from sweet chestnut timber from Prince Charles's estate.

The buildings in the background on my photo are the temporary Water Polo arena, with the Aquatics Centre behind it.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012


One of the most controversial installations in the Olympic Park is the giant tower - the Orbit - designed by Anish Kapoor. Intended as a statement piece, I was really prepared to hate it - but surprisingly I actually quite liked it. I liked the way it looked different from different angles. It didn't really look as though it could stand up, much less allow spectators to travel to the top (from where, apparently, the view over London is amazing). What I didn't like was the fact that tickets cost an extortionate £15 and had to be pre-booked. But the sculpture itself had a more benign feel in actuality than it has in photos - it almost seemed to have a personality, like some kind of ET creature watching over the Park. As a photographer, you could spend hours trying to decide on the best angle of view!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Park Live

On such a beautiful day we really didn't want to be inside all the time so it was great that there were lots of open areas to walk, sit and relax. In the centre of the Park, on either side of the river, there were two huge TV screens showing the key events live.  Just like on 'Henman Hill' or 'Murray Mound' or whatever they choose to call it at Wimbledon, the atmosphere here was terrific, with huge cheers and rounds of applause whenever one of the Team GB athletes did something special.  The day we were there, there was lots of track cycling from the Velodrome.  Jessica Ennis (a Yorkshire lass) was starting her heptathlon in the Athletics Stadium, which she eventually won in superb style.  The local press, by the way, are making much of the fact that if Yorkshire was a country (which some folks would probably like!) we'd be way up there in the medals table (15th I think) with five golds, two silvers and three bronze medals.

In and around the Park there were all sorts of street performers and people dressed in bizarre costumes.  I'm still not sure what these folks were doing, but it was a lively dance with flags ... and large fake moustaches!  I just caught them as I was on my way out towards the end of the evening.

Monday, 13 August 2012


There was, of course, some sport to watch....!

This was the warm-up, in the Basketball arena.  There weren't really that many empty seats for the match itself!

The competing women's teams in this heat were Brazil and Canada - a close-fought game that Canada won 79-73. (Photo taken on my iPhone as it has a slightly longer zoom!)


We had not anticipated entertainment during the (many) intervals in play. It was great fun. This was a team of stunt basketball players; there were also cheerleaders and 'extreme skipping'! The crowd did Mexican waves with great gusto and a roving camera meant that spectators might find themselves on the big screen... kissing, waving - even playing the bongos (with a kind of overlay on the screen that meant when people waved their hands up and down it looked like they were playing drums). The atmosphere was fantastic. I can only imagine what the Athletics Stadium must feel like with 80,000 spectators!

Sunday, 12 August 2012


There was much to admire in the architecture of the various venues, both the permanent ones and those that will be dismantled afterwards (like the Basketball Stadium - see below). The Athletics Stadium (see yesterday's post) has its own majesty; it is, come to think of it, a bit like a crown. The Aquatics Centre, designed by Zaha Hadid, is thrilling - but positioned so that it was extremely difficult to photograph in its entirety. My own favourite was the Velodrome, designed by Hopkins Architects. I found its swooping form [a hyperbolic paraboloid ;-) ] to be most pleasing, somehow evoking the sport taking place inside.... and how exciting that has been for Team GB! 

Another view of the Velodrome
The BBC studios, made I think from recycled containers, were right at the heart of the Park - and the BBC's superb coverage of the Games has been right at the heart of most of our lives these last two weeks.  (I don't know what we'll all do when it's over!)

The Basketball venue is a temporary structure that will be dismantled later - but was no less stylish for all that.  In front of it is one of the many food outlets... there was plenty of choice, though a lot of it was not (paradoxically) very healthy stuff.  OK, confession time... I had a cheeseburger and fries from McDonalds!

There are some wonderful photos, by Edmund Sumner, of the various venues here, in this slideshow. (How I wish I'd had more time and could have visited again when there were fewer people.)

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Olympic flowers

Quite possibly the most surprising and refreshing aspect of the Olympic Park was the mass of wildflower meadows and gardens in full bloom. The site has a river (the Lea) and several other waterways running through it and they have really made the most of these, transforming what by all accounts was previously a boggy and blighted wasteland into something very attractive. Most of the main thoroughfares (which did get incredibly busy) were at a higher level and so you could sit by the water and walk amongst the trees and flowers in relative peace. Because we've had a wet summer, there weren't many butterflies in evidence; a pity, as normally a flower meadow like this would be humming with insect life. But even so I was really thrilled by the way the site has been designed with such thought and care - and it will outlive the Olympics themselves as the meadows will seed and reseed afterwards.

There's a short video on the BBC website that has some interesting shots and information about the transformation of the site.

Friday, 10 August 2012

We're there!

Getting into the Olympic Park entailed a brief but good-humoured (and no waiting) trip through airport style security, staffed by young armed forces personnel. They were drafted in due to the well-documented failure of the security firm originally employed to provide enough staff. I think the troops were enjoying themselves - it was probably better than a tour in Afghanistan!
Then came the first glimpse of the Athletics Stadium - and the Aquatics Centre, jutting out on the left edge like a giant Mexican hat.
On the right, my granddaughter, looking a bit bemused so far....

Thursday, 9 August 2012


One of the things I've got much better at, as I've got older, is enjoying the build-up to an event as much as the event itself. I've been looking forward to these London Olympics ever since we knew we had won the bid in 2005. And finally, last Friday, we were on our way!

This is the walk to the Olympic Park from Stratford station. Most people were heading in the same direction at that time in the morning but, even so, the way it was all organised was impressive. There were literally thousands of volunteers - some even had their own 'umpire's chairs' to give them an overview of the flow of foot traffic.

Everyone - volunteers and spectators alike - seemed in such good spirits. And as we got nearer and nearer I had butterflies in my tummy such as I haven't felt since I was a kid waiting for Christmas! Those threatening rainclouds gave us a good soaking a bit later on but I didn't even mind that.

The predominant purple and pink 'branding' was a bit of a shocker - but after a while I began to realise that it was probably chosen to stand out from the national teams' colours.  Not many countries have pink flags!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012


I'm back from a fantastic long weekend in London.  A combination of extended time with my beautiful granddaughter and family, plus a day at the Olympic Park, made it a weekend that I will remember forever. Long-time readers of my blog will recall that a trip to the Olympics was what I had hoped for ever since I realised that London 2012 would happen in my 60th birthday year.  My daughter tried and tried to get tickets and eventually managed to secure some for the women's basketball heats.... not our first choice of sport but who cares?  It was the Olympics!

I have to confess that I was so excited and so caught up with the crowds and the atmosphere that I really ended up taking only snapshots.  (Parts of the Park were so busy that if you stood still too long you risked causing a pile-up of bodies!)  I will post some photos of the Olympic Park over the next few days.  I also ventured into central London one day, mainly to get a picture of this most iconic of scenes - Tower Bridge, one of the most recognisable symbols of London, adorned with the Olympic rings (and, of course, a red double-decker bus).  Sorry  - no David Beckham in a speedboat, or James Bond and the Queen in a helicopter passing through but you can't have everything.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Sat Nav

Pay attention please!

Monday, 6 August 2012

Living roof

Harsh full frontal sunlight is not quite the best for this lovely old farm outbuilding, but nevertheless it appealed to me, with its soft colours, textures and geometric shapes.  I was also intrigued to see that the stone slate roof is being colonised by plants. One of my favourite blogs is 'did you bring your camera?'  - wonderful photography (mainly nature and landscapes) by Anita Johnson, who lives in Wisconsin. This reminded me that she and her husband run a business growing vegetative mats for living roofs. If the end result is anything like this old barn, they must look lovely as well as being ecologically sound.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Nettle beer, anyone?

Some of the cottages on the opposite side of the track from Royds Hall Farm are also very old. The white rendered house (which I understand is Heaton Royds Farm) has a datestone above the door saying 1632.  The cottages further back are a bit more recent I believe, or at least were altered and added to in the 18th and 19th centuries.  
The hamlet, on the edge of Heaton Woods, is known locally as 'Six Days Only'.  I understand that this is because at one time (within living memory) they served refreshments here, notably homemade dandelion and burdock pop and nettle beer - but never on Sundays!  I have spoken to several local people who remember quite clearly coming here as children and drinking the pop - they say it was wonderful.  
I have always had a liking for dandelion and burdock, ever since I was a child watching my uncles play cricket in the village team. My dad used to give me sixpence to buy a bottle from the pavilion. The taste of the pop and the smell of old wood and sweat in the pavilion will stay with me forever.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Royds Hall Farm

I've featured this old farm house on Shay Lane before.  It's known as Royds Hall Farm and it was built in the 17th century.  I have heard that it has stayed in the same family ever since, though I don't know if that's true. It's a charming old building, though probably a nightmare to look after.  It has been 'listed' for many years, meaning that any alterations or repairs have to be agreed, so as not to change its character.  The roses around the windows are a pretty addition, though the blooms have been badly affected by the wet weather.  It was hard to get a good picture, as it is surrounded by quite a high wall for privacy.  One can hardly go charging into the garden!

Friday, 3 August 2012

Cows lying down

A local walk, though you'd be forgiven for thinking it was miles away from Saltaire and the city.  It's not though... a mile or so uphill out of the valley and you find yourself among fields and raw nature. I was enthralled to see swallows on the wing apparently feeding their young, something I've never noticed before.  Like aerial refuelling of aircraft! This small herd of cows (well, probably not...young heifers?) was lying down, a sign - some say - that rain is on the way.  I made it home without getting wet but there was a short, sharp shower later.

Thursday, 2 August 2012


Even when they were running about, I was hard pressed to count the number of chicks this mother Mallard is rearing. When they all snuggled together to sleep, they merged into two fluffy bundles.

(Betsy, they reminded me of your triplets!)

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Alpaca alert... Saltaire Archive display

Saltaire is a lovely place to take a short stroll on a summer's evening. I've often enjoyed having my evening meal and then taking a quick walk down to the park, over the footbridge, round the perimeter path, then back home. There have not been many evenings so far this summer when it's been nice enough to consider doing that -  and the light evenings are already starting to get shorter.  However, I did pop out the other night. There were a few other people about, in the park and having a drink on the terrace at the Boathouse Inn, but it was peaceful and the light was good. The sculpture of the two alpacas, just beside the Half Moon Café, is a fairly recent addition to Roberts Park. They are cast in metal (bronze?) and are getting quite shiny, polished by all the children who stroke them and climb up to ride on their backs!  They are a reminder that the vast mill and Saltaire village itself sprang from the fortune made by Sir Titus Salt from his innovative spinning and weaving of alpaca wool.

Those within visiting distance might like to know that a lot of the Saltaire Archive is currently on display, in the Fluke Room of the Victoria Hall, from 10 am - 3 pm every day up to and including 10 August. Admission £1. It's a great opportunity to see some of the fascinating photographs, documents and memorabilia related to Saltaire and its mill.