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Thursday, 28 February 2013

The Hepworth

The Hepworth, Wakefield, is a new art gallery opened in May 2011. Designed by David Chipperfield, it forms part of the "Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle", which also incorporates The Henry Moore Institute in Leeds and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. It is named after the sculptor Barbara Hepworth, who was born and educated in Wakefield. It houses some of her work, as well as showcasing many other artists and sculptors through an ongoing series of temporary exhibitions of contemporary art. It also displays pieces from Wakefield's art collection. It has a very nice café too!

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Wakefield Cathedral

Wakefield Cathedral enjoys a prime site right in the middle of the central shopping area in the city. The area round it is often used for festivals and events. At the moment the cathedral nave is undergoing a huge renovation, Project 2013, the better to meet the needs of worship and community use for the future. I shall have to return later in the year when it has been opened.
I like Wakefield Cathedral. It's not one of Britain's vast soaring ecclesiastical treasures but it has an accessible and friendly feel, and is not without beauty. Originally All Saints parish church, it became a cathedral in 1888 when the Diocese of Wakefield was created.  The site has held a church since Saxon times and the medieval building has been extended and altered many times.  Most of the building you see now is a Victorian restoration by Sir George Gilbert Scott, who designed London's St Pancras station and the Albert Memorial.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Rhubarb, rhubarb

More fun at the Rhubarb Festival in Wakefield. The band were the five-piece Ski-Band and they provided some really jolly tunes, the kind of 'oompah' music that makes it impossible not to jig about.

Monday, 25 February 2013


It's a little known fact that the area just south of Bradford - a triangle between Morley, Leeds and Wakefield - is a major rhubarb growing area, celebrated for its Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb (now awarded EC Protected Designation of Origin status like Champagne and Parma ham).  For the past 170 years, rhubarb has been grown here, in long dark sheds that force early growth to produce the delicate pink, sweet stems (see top photo), which are traditionally harvested by candlelight.  I love it, though it is quite expensive - about £2.50 for six stems. The tender forced stems are very different from the much tougher stuff that people grow outside in gardens and allotments.

This association has given rise to an annual Rhubarb Festival in Wakefield, a food festival where you can sample all manner of delights made from rhubarb, from cakes through pickles to alcoholic drinks - as well as lots of other choice local foods. There are cookery demonstrations, real ale, music and morris dancing. Tours of the rhubarb sheds can be arranged too.  It's all good fun and a bright, colourful lift to the spirits in the middle of cold, grey February, often considered to be England's most depressing month. If the horsemeat scandal isn't enough to turn you vegetarian, maybe this colourful veg would.

Sunday, 24 February 2013


Swansea 5 Bradford City 0

Oops.  But the fans were magnificent:
       'Que sera sera
       Whatever will be, will be
       We've been to Wem-ber-lee
       Que sera sera'

Ogden Water 2

Another view of the path around Ogden Water, near Halifax. The area is designated a country park and is managed as a nature reserve. As well as the circular path round the water there are numerous trails through the forest, and a few picnic spots to be enjoyed on a summery day.  Though it was too darn cold to linger on the day I took this picture!

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Ogden Water

Ogden Water is a small reservoir on the way to Halifax. It's not a wildly scenic spot, though it is very pleasant for a walk. Its main attraction for me is that I can do a brisk circular walk round the whole thing in quite a manageable time (well, it would be even quicker if I didn't stop every few minutes to take a photo!), making me feel virtuous for having done it but not taking up the whole day. As you can see, the light on this day was pretty spectacular, with a very dark sky and bright sunshine illuminating the trees.

When I arrived, I was astonished to find cars queueing to get into the lane and small car park. I had no idea it was such a popular spot on a winter Sunday! However, it turned out that there was a cross-country race being run in the area ... so the country park would no doubt return to its usual tranquillity in time.

Friday, 22 February 2013


Football fever has erupted, as our local League Two club, Bradford City, have miraculously fought their way to a Wembley cup-final against Premier League side Swansea on 24 February in the Capital One (Football League) Cup. They beat Arsenal and Aston Villa to get there. Tickets have sold out and there will be a huge contingent of fans on their way to Wembley at the weekend. Win or lose on the day, the success has brought a rare feel-good factor to the city and is generating much-needed funds for the club. This vendor outside Shipley's Asda store was supplying the must-have accessories for the event. Even my granddaughter has a stripey top in claret and amber club colours.
I used at one time to have a season ticket and regularly attended matches in the glory days of the 1990s when the club kicked its way into the Premier League for two seasons. Since then, they have slid down the rankings and lurched from one financial crisis to another. It would be good to see them play well at Wembley. Fingers crossed!

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Down the plughole

There was a massive plug at the bottom of one of the locks! (About a foot/30cm long!) In normal operation, the water in the locks pours in and out through sluices, but the main sluices are up in the lock wall. I suppose they need a plughole too, to get the last of the water out when they want to completely drain the structure.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Dowley Gap Locks

The Dowley Gap Locks are a two-rise staircase lock, raising the level of the canal by 9m (20ft).  Built around 1773, they are Grade II listed, of historic and architectural interest particularly as they are linked to the Three and Five Rise Locks in nearby Bingley.  It is strangely moving and awe-inspiring to be able to climb right down into the locks, looking at the sluices and the massive lock gates, which are being replaced as part of the ongoing maintenance programme for the canal.

Britain's historic 2000 mile network of waterways is now managed by the Canal & River Trust, a charity which took over their care and preservation from British Waterways in 2012. I'm not exactly sure why that change was considered necessary but I think it was in order to move away from a purely 'business model' towards something broader that encompasses the history, educational, wildlife and amenity value of this precious resource and makes use of volunteers' skills and enthusiasm as well as that of its paid staff.  It's worth looking at the Trust's website, which is well-presented and very interesting. Since I spend much of my leisure time walking up and down the local stretches of river and canal, I have just joined the Trust as a 'friend'.  Hopefully in the future it will become as valuable and revered an institution as The National Trust, which so ably manages and preserves Britain's heritage of wild landscapes and historic buildings.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Dowley Gap Aqueduct

The photo above was taken a few weeks ago and shows what the Dowley Gap Aqueduct normally looks like. About a mile west of Saltaire, it carries the Leeds-Liverpool Canal at a height of 9m (30ft) over the River Aire. Also known as the Seven Arches Aqueduct, it was designed by the famous engineer James Brindley and constructed in 1773 by John Longbotham, who also designed the Bingley Five Rise Locks. (The canal predates the construction of Saltaire and its existence was one of the reasons Sir Titus Salt chose the area to build Salts Mill).  It's hard to get a good view of the aqueduct at ground level. There are some more photos and a video here, with some aerial views that give a better idea of what the whole structure is like.

The drained aqueduct shows part of the original retaining wall, though the towpath on the left and the inside of the aqueduct have been covered in concrete at some point in its history. It is surprisingly shallow - canal boats don't have a very deep hull.
Your intrepid reporter managed to sink right up to her knee in the mud and I required the assistance of several hunky men in high-vis vests to haul me out. Haha! Luckily I had my wellies on (and they are a tight fit so the boot didn't pull off) and no harm was done.  

Monday, 18 February 2013


The Leeds-Liverpool Canal is currently dammed at Dowley Gap, just beyond Saltaire, for maintenance. The Canal and River Trust, the charity that now manages Britain's waterways, are replacing the lock gates and repairing the Grade II listed aqueduct. As last year when they opened Bingley Five Rise Locks to the public, they had an Open Day. Postponed from last month (when it snowed) it was a crisp, sunny day - perfect for exploring this 240-year-old feat of engineering.
You can see from the photo how the water level is higher on the right than the left.  Further to the left is the drained aqueduct... more photos tomorrow.

Sunday, 17 February 2013


My February posts are as random as can be.  Never mind... life is gradually resuming a rhythm and at least I'm managing to post.  Last week was a welcome break for me as I went to stay with my daughter's family in London for a few days. I had plenty of lovely grandma-time, noticing again how quickly my granddaughter is changing, growing and developing. Frequent visits are essential so I don't miss anything... E is crawling all over the place with determination now. She's also really beginning to enjoy being read to, which is a delight for me.
We saw an exhibition in the Hayward Gallery: "Light Show" - a series of sculptures and installations that use light in different ways. It was fascinating and quite engaging for a child too. I especially enjoyed watching E crawling around Carlos Cruz-Diez's installation "Chromosaturation", delighting in the wide expanse of smooth floor and exploring the different coloured lights, an exercise in colour perception for all ages.
My daughter and I also treated ourselves to a night out at the theatre, to see "Midnight Tango", a celebration of the dance, starring Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace, my favourite dancers from BBC TVs 'Strictly Come Dancing'. It was a great show for deaf old me - no dialogue to miss! I thoroughly enjoyed it - great music, a simple but engaging storyline and all that fabulous, elegant, sensual tango. Wonderful!
London by night still has the power to excite. Theatre-land round Leicester Square was thronged with people, ablaze with lights and created a sense of anticipation for the evening ahead. My iPhone did a creditable job on it.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Under my feet

Paved or pebble mosaic paths and squares tend to be a feature of towns in southern Europe, but are becoming more common in the UK. We have a nice example in the pedestrianised part of Shipley's market square. I've searched the internet for references but there are few, so I can only make an educated guess as to the symbolism. I know the five sheep at the centre relate to the town's name.... Shipley derives from the Old English for 'sheep meadow'. I'm less sure about the windmill - though there is an area known as Windhill - I don't know if that is connected...  There are plenty of mills, but I'm not aware of any that were wind-powered. The undulating pattern looks to me like hanks of wool, an obvious reference to the textile industry on which this area prospered. But perhaps we can also see the canal and the river winding through the valley, and the many cobbled streets that once criss-crossed the town.  The pale yellow stone is similar in colour to the honeyed local stone from which most of the major public buildings were constructed. There, I did quite a good job of that, don't you think?

Thursday, 14 February 2013

With love

'We are each of us angels with only one wing and we can fly only by embracing one another.'

Happy Valentine's Day, with love from me.

The texture on this photo is from Kim Klassen's site - which is brilliant for learning how to 'play' with your images.  I'm only a beginner with textures but it's fun to experiment.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

On the rocks

A close-up of the water flowing over Hirst Weir.  There is something mesmerising about watching a waterfall - even, perhaps, looking at a photo of a waterfall...

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Weir flow

A dull sky allowed me to slow the shutter speed down enough to give a soft blur on the water flowing over Hirst Weir.  I love all the greys in this image too. Compared to a photo I took in 2009 (see here), you can see what a lot of damage has been caused to the weir in recent times by the floods.

Friday, 8 February 2013

The thin red line

Another iPhone photo.  This caught my eye as I walked past Shipley Wharf (on my way from picking up a parcel from the mail delivery office).... always on the lookout! I liked the graphic effect of the shapes, lines and the ripply water, almost an abstract.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Woolly jumpers

Alpacas in the snow. Don't worry about them, they have nice warm woolly jumpers. The statue, outside the Half-Moon Café in Saltaire's Roberts Park, commemorates the animals from whose fleece Sir Titus Salt made his fortune.

In Salt's biography, written by his friend Rev'd. R. Balgarnie (downloadable free as a PDF file from the Saltaire Village website - see chapter VI page 44 onwards), there is a wonderful account of how he discovered, in Liverpool Docks, the alpaca wool, which had never before been used in manufacture in this country. He worked out how to spin and weave it, with silk or cotton warp threads, to produce fine and lustrous cloth; an innovation that ultimately, if indirectly, led to the creation of Saltaire.  The discovery was so significant that Charles Dickens wrote a fictionalised, comedic account of it entitled The Great Yorkshire Llama, in his 'Household Words' magazine - also well worth a read.

The utilising of the fibre called alpaca in the worsted trade was, in reality, the magnum opus of his life, and the basis of his fame and fortune. It was, in fact, the discovery of a new staple in worsted manufacture, by which the trade and commerce of the world were enriched, and mankind at large, benefited.  Perhaps some persons would regard this discovery  as  an accident, with which mental ability had little to do. Strange that such accidents generally happen to men of genius and energy, not to the simpleton or the sluggard! Did it not look like an accident when an apple was seen falling  from a tree at  Woolsthorpe;  or  water boiling in a tea-kettle at Glasgow? Yet the former suggested to Newton the law of gravitation, and the latter to Watt the condensing steam engine. But what then? It required mental power in either case to deal with the facts, and follow them up to their issues. It also involved long and persevering toil, such as no other men had previously exercised in the same direction. Thus it was with Mr. Titus Salt in the utilising of alpaca in a way hitherto unknown. He had the eye to see what other men saw not, the  mind to think what other minds thought not, the patience and perseverance in making experiments which others  had not made, and  he thereby reached a point of eminence in the manufacturing world which few have reached. (Balgarnie's 'Salt')

Monday, 4 February 2013

Ducks on ice

More snow pictures - a bit belated as it has all thawed here now (though we might get more... it's certainly cold enough). The canal, with its water being relatively shallow and static, quickly ices over when it is cold. However, up by Hirst Lock where the side channel pours in, the movement of the water creates a small ice-free pool. It's here that the mallards congregate. I am always amused to see them slipping and sliding on the ice; they actually seem to enjoy it, looking like novice skaters on a rink.

Friday, 1 February 2013

A strange land

How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?    Psalm 137:4

The snow came - plenty of it - last week, transforming the landscape, as it does, into something strange but beautiful. At the same time my lovely mum gently slipped away, her life ending peacefully after a long illness that gradually sapped her strength. Bereavement is a strange land too, and the more so when there is a lot to get to grips with at a practical level, hardly time to stop and reflect. There is, nevertheless, the promise of spring: of new beginnings, new growth, fresh adventures, light, colour, warmth. And without the rhythm of the seasons, without the cold, hard times when life is tough, perhaps we would not anticipate or appreciate the spring so much.

I had planned to take a break from blogging in January, needing to regroup, refresh and build up some photo stock again.  In the event, the break was necessary for different reasons. It means that my active blogging will continue to be on hold for a while longer. I've a few photos from here and there to post but realistically it looks like being another month or two before I get anything like 'back to normal'. Don't go away! I'll be back.