I HAVE CLOSED DOWN THIS BLOG. Please click the photo above to be REDIRECTED TO MY NEW (continuation) BLOG.

Friday, 31 May 2013

Blue sky and dreams

Meanwhile, back in Saltaire, we've had blue skies when we most needed them... notably on the Bank Holiday weekend, when the 2013 Arts Trail took place at various venues, including in some of the residents' Open Houses. The sunshine made wandering around the village even more delightful than it usually is. There was a wealth of beautiful arts and crafts to see, to admire - and to buy if you felt like it. If I was rich(er) I would buy investment pieces; there are some good deals to be had, from both up-and-coming and established artists, most of whom are fairly local. I love the exuberant paintings of Kate Lycett, the breadth of work produced by photographer Ian Burdall is stunning and some of the work on display really made me smile, like the penguin ceramics produced by Beverley Gee. I can dream... but I had to be content with buying a few greetings cards. Some of my friends and family are going to enjoy getting their birthday cards this year!

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Rest in peace

In many ways the real healing and solace of the National Memorial Arboretum comes not from its numerous and varied man-made memorials but from the natural beauty of the site. Bounded by a wide and slowly flowing river, with a managed nature reserve on the opposite bank, the site has thousands of recently planted trees, and areas of long grass and wildflowers, as well as manicured lawns and flower beds. I imagine that the many small creatures and birds living there reveal themselves more readily early in the morning or in the evening when all is quiet. The woodland is still rather immature, but I would love to visit again in a few years time when the trees have grown taller and the site is really well-established. Even now, it's a lovely place to stroll or sit (plenty of benches) and relax. Despite the crowds I found a peace there that was very refreshing.

There were some spectacular memorials that I haven't chosen to show on this blog, but I am intending to post more photos on my other blog, 'Seeking the Quiet Eye', at some point soon.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Shot at dawn

This very moving memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum commemorates the 306 British and Commonwealth soldiers who were shot  for desertion or cowardice during World War I. There is a wooden stake set in the earth for each one of them. Today it is recognised that most of them were underage boys and suffering from shell-shock, but at the time they were condemned and only given a brief summary trial with little opportunity to defend themselves. In 2006 they were formally given a posthumous pardon. The statue, by Andy Decomyn, is modelled on Private Herbert Burden, 1st Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers,  who was shot at Ypres aged 17.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Sumatra Railway memorial

One area of the National Memorial Arboretum commemorates those who served and died in the Far East during World War II. The small building on the right is a museum and monument to the 55,000 who were held as prisoners of war. It contains shocking photographs, diary extracts and information about the experiences of those who suffered and died in horrific conditions, and the few who survived. There are poignant memorials too, to those who laboured to build the Sumatra Railway and the Burma-Thailand 'railway of death'.

When I was at school, part of the immediate post-war generation, they didn't teach us anything about World War II in our history lessons (though we did cover the First World War - and the war poets). I have always felt there was a gap in my knowledge and visiting places like this small museum, and the Imperial War Museum in Manchester are helpful to fill in those gaps. In a sense I would rather not know the horrors of war but in another way it is essential that we all understand our global history.

A member of our congregation at church, now sadly deceased, was a POW in the Far East. For a long time he didn't like to talk about his experiences but eventually, as part of a long journey of healing and forgiveness, he revisited the places he was held, and he also wrote and self-published a book about his experiences.

Monday, 27 May 2013

The cost of armed conflict

The Armed Forces Memorial has two large bronze sculptures at its centre, created by Ian Rank-Broadley.  In one, a serviceman is raised aloft on a stretcher. At either end are grieving relatives: a woman and child and two anguished older people. It bears witness to the cost of armed conflict to those left behind. The other includes a warrior being prepared for burial, by a female and a Ghurka soldier (to remind us that our armed forces cross gender and racial boundaries.)  Although not shown in my photo, it also has a man preparing to carve the warrior's name, and another figure pointing to the world beyond, where the warrior will rest.  The Memorial wall also has a slit in the stone, through which the sun's rays shine, exactly illuminating the wreath at the centre, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month - the traditional time of Remembrance.  Larger than life-size, the sculptures are undeniably powerful in their realism. Somehow I had expected something more vaguely symbolic and I was, to tell you the truth, a little shocked by the rawness of these.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

We shall remember them

Part of the walls that form the Armed Forces Memorial, the centrepiece of the National Memorial Arboretum.

On these walls are engraved the names of all the members of our armed forces who have lost their lives whilst serving their country since the end of the Second World War. British forces have been involved in more than 50 operations and conflicts across the world, often as part of international coalitions. The names are grouped by year and by Service and then in date order, so that those who lost their lives together in the same incident are named together. There are, sadly, far too many of them - and far too much blank wall still left for the future.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

The National Memorial Arboretum

I enjoyed a wonderful day out recently at the National Memorial Arboretum (NMA) in Staffordshire. Perhaps, in view of this week's headlines, it is a good time now to share these photos. The NMA was inspired by the Arlington Cemetery in the USA, but this is not a cemetery (no-one is buried here). It is a place of remembrance, intended to provide a national focus to commemorate those who have given their lives in the service of our country, those who have served and suffered as a result of conflict and others who for special reasons are remembered here.

It was inaugurated in 1997, on a 150-acre site that used to be gravel pits, bordered by the River Blythe. It has been planted with over 50,000 trees, many of them dedicated to individuals or groups, which are maturing into a wonderful living tribute.  The site is dominated by the Armed Forces Memorial, a huge circle of sculptural walls, inscribed with the names of all those members of our armed forces who have been killed whilst on duty, since the end of World War II. In addition there are over 200 other dedicated memorials, with new ones being added from time to time. (A memorial to the Bevin Boys, men who worked in our coal mines during the Second World War, was unveiled this May by HRH the Countess of Wessex.)

I spent the best part of a day exploring the site, and found it much more moving than I had expected.  You soon realise that it not only encapsulates the nation's honouring and thankfulness but also the grief and pride of thousands of individuals: wives, husbands, partners, children, parents, friends and colleagues, for whom it is a place to remember and a focus for their sense of loss.  Many tears are shed here and yet the whole site - already maturing into a rich nature reserve - somehow speaks of hope and renewal too.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Wonder wall

The children's playground near Roberts Park in Saltaire has a curved wall, primarily designed, I think, to safely separate the skateboard area where the bigger kids hang out from the play equipment aimed at the younger ones. It provides a good surface for intentional and usually very artistic graffiti, though at the moment the painting is looking a bit scratched. It keeps getting renewed with a fresh design from time to time. I like its juxtaposition with the Victorian edifice of Salts New Mill in the background.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Chimneys of all shapes and sizes

A fascinating, if complicated, series of rooflines. The chimneys in the foreground are those of the Park-keeper's Lodge at the entrance to Roberts Park, Saltaire. The building was refurbished when the park was revamped a few years ago. It is now used as the office and headquarters for the Park Ranger. The bell used to be rung to let people know when the park was closing each evening. (The 'time gentlemen, please' bell is not needed nowadays as the park functions as a through-route for pedestrians and it is not locked at night.)  Behind the Lodge, glowing in the late evening sunshine, is Salt's New Mill with its ornate Italianate tower and, to the left, the main mill chimney.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

A Taste of Saltaire

Victorian Saltaire's plan included allotments to allow residents to grow their own food, and the plots - some behind the church and some beside the railway - still exist. I gather there is a very long waiting list to rent one. A few beside the Caroline Street Club belong to Shipley College and are used to train their horticulture students. Now a new community initiative has sprung up, A Taste of Saltaire, master-minded by the Sustainable Saltaire group with support from Leeds Metropolitan University students. They have been given a couple of plots to grow food, hoping to involve, educate and encourage local people to eat locally grown and healthier food. But the real thrust of the initiative, as far as I can gather, is not simply to use allotment space but to encourage the local community to take over small patches of unused land around the village and turn them into vegetable plots. They have a proposal to use a patch of waste-land quite near my house. I'm not sure that the local dog-owners will be very pleased though, as at present it seems to function as an unofficial dogs' toilet!

Tuesday, 21 May 2013


Want a way to get fit this summer? Then join the bootcamp in Roberts Park, Saltaire. Held on Monday, Thursday & Saturday mornings and Tuesday & Thursday evenings, these Commando Fit classes employ training styles used by the armed forces and professional sports. They aim to be highly motivational and to encourage people to take their fitness up a level or more, aiming perhaps for a real challenge like a half-marathon or even a marathon. It's all designed for fitness but fun, with a social element too. The folks participating were certainly working hard but they looked as though they were enjoying it.

Monday, 20 May 2013

A different light

A couple of weeks ago the photography club that I attend had an evening outing - to Saltaire! So it was a bit of a busman's holiday for me. Nevertheless, the 'golden hour' late sunshine happened to be good and I enjoyed wandering around - trying to see my home patch in a different light, I suppose. I haven't had chance to post the photos before. Since then, most of our trees have gained more leaves and it's all looking more summery, even though it doesn't feel it (still quite chilly).

By the way, just a reminder to anyone living within travelling distance of Saltaire that next weekend (Bank Holiday weekend 25 - 27 May) is the annual Saltaire Arts Trail - tons to see and do, including the Open Houses (village houses opened to the public and displaying art of various kinds: pictures, ceramics, photos, textiles and more.)

Sunday, 19 May 2013

New Bolsover

As a resident of the industrial village of Saltaire, I was interested to discover that Bolsover has its equivalent: New Bolsover model village. Most of Saltaire was built between 1850 and 1870, so New Bolsover, constructed in the 1890s, was perhaps inspired by the mill villages further north. Set below the ridge on which the Castle sits, the village was built by the Bolsover Colliery Company to house the coal miners and their families. It consists of about two hundred houses arranged in two rows, in a U-shape around a central village green. The houses, as in Saltaire, were built in different sizes to accommodate both large and small families, and the colliery officials.  The village also had a miners institute, school, co-operative store, orphanage for children of fathers killed in the employ of the company, allotment gardens, Methodist and Anglican churches and a large assembly hall and bandstand on the village green.

It also had an addition that Saltaire lacked... a small railway that ran from the colliery right round the village in a loop. This was used to deliver the miners' free coal for their homes' fires and to take away the 'night spoil' from the lavatories for disposal.

The former Co-operative store
The village is in good repair and is still inhabited, though the coal mine closed twenty years ago.  The houses are now either in private ownership or rented out by the local Council.

Saturday, 18 May 2013


One wing of Bolsover Castle forms the 'Riding House', one of the largest and finest historical indoor riding schools and stables in this country. Built in the 1630s, it was here that William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle, indulged his passion for horses, importing fine, elegant horses from as far away as Turkey and North Africa and training them in the complex art of dressage. He is credited with being 'the father of the modern art of dressage', teaching his horses to perform breathtaking leaps, turns and circles. William was also the royal horsemaster to Charles I and riding master to the future king Charles II.

Displays of dressage are now regularly performed in the restored riding house, with expert horsemen, dressed in period costume (oh, the romance of the cavaliers!), recreating the advanced techniques devised and perfected by William Cavendish. Unfortunately I was too late to get a ticket for any of the performances on the day I visited, so I was unable to go inside, but one of the costumed 'cavaliers' chivalrously agreed to pose for me.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Bolsover Castle

Bolsover Castle, now in the care of English Heritage, started life as a medieval fortress built by the Peverel family. The wealthy nobleman, Sir Charles Cavendish, bought it in 1612 and started his 'Little Castle' project, which was continued by his son, William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle. Assisted by the architect John Smythson, he finished the imposing keep, which inside contains tiers of staterooms, each level being more astonishing, richly decorated and luxurious than the one below. They have ornate fireplaces and richly painted and gilded panelling, murals and ceilings, which become more fantastic the higher up you go. On the top floor, on either side of the Duke's bedchamber, are two small anterooms, one depicting spiritual heaven and the other depicting an erotic paradise. (I suppose he sat in one or the other, depending on his mood!)
By all accounts the Cavalier Duke was a bit of a playboy. He had other main residences and primarily used Bolsover as a playground: a place to indulge himself, with his wife and mistresses, and as a place to entertain and make a statement about his wealth, power and erudition. Hoping to impress the king, he staged a huge masque in 1634, written by Ben Johnson and performed in the castle garden in front of King Charles I and his court.

Thursday, 16 May 2013


This is the magnificent edifice of Bolsover Castle, standing proudly on a ridge, not far from the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire border.

Bolsover was where my maternal grandfather was born.... sadly, not in the castle! His family was, as far as I can tell, dirt-poor. According to his birth certificate, he was born in 1899 in 'The Huts, Underhill, Bolsover', which I suspect was a bit of a shanty town, probably situated below the castle. I scouted round to see if I could find any reference to it in the present day street/area names but I couldn't. One day (when I retire!) I will have to do some proper research.

When my grandad was a child, the town of Bolsover was developing fast as a coal-mining area. The Bolsover Colliery Company was set up in 1889 and secured leases to extract coal from land belonging to the Duke of Portland. My grandad himself became a miner. The local mine finally closed in 1993.

The castle itself harks back to a more elegant time .....

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

A hint of magnolia

For the past week I have been staying 'back home', tackling some more of the necessary (slow but steady) sorting-out of the contents of my late mother's apartment, visiting relatives and generally having a bit of a nostalgia trip. One day I decided to tour round the area looking up the houses and places that are significant to my family story. This one, the red-brick house, belonged to my maternal grandparents and it was here that I was first brought home as a newborn. My grandmother very sadly died a few months before I was born. My parents lived here with my grandad until I was about three, when we moved to a new bungalow. The white-painted house next door was, in those days, a post office and general store and belonged at one time to my great-grandparents and then to my great aunt.

I was a bit wary of standing in the street taking photos of someone's house, but luckily the elderly owner was pottering around in the garden in the sunshine. I told him that it was the house I'd lived in as a child, and he looked disbelieving of me, saying that he'd lived there for 48 years. (I took that as a big compliment!)  The beautiful magnolia tree was not planted when I lived there, but I love magnolia trees so I was very happy to see it prettifying the house.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Put the kettle on, mother

The hamlet of Wycoller would be less attractive if it didn't have a tearoom and a little craft centre. Happily it does, housed in an old stone building, a converted shippon (a cowshed and dairy). Its centrepiece is this magnificent Victorian open range, of the type that would have been found in most homes at one time. The houses in Saltaire all had similar things, providing heat (and boy, was this one pumping out some heat!), cooking facilities and scope for heating water. You don't often see them now, and I have rarely seen one in full working condition. Isn't it wonderful? They were not using it to cook on though, I hasten to add.
Having taken the photo, I elected to take my drink outside into the garden to enjoy a relaxing time in the sunshine, topping up my Vitamin D.
(By the way, don't visit Wycoller on a Monday as the tearoom and shop is closed.)

Monday, 13 May 2013

Sunshine plant

Marsh marigolds, one of the first bog plants to bloom in the spring, made a vivid splash of colour in one of the ponds in Wycoller. Alongside the little beck, a string of pools and marsh areas has been constructed. It makes a lovely area in which to walk or relax (plenty of benches for weary hikers) but I imagine it is also used as a resource by school groups. There was plenty of scope for pond-dipping and marvelling at all the wildlife that ponds and bogs contain. It always makes me happy to see efforts being made towards nature conservation and education.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Living sculpture

I really liked these 'living sculptures', constructed by local community artists as part of a project to enhance and regenerate the landscape round Wycoller.  They are woven from willow that is still growing, so in summer the sculptures (including a tunnel, a bower, and a horse - who appears now to be riderless) become leafy and green. In winter the leaves drop, revealing the bare framework again.  In this late spring, there were one or two green shoots, but I enjoyed seeing the graceful lines of the woven branches.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Dog with log - and witches

This ambitious little dog made me smile....

as did the witches sign, below. Wycoller is in a part of Lancashire called Pendle, which has an association with the infamous Pendle witch trials of 1612. Twelve local people (mostly members of two different families) were charged with ten murders by witchcraft, and ten of the accused were found guilty and hanged. The Clerk to the Court, Thomas Potts, published an account of the trial: 'The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster'. It's an intriguing, if tragic, story and the trials have since been the source of inspiration for many writers, poets, dramatists and artists.  There is a well-known novel, written by Robert Neill in 1951, called 'Mist over Pendle', which is still in print. 
The signpost marks a section of one of several Witch Trails that criss-cross the area, enabling people to explore the fascinating 400 year old history.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Wycoller's bridges

The beck that runs through the Wycoller valley is criss-crossed by a variety of unusual bridges and several fords. The bridge above is the Clapper bridge, which would have carried pedestrians and horses. Carts would have been pulled through the adjacent ford. It is said that the bridge once had a deeply grooved surface from the wear it had had, but that a farmer chiselled it flat after his daughter suffered a fatal accident there.

This is the oldest bridge, perhaps dating back 1000 years - the Clam bridge - made out of a single slab of stone supported at either end. It was swept away and broken by floods in 1989-90 but has since been repaired and restored.

The third bridge is the twin-arched Packhorse bridge, possibly built by Cistercian monks in the fifteenth century. The left-hand arch looks a little bit wonky but it was apparently built like that for stability, as the foundation rock on that side is not level.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Wycoller's aisled barn

Built around 1650 using timbers from an earlier cruck barn, the magnificent aisled barn was used to store hay, thresh corn, stable oxen and as a coachhouse. It has been restored and now functions as an Information Centre. Apparently it houses a colony of Natterer's bats, which is a relatively rare species, but I guess they would have been asleep when I was there as I didn't see any.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Wycoller Hall

The hamlet of Wycoller centres around the ruin of Wycoller Hall. The first hall on the site was built by the Hartley family in the 15th century, and it later passed by marriage into the Cunliffe family. The area was a sheep farming and weaving community. As handloom weaving declined, with industrialisation in the nearby towns, so the fortunes of Wycoller fell and many of the estate's tenants had to move out to the towns for work. In 1818, the Hall's last owner, Henry Owen Cunliffe, died with outstanding debts and creditors started to dismantle the Hall and sell off its stone to build mills. By the early 1900s the Hall was in ruins.

It is believed that the hall was the inspiration for 'Ferndean Manor' in Charlotte Brontë's novel 'Jane Eyre'. The village of Haworth, where the Brontës lived, is only a few miles away and Charlotte would have known this area well.

This old fireplace has been rebuilt by the 'Friends of Wycoller' group which works to preserve the area.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Ghost for sale

The hamlet of Wycoller has a fascinating history and even today is an interesting and attractive little place.  It has only a handful of houses, set in a valley through which a little beck playfully winds its way. This Grade II* listed farmhouse, Pierson House, is currently for sale at just under half a million pounds - so you can take a tour inside too if you like, while it remains on the market - see here. It has the added attraction of a ghost - a grey lady who reputedly disappears through the wall into the adjoining house.

Monday, 6 May 2013


The narrow road down into Wycoller is reserved for residents' vehicles only, so visitors park at the top and walk down a footpath. It has some lovely views and serves to ramp up the anticipation for what will be found at the journey's end. I was excited to see shadows. The sun! Though, April being April, it teased with some short, sharp, sleety showers from time to time.  There were some lambs in the meadows but they were all out of range of my camera lens.  I got talking to a shepherd who told me that the late heavy snowfall in mid-March meant that he had lost a lot of lambs. The freaky weather may depress me but it has had a lot more serious consequences for our farmers.

And just because I felt like playing, here's a variation on the theme.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Across the border!

Spring outing number two..... Having failed to find any shoes in Skipton last week, a colleague at work suggested I try Boundary Mill, which is a huge store near Colne that sells discounted 'quality branded goods'. It's a massive place, selling not only clothes, shoes and accessories but also things for the home, like bedding, towels, china, cookware. You can easily spend all day there. It's a bit overwhelming really. It does sell some very good stuff - last year's lines of posh brands like Jaeger, and some continental lines like Italian knitwear. There is so much stock that you'd be hard-pressed not to find something that you like. So I bought some shoes... and some tops, a nightdress, a cardigan and a summer coat. Oops - a bit of a spree really! It's 'over the border' in Lancashire - but I'm not proud.

It was raining when I went in the store but by the time I came out again the sun was shining, so I decided to go to Wycoller, which is a hamlet and country park on the border between Lancashire and Yorkshire.  This is the peaceful view from the car park. The hamlet itself is so tucked away that you have to leave your car and walk down into the little valley where the buildings sit.

(BTW, these photos were taken just over a week ago. The ensuing week of sunshine and showers has meant that the winter-bare trees are now misted in green, as the new leaves burst forth. It seems to have happened very suddenly and quickly. We are rejoicing. :) But it does mean this series of photos looks a bit dated already!)

Saturday, 4 May 2013

A purple carpet

A view of Bradford's Lister Park.  I like this spring-flowering heather, which makes a lovely carpet of purple.  I was thinking of buying a heather for my garden - until I remembered that they like peaty, acidic soil, which is not what my garden has.  I suppose I could grow some in a tub if I bought the right compost.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Leo revisited

Our little tour of Skipton brings us back to the canal basin just in time for a cruise on the small barge, Leo, which does regular trips up the historic Springs Branch of the canal. It's an interesting and pretty tour, passing up behind the castle. (See here) I didn't have time for a ride, though I did feel a bit guilty for taking the boatman's photo and then not boarding his boat. (I will take you along someday!)

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Hallam's Yard, Skipton

Skipton has lots of sweet little hidden corners and is one of those towns where the new has, on the whole, been skilfully blended with the old, so that it retains a very pleasing and attractive feel. Unlike some towns, residential areas extend right into the town centre.  This lovely row of old stone terraced cottages, known as Hallam's Yard, is right beside the Springs Branch of the canal. Hallam's Yard is one of the many narrow cobbled passageways and courtyards that radiate off the High Street like ribs. Historically, these narrow passageways were once strips of medieval landholdings known as tofts and crofts. The toft was where the peasant house was and the croft was its little field, where the family grew vegetables. Traces of this arrangement can still be detected in many English towns and villages.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Craven Court, Skipton

One of the shoe shops I headed for - and found closed down - used to be in this glass-covered arcade: Craven Court in Skipton. It's a rather attractive area, I think. It has a good mix of cafés and shops (including clothes, gifts, cosmetics and a branch of Laura Ashley home furnishings), providing a pleasant place to browse. It looks older than it is: faux-Victorian style with all the cast-iron columns. However, I believe it was the site of a 16th century theatre and so some of the old stone walls are original.