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Sunday, 30 June 2013

Byronic beauty

This lovely scene at George Gordon Byron's home, Newstead Abbey, surely deserves to be accompanied by some quotes from the Romantic poet himself:

'There's music in the sighing of a reed;
There's music in the gushing of a rill;
There's music in all things, if men had ears;
The earth is but the music of the spheres.' 

'Are not the mountains, waves and skies a part of me and my soul, as I of them?'

'There is a pleasure in the pathless woods, There is a rapture on the lonely shore, There is society, where none intrudes, By the deep sea, and music in its roar: I love not man the less, but Nature more, From these our interviews, in which I steal From all I may be, or have been before, To mingle with the Universe, and feel What I can ne'er express, yet cannot all conceal.'

'When the green woods laugh with the voice of joy, And the dimpling stream runs laughing by; When the air does laugh with our merry wit, And the green hill laughs with the noise of it.'

He also said: 'The English winter - ending in July to recommence in August'.
It certainly feels like that this year!

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Ghostly gardeners

Scattered around the gardens at Newstead Abbey was an army of ghostly gardeners.  I really liked them.... I could do with a green-fingered handyman in my own patch at home!

Friday, 28 June 2013

Newstead's gardens

Newstead Abbey has wonderful gardens. Set in a wooded estate (once part of Robin Hood's Sherwood Forest), it has a series of lakes, formal ponds, several beautiful walled gardens, a Victorian fernery and an interesting Japanese-style garden. At one time, the gardens were managed by the son of some friends of my parents. He had spent some time in Japan and married a Japanese girl, so he knew something about Japanese gardens and did a good job of restoring it.

Newstead's large estate also holds a number of elegant houses, well-hidden from view among the trees. When I was a teenager, one of my friends lived in one of them; I was always envious!

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Mad, bad and dangerous to know...

Lord Byron, considered by some to be the greatest romantic poet of his time, was Newstead Abbey's most famous owner. He inherited the estate from his great-uncle at the age of ten, and lived there at various times between 1808 and 1814. His life was short but tempestuous and filled with scandal: huge debts, numerous love affairs and a rumoured incestuous liaison with his half-sister. One of his mistresses, Lady Caroline Lamb, said that he was 'mad, bad and dangerous to know'. There is speculation that he may have suffered from bipolar disorder. He died, aged 36, from a fever contracted in Greece, where he went to fight against the Ottoman Empire in the Greek War of Independence. The equivalent of a modern-day rock star, Byron was popularly mourned but various institutions including Westminster Abbey refused to bury or honour him. He was buried in a church near Newstead. It was not until 1969 that a memorial was finally placed in Westminster Abbey.

Byron had a beloved Newfoundland dog called Boatswain, who died of rabies and was buried, with a monument (see photo) larger than that later accorded to its master! The inscription is from Byron's poem 'Epitaph to a Dog'.

Near this Spot
Are deposited the Remains
of one
Who possessed Beauty
Without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferosity,
And all the Virtues of Man
without his Vices.
This Praise, which would be unmeaning flattery
If inscribed over Human Ashes,
Is but a just tribute to the Memory of
"Boatswain," a Dog
Who was born at Newfoundland,
May, 1803,
And died at Newstead Abbey
Nov. 18, 1808.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Newstead Abbey

More photos that I haven't found time to post - from my May visit 'back home'..... This magnificent old building is a few miles away from the house I grew up in, in Nottinghamshire. Its extensive grounds hold many happy memories for me..... of family days out, as well as youthful and magically romantic walks, hand-in-hand with my 'first love'. (Aww!)

Newstead Abbey started life as an Augustinian priory. In 1540 when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, it was given to Sir John Byron, who converted it to a private house. (An eagle lectern, thought to have been thrown by the monks for safekeeping into the abbey's fishpond, was dredged from the lake in the late 17th century and is now in Southwell Minster.) The house and its estate eventually passed, in 1798, to George Gordon Byron, better known as the Romantic poet Lord Byron.

Monday, 24 June 2013

A bit of royal pomping...

'A bit of royal pomping' was how my daughter described Garter Day!

All the frantic camera clicking resulted in an epic fail on my part. I had taken my smaller Panasonic Lumix as it has a much longer telephoto lens than I have for my Nikon. But our position was a bit tricky, peering through a metal fence and with several other people's elbows and shoulders in front, and I had not taken into account the long shutter delay on my camera. People around did better with their iPhones..

In fact, I barely saw the Queen herself. She's tiny! The photo below comes courtesy of a lovely lady from Giggleswick, Sarah Williamson, who very kindly emailed it to me and agreed that I could show it here.

HM The Queen and HRH Prince William, The Duke of Cambridge
in the Garter Procession
(Photo © Sarah Williamson)

HRH Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, in a hurry to join the gathering.

The Duke of Cambridge in the returning carriage procession.
Sitting opposite him is Sophie, Countess of Wessex.

HM The Queen, with the Duchess of Cornwall and HRH Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales.

These, and a few more photos, are also on my other blog, Seeking the Quiet Eye.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

The Yeomen of the Guard

I had an unexpected birthday treat from my daughter. She managed to get tickets in the ballot to attend the Garter Day ceremony at Windsor Castle.

The Most Noble Order of the Garter is the oldest British Order of Chivalry, founded by King Edward III in 1348. It consists of the Sovereign and twenty-five Knights, chosen personally by the Sovereign, who are people who have held public office, have contributed to public life or have served the Queen personally.

Every June they gather at Windsor Castle. Any new Knights take the oath and are invested with the insignia. (There was one this year, Air Chief Marshal The Lord Stirrup, who I think took the late Margaret Thatcher's place in the Order.)  They have lunch together in the State Apartments and then process down through the castle grounds to St George's Chapel for a service of dedication. Afterwards they are driven back up through the Castle in a carriage procession.

It is British ceremonial at its best - lots of troops and marching bands, beautiful horses, robes and uniforms, ancient traditions and lots of Royals, both major and minor.

We were allotted a position right up at the top of the Castle, on the edge of the Upper Ward beside the Round Tower, from where we could see all the comings and goings, and the start and end of the processionals. (If we'd been further down we might have seen the procession for longer as it wound its way down, but wherever you were placed you gained in some ways and lost in others.) As it was, there was a lot of good-natured waiting around (picnicking!) and a few moments of frantic camera clicking. But it was all very interesting and, since I love all the pomp and tradition, it was a great day out.

The gentlemen in my photo are members of The Queen's Body Guard of the Yeomen of the Guard, who formed part of the procession, seen marching through the arched entrance to the State Apartments.

Windsor Castle from the Air.
(Mark S Jobling, reproduced under Creative Commons license) 

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Pure gold

I've had a wonderful few days with my daughter and granddaughter this week, celebrating my birthday (another!) among other things. E is growing fast and learning fast and I find her fascinating to watch as she explores her surroundings and toys. Apart from the odd meltdown when she is determined to do something her own way and the adults around don't understand exactly what she wants, she is a sunny and secure little soul, with a seemingly wicked sense of humour developing! Her golden hair is exactly the colour mine was as a child, though she has curls and I don't think I did. I'm looking forward rather than back, on what would have been my mum's 86th birthday today. Mum was - and would be - so proud of our little golden moppet.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Heaton Graveyard Community Project

Heaton Graveyard is situated right at the centre of the village, accessed from Highgate. It was owned by Heaton Baptist Chapel, dates back to 1824 and was used for burials right up until 2007. It's not very big (one acre) but there are at least 8630 people recorded as interred there, in 1100 graves that range from those with simple gravestones to very grand Victorian monuments. There are also several thousand paupers and their children buried there in unmarked communal graves, with no records kept.

Like many similar small cemeteries, the graveyard fell into disrepair and became overgrown.  In 2003, a group of volunteers decided to tidy it up and they have over the years returned it to a beautiful, peaceful place of rest and remembrance, a haven of flowers and wildlife. It really is a little jewel.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Sean's Pond

'He that planteth a tree is a servant of God, he provideth a kindness for many generations, and faces that he hath not seen shall bless him.'     Henry van Dyke

Part of the walk around Heaton took us through Heaton Woods, some of which is owned and managed by the Heaton Woods Trust, a registered charity founded in 1977 and run by volunteers. Their aim is to preserve, replant and improve this ancient woodland, which together with Northcliffe Park and woods, and the area around Six Days Only, forms a wonderful oasis of nature and fresh air between Bradford and Shipley. They have gradually acquired land so that now they own about 40 acres. It's largely thanks to such people of vision, now and in the past, that the area has not been swallowed up by development.

A wildlife pond has been developed and subsequently extended, on some of the land acquired early on. It is called Sean's Pond. Sean (1966-1990), the son of Jackie and Tony Emmott (one of the Heaton Woods Trustees), died tragically in a car accident. There is an attractive and interesting booklet with information about Heaton Woods - see here.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

A new view

Some good friends of mine have recently moved house from the south side of the city of Bradford to the north side, to an area called Heaton, not far down the road from Saltaire and Shipley. I visited them recently and we had a lovely circular walk, through some surprisingly unspoilt woodland and back to the residential area along the main street, Highgate.

Heaton used at one time to be a distinct village and then, as the city of Bradford grew, spread and effectively swallowed it up after the Industrial Revolution, it became an area where many wealthy industrialists built their grand houses. It is on a hill and from the edge of the village you get lovely views across the Aire valley to Shipley and Baildon. You may be able to make out the clock tower in Shipley market place. It's right in the centre of the picture, immediately above the trees. Saltaire is not visible, tucked away in the valley behind the trees to the left of the picture.

Do you remember the 'Sat-Nav is wrong' sign? You can see the houses where it was taken... a pinkish building, at the mid-left, in amongst the trees.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

The lock of love

Apparently it all started in Serbia before WWII, when couples in the town of Vrnjacka Banja started writing down their names on locks, to symbolically seal their love. The trend has spread to the bridges of Paris, that most romantic of cities... and apparently at least one couple decided the footbridge to Roberts Park in Saltaire deserved their declaration of eternal love. Lovers love them; many other people hate them for spoiling pretty or fragile bridges and the local authorities fight a losing battle to prevent the damage they do. It seems that the sheer weight of locks now on some of the Parisian bridges is a problem, never mind the aesthetics.

As for me, I'm afraid I'm too cynical. Love seems to me at best a hazardous, fragile enterprise. It needs space to grow and change. Best to come at it with a sense of lightness and freedom, rather than seeking to bind it. To love is to be vulnerable....

Monday, 17 June 2013

Wistful wisteria

There are one or two places in Saltaire where wisteria blooms for a brief but glorious spell in the spring. This is perhaps the prettiest. It is in the inner courtyard of the Stables at the bottom of Victoria Road. This was where horses used to be looked after, in the days before motorised transport. Sir Titus Salt himself used to ride over from his home near Halifax to visit his mill. It's quite a long journey on horseback so no doubt he and the horse would have been glad to arrive. I wonder if the wisteria was there then? If so, it would have quite a tale to tell.

The stables and carriage house were converted to garages before being adapted by the late Jonathan Silver for residential use.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Recycling children

A sign of the times, perhaps?.....

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Keeping watch

Someone at the History Club asked me if I had seen the lions at Saltaire's church.... and I had to confess that I hadn't. (Isn't it amazing how you can live in a place so long and think you know it, and yet still there is something new to discover?) Anyway, I resolved that as soon as possible I would go and search out these lions - and here is one of them. Do you see him, just peeping over the parapet?

Local legend has it that the lions guarding the Victoria Hall go walkabout around the village at night, so maybe this is one of them, prowling Saltaire URC's roof. It must be a good vantage point from which to survey the whole village; I like to think he's keeping watch.

Friday, 14 June 2013


The small town (or large village) of Marsden, surrounded on three sides by high Pennine moorland, has a rough beauty on a sunny day in spring. I think it must look a good deal bleaker in the rain or snow. The main A62 road through the town rises to cross the hills to the west on the way over to Manchester. In winter the road is often closed by snow, so that on the approach road there are permanent signs that can be switched on to warn travellers.

The fire station provides a base for the Holme Valley Mountain Rescue Team, volunteers who assist in searching for and rescuing people from the surrounding moors. The moors have a macabre reputation as being the burial place for the Moors Murder victims, infamous and shocking crimes committed in the 1960s by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, which received widespread coverage. One of the five children's bodies has never been found.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Standedge Tunnel Visitor Centre

Standedge Tunnel and its Visitor Centre are a short walk from the village of Marsden, not far from the rail station. The exhibition centre is housed in an old industrial building, originally thought to have been a warehouse, though recent research suggests it may have been an industrial works. There are display boards, photos and videos telling the story of the tunnel.  The top floor 'Loft Space' is a creative work space for designers and makers, where people can meet up to chat, knit, crochet, sew, weave and spin. There is a small shop selling attractive craft items. Further down, by the tunnel entrance, Tunnel End Cottages, where canal workers used to live, now houses a café.  There's a good children's play area too so it's a nice 'family day out' destination.

(I keep noticing that my photos, very crisp and sharp in my other programmes, look very soft - even blurry - on Blogger.. I hope it's not having another 'phase'! This one looks particularly terrible.)

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Standedge Tunnel

This is the point where the Huddersfield Narrow Canal enters the 5.2 km long Standedge Tunnel underneath the Pennines. The boat - an electric tug-boat with an attached passenger barge - offers short tours inside the tunnel, so I took a ride. I couldn't hear the commentary (one of the trials of being deaf) but there are plenty of interesting facts about the tunnel on the internet (here). Its construction was initially so badly planned and executed that the excavations from each end were not going to meet up in the middle. In 1807, they had finally to involve the famous engineer Thomas Telford to sort it all out!

Inside the tunnel is very narrow, with only room for one boat to travel. It has a few wider passing places, but they had to have a system to control the barges travelling through. You can view the various different portions of the tunnel - rough rock, stone, original brickwork and more modern brickwork from when it was restored. You can also see shafts that connect the tunnel with the adjacent rail tunnel, built later. (The railway company bought the canal and used the canal tunnel to carry away the spoil from their excavations of the rail tunnel.) In my photo, you can see a train disappearing into the rail tunnel.

There is no towpath so boat-horses used to be walked up and over the moors, whilst the barges were 'legged through' by two men lying on their backs. With the tour boat's electric lights on, all seemed fine but when they switched them off it was pitch black and quite scary. I couldn't help but think of the weight of rock and earth above me! The 'leggers' would only have had candles for illumination. It took a good three hours to leg a loaded barge through, for which the professional 'leggers' were paid 1 shilling and 6 pence. (I photographed one of the pictures in the exhibition centre, as I thought it was so interesting. A bit naughty...I hope no-one minds!)                                                                                                                                                                                          
Inside the tunnel, photographed by me from the tour boat
'Legging' a barge through the tunnel - a photograph of a photograph in the Tunnel's exhibition centre

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Huddersfield Narrow Canal

I had to go to Dewsbury the other day, to collect a new car-seat for my granddaughter to use when she visits. Never one to miss an opportunity, it seemed a good plan to travel a bit further to visit the Pennine village of Marsden, which I have long intended to explore. It is surrounded by the high Pennine moorlands and was a place from where lots of packhorse tracks crossed the moors to Manchester. The tracks were replaced in the 1700s by turnpike toll roads.

A boat, however, could carry the same load as 150 packhorses and so the trans-Pennine Huddersfield Narrow Canal was started around the end of the 18th century, part of a network of canals throughout the north of England. Its construction was beset by problems, related to the tough terrain and to lack of organisation. It took 17 years to build in the end, largely because it needed 74 locks along its 20 mile length, and because it required the longest, highest and deepest canal tunnel ever built in Britain, the Standedge Tunnel.

The canal eventually enjoyed a few boom years - though the narrow tunnel was a huge bottleneck as barges had to queue up to be 'legged through'. The tunnel has no towpath and the boat-horses had to be walked over the moors to the other side.

With the coming of the railways, the canals gradually ceased to be used. The Huddersfield Narrow Canal fell into disrepair, parts of it were covered over or filled in. In 1974 enthusiasts set about the enormous task of restoring it and in 2001 the whole canal became navigable again.

Monday, 10 June 2013

History Club evening 2

I was also captivated by the view from the Victoria Hall's window, as the sun set behind Saltaire's chimneys and the dome of the church.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

History Club evening 1

I attended the quarterly meeting of Saltaire History Club, in the Victoria Hall, this week. It's always interesting, both to hear the speakers and to meet local people with similar interests. Many of the keen core members do a great job of researching local history, presenting it and advising enquirers - and there are always people (often folk living abroad, whose family came from here) seeking to find out something about our historic village.

Topics presented at the meeting were:
an architectural sculptor, Abraham Broadbent (1868-1919), who was born and lived in Saltaire, whose work adorns the Cartwright Hall art gallery in Bradford as well as some famous buildings in London like the V&A;
a model industrial village called Marki, near Warsaw in Russian Poland, which was developed in the late 19th century by Bradford industrialists, the Briggs brothers, inspired by Saltaire. They wanted to develop a manufacturing base and a market for their wool cloth in Russia and eastern Europe;
research about World War I soldiers from Saltaire. It's hoped to develop a history trail through the village to commemorate these men.

A fascinating evening - and I was captivated by the late evening sunshine on the carved pillar outside the window.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Ice-cream colours

For some reason these trees make me think of ice-cream: pistachio and chocolate chip flavours! Aren't they glorious in their spring foliage?  They are growing in a corner of Shipley College gardens, tended by their horticultural students. The local Council have planted several young trees, of a variety similar to the bright green one, around the new(ish) children's playground a few streets away. I think they will look spectacular when they mature.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Purple haze

I loved this pop of colour in a planter perched on a wall down in Saltaire village. The owner was tending his plants and must have recognised me from my photo on the blog, so we had a lovely little chat. Apparently I once posted a picture of a hanging basket that he had at the front of his house. I am never sure whether people will be pleased to see their homes and gardens pictured here, or whether they'll be annoyed and feel their privacy invaded. I do try to be respectful in the way I treat my subjects and not to give too much away that might be considered invasive. But in fact whenever I have met people who read my blog, they are invariably quite happy to be featured. (And, of course, if they weren't, I would quickly delete the offending post.)

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Ticket to ride

Joy enough to see a goosander on the canal in Saltaire, but to see one with a new brood - and to see them hitching a ride on mum's back - was really exciting. This little family created quite a stir as they sailed along, with lots of people trying to capture the scene on their phones and cameras. I didn't have a long enough lens to do a really good, sharp job and they were moving surprisingly fast but this snap isn't too bad.

I first noticed them in the channel beside the mill. When I came back from my walk a couple of hours later they had successfully run swum the gauntlet of the busy stretch beside the church (past the ice-cream boat and its queues of people) and had made it safely as far as Hirst lock. I watched for a while as the mother puzzled over how to get her brood up the fast-flowing side channel beside the lock, which is quite steep and rather like a waterfall. She kept swimming up to the bottom 'step' of the channel, having a good look and then circling round, with the chicks scrambling after her. In the end she clearly decided that a walk along the canal bank, hazardous though that would be, was the only option so she hauled herself and her ten chicks onto the bank. I don't know what happened after that but I do hope they made it to the other side of the locks and back to to the relative safety of the quieter stretch of canal beside Hirst Woods.

Goosanders are members of the sawbill family, with long serrated beaks for catching fish. They are not uncommon on the canal and rivers round here, but I have only ever seen them in the winter. To think that they are breeding locally is thrilling. They are such beautiful birds.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Bluebell garden

I haven't really had time to go in search of bluebells this year, though I love them. Their short season is almost over now. I was pleased, therefore, to spy this pretty garden full of them, right in the centre of Saltaire. I suppose they will be the garden Spanish sort, or hybrids, rather than native English ones. In the wild our native bluebells, which have a simpler flower head and a sweet scent, are being crowded out by the garden escapes and that is a concern to conservationists. From a photographer's point of view it doesn't really matter, I guess, as they all produce the characteristic 'haze of blue' effect in our gardens and woodlands. It's the loveliest sight, especially married with a blue sky.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Going quackers?

Overdosed on culture in the Saltaire Arts Trail? Need a little kitsch to redress the balance? All you had to do was cross the road behind Roberts Park. There was a travelling funfair encamped beside the Shipley Glen Tramway station. Here you could fish for plastic ducks, take a roller-coaster ride, slide down the helter-skelter, smash your friends up on the dodgems, hang on for dear life to a crazy bull (mechanical!) at the rodeo and finally gorge yourself sick on candy floss. All the fun of the fair!

Monday, 3 June 2013

Pretty as a picture

Perhaps the star of the show for this year's Saltaire Arts Trail was the weather... Bright sunshine and comfortable temperatures made it extremely pleasant to wander around the village. It also meant that some of the houses with pretty little gardens could dare to spill the exhibits outside. A moody monochrome landscape by the artist Paula Dunn gave this 'secret garden' a focal point. You could hardly guess that just on the other side of the high hedge is the busy main road through Saltaire.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Open house

One of the highlights of the Saltaire Arts Trail is that many of the art exhibits are displayed in the sitting rooms and kitchens of the ordinary village houses in Saltaire. Some of the homes actually belong to the artists themselves, whilst others are offered by volunteers - amazingly willing to shift out most of their furniture, cover up the carpets and put up with three full days of strangers tramping in and out of their homes. It's perhaps not quite so bad on a sunny day but imagine on a wet day how much mess and chill the visitors bring with them!  The participating houses are marked with red bunting - and often a queue of people patiently waiting to get in. Many of the ordinary workers' homes are quite small, just a 4 x 4m sitting room and an even smaller kitchen, downstairs. The front door often opens straight off the street and there really isn't room for more than half a dozen people at a time to look round. Nevertheless, it is a charming way to display and view the paintings, photographs, ceramics and other exhibits.

There were so many lovely things. As a photographer I am mostly inspired and sometimes depressed (!) to see the wonderful work that other photographers produce. Martin Priestley's landscapes are always inspiring and, exhibiting for the first time this year, Stephen Goodfellow showed some unusual viewpoints on things. I particularly liked his close-ups of frost on carvings at Undercliffe Cemetery. This year I also especially liked some small bird sculptures made with found pieces of wood and wire, by Mr Ian Swales. They weren't carved, merely carefully selected pieces of wood pinned together into sculptures that had all the 'jizz' of a real bird.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Fly me to the moon

'Fly me to the moon' was the theme for Saltaire Arts Trail's family activities this year, and the gardens around the Victoria Hall and Shipley College were buzzing with activity. There was some serious den-building going on (aiming to build a space-station) and all manner of painting and crafts with a space theme: build your own rocket, make glow-in-the dark alien brains, hunt to find the aliens lurking around the village. I even saw some youngsters being guided into science experiments - mixing Alka-Seltzer and vinegar to fire capsules of messages to the moon.