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Monday, 30 September 2013

Festival gardens 2

Another corner of the tiny but beautifully planned garden in one of Saltaire's 'workmen's cottages'. I particularly like the pretty little violet tumbling over the wall in the centre, with its heart-shaped leaves flushed with purple.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Festival gardens 1

Saltaire Festival once again featured the popular Open Gardens trail, a chance to explore some of the tiny but fertile backyards around the village.  This was my favourite garden last year and it was equally attractive and lush this year. I love that blue wall. Seeing it last year did inspire me to try a bit harder with my own patch, but the hot summer quickly frazzled the plants in many of my pots.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

The Live Room

More music with a lovely backdrop. Caroline's, the club on Caroline Street, regularly hosts gigs under the banner 'The Live Room'. It was a natural extension, therefore, to put a stage in the car-park and host a series of singers and bands during Saltaire's Festival. The main festival stage was down in Roberts Park, but I preferred the music at Caroline's, which was mainly the kind of folk-based stuff I enjoy. Performers on Sunday included Love of the Brave, Jasmine Kennedy, Thea Hopkins, Alex Quinn and The Man in the Street.

I note with excitement that The Live Room is hosting Eliza Gilkyson next May. Ever since I heard her music in the soundtrack to 'Case Histories' on TV, I've liked her sound. MUST get a ticket! Have a listen by clicking the video:

Friday, 27 September 2013

The wheel issue

It is good to see that some people chose to travel to Saltaire Festival by two wheels rather than four. The number of cars and vans trying to make their way through all the milling pedestrians in Saltaire's narrow streets is a perennial nightmare. Not to mention the parking issue... I have learned over the years not to attempt to move my car from outside my house for the duration of the main Festival weekend.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Saltaire singing

Saltaire's famous United Reformed Church provides a lovely backdrop for this community choir, performing at the Saltaire Festival. The weather on the final day of the Festival was wonderful, sunny and warm. You can see, however, a hint of autumn creeping into the foliage.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Bollywood in Saltaire

This elephant is always a popular attraction. It used to stand on the roof of The Aagrah (a highly-regarded Indian restaurant) just down the road from Saltaire. Now it is brought out for special events.

It had a starring role in the recent BBC production of 'Bollywood Carmen Live', filmed in June in Bradford's City Park. Loosely based on Bizet's opera Carmen, this updated romantic tale had an Indian film star, Abhay Deol, in the lead male role.  He made a spectacular entrance, riding this elephant. With colourful costumes, pop-song mash-ups, a reworking of some of Bizet's classical music with a Bollywood twist and lively dance routines, it was a spectacular celebration of 100 years of Indian cinema and Bradford's status as UNESCO City of Film.

The elephant had a more sedate role as part of the Festival in Saltaire's Roberts Park, advertising the Aagrah food tents and cookery demonstrations.

Shipley is a great place to come if you like exotic food. As well as The Aagrah, another Shipley restaurant Shimla Spice has just won an award for Best Curry House in England.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013


If anyone ever wants to buy me a gift (!) I would gratefully accept one of these raku pots from Mary North and Brian Evans, The Old Brewery Pottery in Keighley. They were exhibiting outside Victoria Hall as part of Saltaire Festival's local Makers' Market. I adore the colours and subtle patterns produced by raku firing, a complex process that originated in 16th century Japan. (Read about it on the potters' website.) As well as making ceramics, they teach courses too. I'd love to have a go at it. (Another retirement project!)

Monday, 23 September 2013

Festival comings and goings

The second weekend of Saltaire Festival always sees the crowds out in force. This year, the main music stage was moved down into Roberts Park. No doubt many village residents were pleased, as it's not a lot of fun having people perched on your windowsill, drinking, whilst loud rock music throbs into every space. So the change was welcome in many ways but the downside was that I think it diluted the festive atmosphere in the centre of the village. Nevertheless, it didn't deter the crowds, as you can see from this shot of Victoria Road. There was still lots on offer in the village - the continental market, a few street artists, a vintage fair and music at Caroline's, among other attractions.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Duck food

Duck soup food was for sale on the same narrowboat that was selling the painted canal ware. As most of us were growing up, going 'to feed the ducks' in our parks, canals and rivers on left-over bread and cake was often a family tradition. (I guess most of us tried eating the stale bread ourselves too!)  What people often don't realise is that bread and starchy food can actually be harmful to birds.  OK, so you might only be giving them a couple of crusts - but, especially in places like Saltaire, there is a steady day-long stream of people doing exactly the same thing.  The birds are stuffed full of bread and the canal is often littered with soggy rotting lumps, causing bacterial and algal growth. The bread is not good nutrition for birds (ducks, geese, swans, pigeons and little birds too) leading to obesity, bloating and difficulty flying. The young can grow up malnourished and it discourages the birds' natural feeding behaviours. The waste also encourages pests. So it's not 'Let them eat cake' but 'Let them eat grapes, oats, birdseed, defrosted peas' - and yes, £1-a-bag duck food too. See here for the full article from birding.about.com.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Canal crafts

The Canal and River Trust volunteers usually bring a couple of boats and an information stand to the various festivals that are held in Saltaire. At this year's Festival, moored beside the entrance to Roberts Park, there was a narrowboat selling traditionally painted canal ware. The designs have a long history and often have local meanings. Many of them feature stylised roses like these colourful heart-shaped ornaments that the artist is painting.

Friday, 20 September 2013


I do battle with the ivy to stop it climbing the stonework of my house, but in some parts of Saltaire it has been allowed to grow up unchecked - and it does look quite attractive, I think.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Love and peace

Don't ask me why the hairdresser in Saltaire always has a 'quote for the week' written up outside... Thankfully, the power of love seemed to be triumphing in the queue outside the bakery.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Harvest festival

This display of flowers and produce from Saltaire's Canalside Allotments looked so colourful and inviting that I couldn't resist a photo. There was also an interesting display about honey bees; there are beehives right at the bottom of the lane. I know bees are vital to our social economy, as pollinators of crops. What I didn't know is that worker bees are all female, they only live for four to six weeks - and one bee will only produce about 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime!  See more fun facts here.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Bunting and bounty

Autumn's harvest is a good one this year after our fabulous summer. The apple trees are laden and the berries are ripe - and if you have a greenhouse on your patch, well, tomatoes are there for the picking.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Secret gardens

Suddenly we find ourselves in a secret garden... in fact, many gardens: the Canalside Allotments. These have been here since Saltaire was built.  The village houses have tiny gardens or yards but Sir Titus Salt and his architects wisely realised that people needed green space and a place to grow vegetables and flowers. These allotments are squeezed behind the church, between the railway and the canal. You might not even realise they are there. Privately owned, they are usually locked and out of bounds to casual visitors. There is a huge waiting list for one - hardly surprising, since they offer such a tranquil green oasis. I got talking to one lucky allotment-holder and she confessed to escaping down here on summer evenings, after a busy day, with a bottle of wine and a good book - so it's not all hard work!

They even feature in a book: My Cool Allotment by Lia Leendertz.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Down the lane

Come with me on a little journey... We walk down Victoria Road and, just past the railway station, we turn up the drive beside Shipley College's Mill Building, once the old Saltaire Dining Hall. We follow the lane that leads past the church, pausing to nod to Sir Titus Salt, laid to rest in his mausoleum.  Soon you would not think you were right in the middle of the village...

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Stopped in my tracks

I popped into Bradford's Industrial Museum the other day to see an exhibition entitled 'Hard Graft: Yorkshire at Work'. It celebrates local history through the industrial technology, engineers and craftsmen who shaped our landscape. (Alan Burnett, I think you'd enjoy this too!) Based on a book written by photographer/illustrator Terry Sutton, paintings, photos and text are placed with key exhibits from the museum's collection. I found it surprisingly absorbing, so that I only had time for a brief trip into the museum itself.  I enjoyed this little corner of random but evocative bits of nostalgia. Those 'Halt' road signs used to be everywhere when I was a child. I never really noticed them disappear but they all got replaced by more modern Stop signs. The Esso sign reminded me of the Saturday job I used to have as a teenager, at an Esso petrol station - in the days before filling your car with petrol became a self-service operation.

Friday, 13 September 2013


'I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse, perhaps, to be locked in.'
Virginia Woolf

Thursday, 12 September 2013

It's nearly time....

....for Saltaire Festival 2013. It starts on Saturday 14th for a whole week and there is LOTS going on!          

See here for details.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Listers Mill stands guard

The other end of the panorama started yesterday (missing out a significant proportion of what lies between the two images). This is the camera swung round 180º from the first picture.  The dominant feature is Listers Mill, now apartments. Unlike Salts Mill, it sits on a hill and can be seen for miles around. Around it clusters Manningham, once a smart residential area for Victorian gentry, now an interesting, racially-mixed area of bedsits, flats (in the large Victorian villas) and large terraced houses. The green area of trees in the middle is where Lister Park nestles; you can perhaps pick out the large building among the trees that is Cartwright Hall, the art gallery in the park.

To the left is the edge of Bradford city centre, which sits in a bowl surrounded by hills. I'm not too sure which church the tall spire on the left belongs to. I think it might be St Paul's Church in Manningham.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

View from on high

Sunday was one of those good, clear days with interesting cloud cover. I happened to have to drive up to Wrose, a district of Bradford that sits right on top of a hill overlooking the Aire Valley. It's a good place from which to survey the area. From there you can see a 180º panorama, from Bradford city centre on your left to Saltaire on your right. I hadn't the necessary tackle (tripod etc) or time to make a 'proper' panorama, so I just took several shots of various parts of the scene. This is looking up the valley. You can see part of Gilstead/Eldwick sparkling in the sunshine on the hill, back right. The white blocks, back leftish, are what my daughter used to call 'the three flats of Bingley' - three tower blocks - with the town of Bingley in the dip behind.

In the middle ground, right, you can see the unmistakable bulk of Salts Mill, with the neat rows of Saltaire village houses behind and to its left. The immediate foreground is Shipley town centre. Maybe you can see the square modern clock tower, just down left from the mill chimney.

Monday, 9 September 2013

A relic

Someone's leaving 'do' at work had me gracing the VM Lounge, a bar in the centre of the Victoria Mills complex. I've shown photos of the complex before (click the Victoria Mills label below). It was a huge Victorian textile mill, built almost next door to Salts Mill but some twenty years later. After it finally closed as a business, the buildings and land were bought by a property development company. The old buildings have been transformed into loft-style apartments, with some new-build apartment blocks on the site as well. Some elements remain to remind of the buildings' original use. This is a rusty piece of mill machinery but it has a certain charm and is at least as attractive in its context as some modern sculptures.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Pretty in pink

A delicate lisianthus - a gift from a friend. I love these flowers.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

A refuge of sorts

In the 1970s, the old Southwell Workhouse building was used as a temporary refuge for women and children, until they could be found more permanent homes. One of the rooms, used then as a 'bed-sit', has been left much as it was found when the National Trust took over the building in 1997. It has been furnished in line with what past residents and staff have recollected of this period of its history. When I visited, there was an exhibition telling some of the very moving stories of women who lived here in those days - battling through tough personal times but helped along by the friendship and support they experienced here.

My visit to The Workhouse really gave me food for thought. I've also been watching the TV series 'The Mill', a dramatisation of life in a Cheshire cotton mill in Victorian times. (It had poor reviews by the critics but I've found it watchable and interesting. It's based on the historical archive of a real mill.) It shows how closely the lives of some of the mill workers were linked to the old workhouses. When extra labour was needed, the mill-owners sent to the nearest workhouse to 'buy' people out. If you received an injury or proved otherwise unfit for work, you were likely to be sent back to the workhouse. Reasonably enlightened employers like Sir Titus Salt were not in the majority, and it made me realise afresh the importance of his vision for Saltaire, in the context of the times.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Images of The Workhouse

The Workhouse, Southwell, is quite sparsely furnished. Little remains of the original furniture and The National Trust in the restoration has chosen to evoke an atmosphere rather than try to reproduce exactly how it would have looked. But you can get an impression... The windows, though overlooking fields and the vegetable garden, have locks and the Governor would have chosen whether they were open or closed. With little heating apart from a few small coal fires, the building would no doubt have been freezing cold much of the time. The curious curved walls in the yard are the only latrines, four in total, one for each 'class' of resident - able-bodied men, able-bodied women, infirm men and infirm women. They are merely holes in the ground, draining to the outside where the 'night-soil collectors' could take away the waste.

Beds in cramped dormitories had straw mattresses and thin blankets, and a 'guzunder'! (Imagine the stench of unwashed bodies, urine.... and the bed bugs too!) TB was rife. Southwell's workhouse, however, took most of its water supply from rainwater collected from the roof into a huge underground storage tank, and being in a country area this was relatively pure, so records suggest that they did not suffer cholera outbreaks like many city workhouses. 

The women did laundry, cleaning, hard scrubbing of the stone floors (rather poignantly, you can see dark shadows where the beds would have been and lighter areas that have been well-scrubbed for years) and cooking. Vegetables (potatoes) were prepared in the damp cellars, which often stood inches deep in water and were lit only by tallows. Men tended the garden, broke stones up for roads, picked old bones clean for fertiliser and unpicked tarry old rope (oakum). Some of the work was purposeful but much was not, simply there to occupy the inmates with hard work and to act as a deterrent. 

The table shows the prescribed and cheap diet - enough to keep people alive but not enough that it made the workhouse an attractive option. Breakfast and supper were bread and gruel, a kind of thin porridge. Lunch (dinner) was broth (thin soup) and bread on three days, boiled meat and potatoes on three days and suet pudding on Saturday. Any misbehaviour (fighting, refusing to work, running away in the workhouse clothes) was punished, by having bread or potatoes instead of the usual meal. Repeated or serious offending was punished by solitary confinement in a dark windowless cell. Punishments were decided by the Board of Guardians who ran the workhouse, rather than by the Governor.

It all sounds horrendous by modern standards - but bear in mind that this was at the same time that Sir Titus Salt was building Saltaire, in order to get his workforce out of the disgusting, insanitary, unhealthy conditions in the crowded cities. So a clean, well-kept building in the countryside, with regular meals, might actually not have been so bad after all.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Stealing their souls

At Southwell's Workhouse, costumed volunteers demonstrate how life there was lived in the 19th century. The two ladies pictured looked - and smelled - a lot cleaner than I suspect the real inhabitants would have done! Nevertheless they kept 'in role'. When I asked permission to take the photo, they feigned amazement at my fancy gadget and worried that it would 'steal their souls'. I assured them it would only take their likeness. Made me think that being in the workhouse in the first place may well have been what stole their souls. But, as the guides were at pains to point out, for many people entering the workhouse was - literally - a life-saver. For the first time in their lives perhaps, women (segregated from the men) might have felt safe from abuse. Children were given an education, something that at that time they would not have received outside. Being able to read and write would have enabled them to make a much better life for themselves as adults, a means ultimately of escaping the workhouse.

Nevertheless, workhouses carried a terrible stigma. Many of the buildings went on to be used as hospitals or residential homes for older people. The maternity hospital I was born in had been the old workhouse. It later became a community hospital. My mother (and many others) hated the place; it still cast a dark shadow. Even after the building was pulled down and a new hospital built, she still dreaded ending her days in there. (Thankfully, she didn't.)

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

The Workhouse

I am enjoying revisiting old haunts and discovering new ones in my original 'home' area in Nottinghamshire. My late mother's apartment is up for sale but until we sell it (and it looks as though it may take a while) I am making the most of a very comfortable holiday home!

I had never been to the building shown above before... it's a Workhouse. (Nor, as far as I know, were any of my ancestors forced to sample its delights - though anyone who watched Una Stubbs on 'Who Do You Think You Are' on TV recently will have seen her exploring just such a connection.) This magnificent building, just outside Southwell, is now in the care of The National Trust, and it has a fascinating history.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013


There is that biblical phrase 'the fields are white for the harvest' but I had never really noticed how white the fields are after the harvest, until I visited my sister's home the other day. She lives in rural Lincolnshire, down a fairly isolated lane in the flat agricultural lands. This huge field is just beside her house, the harvest already gathered. (Wheat? I don't know, not being a country girl). I think this year has been much kinder to farmers and gardeners than the past few. My sister has an old cooking-apple tree in her garden and it is laden with fruit. We picked blackberries too, hundreds of them, lush and ripe. I have purple fingernails now, stained with juice!

Monday, 2 September 2013

Pop up sunshine

Though I love (other people's) gardens, I can at best be described as an 'occasional gardener' myself. Every now and again I have a spurt of interest to plant and water with intent, but when that fades, things either go rampant or die (often both in the same border at the same time!) I am nearly always delighted therefore with the pretty little wild things that choose to pop up bravely between the cracks and among the invited plants. I have no obligation other than to enjoy them. These little Welsh poppies (Meconopsis cambrica), sometimes orange and sometimes yellow, have short-lived flowers but I like them. They bring a little sunshine to the dark corners of my yard. This one, so newly 'hatched' that it still wears its sepal like a yarmulke, has petals as crumpled and fragile as a butterfly's wings.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Still standing after all these years

It looks like a monument, a standing stone erected for some mysterious ritual or commemoration. But no, this is simply an old field-gatepost. I came across it, probably a relic from a time when this land was farmed, still staunchly upright at the edge of a cricket pitch, bordering a large housing estate in Bradford. In the distance on the right you can see a much more modern necessity - one of the city's water treatment works at Chellow Heights, which recycles dirty water and makes it clean and fit to drink.