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Saturday, 31 May 2014


Split, in northern Croatia, is an astonishing place and quite rightly designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The old part of the city clusters in and around the Roman Emperor Diocletian's Palace, built in 305BC. After Diocletian's death, the palace lay empty but, being heavily fortified, it was later occupied by the area's local inhabitants as a place of refuge. Over the years the main structures within the walls have been adapted and many more buildings constructed within the fortress.

Compare the photo above with the drawing below. The photo is of the facade which now faces Split's harbour with its wide promenade of pavement cafés, perfect for sipping cappucino and watching the world go by. Originally this was the outer sea wall of the palace. Look closely and you can see how the original Roman arches and columns have gradually been infilled.

I would have loved to spend more time in this city. It's a fascinating mixture of ancient, awe-inspiring architecture (that inspired the architect Robert Adam) and historic sites (like the Peristyle, the Cathedral of St Domnius) coupled with a really vibrant, modern atmosphere - markets, shops, cafés, tourists and locals all mingling delightfully.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Krka National Park

My holiday wasn't (quite) all about wandering ancient walled towns. We also visited the Krka National Park in Croatia - a spectacular gorge with turquoise waterfalls, where the River Krka cascades over travertine (limestone) terraces in a series of rapids and pools. We explored the area around Skradinski buk, where there are wooden walkways above the pools and some interesting old watermills now housing museum exhibits, craft shops and cafés. It was well worth a visit. The lack of warm sunshine meant less sparkle on my photos. On the plus side there weren't so many people around that it felt uncomfortably crowded, which I imagine might be the case in high summer. It's one of those places that would reward an early morning visitor, who might see many more of the birds, beasts and reptiles than were apparent later in the day... frightened into hiding, no doubt, by the day trippers.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Laundry rules

Somehow, even lines of washing take on a certain charm hanging in medieval streets of pretty, weathered houses. In Titus Salt's day in my home village of Saltaire, no-one was allowed to hang out washing at all. If you did you could be evicted from your house. I think there is a similar ruling in Croatia that forbids anyone to hang out lines of multi-coloured washing. I never saw any! They were all most tastefully colour-coded.

Talking of laundry, I can't hang any out at the moment either.... no washing line, as the house is surrounded by scaffolding. The good news is that my 114 year old house has a cosy new roof. It still has the old slates but now sports a waterproof, breathable membrane. Hopefully leaks will become a thing of the past. Hooray!

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Music while you walk

One unexpected aspect of exploring both Dubrovnik and the more northerly city of Split in Croatia, was coming across groups of singers and musicians performing. The stone walls and floors and enclosed spaces of the old cities gave wonderful acoustics. I couldn't, of course, understand the words of the traditional Dalmatian songs they were singing but the harmonies they made were spine-tinglingly lovely, even to a deafened person like me. I bought a CD of the traditional klapa music I heard in Split. That music is a capella (without instruments) but this group of young musicians in Dubrovnik were terrific both as singers and instrumentalists.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Sea tales

Dubrovnik's Old Port, cradled by the city walls and guarded against pirates and other enemy invaders by the bulk of St John's Fort, is wonderfully atmospheric. It is protected by two old breakwaters and they say that chains used to be strung across the entrance for extra security. These days the ships going in and out are glass-bottomed tourist boats and small ferries sailing to the nearby islands (like Lokrum in the background, now a nature reserve and botanic garden). In the past it must have been an amazing, noisy, bustling place filled with trading ships and galleons. The port was also where ships were built, in the Arsenal, now a restaurant.

Thankfully there is now another much larger port at the other side of the city and that is where the massive, modern cruise ships dock, those floating palaces. There were two or three moored there most days. You quickly learn to time your visits to the narrow streets of the Old City for before or after the peak for the cruise ships' tours (and - if you're me - you soon feel thankful not to be in a huge group all made to wear the same orange or pink baseball cap!)  I'd far rather be a make-believe pirate on the galleon out there than a passenger on a cruise ship. Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Night and day

Despite the drizzle, I ventured down into the old city of Dubrovnik one evening to savour the atmosphere and try a few experimental photos. I had decided at the last minute not to pack a tripod (too bulky and heavy) so relied on bumping up the ISO and bracing myself wherever possible against a wall or something else solid. The end results are not too bad, though the high ISO does make the images rather grainy. This is the old Bell Tower, now enhanced by a digital display though I'm not quite sure what it says! The bell still chimes and you can see the original patinated bronze 'jacks' (men called Maro and Baro) in the Rector's Palace. The ones in the tower now are replicas. The tower, first constructed in 1444, has been restored and rebuilt many times over the years, notably in 1929 after damage by earthquakes.

Hover your mouse over the picture and you can see a daytime view of more or less the same scene - though it does give the impression that the tower shrinks during the day! Something to do with the angle of the camera and the lens I used I think.

Friday, 23 May 2014


Ha, the sun came out - finally - at 2pm on my final day in Dubrovnik. And what a difference it made! The pale limestone and red clay-tiled roofs look lovely against a bright blue sky. This is Dubrovnik's main square, at the eastern end of Stradun, the wide central boulevard that bisects the old walled city. In the centre, Orlando's Column portrays an image of the knight Orlando. Dating back to 1419, it is a symbol of the city's sovereignty and freedom. The Renaissance-Gothic building with the arched colonnade is the Sponza Palace, formerly the customs house and treasury of the Republic, now a museum housing the Dubrovnik State archives.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014


Hmm... last week probably wasn't the best week to choose to visit the Balkans... London 24ºC and sunny, Dubrovnik 16ºC and rainy! Nevertheless I had an enjoyable holiday, visiting five UNESCO World Heritage Sites in as many days. The jewel in the crown, of course, is the old walled city of Dubrovnik, in Croatia, whose incredible story is made even more poignant by memories of the 'Homeland War'. Little over twenty years ago, in 1991, the city was under siege and heavily bombarded by artillery. The bright new roofs hint at the history, though otherwise the casual observer might never know of the tragedy, so carefully has the city been restored and so brave is its demeanour.

I rode the cable car up to the Imperial Fortress, from where the city can be viewed 'as if on the palm of a hand'.

Expect a few more holiday photos... though it may take me a few days to sort them out. Apologies too for my infrequent visits and comments on other blogs - I will return!

Monday, 19 May 2014

Red Campion

Another of our native wildflowers, the Red Campion, comes into flower typically as the bluebells begin to fade, but has a much longer flowering period, brightening our hedgerows, woodlands and verges right through until October.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Fairy Glen

Across the River Aire from Hirst Wood there are fewer bluebells but they are mixed up with other flowers and in some ways look even prettier. Here we have yellow celandines and ramsons (wild garlic). They remind me of the 'Flower Fairy' books I used to like as a child, which were written and illustrated by Cicely Mary Barker.  If I was a fairy, I'd live here.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Orange tip

I don't really have the right lens for close-ups but this little orange-tip butterfly caught my eye. They're a true sign of Spring, and come out at the same time as bluebells, which provide a nectar source. This one is sitting on a garlic mustard plant, on which they lay their eggs - though the butterfly pictured is a male.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Scented blogs

More bluebells... just because....

If only we had blogs that allowed us to share the fragrance of things, as well as the visual beauty..... You would love, as I did, wandering the little woodland pathways, immersed in the delicate, sweet scent of all these flowers. (That's one way of proving they are predominantly native, as the introduced Spanish ones don't have a scent.)

(Think of all the other benefits of scented blogs - I would be able to smell Betsy's baking!) 

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Going native

Native English bluebells, such a pretty sight, giving that characteristic 'purple haze' effect across the woodland floor. Hirst Wood is a prime location and is full of them at this time of year; the ancient woodland with its light tree canopy gives just the dappled, shady conditions the plants love.

I went a bit mad with the camera! Only because they are one of my favourite sights and one reason I am very happy to live in England.

Monday, 12 May 2014


Time for another walk - very local, this one - through the ancient woodland known as Hirst Wood. Bounded on one side by the Leeds-Liverpool Canal and on the other by the railway line, it is not a huge area but it is a much-loved beauty spot, popular with dog-walkers. The trees are predominantly beech, birch and oak, growing on a moraine of gravel and boulders left by a retreating glacier 10000 years ago. But its treasure is the extensive carpet of bluebells that covers the woodland floor in May - just tantalising hint in this photo.

Sunday, 11 May 2014


Even the cows round here are ancient.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

New and old

There's a new venture started up in Saltaire. There used to be a 'waterbus' giving regular trips along the canal but that ceased several years ago. Since then, apart from a few special cruises arranged at the Festival weekends, there has been nothing. Now an enterprising boat owner is running regular short trips on the aptly-named 'Titus', from the Victoria Road bridge. At only £4 a trip, it's a pleasant way to spend half an hour or so. Cruising past Salts Mill and the church, you can imagine yourself back in a time when life was taken at a slower pace and the waterway passing through the village was a crucial artery for trade.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Ogden green

Spring greens - part of a healthy diet!
When I set off for a walk it was sunny but quite quickly the cloud came over.  It was a pity; it made my photos pretty dull compared to how they could have been. As a compensation, there was hardly any breeze so the reflections were good. This is Ogden Water near Halifax, an old reservoir that's now a nature reserve.

I was reading about 'negative' and 'positive' space in photos and how you need to try to balance them (or not, depending on the feeling you want to create in an image). I think that's what this photo is all about.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Tiptoe through the tulips

There is currently a lovely display of spring planting in Roberts Park, with tulips peeping through wallflowers in this formal bed. The backdrop of the warm stone of Salts Mill and the many chimneys of the park lodge makes a harmonious scene.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Community enterprise

As part of the Sustainable Saltaire initiative, a group - 'A Taste of Saltaire' - has formed, aiming to join Saltaire to the 'incredible edible' movement. This aims to get communities to use their 'waste' land, small patches of under-used land scattered around the area, to grow vegetables and herbs for the local community's use. Following some research and a design project undertaken by students from Leeds Metropolitan University, they have started to transform a former shrubbery in the corner of the Caroline Street car park, right in the heart of the village, ready for planting raised beds with edible crops. It will be interesting to see how the project develops.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Explosion in Roberts Park!

The tree holding the blossom in yesterday's photo is a beautifully mature white cherry.  There are several around the bandstand area in Saltaire's Roberts Park, mostly white with a few in various shades of pink too. Frothy and bridal for a couple of precious weeks in spring, they are like a marshmallow explosion in the park.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Cherry blossom

The Japanese have cherry blossom festivals.  Who can blame them?  The pink or white blossom against a blue sky is always an uplifting sight. It tends not to last long. April showers and spring breezes soon dash the petals to the ground, like confetti. I saw a car the other day that had clearly been parked under a blossom tree when it rained. It was covered completely in pink petals, apart from a space on the windscreen that the wipers had cleared. It whizzed past too fast for me to photograph but it actually looked astonishingly pretty, like a carnival float.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Bilbo Baggins

Bilbo Baggins, the boat-horse, made a welcome return to Saltaire during the World Heritage celebrations. He was not actually pulling a canal boat this time but he patiently stood in Roberts Park, to be harnessed and re-harnessed whilst his handler, Sue, explained all about horse boating. Traditionally, before the advent of engines, working boats on our canals were hauled by horses (the last horse retired in the 1960s). [See here for a photo of the horse pulling a narrowboat.] I learned all sorts of interesting snippets from Sue's talk - like why the rope between the horse and the boat is so long. A loaded boat sits well down in the water and exerts a strong sideways pull on the horse. A longer tow-rope produces less stress on the horse's shoulders and means they have to expend less energy to combat it. It is less damaging and less likely to pull them into the canal. They obviously did fall in sometimes. Sue explained that the Leeds-Liverpool Canal has many special ramps along it, to allow the horses to scramble out. [See also the website of the Horse Boating Society, with more pictures and information.]

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Saltaire World Heritage Weekend

It's that time of year again, when Saltaire celebrates its World Heritage Status and its links to other such places around the world. A weekend of mixed weather saw fewer visitors than usual (as far as I could gauge), which was a pity as there were some interesting things on offer. One of our local historians, Colin Coates, has done a great deal of research into Saltaire's history during WWI, to mark the war's centenary, and some of this was presented in an exhibition. As is now tradition, some of the Saltaire Archives were also on display, including several albums telling the stories of local families.

The poster is displayed here on the railings at the entrance to the church, with the Stables cottages in the background. The poster itself shows a picture of the Almshouses at the top of Victoria Road (see here) taken before the trees had matured. The trees are now so huge they are cutting out light and damaging the buildings' foundations so there is talk as to whether to remove them. It is always sad to see mature trees disappear but in this case they are increasingly problematic. They are not original to Titus Salt's Saltaire either, being planted some time after the village was built.

Friday, 2 May 2014


Pen-y-Ghent (691m high) is one of the imposing Yorkshire 'Three Peaks', along with Whernside and Ingleborough, three huge fells encircling the Ribble valley in the Craven district of Yorkshire. They are known for the 'Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge' when people try to walk to the summit of all of the three in under 12 hours. Some run it, some cycle it too; the trail is circular and is usually started and finished at a café in Horton in Ribblesdale that keeps a register of those who have completed the circuit of 24.5 miles (39.2 km). The record for the Three Peaks Race is 2 hours 29 minutes 53 seconds, achieved in 1976 and not yet bettered. It's on the Pennine Way long-distance footpath too, as the marker post shows.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Dales diary

Most of the buildings in Halton Gill are very old. I saw stones showing dates in the 1600s and 1700s on several buildings. It seems a tight-knit community and very few of the properties appear to have changed hands within the last 20 years. People must like living there, even though (or perhaps because) it is quite remote. It's 10 miles to Settle, the nearest market town, over a narrow moorland road with some of the most spectacular scenery in Yorkshire.

This used to be the church and is now converted into a residence. I've found an interesting biography concerning John Augustus Grisedale, born here in 1868, the son of a minister of this church. His father died suddenly in 1881 and by 1884/5 young 'Gus', aged only 16 or 17, set off alone to seek his fortune in America.

Geese make effective guards for the family's washing!