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Sunday, 31 August 2014

Chicken of the woods

Yorkshire Sculpture Park  It's not always easy to decide what is art and what isn't. Just wandering around the Yorkshire Sculpture Park so attunes one's mind to sculptural forms that you start to notice the shapes in nature too. I know very little about fungus but googling the various pictures and sites, this appears most similar to one called 'Chicken of the Woods' (Laetiporous sulphureus), which is supposed to be edible. I wouldn't try it, not based on my identification anyway!

Saturday, 30 August 2014


Yorkshire Sculpture Park    Another major exhibition currently at YSP features works by the dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, shown in and around the 18th century chapel where the Wentworth family once worshipped. 'Iron Tree, 2013' (above), the most complex of a series he began in 2009, is inspired by the wood sold by street vendors in Jingdezhen, southern China. Constructed from pieces cast from different trees all joined together, it is awkward and lifeless but eloquent because of that. It speaks of the individual in society, a theme amplified by the display inside the chapel (which you aren't allowed to photograph) which consists of forty-five antique wooden chairs from the Qing dynasty, arranged in rows but each within its own solitary space. I found that oddly touching, the longer I gazed and thought. The artist is currently not allowed to travel out of China due to passport restrictions and surveillance.

Friday, 29 August 2014


Yorkshire Sculpture Park - Sculptural forms that from a distance looked like ghostly hay bales, on closer inspection turned out to be art works made from wire mesh. 'Summer Fields' is an installation by Helen Escobedo (1934 -2010), a Mexican artist. The more I looked at them floating ethereally in the landscape, the more I liked them.

Thursday, 28 August 2014


Yorkshire Sculpture Park  The amazing range of sculpture on display is a large part of the joy at Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) but the setting is wonderful too. The landscaped grounds belong to Bretton Hall, at one time the home of the Wentworth family and later a teacher training college and part of the University of Leeds. The parkland also holds the Bretton Country Park, with acres of grassland, woods, streams and lakes to explore.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014


Yorkshire Sculpture Park  This is another easy one to guess.. one of the permanent collection of Henry Moore sculptures at YSP. I can think of no better place to show these huge bronzes than a rolling hillside among the trees and grazing sheep. Henry Moore was born in nearby Castleford and often cited the influence of the West Yorkshire landscape on his development as a young artist. This piece is called 'Two Large Forms'. (Moore was particularly imaginative in his titles!)  Not, I think, entirely influenced by the landscape...

Tuesday, 26 August 2014


Yorkshire Sculpture Park  Yesterday's artist was easy to guess ...but what about today's? This piece is called 'Roman Standard'. It features a delicate blackbird perched on a 4 metre high pole and is intended as a contrast to the eagle-topped standards traditionally carried into battle by Roman army to symbolise power.  Would you have guessed Tracey Emin? I didn't.

Monday, 25 August 2014


Yorkshire Sculpture Park  No prizes for guessing the creator of this piece at YSP. It's 'One and Other' by Anthony Gormley. He is most famous for 'The Angel of the North' which sits beside the motorway near Gateshead, but he has also created lots of these bronze figures. There is a well-known installation of figures on the beach at Crosby, Merseyside (which I keep meaning to go and see and never have) and he also exhibited some on buildings in London. (Some people phoned the police, thinking they were real people about to jump!)

Sunday, 24 August 2014


Yorkshire Sculpture Park  These majestic sculptures are the work of Ursula Von Rydingsvard, an American artist who has been producing work for the open air since the late 1970s. This is her first large exhibition in Europe and consists of these huge outdoor pieces, plus some equally impressive pieces in the Gallery and a number of smaller works, sketches and memorabilia. Most of her work is made from cedar wood beams 4" square that are cut, meticulously assembled, shaped and coloured. The work - 'Bronze Bowl with Lace' - with the filigree top (photo lower left and also yesterday) is a 6m high bronze cast from a cedar wood piece, made especially for this exhibition. I really liked them all, they looked as if they were growing.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Museum of the Year 2014

Guess where I've been today? Yes, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP), at West Bretton near Wakefield. It has recently been named 'Museum of the Year' by the Art Fund. I feel so lucky to live within easy travelling distance of this wonderful place. It is a magnificent landscape to enjoy and discovering all the amazing pieces of sculpture dotted around the place makes for a great day out.

There are several photos to come from this latest trip, but please also click the YSP label below to see a previous visit.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Salts Mill at home

A friend brought me some lilies the other day. They are heavily scented, so that now the whole house smells fragrant - just like Salts Mill. (They always have huge vases full of lilies in the 1853 Gallery in the mill. You can even smell them outside when you're walking past!)  The only snag with lilies is the pollen, which stains everything. I generally cut the stamens off when the buds open.

They looked so lovely in the early morning light that I spent a few minutes photographing them before leaving for work. It was a quick snap and an even quicker processing operation on my iPhone apps, but I like the result.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Between the mills

Another quick canter along the canal towpath to stretch my legs during my lunch break... It's always pleasant and some days I just want to carry on walking... blue sky, fluffy clouds, sunshine, not many people about - perfect.  This is a classic view of Saltaire, one I've photographed many times before but I never tire of it. The boat moored in the Visitor moorings was a little cabin cruiser. You don't often see them on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. Most of the boats are traditional narrowboats.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Railings of Remembrance

I nipped up into Shipley town centre in my lunch break and noticed this new artwork on the railings outside Shipley Baptist Church. Entitled 'Railings of Remembrance' (perhaps with an intentional double-meaning?) and created by local artist Katie Jones, it commemorates people with a link to the church who played a part in the First World War. Some are listed on memorial plaques within the church, some are family members of the present congregation. It invites us to read the names and brief details and to remember them. A simple idea but a nice one, in this centenary year of the start of the (not so) Great War.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Oh, what a beautiful morning

Even on my way to work, a morning like this fills me with joy. I love the feeling in the air when it's crisp and fresh and yet the sun is shining with a promise of the warmth to come. Often, early in the morning, the canal surface is very still and mirror-like too. The wind tends to pick up as the day goes on so you don't get the lovely reflections later. This is another quick iPhone snap but the quality is reasonable.

And yes, it's 'that view' again - seen in so many guises on my blog. Click the label for a few more.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Me, myself, I

I took my camera to a family party and managed quite successfully to be behind rather than in front of the lens for most of the time. But then my daughter got hold of it...  However, even I think the result is quite commendable.  I look more or less how I imagine myself to look (if you know what I mean). I'm aiming for the classic casual and pearls combo...

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Past and present

Thwaite Mills wharf, on the Aire & Calder Navigation, would once have a been a noisy, busy, dusty place where raw materials were delivered to the works and the finished products were shipped out. Not much remains. There is a crane and a hut where the 'pennyman' sat; he operated the swing bridge and boatmen used to have to toss him a penny toll to let them through.

Nowadays it is a tranquil spot where narrowboats moor and one feels that the world has slowed down a little, a far cry from those early days.

Saturday, 16 August 2014


There are lots of lovely textures in the old buildings at Thwaite Mills. These would work in black and white too, I feel sure, but I rather like the soft, warm shades of the wood and brickwork.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Garden classroom

Thwaite Mills is used by many school groups as an educational facility. As it is on an island, there is a lot of land around the buildings that meant that some of the millworkers who lived in cottages there could be practically self-sufficient. During WWII food was grown there as part of the 'Dig for Victory' campaign. There are orchards and woodland, wildflower meadows and garden plots, and an air-raid shelter in the herb garden. Nowadays children can learn about Victorian life, WWII, the environment and science, all in one place.

Thursday, 14 August 2014


The Thwaite Mills site not only has the mill buildings but also Thwaite House, a Georgian home built in 1823 that was originally the mill manager's residence. Like many houses of that period it is neatly symmetrical, akin to the houses that children tend to draw. It is a Grade II listed building (like many of the properties in Saltaire) and retains many original features inside too, such as the splendid cooking range, a familiar sight in most family homes right up to my grandparents' generation. The black metal contraption to the right was for roasting joints of meat in front of the fire. I rather liked the vast roll-top desk too, with all those lovely little drawers. Perhaps it was where the wages were calculated and the sales noted, and perhaps the household accounts were carefully drawn up here too.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Putty and powder

Thwaite Mills started out as a fulling mill in the 1640s, a way of pounding woollen cloth to matt the fibres and make it thicker and more waterproof. In the 1820s the site was redeveloped. The two waterwheels that exist today were installed, along with several buildings, a mill manager's house, workshops and cottages. The mill has been used for several purposes including crushing seeds to make lubricants and lighting oil and crushing wood to make dyes. In 1872 it was bought by the Horn family who ran it for over 100 years, at first crushing china stone for the pottery industry, then grinding chalk to make 'whiting', used in many things from pharmaceuticals to whitewash, then finally making putty. It all came to an end in 1975 when the river flooded and the weir collapsed and it was decided it was uneconomic to repair.  Volunteers formed a society to preserve the site and eventually the weir was repaired and the museum opened in 1990, allowing the wheels to turn once more.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014


One of the two huge waterwheels that drove the Thwaite Mills' machinery. Built in the 1820s by Thomas Hewes, they are 'low breast shot' which means the water is delivered to them roughly in line with their central axle (as opposed to being fed under or to the top of the wheel). They have iron frames, eighteen feet in diameter, and elm wood buckets. These wheels still operate and throughout the mill buildings there are elaborate systems of gearwheels, shafts, pulleys and belts, so that you can see and hear the moving parts all around you.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Thwaite Mills

It's rarely pretty but I'm always fascinated by our industrial heritage. Thwaite Mills, on the outskirts of Leeds, has been on my 'must visit' list for a while and I finally managed a trip there. It is one of the last remaining examples of a water-powered mill in Britain. Now managed as a museum by Leeds City Council, it sits on an island between the River Aire and the Aire & Calder Navigation.  The river provides the water to power the machinery and the Navigation (a waterway that goes all the way to the North Sea coast as well as linking in with Britain's canal network) formed an important route for shipping raw materials in and goods out. They used tub boats, trains of tubs towed by a tug, which were called Tom Puddings (perhaps because the buckets when loaded with coal looked like the local sausage known as 'black pudding').

I find it interesting that all the 19th century mills round where I live are built of stone, notably Salts Mill itself. But in Leeds, only about ten miles away, they are nearly all red brick.  I have to confess I find the mellow stone ones more attractive, though there is a certain beauty in all the different tones of the old bricks.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Nature's diamonds

For some reason that escapes my rather non-scientific mind, some plants seem to have more of a propensity to gather up droplets of moisture than others. Lady's mantle (Alchemilla Mollis) is one such. I don't know the name of the shrub pictured above - but it also was covered in little beads of dew that sparkled like diamonds.

Saturday, 9 August 2014


Sometimes, methinks, God works in mysterious ways... I woke up before the crack of dawn yesterday morning, unfathomably early and wide awake. Nothing for it but to get up. I could tell I wasn't going to fall back asleep and I didn't want to start fretting over some imagined impending disaster or flagellating myself over some undone chore that I wouldn't even give brain-space to during the day (that box of videotapes cluttering up the study and I haven't a VHS player to play them on now so should I just throw them away or should I keep them or should I spend ages and a small fortune to get them transferred to DVD so I can fret over the same problem again when I no longer have a DVD player...)  I'm sure you know the kind of thing that assails in the wee small hours..

So I got up - and then there wasn't much else to do but go to work. Luckily I work for the Civilised Service, who have a flexitime system. So I arrived at work a good hour earlier than I usually do, to the surprise of those of my colleagues who are habitual larks.  That meant though (oh joy, on a Friday too) that I could also theoretically go home a good hour earlier than I usually do. In the end I stayed to finish something, but still set off to walk home maybe 30 minutes before I would have done.  And boy, was the sky black... It started thundering and lightning. Then the raindrops started to fall, fat and very, very wet but widely spaced in that strange way that summer storms often have. I put my key in the door just as it started to hammer down - and I mean hammer. Pelting down like stair-rods, as they say round here. Watching the street turn to river, from the safety of an upstairs window, I gloried in the power of the storm - and was eternally grateful for my early morning wake-up that saved me from a soaking.

Friday, 8 August 2014


This is my entry for the July theme - Journey - in my online photo group. I've long wanted to have a go at one of these slow shutter speed shots. I only had my small camera with me last time I went to see my family in London. Nevertheless, time to spare before my train home and this great vantage point on the mezzanine at Kings Cross Station seemed too good an opportunity to miss. I took a few shots; how pleasing they look depends so much on the random positioning of the people standing still and those moving. This one works quite well, I think, because of the virtual semi-circle of people right at the bottom of the frame, which sort of holds the image and sweeps your eye up towards the centre.

The theme for August is 'Frame within a frame' so that's what I'm on the lookout for now.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Take the high road

I turned left down the lane from The Fisherman's pub, to follow a circular walk along the bank of the River Aire back to Saltaire.  It's a path we used to take quite often when we lived in Bingley, years ago, but it seemed rather overgrown in parts so I guess it's not a popular walk nowadays. At one time it was a peaceful valley, but then they decided to build the Bingley bypass on stilts right across it. There was opposition at the time and I well remember a band of eco-warriors setting up 'Rye Loaf Camp' in this area, with tree-houses and tents. The campers were not, on the whole, local people and after several months and a good deal of local opposition, the camp disintegrated. Many residents, especially in Bingley, welcomed the 'relief road' to reduce congestion through the town itself and, by and large, I think it has been a successful development. Measures were taken to protect some valuable marshland and anyway nature is usually quick to re-colonise after a disturbance. You can see (and hear) the road but it seems to me a better option than the congestion that preceded it, although that continues further down the road towards Shipley, where a bypass is not really a viable option.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

The Fisherman's

A few hundred yards further on from Dowley Gap locks, you reach the point where a road crosses the canal on the way up to Gilstead and Eldwick. It's a convenient point to aim for from Saltaire, as it boasts one of the few canalside pubs in the area.  The Fisherman's has always served pretty good food as well as ale, and it has a beer garden and a few tables actually on the canalside (although to get to them you have to cross a small lane that leads to some houses behind the pub).  It's a popular spot on a sunny day.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Dowley Gap locks

Half a mile or so further along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal from the last lock at Hirst Wood (see yesterday), after crossing the aqueduct over the River Aire, I reached this two-rise lock at Dowley Gap just as a narrowboat was leaving the lock. I always enjoy seeing the different boats. In summer many are hire boats (crewed with varying degrees of skill by holidaymakers!) but this one appeared to be privately owned.

Monday, 4 August 2014


If I'd have thought about it in time, I would have posted something about the commemorations of the centenary of the start of the First World War, 4 August 1914.  As it is, this is just a quick PS really. I shall sit with just one candle burning at 10 pm tonight, along with others in this country. I shall be thinking of my great-uncle Edward Marriott, who was killed in the Great War, in his late 20s. Also his brother, my great-uncle Walter, who survived, minus an arm and with a prosthetic for his other hand. He fascinated me and made me laugh when I was a child - but no-one ever spoke to me of the War.  Many of my other relatives were miners and maybe they didn't go to fight. I don't know, but one day I hope I will find out, when I have time to do some proper research.

I will be thinking also of the family who lived in my house at the time. The house was built in 1902 and at first it was owned by landlords who let the property. So I am not sure exactly who lived here at the start of WWI, though the 1911 census lists the tenants as the Marsden family: Robert, his wife Ellen and their two daughters, Ida, who was 16 when war broke out and who worked as a spinner in the mill, and Ellen, who was just eight years old. I wonder if they knew this night that war had been declared? I wonder if they had any idea what was coming? I wonder if they cried themselves to sleep that night? I wonder....

Saltaire History Group is publishing an online diary of events as they would have happened in Saltaire 100 years ago. It starts this Friday on the Saltaire Village website, which can be found here.

Another Sunday stroll

Another Sunday stroll along the canal bank. The stretch from Saltaire to Hirst Lock is always popular with dog walkers, cyclists and families with baby buggies, because it is flat and smooth. The approach to the lock was made more attractive by this painted narrowboat moored there.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

For or against?

Many Saltaire residents are dismayed and disgruntled at the local council's decision to allow Shipley College to demolish greenhouses in their horticultural studies garden to construct a new teaching block, specifically for students with learning difficulties and disabilities. The design has been modified after public consultation - an artist's impression of the building is here - but lots of people still aren't happy. This area is not actually part of the World Heritage Site (or Salt's original village), though where I was standing to take the photo is.

To the left of my photo is Salts Mill, some allotments and Caroline's (the local club, itself a bit of an eyesore, though serving a very worthwhile community purpose). There are concerns that the new build will spoil the views and will be too modern and not in keeping with its surroundings. The architects are a firm based within Saltaire and noted for contemporary eco-builds. They and the planners counter that an obviously modern building, built to sustainable principles, will be better than a 'pastiche' of the older buildings in the area, including the College's Exhibition Building shown in my photo.

The area it will be built on is currently a garden and rather pretty when you get inside it (see here and here) - but it is not open to the public (apart from at festival times as part of the Open Gardens days) nor even very visible, because of the high hedge.

An aerial view of the site (bottom left), taken from the top of Salts Mill chimney

I can see reason on both sides and I'm glad it's not me that has to make those kinds of decisions!

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Random - pink and blue

Walking to work the other day, I noticed a blue car parked close up by a low wall, with three flower heads peeping up through the narrow gap. I thought: 'that looks pretty' and walked on, then suddenly decided it might make a good image so I doubled back and whipped my iPhone out. I get slightly bothered what people will think of me taking pictures (apparently) of someone's car, so I didn't take more than a second to snap it. Sometimes, quick 'snaps' are all the more satisfying for not being overly analysed or pre-meditated.

The plant, I have discovered, is a herb called Valerian, which grows all over the place here as a weed. Its roots are used as a remedy for insomnia, amongst other things.  Perhaps passing this every day explains why I feel ready to fall asleep again as soon as I get to work!

Friday, 1 August 2014

Bolton Priory ruins

Bolton Priory, like so many of England's once proud monasteries, met a sad end as a result of King Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries, when he decided to break from Rome and establish himself as Supreme Head of the Church in England. However, the Augustinian monks were priests with pastoral responsibilities for the surrounding area and because there was no other church they were allowed to keep the western half of the nave of the Priory as a parish church. Most of the rest of the abbey was stripped for its useable stone and the only part left standing is the eastern nave, roofless but with its walls still largely intact. Like so many of our other ruined abbeys, the gothic ruin in a lush, green valley beside the river has a rather romantic appeal.

Although the mellow stone of Bolton Priory is a beautiful honeyed colour, I quite like this mono conversion.