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Saturday, 31 January 2015

The soft shades of winter

A pleasing harmony of soft colours and shapes - trees and flower beds at the entrance to Shipley's Northcliffe park.

Friday, 30 January 2015

A pineapple welcome

Rather lovely ornate iron gates and carved finials like pineapples adorn the entrance to Shipley's Northcliffe Park. Pineapples are apparently a symbol of hospitality and that is why they are often found on gateposts.

Thursday, 29 January 2015


I had a delightful walk on a crisp, cold but reasonably sunny day in nearby Northcliffe park in Shipley.

The park was gifted to the town by a local businessman and MP, Sir H Norman Rae in the 1920s. He bought the land at auction, from the Fifth Earl of Rosse. It consisted of fields and woods around a deep ravine formed by melting ice at the end of the last Ice Age, further eroded by open cast mining for coal in the early 1800s.

Sir Norman Rae had the foresight and generosity to offer it 'as an open space for recreation and benefit of the public, forever.' Nowadays it is a nice mix of a conventional park with a few formal flower beds, children's playgrounds, allotments, sporting facilities - tennis, bowls and football and a large area of natural woodland and meadows, now cultivated as wildflower havens.

It makes a delightful circular walk of an hour or so from my home. If only Sir Norman Rae could have known how his gift blesses me, nearly 100 years after his bequest.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Shampoo madame?

How do you get your car washed? There was a time when everyone seemed to wash them by hand, legions of people out at the weekend with buckets and sponges (or power-washers now, I suppose). Then came those automatic washes with swirly plastic brushes and conveyor belts to pull you through the system, quite terrifying! They seem to have all-but gone out of fashion round here, and now everyone goes to a 'hand-wash' centre like this, where an army of young men rush round with hoses and chamois cloths, spraying, shampooing and mopping. I suspect they are all on minimum-wage zero hours contracts and sometimes I feel I am exploiting them, but I suppose they might be glad of a job of any sort. Qasim's is the one nearest to me, situated in what used to be a petrol station. They do a pretty good job. It's worth it to me at £5 a wash. I don't own a power-washer and life's too short for a bucket, sponge and numerous trips through the house to the kitchen tap and back. Anyway I park my car on a narrow street, so doing anything at the edge of the road is pretty hazardous.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Let there be light

You may recall that back in July last year (here) I reported a plan to fell all the mature trees along Saltaire's Victoria Road. Well, that plan has come to fruition and the sound of chainsaws was heard all last week. They have probably felled about ten trees so far. The orange bollards show where they were. This is the upper section of Victoria Road and they will shortly move down the hill to deal with those in the centre of the village.

They were lovely trees, horse chestnuts and copper beeches, but they had grown way too big for the area in which they were planted. They were not original to the Victorian village, having been planted as recently as the 1950s. But they weren't really the right species for their situation. Their roots have badly damaged the pavements and all those pretty almshouses were getting absolutely no natural light into their little rooms, even in high summer, because of the dense leaf canopy. (I bet they'll all have to redecorate now. They'll be able to see the grime of ages!)

Work will take place to further improve the area, relaying pavements, replacing the street lights with attractive ones more in keeping with the village and planting a few smaller specimen trees in the areas where there is room in the ground (too many services and cables underground in much of the street, I gather.)

Monday, 26 January 2015

Root and branch

Out walking in Northcliffe park, I happened to notice how the shadow of another tree wrapped itself around this one, almost looking like its roots. A rather nice effect, I thought.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

It's a knockout: 4-2

Apologies for the blurry pictures. I wasn't there; these are taken from the TV. They show scenes of jubilation at Chelsea's football stadium at Stamford Bridge. Our local League One side, Bradford City, beat top of the Premier League Chelsea 4-2 in the fourth round of the FA Cup yesterday. 

'Bradford City became the first team ever to put four goals past a [Jose] Mourinho side in a home game, despite being 49 places below Chelsea in England's football pyramid. "I repeat a word I used before this match - it's a disgrace for a big team to lose to a small team from a lower league." said Mourinho, who won the FA Cup during his first spell at Chelsea in 2007. "Frustration is not the right word, embarrassed would be more appropriate." '

It's hard to understate what a win like this means for a smaller club, in sheer joy for the players and fans, many of whom have supported Bradford City through thick and thin for years, and also in terms of publicity and finance. Win or lose, they stood to gain something like £350,000 from the fixture. Now they will have a match in the next round too, possibly with an equally big club.

Critics have said that the big Premier League clubs aren't interested in the FA Cup these days (the real money is in their League performance and in Europe), with the implication that Chelsea and the other big clubs knocked out so far aren't really trying. But I don't think Mourinho and Chelsea would willingly invite the embarrassment they have suffered this weekend. BCFC's website reports that Jose Mourinho personally visited the Bradford team's dressing room after the match and congratulated every player and staff member. That shows class, I think.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Rock-a-bye baby

I was thrilled to see this old coach-built pram outside one of the vintage shops in Saltaire. I can't quite remember the experience but I know I slept in a similar one as a baby. Those were the days of rigid timetables, four-hourly feeds and baby left in a pram at the end of the garden in all weathers! I don't think it did me a lot of harm. In fact, arguably, one of these is cosier and more comfortable than today's modern buggies. Look at the sprung base. As well as the substantial rain hood, you can get huge sunshades for them too, much bigger than those useless little umbrella things you find these days.

The Saltaire Vintage shop (formerly Rose and Brown) on Victoria Road has been through a number of incarnations but it seems to manage to keep on trading, full of all sorts of treasure: clothes, jewellery, textiles, homeware and ephemera. See their Facebook page for lots of pictures of things that (if you're as old as I am) you will almost certainly recognise from your past! Just browsing, I noted a pot that is exactly like one I acquired from somewhere in an earlier life. I use mine as a plant pot holder... turns out to be Hornsea Pottery. Who knew..?

Friday, 23 January 2015

..S'no snow here...

Well, if I expected to see a white and pretty landscape when I opened the curtains I was sadly disappointed. As predicted, the snow that fell overnight did not linger here in the valley (we're only about 80m above sea level). Instead, it was a damp, foggy, grey morning. You can see snow lying on the surrounding hills though, and at even higher altitudes there has been quite a significant snowfall.

The mirror-like canal (hardly a breath of wind to ruffle the water) reflects the old wharves where cargo would once have been unloaded into warehouses. Nowadays there are businesses, a waterside restaurant and a gym, as well as some permanent moorings for canal boats.

The photo is taken from the Victoria Street bridge in Shipley. (Not to be confused with nearby Victoria Road in Saltaire. The dear queen had a lot of places named after her.)  My favourite - 'that view' - is from the same bridge but looking in the opposite direction.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Snow? Let's stay cosy

It's snowing again. We've had a few flurries over the past week or two and there has been more in some hilly areas. Now it seems to have decided to try a bit harder and has been snowing on and off here for hours. It is wet stuff with big flakes but it seems to be settling. I've been tucked up at work so no chance to get out for photos so far. If it does stay a while, I will hope to get out with my camera.

Anita was asking me what our winter weather pattern is. The answer is that there isn't one, at least not a predictable one. Some years we get quite a lot of snow (by our standards - which is really not much compared with the US or Scandinavia or Russia). But it rarely stays more than a couple of weeks continuously. Last year we had no snow at all in this part of the country, but lots of rain instead. Two winters ago we had an unusually long, snowy spell at about this time of year. The pattern this winter has been rain and gales for a few days followed by dismal, grey, quiet spells and then rain and gales again. There have been very few cold, crisp, sunny days. It all depends what the jet stream is doing across the Atlantic, where it is sitting and what weather it pulls in. I've known snow in November and snow in April but that would be unusual, it's more likely in January/February. In a way, it's quite interesting never knowing what's going to happen but it does mean we are often unprepared and it's hard to plan anything with any degree of certainty.

Anyway, lack of snow pictures means I'm showing this cosy night shot of the bar in Saltaire called 'Don't tell Titus'. (Titus Salt didn't allow pubs and bars in his village!) Since Christmas when I took this, it has closed temporarily for refurbishment and redecoration. So it may or may not look the same when it opens again in a few weeks. I always think it looks inviting and warm at night. Just the place to seek refuge if you get caught in a snow shower.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

No more wet feet

This is part of my regular lunch-break walk, along the canal towpath between the mills. For a long time now there has been one stretch of the path that floods right across after heavy rain. (A frequent occurrence here, of course!) One has the choice of: a hazardous balancing act along the edge of the stone sill next to the canal, undignified skeetering along the other edge whilst hanging on to the railings or simply ploughing on regardless, through the deep puddle.

All that has happily come to an end, thanks to a man from the Canal and River Trust in his natty little digger. Workmen have dug a drainage channel along the offending portion and relaid the stone chips. All is dry once more! Hooray!

Tuesday, 20 January 2015


A threatening sky (it started to sleet a few minutes later) and the Half Moon Café in Roberts Park was illuminated by a sudden shaft of winter sunshine. The café is normally open until 4 pm on Saturdays and Sundays in the winter but they must have decided to close early. The usually busy park was rather quiet, just a brave runner and a few dogs walking their people, so I don't suppose they were doing much trade. I find the park is beautiful in all seasons. Even when the wind is howling and sleet is stinging my face, I can enjoy a walk there. It is just far enough from home to make it feel worthwhile. There are plenty of paths, so you can vary the route a bit and there is always something new to see - an explosion of red branches in the shrubberies, a few brave green shoots beginning to poke up from the earth... Good to be out and about; just as good to get back home for a comforting, warming cup of tea and a slice of toasted fruit loaf.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Chocolate and cream

What do you do when it's blowing a gale, freezing cold yet you're determined to get some fresh air, exercise and photos? Answer (if you're me anyway) wrap up warm and take a brisk walk down to Roberts Park to see what's happening. Actually, there wasn't a lot happening... the occasional hardy jogger, dog-walkers who can't make bad weather excuses and lots of water rushing over the weir beside the New Mill. That's always good for a photo... but then it started sleeting so I gave up. An even brisker walk home; the outing certainly 'blew the cobwebs away'. Then there's a fine excuse for some playing with processing, back at home in the cosiness.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Two's company

I rescued these two cuties. They were upside down in a bin in Aldi, looking forlorn. Something about their sweet little faces appealed to me, so they have a new home here. Being from Aldi, they weren't expensive and in fact seem very well made. Just like my granddaughters, one is fair and one is dark-haired. I think my little girls will enjoy playing with them when they visit gran's. It gave me enormous pleasure to realise that I had an excuse to buy two!

I shop at Aldi every other supermarket trip. (Alternating with Asda). Aldi is markedly cheaper for most things but you can't always get everything there and it is a matter of luck sometimes whether they have what you want. On the other hand, if you keep your eyes open and are ready to deviate from your shopping list you can often get a really good deal on random items. I found a jar of cherries in syrup recently that were absolutely over-the-moon delicious. The trouble is, I haven't seen them since. Perhaps as well... they had such sweet syrup it no doubt cancelled any health benefits from the fruit!

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Airedale Mills

Along the canal around Bingley, many of the old mills and canalside warehouses have been converted into residential properties. Most of them look very nice properties, and the advantage of being canalside rather than on the river is a much reduced risk of flooding, as the water is more easily controlled though the sluices. This building is Airedale Mill, at Micklethwaite, once one of the largest suppliers of worsted cloth for army uniforms. Worsted cloth is made from long, fine fibres of wool twisted together and is very hard-wearing.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Taking a swing...

Micklethwaite swing bridge on the Leed-Liverpool Canal near Bingley.
Interestingly, in the canal's working days, this was a picking-up and dropping-off point for the fast passenger packet boat direct to the port of Liverpool - and perhaps the route to emigration to America, for some people. Beside the bridge, just to the left of my shot, is a building that was a warehouse for supplies for local farmers and the adjacent mill. The loading doors, through which cargo was loaded and unloaded from the canal boats, are now bricked up but still visible in its wall.

The fields in the background are being tussled over. Housing development companies want the land for residential development and there is a vigorous campaign of opposition from locals. They have won backing several times from both the local Council and the Secretary of State for Communities but still the developers press ahead, working and reworking their plans to try to overcome the objections, one of which is that the access over the narrow swing bridge is inadequate.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

The lock-keeper's office

This is the top lock gate of Bingley Five Rise locks. Just across on the opposite side is the little office from which the lock-keeper controls the flow of water in the canal, 10 million gallons a day. It's a very complex job which requires a great deal of care, as the system is inherently wasteful of water anyway so they don't want to waste even more. The present lock-keeper, Barry Whitelock, is the longest serving lock-keeper in the country. From the age of eight, he used to watch the previous lock-keeper at work every weekend. He took over the job aged 19, in 1978. I should imagine he knows everything there is to know about locks and the canal. What a pity we can't yet download the contents of someone's brain for posterity!

Wednesday, 14 January 2015


I've blogged about Bingley's historic Five Rise Locks several times in the past - see here and here. It remains a favourite spot for a stroll in the sunshine in any season, though there is of course much more activity to see, both on the water and on the towpath, during the summer months.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Dancing on ice

Sometimes in the long, dark, dull winter months I crave colour as well as a bit of sunshine. All the more reason then to get out on a sunny afternoon and revisit a favourite local place... the Bingley Five Rise Locks. If not exactly a beauty spot (though not unattractive), at least there is always something interesting to see. The boats moored up for the winter are very colourful. This traditional narrowboat 'Alexandra' is a really beautiful craft. When the canal is icy the reflections are static and muted, a bit different from the usual dancing reflections you find in water.

Monday, 12 January 2015


The River Aire flowing through Saltaire's Roberts Park is just... only just... contained within its banks at the moment. This area is almost like a little beach in summer. You can see grasses at the edge of the channel where the river normally flows. There were lots of ducks (mallard) in this area of shallows. Perhaps the water is a little warmer here? Or maybe it suits their dabbling habit to be in a shallow area, out of the rushing currents.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

New adventures

One of my Christmas gifts was a beautiful set of watercolour paints, brushes and paper. Since I received them, it has amused me that I have kept looking at them, handled them, read lots of articles about 'starting with watercolours' on the internet, browsed the art department in Salts Mill and daydreamed - all without ever picking up a brush. The dallying comes from being strongly a reflector/theorist by nature. I haven't used watercolours since I was at primary school and it's a long time since I tried anything remotely artistic (apart from photography, which is a wholly different endeavour). I finally put 'PAINT' on my 'To Do' list, marked DO IT!

Eventually, on New Year's Day, I did it.  Filled up a small jam jar with water, unwrapped all the sweet little pans of colour and tentatively began to paint. It seemed safer to start with abstracts, just to explore how the paint feels and works and how wet-on-wet blends into itself. I learned that: it dries pretty quickly; too little pigment dries looking very pale; the gradual bleeding of colours goes on longer than you might imagine and is hard to control; it's easy to contaminate the little pans with other colours; too much colour mixing results in a brownish tint; the wet-on-wet looked better when I added some wet-on-dry embellishment ... and ... it's fun! Quite quick, too, as a way of producing something vaguely artistic.

I didn't start out with any pre-formed idea of what might result. These ended up looking a bit like slices of fantastic fruit perhaps? As a first attempt I was pretty pleased with it, anyway. I love the colours I achieved and it has encouraged me to keep on making an hour here and there to experiment. I hope I will get bolder and more confident with practise.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Winter afternoon

Salts Mill, Saltaire on a winter's afternoon.

Friday, 9 January 2015

From small beginnings...

It doesn't look much, does it? But this is the beginnings of a rather lovely venture up by Hirst Lock, about half a mile out of Saltaire.

Hirst Wood Regeneration Group is a community group, founded in 2000 and based in the small, nearby estate of Hirst Wood. They have over the years had a major impact in the community, founding among other things a community orchard, getting a new children's playground built and planting a community garden around Hirst Lock (seen in the background of my photo) on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal.

They've now been successful in getting approval and some initial funding to develop a small nature reserve adjacent to the canal and community garden, on a boggy field which has until now been unused and rather scruffy. They have already made huge progress in clearing the site (all done by volunteers) and have built walls and a seating area. It looks as though one part will become a dipping pond; such fun for kids to see what squiggly little creatures they can dredge up in nets.

In their own words: 'Our plan is to turn an untidy piece of bogland into a nature reserve that will be a haven for wildlife, a delight for visitors and an outdoor classroom for youngsters. It's an ambitious project but we believe that with our enthusiasm and hard work it will be a success.'

It's wonderful that people have the vision and drive for such things. It will be great when it's finished and, being so close to the canal and the ancient woodland of Hirst Wood itself, I'm sure it will attract lots of birds and other wildlife.

Thursday, 8 January 2015


I hope you don't mind a 'boast post' .... I was really thrilled to get home on Christmas Eve and find this book delivered through the letterbox. Some time ago I was contacted by an editor at Cambridge University Press for permission to use one of my photos as a book cover - and here it is! Apparently the author spotted the picture on the internet, traced it to my blog and wanted to use it. The power of Google, eh? I'd like to say I'll read the book but I doubt I have the staying power really. However, I hope it does well for the author and publisher, in what is presumably quite a specialist field. I never take photos with any other thought than the joy of the moment and sometimes the suitability for this blog - but it is always a delight when other people like my pictures, and a double joy when they are useful to someone.

This is my second book cover. I begin to wonder if there is a possible avenue after retirement....? I'd never really given book covers much thought until recently, and then someone came to my camera club and gave a talk, during which they mentioned that they quite frequently sell their work to publishers.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Saltaire Canteen

Saltaire Canteen opened at the end of November, in premises on the corner of Victoria Road and Caroline Street formerly occupied by Vicar's Café. The area's first 'pay as you feel' café, it has been developed by the Shipley Food Project, a faith-based organisation that aims to reduce food waste and poverty through social action and education. It is the brainchild of Duncan Milwain and is solidly supported by my own church, St Peter's, Shipley, along with other sponsors. The café itself is inspired by the 'Real Junk Food' café in Armley, Leeds.

Paid staff and a team of volunteers create and serve appetising and nutritious menus using food that would usually be thrown away: that is, food approaching its use by/sell by date or that has been rejected by supermarkets but that is perfectly fit to eat. The food is donated by local market traders and other food producers and would otherwise have been sent to landfill.

There is no price list. Customers are given an envelope and are asked to pay, anonymously, whatever they feel their meal is worth or whatever they can afford (which may be nothing). They can also pay for their food by volunteering some time at the café. The idea is not only to combat the shocking amount of food that is currently wasted (15 million tonnes a year in the UK alone and a third of food production globally) but also to offer help, without judgment, to people who may be struggling financially. All are welcome; it's a warm and friendly place with a real community feel and the reviews so far are excellent.

Follow them on Facebook. Better still, call in for a meal if you're local. Opening hours are Monday and Friday 9.30 - 15.30 and Saturday 10.30 - 16.30.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015


Tête-à-tête is the name of these pretty miniature narcissi. (It took me a while to figure out all those accents, my keyboard doesn't speak French very well!) A friend gave me the planted bulbs as a Christmas gift and they have flowered quickly in my cosy little house. They will be short-lived but they do bring a welcome hint of spring to these dark, cold days. I spent a happy few minutes with my iPhone and some apps to add some texture to the image. It looks a bit painterly. My daughter bought me a set of watercolours for Christmas... I wonder if I could actually paint this?

Monday, 5 January 2015

Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night in the UK is traditionally the time to take down your Christmas decorations; if you leave them longer it is supposed to bring bad luck. The trouble is that no-one seems able to agree whether it is the 5th or 6th January (or even some other date altogether!) Personally I usually take mine down earlier, suddenly wanting a return to 'normal'.

In the Christian church the celebration of Twelfth Night is Epiphany, the time when the three wise men were supposed to have visited the infant Jesus.

It also relates to celebrations in medieval and Tudor times (which may in turn date back to Roman customs) to mark the end of the winter festival. A cake with a bean inside was eaten. Whoever got the bean became the Lord of Misrule for the night, presiding over the feast amid much merriment.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Paying homage

Another of my resolutions is to take even more walks. It won't be too difficult as I already walk a fair bit. I walk to work every weekday for a start but I tend to be a fair-weather leisure walker. New Year's Day was mild, windy and threatening rain but I made the effort to go out for an hour or so. I took a route that is becoming my tradition for New Year (and many other times when I want an easy walk) along the canal and back along the riverbank. It felt like a good start to the new year, saying hello to my 'patch' and paying homage to this lovely area. It was dull, muddy underfoot and not a day for taking photos really, but I liked the swan posed in front of the church. I tried to get a close-up of the bird but it suddenly became camera-shy (as they always do when I'm around!) and buried its head under its wing, so that put paid to that idea. Never mind, I enjoyed the fresh air - and just got back home before the downpour.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

New Year resolution?

I will make this one of my resolutions for this year. I made a good start by buying a couple of books in my local store.

Friday, 2 January 2015


Theme for December for my online photography club was (not surprisingly) 'Celebration'. Sounds easy? It seemed to need a people picture - but given that I don't much like photographing people, that for me isn't as simple as it might be. I'd hoped to find a brass band playing carols somewhere... but I didn't. I did have two carol singers at my door but they don't seem to actually sing carols these days .. just 'We wish you a merry Christmas' - and they weren't festively dressed so that didn't appeal as a subject.

Never mind, thought I, there'll be plenty of opportunity and celebration on Christmas Day with the family - and perhaps there was - but with so much going on, wrapping paper everywhere, low light levels and a distinct lack of uncluttered backgrounds it was an uphill struggle to get a decent picture. Later in the afternoon, after we'd enjoyed our festive meal, things calmed down a bit and I thought that my chance was coming... Then my three year old granddaughter suddenly decided she didn't want any clothes on! We eventually persuaded her to keep her T-shirt on - and to pose looking at the Christmas tree with her mummy. Some cropping and an added 'bokeh' layer is enough to preserve her modesty!

Thursday, 1 January 2015

The Hop

There will probably be some sore heads this morning after an evening spent here. (Not me, I hasten to add! I'm strictly teetotal these days as I take medication to prevent migraines that, if mixed with the tiniest amount of alcohol, gives me a mega-hangover.)

Since the dangerous roundabout at the top of Saltaire Road was turned into a traffic light controlled junction, this area has been much improved with the addition of trees and atmospheric lighting.

The building used to be a tramshed, the terminus of a service from Bradford to Saltaire. Trams apparently ran from 1902 to 1939 and since then the building has had a variety of uses, most recently being a bar/restaurant called The Old Tramshed (not surprisingly). That has recently been taken over by Ossett Brewery as part of their small chain of successful 'Hops'. It's been refurbished and will continue as a bar, restaurant and live music and dance venue.