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Thursday, 30 April 2015

Of man and nature

There is lots to relish on my morning 'commute' to work. Walking is so much less stressful than any other means of getting there and I am fortunate that it is a manageable distance from home to work. I often enjoy the mix of nature and man-made elements in this urban environment. The trees in autumn always provide some colour but in the early sunshine this week I was struck by this sycamore tree (at least, I think its a sycamore), bursting with spring colour from its bright green blossom (not leaves yet). It looked amazing against the pretty blue sky and the old stonework.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

A week...

Exactly (and only) a week between these two photos.... What a difference a week makes!

Suddenly spring is here and the whole world is bursting forth in new, sharp colours. There's blossom everywhere, ducklings and goslings on the waterways, even bluebells in the woods.

It seemed to go from winter to spring in days. The sun is higher and much stronger and begins to hold some warmth in the sheltered spots some days. Then other days it feels like winter again. We had frost, rain and even some snow momentarily yesterday! Typically changeable April.

I love spring and yet I wish nature would unfold her pretty blossoms a little slower so that I could really savour it....

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

City of Bradford Pipe Band

The St George's Day Parade through Saltaire was led by the City of Bradford Pipe Band. Originally formed in 1914 as a drum and bugle band by the Bradford Volunteer Force, they added bagpipes in 1917. The band adopted full highland uniform (kilts) in the 1920s and eventually became a fully equipped highland pipe band, adding a group of highland dancers to their number in the 1940s. Both the band and the dancers have been very successful over the years in winning competitions organised by the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association and they won the All-England Championship three times.

Judging from their performance in Saltaire, they are re-establishing a high standard and are keen to recruit new members. Bagpipes and drums are certainly not the easiest instruments to learn but must be very satisfying to master. I do love the sound of them (outdoors at least) and I really enjoyed watching the parade. The band and dancers take on various civic and community engagements. Long may they continue!

Monday, 27 April 2015

St George's Day parade

Out for a walk on Sunday, I just happened to be passing Saltaire URC when the annual St George's Day parade was taking place. Uniformed groups (Scouts, Guides, Cubs, Brownies, Sea Cadets) from across the Shipley district paraded down through Saltaire to have a service in the church. Many of the uniformed groups have links to our local churches.

For once, it was a sunny day for them - much better, in fact, than the weather forecast had promised, though I still find the breeze is very cold. St George's Day in April often means April showers. I'm sure they were glad to stay dry this time.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Britain from the Air

To Leeds to meet my sister for lunch.... Outside the City Art Gallery, until 7 May, there is a large display of photos of various locations in the UK, taken from the air. 'Britain from the Air' is a touring exhibition created by the Royal Geographical Society, in conjunction with various sponsors. A few of the images can be seen on the website.  The aerial viewpoint offers a very different perspective on things from that which we usually see. From field patterns to tents at Glastonbury, famous landmarks to day-to-day activities like markets, from our cities and villages to the wildest landscapes - there is a photo there to interest everyone. It made me realise that, for its size, Britain must have some of the most diverse geography on earth. It also made me long to travel more, knowing that there is still so much for me to explore of these islands, without having to travel to exotic locations.

Saturday, 25 April 2015


A picture of nothing, in a way, just the corner of a car park beside some apartments. I am, however, trying to train myself to be more aware of shape and composition and I found something pleasing in this. Does anyone agree?

Friday, 24 April 2015

Magic beans

Conversazione 4: For the price of a few magic beans (£1 a bag!) you could buy yourself a story from a red-hatted storyteller, assuming you could find one in the warren of rooms that make up the Victoria Hall. I was lucky enough to discover them all in one place, having a photo taken in the lobby, so they gave me their best smiles. The storytelling activity was inspired by Settle Stories, a charity set up in the Dales 'to promote the power of storytelling for individuals, communities and organisations'. It is a wonderful way to preserve our oral history, helping people learn through diverse stories originating from individuals and different groups in our communities but often containing universal truths.

Thursday, 23 April 2015


Conversazione 3: At the other end of the technological scale, but no less astonishing to me, was an exhibit showing lace-making, a craft practiced by women through the ages. It was a traditional skill that became associated with boatwomen: the wives, mothers, sisters and daughters of the men who worked on the cargo boats on our canal and waterways. Many of the boats were decorated with lace inside, as well as the colourful painted 'brightwork' and some of the towing horses apparently even had lace ear 'hats' to protect them from bothersome flies. The lace-making tradition is continued by some and was shown as part of an extensive exhibit about the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, which included a visit from the restored barge 'Kennet', moored down by the park. The coloured threads (top photo) are used to help people to learn, so they don't get their bobbins in the wrong order!

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

3D printing

Conversazione 2: One of the most enthralling exhibits in the Saltaire Conversazione was this 'Maker Bot' - a 3D printing machine. I have, of course, heard about these but it's the first time I have ever seen one. It melts plastic and then extrudes it through a print head as a very fine thread, which it then builds up, layer upon layer, into an object. In this case it was making a nut and bolt, which fitted together perfectly and could easily be screwed and unscrewed. There were also little chains and a circular 'bracelet' that it had made. What surprised me was the intricacy of the layered plastic; it actually looked quite attractive with a sort of textured surface. Of course, these things are as yet in their infancy but I can imagine this may in future be as commonplace as all our other gadgets. The possibilities seem quite exciting.

It left me reflecting how the changes seen by, for example, my grandparents are matched if not surpassed by the developments I have seen in my lifetime. I can vividly recall my father (who was a telephone engineer) talking about the far-off future when we might be able to see each other as well as talk to one another on the phone. Fast-forward relatively few years really and I regularly have 'Facetime' calls with my daughter and granddaughters. Frankly, it still amazes me that I can also see, almost instantly, photos and videos of what they are doing at that moment hundreds of miles away.

Perhaps THE most astonishing photo (and I am sure my grandmother would sit up in her grave if she knew!) was the one I received last year from my daughter showing her 20 week scan. Imagine that... a photo of a tiny foetus (upturned nose and miniature hand, waving and readily visible) still well tucked up inside her mum, in a hospital in London, beamed direct to Gran in Yorkshire within minutes! I still can't quite grasp that, it seems little short of miraculous.

Monday, 20 April 2015


I'm getting a lot of pleasure from having vases of flowers around the house at the moment. It seems a simple, inexpensive way to add beauty to life, as well as holding the anticipation of warmer and more colourful days to come. Cut tulips don't last long but I do love their vibrant colours and elegant shapes. I don't have a black wall to show them off against (!) But the TV screen, with a bit of judicious cloning in the corners, provides a useful backdrop.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Spring comes to Saltaire

A few sunny days have seen the apple blossom bursting into bloom and a definite feel of Spring in the air. Though I am still finding it quite cold and have not yet shed my padded jacket, others apparently disagree. There were many folk enjoying the sunshine in Roberts Park, clad only in shorts and T shirts.

Salts Mill chimney has developed a strange, white, powdery look to its stonework after a longish spell of dry weather. It must have to do with the type of pointing they used when the chimney was repaired a few years ago. I don't think it has really improved its looks. Though it's quite probable that a bit of repointing wouldn't improve my looks either, at this stage...

Saturday, 18 April 2015


One of the reasons I like living in this part of Yorkshire is that the majority of the old houses are built of stone rather than brick. Those that have been stone-cleaned are a mellow honey colour. Others are still sooty black. But they have character. I'd like to know how old this little row of cottages is. They look like good, solid homes, plain and unpretentious. I'd like to bet they are at least as old as Saltaire and perhaps even older... early 19th century? Though they have quite a villagey feel about them, they are actually very near to the centre of Shipley, just along the road from the big Asda supermarket. Convenient, but not quite as picturesque a location as you might imagine from the photo. I could have obliterated the TV aerials but I chose not to. Plastic drainpipes, UPVC windows... but the end one has been very sympathetically treated, I think.

Friday, 17 April 2015

The Lion, the Witch...

... but no wardrobe.

I'm not generally someone who 'sees' animals in clouds or faces on vegetables, and I certainly wouldn't keep a piece of toast for eternity, even if I suspected it showed an image of the blessed Virgin Mary.  Such a tendency is apparently called Pareidolia: the psychological phenomenon whereby a vague and random stimulus (usually an image or a sound) is perceived as significant.

That didn't stop me suddenly seeing a lion and a witch on a concrete wall in Shipley!

Thursday, 16 April 2015


The weather is getting better (slowly!). Though it's still pretty cold, especially first thing in the morning, we've had some dry, sunny days of late. It was enough to entice me out again on a lunchtime walk, anyway, and the canal towpath has dried out a bit so a stroll up to Saltaire and back made a nice break from desk-work. The sculpture is a slug and a salt-pot... one of the quirky artworks that make up the Aire Sculpture Trail. I've been feeling a bit sluggish lately so it's good to get some exercise.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

More blossom

More pink blossom, this time in Saltaire. It's so pretty, so frothy looking but it soon gets dashed by the wind and we have quite a strong wind at the moment.

By the way, if anyone is nearby this coming weekend, it is Saltaire's World Heritage Celebration weekend, now an annual event but with a different 'spin' each time. This year sees the return of the Saltaire Conversazione, a concept popular in Victorian times, introduced to Saltaire in 1878 and that continued here until 1964. The original idea was an event where science, art, culture, innovation, technology and entertainment mingled, a place where people could go to enjoy themselves, talk and engage with ideas - read here for more about that. And here for a full programme of events.

Hopefully there will be lots blossoming this weekend....

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

A shimmer of pink

We still have bare trees, with just the faintest hint of a green haze. A single blossom tree beginning to unfurl its buds provides a splash of colour in Bradford's Lister Park.

Monday, 13 April 2015

An eye on the clock

Bradford City Hall is shrouded in scaffolding and plastic sheeting for some renovation work to the imposing Victorian facade. The clock tower, which still rings a peal of bells every quarter hour, rises from the midst as if trying to free itself and escape heavenwards. The ferris wheel or 'Bradford Eye' is a temporary addition, until 19 April, so that you can get a bird's eye view over the city. It would be interesting on a better day but the rain and the open gondolas meant that there was little point in taking a ride when I was there.  The local paper is showing some photos taken from the wheel, here.

Sunday, 12 April 2015


Not a bad view from the front of the Media Museum either, even though Bradford these days (and particularly in the rain) is far from being the most beautiful of cities. It must have been much more imposing in its glory years, late Victorian and Edwardian times. The most lovely buildings date from then, including the fabulous City Hall, designed by Saltaire's architects Lockwood and Mawson and opened in 1873. You can see its ornate clock tower, top right. They pulled many Victorian buildings down in the 1960s and 1970s to build ugly, modernist, concrete buildings, many of which have also since been replaced, though not necessarily by architectural masterpieces.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Rainy day pattern

Rainy days and bank holidays (combined) always get me down.. so at Easter I took myself off to the Media Museum in Bradford to see an excellent exhibition: 'Drawn by Light', showcasing the archive of the Royal Photographic Society. See here for a review, if you're interested. It's fascinating to see the equipment photographers used in the early years and the quality of softness and grain in some of the early prints is beautiful. Quite different from what we're used to seeing today. The exhibition is well-curated and shows early photographs juxtaposed with more recent work from some renowned photographers like Martin Parr and Don McCullin, which in itself is thought-provoking.

A glimpse through a rainy window out of the back of the Museum provided quite an interesting pattern of lines.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Kirby Lonsdale

I didn't have much time to explore but the little market town of Kirby Lonsdale retains a pleasant, unspoilt feel. It developed at a crossing point over the River Lune and was at one time a busy and bustling place, full of drovers, packhorse carriers and farmers. Its weekly market and shops have always attracted people from a wide area and there used to be an annual fair every September. At one time it was reputed to have 29 alehouses to cater for all the thirsty visitors. Nowadays there are reminders of its history in place names - Cockpit Hill, Salt Pie Lane, Swinemarket, Jingling Lane - and the attractive mix of 17th and 18th century buildings and cottages. 

Thursday, 9 April 2015

A churchyard in spring

Turning left at the top of the Radical Steps, a short stroll brings you into the churchyard of Kirby Lonsdale's parish church, St Mary's. I imagine it must be at its prettiest right now in early spring, with random sweeps of daffodils and crocuses among the gravestones.

The church (which I didn't have time to explore inside) has Norman origins, evidenced by the rounded arches. This doorway in the base of the tower appears to be Norman but has been subjected to some (not particularly sympathetic) restoration at some point. I really like the variety of colours in the stonework.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Turner inspired!

Talking of Turner and how he was inspired to paint the view over the Lune valley, I thought I'd have a play with my original photo (shown yesterday). There is an excellent iPhone app called 'Waterlogue' that gives instant and often very pleasing conversions of photos to a watercolour effect. Combining that with a bit of extra work in Photoshop to overlay some bits of 'ink' outlines resulted in the above image. Quite pleasing, I thought, in its own way...  though I'd only be proud of it if I had actually painted it for real! If Hockney can use an iPad, then surely a bit of experimenting with filters is allowable fun and can be construed as a sort of artistry. It keeps me happy anyway!

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Radical steps to a famous view

After following the riverside walk from Devil's Bridge along the banks of the Lune for about 3/4 of a mile, you reach a steep flight of 86 steps, known curiously as the Radical Steps. I had to look that up to see why...  Apparently in 1820, a Dr Pearson obtained an Order allowing him to divert a public footpath that ran through his garden. There was much local opposition to this, and the steps that replaced the footpath became known as the Radical Steps because of Dr Pearson's strongly held Radical (liberal) political views.

A little to the right at the top of the steps, this lovely view opens out. Sketched and painted by Turner in 1822 (see here and here), it was described by John Ruskin in 1875 as 'one of the loveliest [views] in England, therefore the world'. That may be exaggerating somewhat but it is certainly a pleasant vista of river, meadows, ancient woodlands and rolling hills.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Devil's Bridge

It hardly feels like a year ago since I was at this spot before, but it is. You may remember my photos of the two bridges at Kirby Lonsdale. The older bridge in the foreground is known as Devil's Bridge. It's a convenient stopping off point on the journey from Saltaire to Cumbria, with a refreshment van should you be in need of a cup of tea and a bacon sandwich. The weather, which had been dull and drizzly, perked up a little so I decided I'd stretch my legs and follow a short walk along the riverside that had been recommended by a friend.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Dreaming of spring

I've taken several photos at this spot before. It's an old mill pond up in Shipley Glen. It's in quite a shady spot and it's one of those places that always promises more photographically than it actually seems to deliver, if you know what I mean. I live in hope - and playing around with the reflections of trees on the water produced quite a pretty, soft image.

Happy Easter to all who celebrate it, happy Sunday to those who don't.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Another Tour

I quite liked the juxtaposition of all these elements. The cyclist picture is actually part of the advertising outside an independent bike shop in Shipley. Ellis Briggs Cycles has traded in the town since 1936. They sell new bikes and offer repair and customising services as well as selling accessories. Along with All Terrain Cycles in Salts Mill, cyclists around here are pretty well catered for and I noticed a new Community Cycle Workshop is about to open in the town too.

Following the success of the Tour de France Grand Départ last year, the Tour de Yorkshire will take place over three days 1-3 May across much of Yorkshire. It includes a stage all around this area, from Wakefield to Leeds, on Sunday 3. Hopefully I can get to see some of it again.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Good Friday

Almost forgot that I have been keeping this aside to post today, Good Friday. It's one of the bas-relief pieces that make up the Stations of the Cross in St Wilfrid's Church, Harrogate. The artist was Frances Darlington (1880-1939).

Thursday, 2 April 2015

New build

Another controversial development is rapidly rising up in the centre of Saltaire. It is the extension to Shipley College, a purpose-built teaching block for students with learning difficulties and disabilities. At the moment it does seem a bit overwhelming. When the scaffold is down and the building rendered and finished it will, I'm sure, look good. I guess everyone will get used to it after a time. The village is not an historic monument to be preserved in aspic but a living and developing community. The College is a vital part of the equation and, occupying as it does some of the most significant of the historic Victorian buildings, it plays a crucial role in maintaining them in good order. Not to mention the value of people coming in everyday to study and work in the village. Nor its role in collecting, documenting, storing and displaying the important papers, photos and memorabilia that make up the Saltaire Archive.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015


Mrs Mallard didn't flinch when I stopped close beside her with my camera.  She looked as if she was patiently waiting for something... Spring perhaps?