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Monday, 29 February 2016

Wool city

Since we've moved to our temporary office, I am missing my lunchtime walks around the beautiful World Heritage Site on my doorstep. Nevertheless, I have taken advantage of some bright, sunny days and I'm enjoying exploring a part of the city of Bradford that I don't really know. At one time, clearly, it was an area of textile mills and Victorian terraced housing like most of the city was between 50 and 150 years ago. Many of the old stone-built mills and most of the houses have been cleared from the area that borders the city centre to the south.  My new office is in the middle of a mixed industrial estate, full of modern prefab units with some older buildings in amongst. I was quite surprised to see that one of the remaining mills is apparently still operating as a woollen mill. I didn't realise there were any left! These bundles of wool lying in the yard evoke a certain nostalgia for the city's heyday. (I decided they deserved the vintage treatment.) Apart from the forklift truck shifting the bales, it's a scene that has changed little, in a city that has changed a lot.

Sunday, 28 February 2016


There was a pretty, late afternoon sky the other day, complete with a rainbow which seemed to hover over the tower of St Paul's Church. The congregation must being doing something right to be so blessed!

Saturday, 27 February 2016


I seem to be noticing these pampas grass plants everywhere just lately and I've decided I like them. Or, at least, that they make an interesting photo. I like the juxtaposition of the textures and shapes of the feathery fronds, the wood fence and the metal work here.

I am following some tutorials on the internet by Kim Klassen and learning how to use pre-sets and textures, so here I have applied one of her pre-sets, just to try it. I decided I quite liked the bleached effect. The tutorials are helpful, though being deaf I can't always hear the voice-over on the videos so I am only getting half the learning I could do. Sigh, that's life....

Thursday, 25 February 2016


I spent some time looking after my youngest granddaughter at the weekend. It's amazing to see how much she has progressed in the four weeks since I last posted a photo of her (here). She had just learned to walk back in January and was still a little unsteady on her feet. In just a month she's become a confident and competent toddler, lovely to see. She did so much running around that she fell asleep in the car on the way home.

We went again to Eureka, the children's museum, as there is always something to explore there. We both had our hands stamped with a little cartoon cat, to indicate we'd paid entry. You can maybe see the smudge on the back of her hand. She was delighted with the picture and every few minutes she would stop, look at it, point to her hand and then to my hand and sign the sign for "cat" (hands to sides of mouth and pull outwards to indicate whiskers). So sweet. I love that although she doesn't really say proper words yet you can often understand what she wants or is paying attention to, as she is able to sign. She has been learning to sign at Tiny Talk baby signing classes.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

The joy of commuting!

Since Christmas until very recently, I have been working from home, as my workplace was badly flooded on Boxing Day and has yet to reopen. Working from home has many positives. I am used to it anyway as for many years I worked freelance. I already have a comfortable, well equipped office in my home so I have not been trying to work from the kitchen table like some of my workmates. It's quiet and I can really crack on without any interruptions but on the downside, sometimes it's nice to be interrupted and I have missed seeing my colleagues and enjoying the usual banter of an office environment.  A once-a-week meeting hardly compensates for the lack of stimulation and the absence of people to toss ideas around with. However, it has worked fine for me. We are now being temporarily rehoused in an office near the city centre, giving me a hour's bus commute morning and night.  I usually have a short, pleasant walk to my usual office - and walking upstairs to work has been even nicer, especially when the sun shines!

Tuesday, 23 February 2016


Up the hill at the top end of Rodley reserve, there is a small area of woodland known as 'the manager's garden'. There's a hide up there and an array of bird feeders so it's a good place to observe the smaller birds - I saw chaffinches, goldfinches, a variety of members of the tit family, sparrows, robins, blackbirds, thrushes and even a woodpecker. There was also a little brown rat darting out and picking up the seeds that had dropped on the ground.  The floods did not reach this part of the reserve and there were plenty of the distinctive, spiky seedheads of teasel left. Goldfinches love them.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Mud, muck and spring greens

Some of the hawthorn in the hedgerows is bursting out in green leaves already... rather too early. I wonder what effect it will have for the rest of the year? Spring will either be a very long season or will be over in a flash and all too soon, before I have really been able to appreciate it!

Despite the signs of spring, underfoot the paths are just claggy mud. The farmer was hard at work muck-spreading - a messy and very 'fragrant' task. But even the tractor was finding the mud a bit difficult to navigate.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Looking up

Such a glorious blue sky, so welcome after the long months of rain and grey cloud. The new shoots on the willows are a wonderful soft apricot colour, a pretty contrast against the blue. There are planes constantly flying over this part of Leeds on the flight path to the local airport. Spot the little contrail?

Of course, white blossom always looks gorgeous against blue sky too. There can't be many of us photographers who haven't snapped a few pictures like this:

Since I took these, we've gone back to grey skies, rain and wind. :(

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Winter white and spring white

You might expect to see snowdrops sometime in February and there were some pretty clusters around Rodley reserve. We would not expect to see blossom quite yet - but there is plenty of that too. At first I thought it was blackthorn but I couldn't see any thorns so I now think it was probably prunus cerasifera, a type of cherry plum with five-petalled flowers that is one of the first to bloom in spring. Blossom is always so pretty against a blue sky. I can't believe there are many insects about yet to pollinate the flowers, so that might have an impact later in the year.

The low building in the photo is the nature reserve's shop and café, a delightful spot to rest after walking and bird-watching. It is run by volunteers and serves excellent tea (and no doubt good coffee too, though I didn't try that) and wonderful home-made cakes. It also sells a good selection of bird feeders, seed and fat-balls - all much cheaper than the equivalent in garden centres.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Swan lake

There were more birds around than it appears. I discovered many years ago that often you think there is very little there but then, quietly sitting in a hide, you begin to 'get your eye in' and uncover many more species. Nature reserves usually have a chalkboard somewhere where people list what they have spotted, which can help you to know where to look. It seems that at Rodley there has been a bittern in the reedbeds but I didn't hear it - and they are secretive birds, notoriously difficult to see. Geese, ducks and swans are much more obvious and I still love watching the graceful mute swans.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Fancy a walk?

Well, I did, as it was such a lovely morning - warm and spring-like, despite being only half way through February. We've been here before, though you may not remember it. Just off the Leeds ring road, right in the middle of an urban area, it is Rodley Nature Reserve, a managed wetland in the flood plain of the River Aire. From the road, a track passes over a swingbridge on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal and then a metal bridge (above) passes over the river into the Reserve.

There's evidence here too, of course, of the devastating Boxing Day floods. The river banks all along the Aire valley are festooned with plastic and rubbish hanging from the trees and bushes, showing how high the water levels rose. There are many 'clean-up' events being organised by volunteers to help restore the waterway, both to make it look better but also to make it safe again for wildlife. The Reserve was badly flooded to a depth of four feet in places (see here for a description) and although it is 'nature' and nature will heal itself, it may cause some wildlife populations to suffer. The winter seed crop for birds was swept away, some of the reedbeds, ponds and hedges were badly damaged and it may have caused harm to invertebrates and rodents: harvest mice in particular. Rather a shame as the wetland, which has been open for about 15 years, had really matured into a lovely and rich habitat.

The birds, of course, many of them migratory, have settled back down, though the best views come earlier in the morning before there are so many people about. I did enjoy seeing this pair of goosanders on the river. Which reminds me... I must finally buy a telephoto lens this year!!

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Fiery Fred

This statue of the cricketer, Fred Trueman (1931-2006), by the sculptor Graham Ibbeson, stands (somewhat incongruously I feel) in Skipton's canal basin. 'Fiery Fred', a fast bowler who played for Yorkshire and England in the 50s and 60s, was the first cricketer to take more than 300 wickets in test matches, so the statue aptly depicts him in the act of bowling. Yorkshire born and bred and living in the county for most of his life, he epitomised the blunt Yorkshireman - outspoken, curmudgeonly and yet often humorous. When his active cricketing career ceased, he became a summariser on Test Match Special on BBC radio, with the catchphrase: 'I don't know what's going off out there'.  He was a committed pipe smoker and died of lung cancer in 2006. He is buried in the graveyard at Bolton Abbey.

The statue is a powerful work but I have found it almost impossible to photograph well. I've tried many times but somehow the light rarely seems to strike it kindly.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Blacksmith ahoy!

Here's something I've never seen before... A forge on a boat. I got chatting to the artist-blacksmith, Brian Greaves. He himself built the canal tug, Bronte, which houses his forge. He creates small decorative pieces of ironwork: fire tools, sculptures, hooks and suchlike, inspired by nature and the beauty of the surroundings he travels through every day. He and his family have lived on a narrowboat for 26 years and, now their children are grown, Brian and his wife cruise all over the canal network, demonstrating his craft.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Jill, Bill and Jack

The little hire boats in the canal basin in Skipton all have nice, short, snappy names. I guess that makes sign-painting a lot easier. At least one of them is called after a blogger that I know...

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Sunny Skipton

I had to make a trip to Skipton to visit the optician. Bad news for my wallet! My eyes seem to have changed a lot in the last two years and I have to admit that things are getting a little hazy, so hopefully new glasses will improve matters. Being deaf, my eyesight is very important and precious. I have a complicated prescription so I need to take care of myself and make the investment in good lenses. They will take about two weeks to be made so I will have a repeat visit soon.

I always enjoy a wander round the town and the sun made a brief, welcome appearance late in the afternoon. This bridge is the historic Coach Street Bridge that crosses the Springs Branch Canal where it joins the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. In the background you can see the tower of the parish church, Holy Trinity.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Imagine... create... dream... become...

Spotted in a dusty window in Hebden Bridge, this seems a particularly 'Hebden' sentiment. The town has for many, many years been a magnet for creative types, with a strong streak of non-conformist, bohemian - even eccentric - creativity and a rather 'new age' vibe. It all adds to its charm, individuality and strong community focus.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Double the roses

A gift of flowers brings me double pleasure - to enjoy looking at them and to enjoy photographing them too. My phone app has some brilliant texture layers but unfortunately you can't rub out the texture over the crucial bits of your pictures like you can with more expensive versions that you can apply in Photoshop. Despite that, I was quite pleased with this effect.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

The Broadway

Because my usual workplace was flooded and is closed, I've had to travel into the nearby city of Bradford rather more often than usual. I haven't had much time to look around but I did manage to have a quick peek at the new shopping centre, The Broadway. Chiefly notable for being a project that has taken years and years to bring to fruition.... the developers mothballed it when the recession hit, leaving a literal hole in the centre of the city (see here). It has finally been finished. I (uncharitably) wonder why they bothered. It is functional rather than exciting, just an L-shaped mall with the usual high street shops, most of which already existed in the city anyway. Better than a hole perhaps, but only just! It does, however, frame a rather nice view of what was once the Post Office, a Victorian building that managed to survive the wholesale destruction of the 60s and 70s, which many feel ripped the heart out of the city.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

The Jonathan Silver Building

The new extension to Shipley College was opened in September last year by Mrs Maggie Silver. You may recall my posts about it before the work started (here) and as the build was in progress (here). It was designed by local architects Rance, Booth, Smith and incorporates modern eco-technology.  I can't say I'm hugely impressed with its appearance. There's nothing wrong with it and the colours vaguely marry into the surroundings but it isn't terribly exciting. Maybe it will look better when softened by some planting at the front. To the rear are some large, modern greenhouses, since the building caters for horticultural students and those with learning difficulties and disabilities.

It is, however, really good that it has been named after the late Jonathan Silver, one of the most influential men in the history of Saltaire after Sir Titus Salt himself. Jonathan was the entrepreneur who, aged 37, took the gamble to buy the closed and deteriorating Salts Mill in 1987, and transformed it into a successful retail, cultural and business hub. In doing so, he transformed Saltaire too. There is no other memorial to him in the area, although his widow, Maggie, donated a set of church bells to the United Reformed Church on the 150th anniversary of Sir Titus's birth, to replace those removed and made into ammunition during WW1.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Oh, hi everyone!

I spotted this little fellow grinning through a window in Saltaire. It was above the butcher's shop, so I suspect he is a signboard that normally stands outside the shop.

Friday, 5 February 2016


On one of my regular walks, I pass a couple of my favourite trees and I have photographed them in all seasons. They look especially good in winter when you can see their 'bone structure'. Walking in the opposite direction from my usual route one day, I thought this one looked good from this side too, though I don't know how it will feel about being separated from its twin. To see the pair, click the 'two trees' label below.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Little Free Library

The committed group of people who make up the Hirst Wood Regeneration Group do some excellent work on the small Hirst Wood estate, a pocket of relative deprivation just outside Saltaire. Several years ago they succeeded in getting funding and Council backing for a nice play area, which is great for the many families and young people in the area. It also has this 'Little Free Library' from which children's books can be borrowed and returned. Sadly the little box keeps getting vandalised (as does the nature reserve down by the canal that the Regen Group also recently established). It's such a shame that there are those who cannot value such initiatives and seem to want to spoilt things for everyone, for the sake of a moment of daredevilry. Hard to understand such attitudes.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Swan Rescue

Had my usual battle with the mute swans. As soon as they see my camera, they do precisely the opposite of what I'd like them to do. They might be in a tight little huddle and then suddenly all disperse, or they turn their backs or even dive partially under the water.

This couple and the two offspring they managed to rear last summer, now coming into their adult plumage, are still hanging around as a family group. They are usually on the canal somewhere between Saltaire and Dockfield in Shipley, where I think their nest site originally was.

Some while ago (before Christmas) I saw them one evening. One of the adults had a long thread of fishing line trailing from its bill. It seemed to be distressed and was trying to claw at it with its foot. Quite upsetting to see... I came home and googled 'swan rescue' and found that there is a local charity called Yorkshire Swan Rescue, based near York, so I contacted them. Local volunteers knew of the particular swan family and their approximate location. First thing the next morning, two volunteers came out and checked on the swans. They even reported back to me, to say that they had seen them all and that all were in good condition and none of them had any fishing line trailing. The bird must have managed to dislodge it by itself, thankfully. I was very impressed with the organisation and made a donation to them to help with their work.  Swans are such beautiful birds, and so faithful to their mate. I love to see them on the canal and it's good to know there is someone available to help when necessary.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016


Ironwork on the lock gate

Monday, 1 February 2016

Native American

I couldn't see a name on the narrowboat I showed yesterday but it did have this lovely picture painted on the side: horses and a handsome native American Indian in a fine feather warbonnet headdress. I know shockingly little about American Indians, apart from what you see on cowboy films. Just googling for information about the headdress is very interesting. The feather bonnets are worn by chiefs and warriors of only about a dozen tribes and are made of eagle tail feathers. They have a spiritual and ceremonial significance; each feather has to be earned by an act of bravery. So this man must be courageous as well as handsome. Who knows why he is painted on a narrowboat in Yorkshire? Interesting, anyway.