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Thursday, 30 June 2016

Hallas Bridge

Goit Stock circular walk
At this point we have to turn and cross a wooden footbridge, Hallas Bridge, over the stream. Beyond this is a mill (below), which I think is called Bents Mill, that reminds us that the area has not always been so idyllic. At one time there were six water-powered cotton mills in the valley. Some are now demolished and others have been converted into accommodation, as have the workers' cottages. I'm sure that if the mill workers could have time-travelled they would be astonished to see the transformation from a busy industrial area to a very tranquil and stylish residential area.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Three waterfalls

Goit Stock circular walk
Harden Beck tumbles over a series of waterfalls on its way down the valley. The most impressive one is the Goit Stock Falls (below), where the stream falls over a rocky ledge some twenty feet high.

The third waterfall cascades into a circular pool. Surrounded by greenery, it is reminiscent of a 'fairy pool'. The valley was once owned by the Ferrand family, as part of the nearby Bingley St Ives estate and access was restricted. It is said that a local poet, John Nicholson, who lived in Harden for a time, was inspired by walks by the river on moonlit nights. He eventually came to an unfortunate end, dying from exposure in 1843, after falling from stepping stones crossing the River Aire in Saltaire.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

How green is my valley

Goit Stock circular walk
Fancy another walk? This time it isn't so far, only about three miles, though in parts it is rocky and needs a bit of careful scrambling so it took me longer than I anticipated. The walk starts and ends in the village of Harden, right by the Malt Shovel pub, so that's handy for a beer at the end!

(The Malt Shovel, incidentally, has a place in my personal history as I was having lunch there - egg and chips, I will never forget - the day I went into labour when my daughter was born. I was sitting ram-rod straight on a bar stool and wondering why I felt so stiff and achy!)

The walk follows the stream called Harden Beck, past an estate of what we call here 'park homes', which are small bungalows that are classed as mobile homes, even though they are not actually mobile. They are often communities of retired people. The path then enters Goit Stock woods. It is a lush, green valley, especially after rain but it can get muddy so I hope you are wearing your boots.

I did the walk a few weeks ago when the last of the bluebells were fading and the wild garlic was in full bloom - and fragrance!

ws the little valley

Monday, 27 June 2016

A load of cobble(r)s

I noticed that they have closed Victoria Road in Saltaire to through traffic and dug up the tarmac and I wondered why. Walking down the road the other day, the mystery was solved. They are reinstating the cobbles in front of the Victoria Hall. (Actually the oblong stone blocks are called setts; cobbles are, strictly speaking, round pebbles.) I'm not sure why, except that I assume it is part of the overall refurbishment plan that saw many of the trees felled, new streetlights erected and so on.

The road would originally have been paved with setts, as all Saltaire's streets were. The only bits that remain are the famous length of Albert Terrace and a short stretch outside the Saltaire Dining Hall, by Salts Mill. I imagine reinstating this area outside the Victoria Hall is partly for aesthetic reasons, since this is fundamentally the heart of the village, and partly as a traffic-calming measure. It is uncomfortable to speed over cobbled roads. They are hard to walk on too, and dragging a suitcase becomes a chore! Luckily it is not on my route from home to the rail station, though part of Albert Terrace is.

Sunday, 26 June 2016


Cat-chy creatures in the cat category, spotted around Saltaire

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Can't decide... 2

Narrowboats at the moorings on the Springs Canal in the centre of Skipton.

Another decision to make... do I prefer the longer view with the lead-in and the nice reflections - or the close-up detail of the boat and the bike? 

Friday, 24 June 2016

Can't decide...

A circle... or a whorl?
Shadowy mysteries and reflections beneath a canal bridge in the centre of Skipton.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Painted roses

You can't get far along a canal in this country without stumbling across examples of the traditional 'Brightwork' that is used to decorate the narrowboats and barges. Here, the window of the office from where boats are hired out in Skipton is decorated with roses - a very common emblem.

The art developed during the industrial revolution, at a time when other traditional crafts were fast dying out. The new canal network, started in the late eighteenth century, made transporting goods much easier as the industrial revolution got underway, taking over from the packhorse routes that had served until then. At their peak, however, they were threatened by the rise of the railways and investment was diverted. The canal system carried on but was less prosperous. The boatmen, who at one time could employ crew (you needed a person on the boat and a person with the pulling horse) often found they could no longer afford to house their families in canalside settlements. It became more common to have wife and family living on the boat, sharing the cramped living quarters. Being itinerant, they could not educate their children and they became a travelling community isolated from and feared by many on the land.

It is thought that the traditions of decorating the boats with colourful paintwork, brightly painted tinware, crisp lace curtains and gleaming brassware may have developed as a response - a statement of separateness and distinction, to confound the perception of 'dirty bargees'. (See here for more information).

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Skipton in the evening

The small camera club that I belong to at my church usually ends our yearly programme in June with a trip out and a meal. It's fun and sociable but it traditionally rains! I thought this year was going to be no exception, as it was pouring when my friend and I set off from home. When we arrived in Skipton, however, the clouds had cleared and we enjoyed a lovely walk around the town in the early evening sunshine. The traditional fish and chip meal was pretty good too!

I've posted so many pictures of the town on my blog that you will know its beauty spots as well as I do. This is a favourite view, at the point where the Springs branch canal joins the Leeds-Liverpool. It looked especially pretty in the golden evening light.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Birthday portrait

Like many photographers, I'd far rather be behind the camera than in front of it.  There are very few photos of me that I really like - including this one! But it is probably a fairly typical expression of mine, sharing a wry joke with my daughter, who was valiantly attempting to get a decent picture of me on my birthday.

Monday, 20 June 2016

With love

Without doubt one of the best birthday gifts I have ever had, and one I shall forever cherish. This canvas collage was painted and glittered by my four year old granddaughter, Elodie (with just a little help from her mum, I guess). There she is, making a heart with her hands. She wrote her name herself too, though apparently the first attempt produced a barely readable 'Elo' in the middle oblong so that the finished word just appeared to be 'Die'... Probably not the best message for your 64 year old gran! Oh dearie me, haha!  A second attempt at 'Elo' down at the bottom left was more readable, thankfully. As I say, one to treasure. ❤ ❤

I also received a book from my daughter ('Reader, I married him' edited by Tracy Chevalier) which is a collection of short stories by various writers, celebrating the life and bicentenary of Charlotte Brontë - a spot-on choice, as I almost bought this for myself when I visited Haworth Parsonage recently. From little Madeleine (aged nearly two) I received some artisan chocolates; she had carefully chosen each one herself from the display. I feel so very thankful for such a lovely and loving family.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Heigh ho!

My local Asda are selling these cheery garden gnomes and have them lined up on the windowsill - I think they're hilarious! (Someone must be buying them, as the line is getting shorter week on week). On Friday night there was a small boy, aged about six, sitting on the windowsill at the end of the row. He was sitting very still and had one hand raised, palm out, just like the gnomes. So cute, made me smile - made my night, in fact. (Though I didn't dare take a picture of him.)

Today's resident ear-worm (annoying song in my head!) is alternating between 'Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it's off to work we go..' (despite the fact that it is Sunday and I'm not working) and 'Will you still need me... when I'm 64?' It's my birthday. Hmmm...

Saturday, 18 June 2016


Back in Wakefield... The Hepworth sits on an island between the River Calder and the Calder and Hebble Navigation (a canal). It ought to be picturesque but somehow it doesn't quite manage that. There is a boatyard and many of the boats are old industrial barges in varying states of repair, rather than pretty narrowboats. There is still evidence of the December floods too. The area of water immediately in front of the gallery (see here) usually provides an interesting reflection of the building but at present it is filled with an enormous hunk of concrete: some kind of wharf that has been swept in by the floods, overturned and marooned.

The fella on the left appears to be made of various bits of trash. Very creative, but he adds to the general sense of clutter that sits rather incongruously with the very minimalist gallery.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Blackbird singing...

Not quite in the dead of night (as the song goes) but in the evening as the sun's last rays lit up the tree. Beautiful - and we need to notice the beauty in a world that seems far too aggressive and painful at the moment.

I've been deeply upset by the senseless assassination of the young Labour MP, Jo Cox, on Thursday, just a few miles south of here. She had children the same ages as my own two granddaughters and, although I didn't know her, she looks and sounds to have been intelligent, passionate, committed to making a positive difference in the world and full of the best kind of life, not unlike my own daughter. Such a tragedy. Maybe we all need to pause and consider whether we need to recalibrate, make sure we have our priorities right.... My thoughts and prayers are with her husband, children, family and friends as they try to deal with their loss.

Thursday, 16 June 2016


I find the building adjacent to The Hepworth very interesting too. It's an old mill, I think now disused. It is constructed in reddish brick and the windows are blocked up by black wooden screens. Somehow it has a sculptural quality in itself, which is emphasised, I think, in black and white. I enjoyed how the young, lacy trees counterpoint the heavy solidity of the building.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

'Common Sense'

Everything in The Hepworth is worth seeing but I especially went along to view the current exhibition of the photographer Martin Parr's work. It is entitled 'The Rhubarb Triangle and other stories'. At its heart is a new commission of photographs of the famous 'rhubarb triangle', an area near Wakefield that specialises in growing the sweet and delicate Yorkshire forced rhubarb, grown in dark sheds and harvested by candlelight. Alongside were many of Martin's other photographs, among them his documentary series focussing on the seaside and the middle classes in the 80s. If you don't know his work, do look him up. He manages to be both funny and poignant, and some of his images are a scathing commentary on life in Thatcher's Britain towards the end of the twentieth century.

The wonderful collage shown above is called 'Common Sense' - highly saturated images of 'bits and bobs' of life in the 90s, wonderfully kitsch and quite bizarre but somehow a fascinating archive.
The four people were watching a video about Martin Parr, listening through headphones. Every now and again they'd all guffaw with laughing, which added to the slightly odd feeling, since you didn't know what they were laughing at.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

In pursuit of art

It's a while since I visited Wakefield so I treated myself to a day out there  - in pursuit of art. (It was a few weeks ago. Been so busy...)  I've mentioned that I belong to a camera club and every year the Yorkshire Photographic Union, which is a collaboration between all the Yorkshire clubs, holds an exhibition. It is considered very prestigious to get your photograph chosen for the exhibition. (I don't even try, the standard is so high.) This year the exhibition was held in Wakefield Town Hall so I went along to be impressed (and I was!)

I also took the opportunity to revisit The Hepworth gallery, which has a permanent collection of Barbara Hepworth's sculptures, as well as showing other artwork and temporary exhibitions. The building itself is very sculptural and exciting, inside and out.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Our local heron(s)

Grey herons are fairly common birds round here but they are still a thrilling sight, to me at least. I am not sure if these two photos are of the same bird; I suspect it might be. Although the colours in the two images look somewhat different, that may be just down to the light and the processing. The first photo was taken on the river at the weir in Roberts Park and the second along the canal beside Hirst Lock, less than half a mile apart. I love how these birds watch and listen, standing very still, and then move like lightning to catch a fish. They are lovely to see flying overhead too, having a characteristic floppy - almost lazy-looking- wingbeat.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Little dipper

I was delighted to spot this little bird hopping about in the stream, Loadpit Beck, that runs down to join the River Aire at Hirst Weir. You commonly see them in rivers up in the Dales and I was pleased to see one so close to Saltaire. There are houses only a hundred yards away from this spot, so it isn't exactly out in the wilds. The bird is a dipper. They eat insect larvae and freshwater shrimps and are often seen walking in and under the water in search of food. They flit about on the rocks and have a characteristic bobbing action that leads to their very apt name.
I was even more delighted to get a decent photo with my new lens. :)

Saturday, 11 June 2016

National Media Museum

I realised with pleasure that one advantage of my daily commute through Bradford is that I can more easily pop in to the National Media Museum to see the exhibitions. It stays open until 6pm, just a nice time to call in after work, when it isn't too crowded. It's quite an imposing building, a rework of a 1960s concrete monstrosity that has now become quite fashionable again. (Photo taken a few weeks ago; there are more leaves on the trees now.)

The current exhibition is photographs by an American, Alec Soth - see here for a review.  I am never quite sure what I make of some of the modern photography exhibitions.  Often it is the concept that is interesting... here were photos of road trips taken through America, studies in towns and cities across the country - vast landscapes, people, fine art and grim reality combined. Such works often seem vaguely unsettling and sometimes moving - and yet, carefully crafted as they are, photographed 'properly' on a large format film camera on a tripod, I often feel that I would have discarded some of the images if they were among my own efforts. I think I am missing something... or perhaps I have been in camera clubs too long and too influenced by camera club judges' notions of what is and isn't 'good'.

The Media Museum has been the subject of recent controversy. A huge archive of Royal Photographic Society photographs has been permanently transferred to the V&A in London, in a move that many have interpreted as a snub to the north of England and a large shift in the focus of the Media Museum. It only recently survived a threat of closure in a row over funding.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Postcards from Saltaire

Saltaire Arts Trail 2016 - In the end, perhaps the exhibit I enjoyed most this year was the postcards displayed in Saltaire's historic church.  The overarching theme of the Arts Trail was 'Be Part of the Art'. Entries were invited from anyone to submit a postcard sized artwork - painted, drawn, embroidered, a collage, a photo or any creative medium. This was one of the ways to encourage all those with a creative streak to participate, whether local or from further afield. (I saw one from Japan) I wish now that I'd done one too! Organised by students at Shipley College, the results were interesting and varied, ranging from those with a professional quality through to sweetly touching and much simpler efforts, from all ages. These were nine of my favourites.

Yes, dreams can come true....

The postcards are now on display in The Cellar Trust charity's café, and will be sold to raise funds for the charity, which helps those with mental health concerns.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Pavement art and tepees

Saltaire Arts Trail 2016 - Looking down at the pavement again! This time the artistic scribbles were on the flagstones in the Wash House Garden. The children's art activities were all organised by Shipley-based community arts organisation Sponge Tree. They had a 'garden' of easels and paints set up outside the Almshouses and lots of crafts and modelling going on in front of the Victoria Hall, which with the Makers' Fair inside provides the focal point for the Arts Trail. The colourful tepees threaded with fabric and ribbon were a wonderful idea for creating your own 'den'.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

From the North Sea to the Med

Saltaire Arts Trail 2016 - I started to notice Ian Burdall's work a few years ago when he was concentrating on photography and began to exhibit as part of the Arts Trail. He lives just round the corner from me so in fact he's practically a neighbour, though I rarely see him around. For the last few years he has moved away from taking photos (in fact he was telling me that he's even sold the medium format camera he used to use). He has been concentrating on oil painting, though still inspired by Yorkshire, especially the East Coast fishing towns and industrial areas. As well as hanging pictures on the walls inside his Open House, he had some paintings displayed in the front garden. With its gravel beds, it is reminiscent of a beach and made a fitting backdrop.

In the back garden, more Mediterranean in feel, with lots of colourful pots, there were some sculptures crafted from Yorkshire limestone by John Burks. They were solid, tactile and vaguely figurative, reminding me of Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Easter Island statues...

Tuesday, 7 June 2016


Saltaire Arts Trail 2016 - Contemporary textile artist Maria Walker created this installation of organic, looping tumbles of fabric spilling out from an old Singer treadle sewing machine. I rather liked it, though I am not sure where you would display such a large sculpture... Maybe if you had a very big house you could find room. (I'm sure if you had a cat it would LOVE it!) Perhaps I was drawn to it because the machine is very similar to the one my mum had, on which I learned to sew. Looking at Maria's website, it seems she does some much smaller and more house-friendly pieces too.

The wallpaper in the house where this piece was displayed was, I found, a little distracting in the background, so I have played about with the photo a bit. I'm pleased with this effect.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Lasting Impressions

Saltaire Arts Trail 2016 - Each year at the Arts Trail there are one or two specially commissioned pieces or installations. Salts Mill, of course, owes its existence to the textile industry and this 'performance work', called Lasting Impressions, pays homage to that heritage, to the story of cloth and clothing. Artists Hannah Lamb and Claire Wellesley-Smith were inviting visitors to allow them to emboss a small porcelain tile with something from their clothing - the edge of a hem, a button, a zip, a piece of lace, a texture. Each tile when finished will be archived with a label sharing a personal narrative from the owner - how long they have had the item of clothing, its story, how they feel about it. In return, the visitor was invited to receive a little gold stitch in their clothing.

The Arts Trail is one of the few times in the year when the attic at Salts Mill is opened up. It used to be a spinning shed full of huge machines and is a vast and light-filled space, a work of art in its own right. During the Arts Trail it also housed the annual exhibition of Leeds Photographic Society, so it was well worth the long climb up the stairs for this visitor.

Whilst I was up there I was struck again by the patina of age in the spinning shed. It is one of the few areas of the Mill open to the public that has not been cleaned up and painted. The walls have traces of old paint and odd nooks and crannies that hark back to its working life. An apron hanging on a rusty hook may or may not have been linked to the art installation but it seemed rather poignant.

Another 'message' scrawled on the stone flagged floor references times past too, though I am not sure whether it relates to the opera stage sets designed by the artist David Hockney that were at one time displayed in Salts Mill, or to a performance of music from the Mozart opera that took place here. Lasting impressions...

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Being Inbetween

Saltaire Arts Trail 2016 - Saltaire-based photographer Carolyn Mendelsohn has a major exhibition in Salts Mill: Being Inbetween. She explores the complex and often confusing time for girls between the ages of 10 and 12: no longer a child but not yet a young adult, full of hopes and dreams but also bombarded with messages from society and often beset with anxieties, particularly about appearance. She said she wanted to take portraits that show how naturally beautiful the girls are and celebrate who they are at this point in their lives.

Each portrait has a few lines telling of the girl's hopes and dreams:
'I would like to be an author and get my book published; I have already started writing one.'
'I am scared of being in a room by myself when it is completely silent.'
'My ambition is to be a tri-athlete and my hope for the future is to stop wars.'
'I love it when I am acting on stage, and fudge and chocolate obviously.'
'My ambition is to go to Space.'
'My ambition is to save many people's lives.'
'I wish that everything was peaceful and that there were no tears or sadness.'

The portraits were compelling and very moving, well worth seeing, though sadly only there for the duration of the festival. 

Saturday, 4 June 2016

A Moveable Feast

Saltaire Arts Trail 2016 - Bradford based artists Burnett and Catt brought a Carnival vibe to the Arts Trail with a participatory installation entitled 'A Moveable Feast'. They had a tented workshop in the grounds of Saltaire URC and were leading a community effort to create banners, flags, puppets and models. It was part workshop, part celebration and every now and again an impromptu parade took place. They draw inspiration from folkloric tales, mummer's plays, banquets, processions and the idea of a Feast as a time for the community to come together to celebrate. I wonder what Sir Titus would have made of it?  He was certainly in favour of huge community get-togethers and banquets. There were 3500 guests (mostly ordinary mill workers) at the inaugural banquet when Salts Mill was opened in 1853.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Bug fun

Saltaire Arts Trail 2016 - The Butterfly Rooms on Saltaire's Gordon Terrace is a gift shop full of gorgeous, beautifully designed items: baby clothes, toys, homeware and cards. Upstairs a number of local artists have studio and gallery space. This cardboard model village in one of the rooms caught my eye. It's actually a piece designed to enthral children, with nifty little 'bugs' made from fibre tip pens that were somehow magically motorised and zipped about the streets making coloured trails. Ingenious.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Magnifisent Art

Saltaire Arts Trail 2106 - The same young pavement artist points the way to the first of our featured artists, David Starley.  Resident in Saltaire for many years, he now has a studio in Shipley. During the Arts Trail, if the weather is halfway decent, he usually sets up his easel in his garden so that people can watch and learn from him. I learnt that he applies some of the paint using a tiny metal blade (impasto technique), which results in the texture and build up of oil paint so characteristic of his work. His latest works are mostly of trees and they remind you again how amazing, varied and beautiful trees are.

David's own front door is a wonderful advert for his work. Magnifisent art, indeed.