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Monday, 31 December 2018


There are few advantages to having temporarily to revert to a camera I last used seven years ago, though it did and still does take mostly quite reasonable photos, now I've remembered how to operate it. One of its plus points, however, is the very long zoom range it has, effectively from 28-504mm - though it is a 'digital zoom' rather than an optical zoom. (That means the camera enlarges the photo and trims the edges electronically, which results in a loss of quality over the same image taken with an optical zoom lens.)

It does mean I could 'zoom' across the fields from the riverbank and take a closer view of one of the the lodges that guarded the gates to Milner Field, the now demolished grand mansion that was built for Titus Salt Jnr. The lodge is still used as a residence, though it's rather isolated at the end of the Coach Road, set amongst woods and fields. It shares the same sort of solid, heavy architecture that characterised the Victorian Gothic mansion.

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Sunday stroll

Another gentle Sunday stroll along the canal past Hirst Wood. I just love it. It's all so peaceful, even though it's barely a mile out of Saltaire village and really not as rural as it looks. Even on the dullest of days, there seems to be a lot of subtle colour in the natural scenery this winter. All rather lovely.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Bin alley ballet

Saltaire's neat terraces all have service alleys running between them. The houses each have small backyards, many still containing the stone outhouse in which their private lavatory was sited (though many of the outhouses have been reduced in height now). These sanitary arrangements were a major innovation in Victorian Britain, and I think I'm correct in saying that they were WCs (water closets) with proper drainage, so the 'night soil' men didn't have to roam the alleys at night collecting waste, as they did in other places that had only earth closets.

Nowadays, our bathrooms are inside. The back alleys are crowded with wheelie bins, since most of the yards don't really have room for the green general waste and grey recyclable waste bins that we are required to have. In my imagination, the bins all come alive at night and perform a wondrous ballet in the alley.

You'd be forgiven for thinking that was an urban fox running up the alley in my photo. In fact it was a rather large ginger cat.

Friday, 28 December 2018

Advent windows 8

Saltaire Living Advent Calendar 2018

Oh, this window was tricky to photograph, being right up on the third floor of the Salts Hospital apartments. It was worth persevering, however, as it's a very artistic offering: a beautiful hare, silhouetted against a huge yellow moon, and gazing at the Star of Bethlehem. Its creator explains that the hare was sculpted by her former partner, who died tragically in a car accident last year aged only 32. The window honours her memories of him.

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Advent windows 7

Saltaire Living Advent Calendar 2018

Another window with a traditional religious theme: the Magi and their camel following a heavenly host of stars. Quite a simple window but it's the simple ones that are most effective, I think.

'The star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him.' Matthew 2: 9-11

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Advent windows 6

Saltaire Living Advent Calendar 2018

It's nice when local businesses join in with the advent windows. This is the Louise Perry Bridal shop, on Caroline Street. Its theme is The Nutcracker, a traditional Christmas story often performed as a ballet with a wonderful Tchaikovsky score. My daughter and I went to see a live screening by the Royal Ballet from Covent Garden last year, which was brilliant. I love watching ballet but actual performances are often prohibitively expensive, so a cinema screening is better value for money and you can still feel as though you're watching the real thing.

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Blessings at Christmas

May the blessing of JOY abide within you; 
May the blessing of PEACE rest upon you;
May the blessing of LOVE flow out through you;
May all the blessings of the Lord be yours 
at Christmas and in the New Year.

Happy Christmas to all who celebrate the festival, and warmest wishes to those who don't. 

Thanks for another year of friendship and sharing. 

(The crib scene is my own, crafted from olive wood by Christian Palestinians.)

Monday, 24 December 2018

Advent windows 5

Saltaire Living Advent Calendar 2018

The window at 7 William Henry Street is a very artistic offering, one of my favourites, featuring a lighthouse beaming out light and love, above a sea teeming with life. Hope in the Dark... I'm sure most of us need some of that in these troubled times.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Advent windows 4

Saltaire Living Advent Calendar 2018

Quite a few of this year's Advent windows have a traditional nativity theme. I liked this stained glass effect one, at 64 George Street, with its huge star shining over the stable in Bethlehem where the baby Jesus rests in a manger.  I'm off to our church Carol Service this evening, so my head will be full of the lovely traditional carols, including, no doubt, 'O little town of Bethlehem' although 'Away in a Manger' usually features in the children's Crib Service on Christmas Eve, rather than in the Carol Service. 

'Today in the town of David, a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ The Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.' Luke 2: 11-12

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Salts Mill's wonderful bookshop

Can there be a nicer place to spend an hour (or even two) on a cold winter's day than the bookshop in Salts Mill? It's bright, warm and cosy, despite its huge space. The massive Christmas tree adds festive cheer and there are so many gorgeous, colourful books... It's hard to escape without spending a fortune, and particularly now I have my grandchildren. The children's book section is extensive and wonderful, and they don't seem to mind if you hunker down with the kids and read few right there. Such bliss.

(My little camera didn't cope so well with interior shots but never mind.)

Friday, 21 December 2018

Lights, camera (little one), action...

It's nearly Christmas! Saltaire's festive tree is up and lit (although actually it has been there since December 2nd. I'm a bit late in photographing it this year. My little Panasonic camera was just about up to the job.) It's a good big tree, though it looks tiny set against the huge facade of the Victoria Hall behind it. Nicely lit too. Well done to the Saltaire Village Society, who mastermind it.

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Advent windows 3

Saltaire Living Advent Calendar 2018

Saltaire's United Reformed Church have unveiled an Advent window every year since the beginning of the tradition, quite a record. Their artwork is always bold and graphic, and usually very photo friendly. This year is no exception. The window is right above the main church door, and visible from the end of the drive.

Surely it was a little 'tongue in cheek' this year? Who can ever forget that 'Two Ronnies' sketch: Four Candles ... although it was in 1976, and presumably some of you weren't even born then. See it HERE. It's still funny, I think.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Advent windows 2

Saltaire Living Advent Calendar 2018

Here's another effective window, featuring a Christmas tree in memory of Elizabeth Chambers made of the hand and footprints of family and friends. The writing says: 'We will remember you and trim our tree. One shining star upon the topmost bough.' A very moving tribute.

All the windows opened so far can be seen on the Facebook page HERE.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Advent windows 1

Saltaire Living Advent Calendar 2018

Have you been waiting patiently for me to unveil Saltaire's 2018 Living Advent Calendar windows? Now in its 13th year, this tradition sees a decorated window 'open' every night in December, up to Christmas Eve. Nowadays, there's a 'bumper starting pack' too, with 15 windows opening on the first night, meaning that there's plenty to view right from the start on a walk through the village.

The wet weather, and now my traumatised camera, have meant I've struggled to get any photos so far. But here is my first one, at the back of 71 George Street: a Santa-clad cyclist labouring uphill in the snow. This one, for me, epitomises the best - a simple and clear graphic, lovely colours, well-lit and with a modern take on the festive theme. Well done to its artist, Marianne, a keen cyclist herself.

Monday, 17 December 2018

Nativity nightmare

This crib scene was set up at the entrance to the Christmas Market in Leeds. Whilst it is refreshing to see 'the reason for the season' being acknowledged, it seemed to me rather a weird set-up. The baby Jesus appears to have been born weighing at least 25 kilos. He's a lot bigger than the donkey. No wonder his mother, Mary, is on her knees. Yikes. We have a giant sheep, next to a cow no bigger than a large dog. As to the shepherd boy, he looks as though he'd be more at home in the Tyrol than in Bethlehem. And all decorated with baubles and nestled under a Christmas tree. Oh well... nice try anyway.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Leeds at Christmas

[Since I damaged my DSLR, I'm having to use a very old Panasonic bridge camera, whose batteries are so ancient that they lose power in minutes. I used to get some decent photos from it back in the day, but it's totally different from my Nikon and I can hardly remember how to use it. Apologies for any loss of quality. Hopefully, it's just a temporary stop-gap until I decide what to do. ]

When I had to go to Leeds to take my camera in for repair, I thought I'd take a few pics of the city's Christmas decorations, though I was hardly in the mood... There's a ferris wheel outside the town hall. No-one was riding on it and I guess it all comes to life after dark when the lights go on.

The arcades of the Victoria Quarter are rather splendid in their decoration anyway. The Christmas lights were classy and pretty, if rather lost in the general ornamentation. There was a big pointy Christmas tree with huge baubles at the other side.

The newest mall, opened a couple of years ago to house John Lewis and some other 'high-end' stores, is all airy, shiny and reflective; a bit disorientating to me. You can tell, perhaps, that I'm happier on a muddy walk in the country than tramping around shopping centres, though you have to do it sometimes.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

In full flow

Yesterday I showed the River Aire in Roberts Park and here we have the River Wharfe in Ilkley (photos taken last Sunday).  Like the Aire, it is full almost to capacity, though not quite overtopping its banks. I suppose what happens next depends on what the weather is like for the next week or so up in the Yorkshire Dales. Will we get some flooding or not?

Friday, 14 December 2018


The last few weeks of dreary, wet weather have at least had a beneficial effect on the rivers. One would hope too that the reservoirs higher up in the Dales, which were severely depleted by the very dry summer, have been refreshed, though it will take quite a lot of rainfall to fully restore their water levels.

My own little barometer is the River Aire running through Roberts Park. On Saturday it had reached the very perimeter of its course, though had not broken its bank. The weir was tumbling with a magnificent roar.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Sunshine (metaphorical) and pancakes (real) in the park

In a brief break in the storm clouds on Saturday (before my camera was damaged) I went for a quick walk around Roberts Park, just for the sake of some exercise.

The Friends of Roberts Park were holding a Christmas Bandstand concert, though they'd relocated from the actual bandstand to one of the shelters on the promenade, due to the wind and rain.

It turned out to be my friend and local legend, John Froud, performing some songs. So I stopped to listen and had a warming cup of mulled juice whilst I enjoyed the music. I could have had a pancake too (they had some gluten-free buckwheat ones) but I refrained for the sake of my waist-line.

John Froud is the founder of a great little Christian charity, The Zephaniah Trust, who have been working with local schools for almost 25 years, using music and the arts to 'take light into dark corners'. They do assemblies, workshops, events and holiday clubs, and work with churches, community groups and refugee organisations too, as part of Bradford's City of Sanctuary initiative.

Such a pity the stormy weather meant few people were out and about to enjoy the music. I had to hurry home myself when it began raining again but the encounter certainly brought some sunshine into my day.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Ill-fated in Ilkley

I went over to Ilkley to have a walk by the river and to take some photos of the Christmas lights. It was, unfortunately, an ill-fated expedition. On the way back to my car, I managed to trip over a low kerb in the dark. I went flying and so did my DSLR camera, bouncing on its lens hood, which shattered. It's a bit poorly now... Although only the filter glass cracked (not the lens) and it still takes photos, the zoom mechanism is stiff and there are artefacts on the LCD screen. I've taken it to a camera shop in Leeds to get an estimate for repair. It may well not be worth it. (I have insurance but since the camera is quite an old model, it won't pay out enough to make it worth claiming.) Boo.

Never mind, that is only 'stuff' and can be replaced, even if at some cost. Thankfully, I've no broken bones, and just suffered some cuts, grazes and bruises. One of those times when you just wish you could turn the clock back two minutes!

And after all that, none of my photos turned out all that well anyway! These are the best of the bunch but don't give anything like a true idea of the lights, which are in reality very pretty, all strung through the trees.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Smile and say hi

Graffiti 'artists' (if you like to call them that), have been out and about around Shipley lately. One called Rude or Rudeen seems to have been particularly prolific. It wouldn't be so bad if they drew nice pictures but instead they just scrawl their names. 

Someone has also spray stencilled onto the canal towpath, though I suppose 'smile and say hi as you go by' is a reasonable demand with which to cajole the general public. Maybe the world would be a nicer place if we did? 

The blue heart below has little artistic merit, but I found some small beauty in it. It was the mix of turquoise and rust that appealed to me. 

Monday, 10 December 2018

Wandering homeward

The lane once led to Buck Mill, originally the manorial corn mill, powered by the River Aire through a water wheel. Over the centuries, the mill was expanded and diversified, also producing woollen cloth. It was rebuilt in 1800 and extended again in 1860, by which time it was powered by steam. By the 1900s it was disused and eventually it was demolished in 1923. Hardly a trace now remains.

You can still cross the river by the handsome iron footbridge, built by the local town 'boards' in 1889.

It's a tranquil scene looking upstream along the river. You could almost be miles from 'civilisation', apart from the huge electricity pylons that cross the area. But on the right bank a new industrial development has recently been built, an extension of the urban sprawl along the valley through Charlestown, Baildon. There may be more than one business sited there, but I do know that one of the biggest is Produmax, manufacturers of precision parts and assemblies for the aerospace industry.

The ribbon of green between the industrial site and the river is broad and lots of young trees have been planted that will eventually be a shelter belt, so it remains a pleasant walk along a good, level path. One of the other big companies in the area, Denso Marston, make radiators and thermal products for the automotive, agricultural, construction industries. They have a strong environmental policy and for a long time have supported a nature reserve in the green corridor between the factory and the river. It's an attractive area to explore.

Beyond the reserve, as the path got narrower and more difficult to negotiate, I cut up onto the road and walked back into Shipley that way. From Baildon Bridge I joined the river bank again, following the Aire Sculpture Trail, along the river bank.

There are kingfishers along here, though I didn't spot one. I only saw a frog (!) and a jay high above my head.

The Sculpture Trail rejoins the canal towpath right beside Salts Mill - and so to home, welcome warmth and a refreshing cup of tea. I was out for a good couple of hours, a wander of about five and a half miles. Not planned, but not bad, in fact, mostly rather pleasant.

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Still wandering

Still following the canal towpath, I arrived at the Dock Lane swing bridge - the first of several on this stretch. It used to lead to a dry dock, now infilled and built on. You might recall that back in February (HERE) I mentioned a new housing development that had just been started here, called Swanside. I was interested to see that it is taking shape and people have already moved into some of the homes that look onto the canal, though the whole development is far from finished. What I'd call 'terraced houses' the developers call 'mews', though they look quite pleasant. 

The photo above is taken from almost the same spot as the first image in my February blog post. There used to be a modern factory building here. Perhaps there is more demand these days for houses than factories, or maybe it is down to what the town planners decree.  

Beyond the building site, there's a railway bridge and then another swing bridge known as Oddie's Bridge. (Boaters work hard on this canal!) There weren't many people about. I passed a few dog walkers and a couple of cyclists and a jogger passed me. 

Some colourful canal boats brightened the scene, perhaps moored up for the winter. This one was for sale, offers over £10,000. Interested?

It's getting a bit more rural now. Looking back, you can perhaps spot the railway bridge in the distance.

Even though most of the leaves have now fallen, it's surprising what colour there is when the sun shines and picks out the oranges and yellows, with the blue sky reflected in the water.

Another swing bridge! This one carries Buck Mill Lane over the canal. Beyond and on the right bank there's an area of protected woodland known as Buck Wood. It has a rich history, explored on the Friends of Buck Wood website HERE. In Edwardian times (1908), an innovative open-air school was built here, to rehabilitate children made sick by the squalor of the inner-city slums. It closed at the outbreak of WWII in 1939, having helped some of the city's poorest children. Read more about it HERE. It's interesting.

From this point, the canal takes a sweeping curve to the right, through the woods, and there is a three rise lock known as Field Locks. But by now, I'd walked for over an hour, so I decided it was time to turn for home. Conveniently, following Buck Mill Lane to the left took me down to the River Aire in the valley bottom.

More tomorrow...

Saturday, 8 December 2018


Sometimes I go for a 'walk' and sometimes for a 'wander', meaning that I set off with no clear intention of where to go. I just follow my nose, rely on the map in my head rather than an actual map and see where I end up. Mostly I start off along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal towpath and this time I headed east towards Shipley, rather than west as is my habit. The first stretch is always nice, passing through the narrow canyon between Salts Mill and the New Mill, looking back at that iconic view.  (The man was a photographer and he took a photo of me as I walked along, so I repaid the favour! I was wearing an image-friendly red jacket though, so his pic is probably more fun.)

Passing Salts and Shipley Wharf, and through downtown Shipley, the buildings are a mixture of old and new. Not much to photograph on a dull day, although I did notice some graffiti artists vandals had been at work, liberally covering most available surfaces. Towards the far side of Shipley, I came to Gallows Bridge, which carries an ancient right of way over the canal. (See also HERE - I did this part of the walk back in February.)

Looking back from the same spot, you can see that some of the buildings in downtown Shipley look a little the worse for wear, at least on the canal side. The one on the left is, I believe, now a dance studio and the brick building on the right used to be a cycle shop but I think it's now empty.

Below is another building that is rapidly deteriorating. It's the old warehouse, boatmen's lodging and tollhouse at Junction Bridge. It seems to have lost all its roof slates, so water will be getting in. I suspect the building will eventually be demolished as unsafe.  It looks too far gone to renovate now, which is a pity.

More tomorrow....