Friday, 13 December 2019

Carols at Costa

It was the day before the General Election and I was feeling really down and despondent. I needed to get myself into a more Christmassy and generous spirited mood. Shipley Christians Together were advertising 'Carols at Costa' in Shipley, an event in the local coffee shop to raise money for Christian Aid, so I thought I'd pop down and join in. I met up with some friends there and we had a good time singing carols and joining in the general merriment. There was a fiendish quiz, to try and work out the names of some well-known carols! Music was provided by local musician and legend, John Froud, and his daughter. We sang familiar carols and some Christmas songs, including a local version of 'On the first day of Christmas':

'On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: a fat rascal and a cup of tea; 
On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me: two flat caps and a fat rascal and a cup of tea; 
On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me: three Brontë sisters, two flat caps and a fat rascal and a cup of tea'

and so on, in the same Yorkshire vein! (For the non-Yorkshire folk, a fat rascal is the name of a sweet fruit scone that is a local speciality, especially those made by the famous Betty's Tea Rooms.)

Walking through Shipley market place to get to Costa, I stopped to take a phone snap of the Christmas tree. It has flashing lights, so that is hard to convey in a static shot. It looks, in reality, a little brighter and more colourful than it appears here. It's spoiled every year by the railings around it!

Thursday, 12 December 2019

The Brontës' birthplace

After we'd visited the Christmas Tree Festival, we went in search of the house on Market Street in Thornton where most of the Brontës (Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Anne) were born. It was the parsonage in their day, since their father Patrick was the minister at the Bell Chapel. It later became a butcher's shop and had the curious projecting frontage added. There was a short-lived attempt to turn it into a museum, before it became a private residence again.  Last time I visited in 2012 you couldn't go in but for the past few years it has been Emily's café/bistro. We were able to have a coffee there, right beside the dining room fireplace in front of which the Brontë children are said to have been born. I wonder if they had stockings hanging up at Christmas when they lived there?

Some of the tables in the café had been ingeniously fashioned from old-style school desks.

It had a nice ambience, full of books and memorabilia  - and very good coffee and cake (though I managed to resist the cake!)

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

St James and the Bell Chapel, Thornton

St James Church Thornton, where the Christmas Tree Festival was (see yesterday), is an imposing church with a huge spire, on the road leading to the village of Thornton, a suburb of Bradford. The existing church dates from 1870. With all the Christmas trees inside, I couldn't really see the interior properly but it has some fine William Morris & Co stained glass.

Across the road is the Bell Chapel, which has Brontë connections. Charlotte Brontë and her sisters were born in Thornton and baptised in the Bell Chapel, where their father Patrick was minister for five years from 1815-1820, before they moved to Haworth. The chapel is now ruined. I thought you could explore it, but it was roped off so I assume it is considered dangerous. The octagonal bell tower, covered in ivy, looks like a romantic folly and the surviving east wall, with the tracery of a window and a date stone showing 1612 is also being overgrown by ivy. The late medieval chapel was rebuilt in 1612 and again in 1818 when Patrick Brontë was in charge. It's a pity it is now in a poor state again, as I know that a few years ago a group of volunteers did a lot of work to restore it and make it safe for visitors.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Christmas is coming

Christmas is coming! Everywhere is starting to sparkle, with lights in our towns, lots of festivals and markets. I must admit I can get a bit 'Bah, humbug' about it on occasion, when I focus on how consumerist it has become. I do, however, try to get into the spirit of it, so when friends suggested we visited a Christmas Tree Festival, I decided to go with them. It was held in the church of St James, Thornton. There were 49 trees, each one decorated by a local group, organisation or charity. Each had a donation bucket for the relevant cause, so it is a way of raising money for good - a worthy aim at this season.

It proved to be quite tricky to photograph but I did my best, so here is a selection of shots to give a flavour of some of the innovative themes.

I couldn't decide whether I liked the football club gingerbread men best or the rather cute little cricketers, representing Thornton Cricket Club.

Monday, 9 December 2019

Shout for joy

I know Saltaire so well and yet I still find myself stopping in my tracks sometimes, as I notice something 'new'. On this occasion it was suddenly seeing the vibrant yellow leaves of a tree, standing out above the rooftops of the village. The tree must always be there but its bright autumn colour on an otherwise dull day made it stand out like a shout of joy.

A little exploration revealed the tree to be one of the few remaining tall trees in the village centre, tucked away in the garden of the old school building, now part of Shipley college.

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Glow again in close up

At the kitchen garden end of Harlow Carr Gardens, the illuminations were more 'staged', with flowers made of lights and fairy lights twined around the arches and fences. Still pretty, but with a different feel from the coloured floodlights in the rest of the garden. By this time, it was getting quite busy and I kept having to wait ages for people to pass. It was properly dark so I was using very long exposures with my tripod. People tended to amble along quite slowly so I kept getting 'ghosts' in the pics!

At one point the path was too narrow to use my tripod, so I tried some ICM (intentional camera movement) shots. I quite like the one below. 'ICM trees' are a bit of a cliché nowadays but the lighting gives a fresher feel to the image, I think.

This, below, is an ICM image too. When I was checking the histogram for the exposure in my processing software, it gave me deep blue 'warning lights' where the deepest shadow was. I like the contrast of the cool and warm tones so I took a screenshot, to make an abstract with a difference!  

Saturday, 7 December 2019


I went, for the first time, to the annual winter illuminations at RHS Harlow Carr. This year it is entitled 'Glow' - and they certainly did. In past years, friends have told me it was a bit underwhelming so I never bothered to make the journey on a cold winter evening. But I was in the mood for an outing and the weather forecast was improving after daytime rain so I hopped in the car. I'm glad I went. Perhaps they've made it a bit bigger and grander this year... there was plenty to enjoy and the gardens, familiar by day, take on an other-worldly aspect with the lights.

Friday, 6 December 2019

With eyes to see

From the beauty of my two favourite trees, stubbornly clinging on to a tracery of bronzed foliage, to the frost-etched leaves that had fallen onto a bench alongside the canal...

to an escaped garden daisy, eager to catch the weak rays of an autumn morning sun. Our world - troubled and threatened though it may be - is still full of riches, for those that have eyes to see,

Thursday, 5 December 2019

The small things...

'There are pockets of peacefulness everywhere if you look for them. Small beautiful and quiet things happen in our every day life - from sunlight in the leaves on trees, clouds moving in the sky to the birds by the lapping water on the beach. Easily missed as we rush from one thing to another.
Take some time to notice the small things and see how slowing down makes you see the wonderful things happening quietly around us every day.'  [Margaret Soraya]

I've recently discovered the work of Margaret Soraya (see HERE), a landscape photographer who works a lot in wild yet peaceful places like the Outer Hebrides. She encourages us to hear our 'small, quiet voice within' as a way of accessing our deepest creativity. Her approach really appeals to me, though I have only just started to recognise, value and explore my own need for solitude and peace as a path for expression. 

Walking back from the shops on a dull, rainy day, I found a little 'pocket of peacefulness' - ironically perhaps - in this wild jumble of bright, shiny, rain-speckled toy windmills in a tub outside the vintage shop in Saltaire. 

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Dreich again

Dreich: A Scottish word meaning 'Wet, dull, gloomy, dismal, dreary or a combination of these.' Much of November in these parts exactly corresponded to this descriptor. I suppose that is not untypical for the autumn-winter transition but day after day of the same drizzly weather has meant it's been hard to keep up my spirits. I met some friends in one of the coffee shops on Gordon Terrace and we had a good chat, which is one way to lift one's mood temporarily. On my way home, I stopped briefly to take a phone pic of the view from the top of George Street. It's a miracle the photo doesn't show any camera shake, as I was also trying to prevent my umbrella blowing inside out at the same time!

Incidentally, this little terrace at the very top of George Street, beyond the intersection with Saltaire Road, is a bit unappreciated, I think. The street here almost has a back-alley feel to it. It's narrow, with the streets and alleys opposite running at right angles away from it. It's only really used as a walkway and for parking. The houses themselves, with their tiny gardens, are actually quite attractive and their arrangement is quite pleasing.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Early one morning...

For the last 12 years of my working life, I was regularly up at 6am to be in the office before 8. I often used to imagine those early morning walks I'd take once I retired... though I knew at heart I was a night owl rather than a lark. Now happily in retirement, I've been somewhat surprised to find I'm one of those people who doesn't really get going until about 10am. Morning walks haven't featured very much! So, when the forecast was for a heavy frost overnight, I was quite proud of myself that I put the alarm on and heaved myself out of bed and into the chill. I walked in somewhat of a daze, it has to be said, but it was still pleasant to find myself out there for once with the early commuters, joggers and dog walkers.

In the event the frost in this fairly urban neighbourhood wasn't as heavy as I'd anticipated and the sunrise was unspectacular. I still enjoyed the subtle colours and the way the low sun caught the tops of the trees, many still clinging on to their autumn leaves, though it was mid-November. The frost meant the leaves were tumbling down all around me, making soft sounds like gentle rain.

Across the fields, the lodge that once guarded the entrance gates to Titus Salt Jnr's Milner Field mansion positively glowed in the sunshine. The geese, roosting on the field, seemed as dazed as I was at that early hour.

I was a little disappointed that the sun wasn't yet high enough to make magic along the river, and there was only a faint haze of mist on the water. Surprisingly, there were three rowers out from the rowing club, getting their morning exercise, all clad in neon yellow life vests. That wasn't especially what I wanted in my photos and I had to be careful to time my shots to avoid them!

Where the sun was yet to penetrate, the frost rimed the fallen leaves.

It was a worthwhile endeavour; gratifying to come home to a warm house, decent coffee and my bowl of porridge - and with the smug satisfaction of having already clocked my target steps for the day!

Monday, 2 December 2019

Don McCullin's landscapes

Most people have heard of the acclaimed photographer Don McCullin and I guess many associate him with his war photography or perhaps gritty black and white photos of northern cities. He's 84 now and in his later years has taken to landscape photography. (See HERE). I recognise his greatness but he's another photographer whose work I can't say that I actually like. He seems to have the ability to make any scene look like a war zone! I think his photos of people are actually a lot more successful.

My own photographic style is rather the opposite of his, striving to make even ordinary scenes look colourful and, if possible, beautiful. So it was a challenge to me to be faced with the theme for my online group in November, which was to take a photo inspired by Don McCullin's landscapes: a black and white, dark and moody scene!

My offering, above, was taken on Shipley Glen, when the weather did more than oblige and created plenty of moodiness.

Sunday, 1 December 2019

A Public Service Announcement

I've noticed that most of the blogs I visit don't have HTTPS redirect switched on. Without the redirect, your visitors are accessing an unsecured site HTTP, without the security benefits of HTTPS. When people aren't sending payment or anything it perhaps doesn't matter too much, but I've had my blog secured for a long time now, so you should see a padlock in the browser bar next to the site address.

It's very easy to set up HTTPS redirect: in Blogger, look under Settings, Basic, HTTPS and simply click the box to turn on HTPPS redirect. It didn't appear to cause any issues when I did it, no slowdown or anything.

See HERE for more info.

If HTTPS Redirect is turned on:
Visitors to your blog will always go to
If HTTPS Redirect is turned off:
Visitors to will be served over HTTP, an unencrypted connection.
Visitors to will be served over HTTPS, an encrypted connection. 


The town of Skipton, about 16 miles north of Saltaire, styles itself as 'The Gateway to the Dales' though you'll reach the Dales much quicker if you take the Skipton bypass around the town. The town has a very good market on four days of the week, which takes up all the space along both sides of the long and wide main street. The origins of the market are ancient: a centre for trading sheep and wool.  Nowadays, the sheep are traded at the auction mart on the edge of town and the market sells all manner of goods, from clothing to sweets, hardware and gifts. When it's not market day, as on the day I last visited, it is still a very congested town centre with a line of queuing traffic almost always inching its way through. That just demonstrates, however, what a thriving centre it is and how important for the surrounding rural communities. Skipton regularly comes near the top of 'the best/happiest places to live' in Yorkshire/England/the world. 

It has some good small shops, with a fair few independents as well as some of the usual high-street names. At the north end of the main street (behind me as I took the top picture) sits the large parish church of Holy Trinity (below) and, behind that, Skipton Castle. (I keep promising myself to visit the castle again... Not made it so far.)  The main street is a bit tricky to photograph as it runs due north-south and the best view, from the slightly elevated churchyard wall, is always into the sun. You can get the general feel of the place from the top photo: a nice mix of very old buildings (several old pubs and coaching inns) and some solid, provincial Victorian edifices like the library in my photo and and the town hall opposite. The war memorial doubles as a roundabout at the top end of the street, where the road splits east and west round the castle. 

The Leeds-Liverpool Canal runs through the town parallel to the main street before turning west, giving an extra layer of interest around the canal basin, where there are always plenty of colourful boats. 
(Photos taken in October, before my eye op). 

Saturday, 30 November 2019


On my regular jaunts to RHS Gardens at Harlow Carr, I drive through a pretty little village called Leathley, near Otley. I always think I'll stop and explore... and I never do. Well, one day in early November I did, because the sun was shining and bringing out all its beauty. I used my phone to take a picture of the church and the sun promptly disappeared behind a cloud - and then the rain started! So I didn't get far in my exploration.

The building that catches my eye when I drive through is the row of almshouses (above) which have a beautiful view across the Wharfe valley. I've found online a conservation area study, which tells about the history of the area. This has aways been predominantly an agricultural area. It has various links over the years to nearby Farnley Hall (see HERE). The almshouses date back to 1769, when a school house (the two-storey bit in the middle) and four almshouses were built in memory of Henry Hitch, the lord of the manor, to care for the poor of the parish and to educate the children.

The church of St Oswald sits proudly on a hillock. It originally dates back to the 1100s with additions in the 1470s and Victorian renovations. The beautiful carved cross is a war memorial.

(Note to self: make sure you take a proper walk in this area next Spring! There seems to be lots more to discover.)

Friday, 29 November 2019

Harriers v Cyclists

I was negotiating my way along the rather muddy and slippery moorland at the top of Shipley Glen, when I noticed a skein of brightly coloured vests ahead of me - runners and cyclists. I was just too late to see exactly what was going on but then later, as I turned round to return the way I'd come, they also returned and passed me. I realised it was the annual 'Harriers v Cyclists' race, organised by Bingley Harriers running club.

They start at the Fisherman Pub on the canal, following a course through the Milner Field estate, across Loadpit Beck by the mill pond, through Shipley Glen and up the steep bank to Glen Road (where I took these photos). Their route, a little over 5 miles (8 km) in total but with a steep 300m climb, then circles round Hope Hill on Baildon Moor and back along the same path into the valley. They compete for the Fisherman Trophy. The course record is around 34 minutes. This year, the fastest male runner (Nathan Edmondson) completed it in 36 min 01.7 sec and the fastest cyclist (David Mirfield) in 36 min 56.7 sec, so there is not much in it. The fastest women clocked 43:43 running and 58:25 cycling. Most of the cyclists I watched dismounted at the top of the steep bank where I photographed them, which I suppose slows them down a little. Getting filthy and bruised is one thing, but risking your neck is another, I guess.

I felt a little crazy to be out walking on such a gloomy and damp day, but there are many folk who think nothing of spending their weekends getting all muddy and wet in the name of sport!

The chap with the stick was a marshal showing the competitors where the route down the crag face started, as it is quite hard to see - not really a path, more of a scramble.