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Thursday, 31 January 2019

Hobbling around Haworth

I somehow managed to seize up my back a couple of weeks ago. Whilst I've regained some freedom of movement, it still aches. I'm trying to keep moving, as sitting still doesn't help. So, despite the temperature hovering around freezing, I took myself off for a hobble round Haworth. It was cold but there wasn't a breath of wind so it was actually really pleasant wandering around in the weak sunshine. I'd forgotten that the Brontë Parsonage Museum closes during January, as do many of the cafés and tourist shops, so there were only a handful of other visitors and I could appreciate 'the bones' of the village, rather than fighting through the crowds.

It isn't exactly a pretty place (too gritty and 'northern' for that) but it has a lot of charm, with its steep, cobbled main street (made famous recently as a challenging climb on the Tours de France and Yorkshire cycle races). There is a host of little alleys and backstreets to explore too, as well as the area around the Parsonage and church.

The imposing Hall Green Baptist Chapel sits at the bottom of the main street, with a glorious view of fields beyond. Haworth was an important centre during the Evangelical revival in the 18th century, which led to the birth of Methodism. (Interesting article HERE about that and Patrick Brontë's links to it).

The lack of crowds meant it was easier to appreciate the many different shapes and sizes of buildings that line the main street. There is a wondrous hodgepodge of houses, pubs and commercial premises clinging to its slopes.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Tong Park

My camera club will hold its biennial exhibition this summer, so I've been choosing a few photos to have printed. Stage two of the process is to get them mounted, so I trotted off to the picture framer that I use, in Baildon. It was a very cold, frosty day but, as the sun was shining, I also took the opportunity to have a short walk round nearby Tong Park.

Tong Park was a mill village that was built by the Denby family around their Tong Park Mill in the 1850s. Unlike Saltaire, little now remains of their empire. The mill finally closed in the 1990s and is now an industrial park. Some of the original village was demolished from the 1960s onwards and now the area is a pleasant and mixed residential zone. There are a few rows of Victorian terraced houses still dotted around. Interestingly, I noticed some of them are 'back to backs', where the houses share party walls on three sides, with only the front wall having a door and windows. They were often badly built and came to be considered unfavourably, so most have now disappeared.

What does remain is the mill dam, nestled in the Gill Beck valley. It provides a tranquil focal point in an area of grassland and woods, rich in wildlife and unusual plants that thrive on the glacial moraine.

The ducks were rather bemused that the lake was completely frozen over. They just stood around, seeming rather fed up with things. 

Climbing out of the valley, there was a good view back over the lake towards the Hollins Hall golf course and, to the left, the rather picturesque cricket ground. On the hillside (where the evergreen tree is) stands a war memorial, erected by the Denby family to commemorate the men from Tong Park who died in WWI.

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

YSP in mono

We've had a couple of talks recently at the camera club by photographers specialising in mono work. They have inspired many of us, me included, to scroll back through our archives and look for images that will convert effectively to monochrome. I found these two, taken at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, that I think look quite good in mono, especially when I gave them a slight sepia tinge.

The top one is part of a sculpture by Amar Kanwar, made of organ pipes salvaged from the 19th century chapel on the YSP site. Its title is 'Six Mourners and The One Alone'.

Perched on top of a rotting tree stump, the iron figure above is recognisably an Antony Gormley creation, entitled 'One & Other'. (In fact, the tree stump is so rotten that I gather the figure has now been removed, awaiting a new site.) Gormley's other works include 'The Angel of the North' and 'Another Place', the figures on Crosby Beach (HERE). He often uses casts of his own body. This particular sculpture speaks of isolation. The figure, with no distinct features, becomes the universal.

Monday, 28 January 2019

Windows, reprised

I generally try to avoid taking the same photo twice, although it can be a fascinating exercise to log the changes over the years. Here is an exception. I am fascinated by all these windows in the houses bordering the path down from Ilkley Tarn. I first noticed and photographed them in 2010 (see HERE) and, since then, very little appears to have been altered. I still find them oddly compelling, and a black and white conversion still seems to suit the image best.

Elsewhere in Ilkley, things are changing. The Rombalds Hotel has closed, as the owners decided to retire after 22 years and could not sell it as a going concern. It is now being converted into nine apartments. Ilkley is a popular place for well-heeled retirees and there are already a lot of apartments, in converted older buildings and newly-built blocks. The developers obviously think they can sell a few more.

Of more concern to me was the fact that the public toilets in the town centre were closed! I'd understood that the local town council had taken them on, when they were earmarked for closure by Bradford Council last year. So whether their recent closure is temporary, for repairs, or permanent, I'm not sure. It always seems daft to me that the only alternative is to pay for a coffee in order to be able to use a café's facilities - and then an hour or so later you just need the same all over again!

Sunday, 27 January 2019


There is a good view from Ilkley Tarn over the Wharfe valley towards Middleton and across to the high moorland north of Ilkley. From this raised vantage point, Ilkley itself is more or less hidden below in the valley. There is a shelter beside the Tarn and its wooden structure offered a kind of picture frame to the view.

Looking in the opposite direction, Ilkley Moor rises up from the Tarn, everywhere russet-tinged with heaps of collapsed bracken. I rather liked the shape of this lone tree on the edge of the moor.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Practising at Ilkley Tarn

I met with a friend from my camera club one afternoon and we walked up to Ilkley Tarn. Both of us are keen to improve our photography and I'm still on a learning curve with my new camera, so we were trying out manual exposures - with limited success in my case! It was a dullish day and the light wasn't great, but we still enjoyed chatting and learning together. Coffee and cake in one of Ilkley's lovely coffee shops rounded off a very pleasant afternoon.

The Tarn sits on the edge of the moor, above the town, and was created out of a bog in the 19th century, initially as a mill dam. It then became a popular place to walk - and skate when the water froze in winter - and was 'prettified' with shelters, lights and paths. It even had a fountain at one time. It has been a popular meeting spot too. Emmeline Pankhurst, the suffragette leader, spoke at a rally there.

It's still popular with dog-walkers and those seeking a gentle walk along decent, mud-free paths. You can happen upon it unexpectedly if, anticipating a moorland walk, you follow the path from the town. Indeed, beyond it there is access to Ilkley Moor proper. It always seems a little odd to me to come across the old Victorian lamp-posts that line the path. A bit of Saltaire in Ilkley or even a touch of Narnia in them.

Friday, 25 January 2019

The Work of Salts

This interesting oil and acrylic canvas called 'The Work of Salts' (2018) hangs in the People and Process Gallery in Salts Mill. It is by London-based artist Alke Schmidt, part of her Wonder and Dread project, which 'explores the politics and morality of global textile supply chains and situates Bradford's wool industry in an international context'. Against the backdrop of Salts Mill's long south elevation, Victorian female mill workers share the space with Peruvian women and their alpacas, the source of the wool that was to make Sir Titus Salt's fortune. He himself can be seen in the upper left corner, with a lady that I presume is his wife Caroline. A Victorian child with two Victorian ladies in their huge crinolines and cloaks refer to the clothing that could be made from the fine, lustrous cloth the mill produced. Also creeping in are Burmantofts pottery vases and the lilies that are always displayed in the 1853 Gallery, filling the air with their heady scent.

The artist is quoted as saying: 'The Mill left such a strong impression on me: its remarkable history of vision, hope and hard work; its visual impact; its great spirit and energy; its beautiful Victorian alpaca dress fabrics; the scent of lilies in the 1853 Gallery; and especially the people whose work has made Salts Mill a success then and now.'

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Salts Mill Gallery 2

In Salts Mill, just beyond Salts Diner, there is a long gallery that is used for temporary exhibitions. At the moment it is featuring photographs by Ian Beesley, a local photographer celebrated for his social documentary work. The work shown spans four decades. It includes photographs from the1980s when he documented the slow shutting down of Salts Mill as a working mill, and some from 2017 when he returned to photograph the Mill's reinvigoration, picturing some of the same spaces in their current incarnation. (See also HERE). There are also some poignant portraits of men and women employed in trades that no longer exist. The images are accompanied by poems by Ian McMillan, an acclaimed Yorkshire poet, who is a friend of Beesley's and with whom he often collaborates.

The above photo is called the 'The Bobbin Doffer'.

'Look at this man, how he carries the bobbins so carefully, each hand just so.....

Look at this man, how he carries the bobbins like he's carrying history.
And he can't see where he's going.
Can't see which way History's heading.
But we can see him.'  

Ian McMillan

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

The Mill yard

Salts Mill looks huge from the outside but it's only when you start to explore within that its massive size and numerous wings and sheds really become evident. The photo above is the entrance from Victoria Road and the centre of Saltaire - the 'back entrance', one might say, although many visitors come in this way. (The front entrance on the south side is accessed from the Mill's car park and nowadays has a modern glass and steel canopy.) Hundreds of the mill's workers must have come through this gate, in through the door on the right (where the blue and white sign now is) and up the stone stairs inside, to get to their work every day. There's an archive photo HERE taken in 1946 and reputed to be Salts Mill, though it looks somewhat different.

The building still houses several businesses and high tech industries (mostly in the parts to the left and beyond), with the retail/visitor areas of shops, cafés and galleries mainly in the south wing on the right. But during the working day when everybody is inside, it's quiet - especially in winter when there are fewer tourists. Then you can walk up the yard and under the archway, feeling the stone setts under your boots and imagining, perhaps, that you're a mill girl on an errand.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Spot the kingfisher

No, the kingfisher is not called Spot... I mean, can you see it?

I've walked along the riverbank many times and had other walkers say to me: 'Have you seen the kingfisher?' Maddening that I have never seen it! Then, the other day, when I wasn't even really looking, I saw a flash of blue. I stopped and watched for a while as the bird flew back and forth across the river and up and down the banks.

My new camera has a shorter zoom than my Nikon had, so it's no good for bird photography. Even if I'd had a decent lens, I doubt I could have got a very good photo as the bird didn't sit still for long. This was the best I could do. They are brightly coloured but quite small birds, and they dart about quite fast. They are not uncommon around here but it is, nevertheless, always a real thrill to see one.

Monday, 21 January 2019


Here I took a really boring image of seeds and dead leaves, cropped it several ways, played around with coloured layers and the saturation sliders and framed them as a triptych. Mad but quite fun.

Sunday, 20 January 2019


Tlaloc is the Aztec god of rain, water and earthly fertility. It seemed a good name for this image, again one I produced in Photoshop. I took an image of grasses beside the canal, then duplicated, layered and blended it, and played around with the saturation. I never know quite what will emerge from the process so it is quite a fun and relaxing thing to do.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Fairy lights

Playing in Photoshop again, whiling away the dark evenings. This time I used two photos of different grasses, layering, blurring and blending them. I quite liked this effect. It looks like tiny fairy lights strung through some illuminated glass wands. Well, you either like this kind of thing or you hate it!

Friday, 18 January 2019

Shibden saunter

I went for a short walk with some friends, on a day that turned out to be drier, brighter and rather lovelier than expected. We went to Shibden Dale, an area I didn't really know, situated in between Bradford and Halifax. It's a small valley that holds, at one end, the Shibden Hall estate (see HERE) and in the middle a rather nice 'pub with rooms', called the Shibden Mill Inn. The inn is a 17th century building that was a corn and spinning mill until 1890. It's quite pretty, nestled into the valley. I didn't get a photo of it as I couldn't find a good vantage point.

We parked near the pub and set off on our circular walk, past a few old farm buildings that have been converted into very nice residences, and then out into the fields. 

There were old stone flags along some of the route, a sign that it was once a packhorse route, linking the nearby hamlets to the mill and onwards to the town of Halifax.

The best views were looking south down the valley towards Shibden Hall, but that meant shooting into the sun, so it looks a bit hazy. 

We passed several very old buildings, including the Grade II listed Lower North Royd Farm, a traditional stone house built in 1699, with long, mullioned windows and a distinctive circular window above the front door.

As we climbed higher, there was a good view up to Queensbury, which boasts one of the highest parish churches in England at nearly 350m above sea level. You can see the church tower in the photo below, to the left. The mill chimney is that of Black Dyke Mills, once an important textile mill (and home to the famous Black Dyke Mills brass band), now converted to business units and a creative arts centre.

Just beyond the halfway point of our walk, we had to pass through an unusual tunnel - a relic, I think, of the quarrying that took place in the area. The hill we were skirting seemed to be a quarry spoil heap. 

Our route gradually descended then, past another attractive building, Lower Lime House, dating to the 17th century, also listed and with distinctive ball finials on the gable copings.

Then an easy amble back to the Shibden Mill Inn. I always like a walk that can end with a drink in a cosy pub! It had been rather muddy underfoot and we all said it would be a lovely area to explore in the spring, so I might return for another expedition one day.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Volunteers at Bracken Hall

These ladies are some of the volunteers who are keeping Shipley Glen's Bracken Hall Countryside Centre open, through the Friends of Bracken Hall and with the support of Baildon Town Council. They weren't all that sure about having their photos taken but they kindly agreed.

The Centre first opened in 1981 and was run as a private business by the people who lived in the adjacent house. Later it was transferred to Bradford Council, who ran it for many years as an educational outreach centre. Budget cuts meant that could not continue and the centre closed in 2013. A concerted effort by the Friends means it's now able to open at weekends. It organises guided walks and supports school visits to the area, as well as having an interesting and varied display inside, covering the social, industrial and natural history of the area. It also has a nice wildlife-friendly garden. It's well worth popping in if you're walking on Shipley Glen. They even offered me chocolates and a cup of tea!

The adjoining Bracken Hall House is now run as a luxury B&B and has five star reviews.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Saltaire's almshouses

Since some of the large trees on Victoria Road were felled, it's been much easier to appreciate the architecture of Saltaire's almshouses. Opened in September 1868, they are amongst the most ornate buildings in the village. Like the rest of Saltaire, they have Italianate features but they lean heavily towards the Victorian Gothic style in favour at the time, with pointed arches and rock-faced stonework. 45 dwellings were built at the top end of Victoria Road, in a rectangle around a garden known as Alexandra Square. Those shown above are on the east side, adjoining the infirmary. 

Perhaps influenced by other local mill owners (including Francis Crossley and Titus Salt Junior's father-in-law, Joseph Crossley, in Halifax), Sir Titus Salt decided to provide for selected elderly and infirm residents, who received rent-free accommodation and a small pension. I believe some of the cottages are still used for social housing. 

You can see other photos of them by clicking the 'almshouses' label below. 

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Giddy Arts - coffee to go!

The shop on the corner of Victoria Road and Albert Terrace has been many things. It opened in 1861 and was a flour dealer and confectioner. In the 1930s it was 'Vimto's Temperance Bar', selling soft drinks and it had a counter where you could sit and drink your Vimto. It continued to sell confectionery for years under various owners, until the 1970s. It then had a time when it sold furniture and rugs, and by the early 2000s it was 'Era', selling vintage clothes. (My daughter bought a dress for a Cambridge May Ball there.) The shop closed and then reopened eventually as ArtParade, selling high quality craftwork, ceramics, jewellery, cards and gifts. It was also a gallery showing and selling contemporary artwork, prints and photographs. ArtParade flourished for many years until its owner retired last year.

Now No 1 Victoria Road has become 'Giddy Arts', a gallery 'championing independent makers', mostly local, stocking a growing collection of jewellery, textiles and ceramics. They have also installed a small coffee bar, selling 'coffee to go'. I stopped by after a walk and chatted to Joel, the proprietor, whilst sampling the coffee. It was delicious and I can highly recommend it. I'm not generally a huge coffee fan but I could drink several of their lattes a day, if my waistline would allow it! Top marks for using compostable cups and lids too. The shop has only been open a week or two, so it's early days. As it's right beside the rail station, I could imagine them doing a good trade catering for commuters who want a hot drink to wrap their hands around and wake them up. (I don't know what time they open up.)

It's a nice counterpart to Radstudio at No 2 next door. That's been open five years now and sells a good selection of stylish homewares and gifts.

(Some information taken from the book 'A Penny for Going', the history of Saltaire through its shops, by local historian Roger Clarke.)

Monday, 14 January 2019

Saltaire in the round

Saltaire in the round: four photos taken on the same spot, turning 360 degrees.

Looking NORTH (above) from the railway bridge down Victoria Road, towards the church, canal, river and park.

SOUTH (above) looking up Victoria Road towards the Victoria Hall, whose tower you can just see behind the tree on the left.

EAST (above) looking across the allotments to the south facade of Salts Mill,

and WEST (below) looking along Albert Terrace, which runs alongside the railway line.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Two from one, plus a bonus

Photo blogs are a bit like the London Underground, I always think... You can travel on the Underground and 'pop up' at various points in London, without having any real idea of how those points all mesh together. Some places I always thought were miles apart turn out to be next-door neighbours, quicker to walk than to take the Tube between them!

In a similar way, I'm sure regular readers of my blog, even those who have never set foot in Saltaire, have a pretty good idea by now of the local scenery and my habitual walks but perhaps haven't formed an idea of where all the places are in relation to each other. So I suddenly had the idea to take two (or more) photos from one spot, just shifting my viewpoint, and that way you can see a little more of how things fit together.

The picture above is taken looking back in the direction of Saltaire, at the point where the Leeds-Liverpool Canal (seen on the right) passes on an aqueduct over the River Aire (glimpsed centre left). This is the furthest point of my favourite circular walk, along the canal and then back along the river. There are steps down to the riverbank just where the girl is standing. It's a walk I do at least every couple of weeks, but there is always something new to discover. This time I noticed that a new hedge has been planted behind the bench. The sign said it had been done by the Hirst Wood Regeneration Group. Good idea - but it might mean that one day you won't be able to see my two favourite trees so well...

My two favourite trees, in the photo below, are on the hill up above the canal. I was standing on the same spot to take both photos, just moving a quarter turn between the two views. The girl had seen me taking the trees and must have decided to take a similar picture herself. They did look quite dramatic, lit by the sun against the dark storm clouds.

And a postscript, a photo taken on a different day: I noticed that, now the leaves are off the trees, it is possible to see a good bit of the aqueduct from the river bank. I don't think I've ever really shown the arches before as they are usually so obscured. The Dowley Gap Aqueduct is 30 feet long and actually has seven arches. Designed by the famous engineer, James Brindley, it was built in the 1770s. Nowadays the river mainly flows under the first two arches, turning back on itself in a huge curve. The others are silted up and only really fill when the river is in flood.