I HAVE CLOSED DOWN THIS BLOG. Please click the photo above to be REDIRECTED TO MY NEW (continuation) BLOG.

Friday, 31 January 2020

The Early Music Shop

Perhaps only the real aficionados know it is there but tucked away at the back of Salts Mill in what used to be the wool shed is The Early Music Shop, the world's largest early music instrument specialist and supplier of sheet music, CDs and accessories. I've passed many times and never dared to go in but one day I was feeling bold. It was peaceful inside, just a couple of other people browsing and the sales staff kept a discreet watch from the back of the store. It really is a treasure trove, full of exquisite and unusual instruments, most of which I would hesitate to put a name to. I'm afraid I can't tell a crumhorn from a shawm from a dulcimer. I did recognise the harps, lots of them in different sizes and with varying degrees of decoration. They are so beautiful.

There were some lovely percussion instruments too: drums and bodhrans, as in the picture below and several elegant harpsichords and spinets. There was even a 'build your own' harpsichord from a flatpack kit - quite an undertaking, I imagine.

Most of the instruments appeared to be new, though there was a beautiful Pillement Violone (see below), a Double Bass handmade in France in 1781 and rescued in the French Revolution, as it was part of a collection in the Royal Court of France. The information said it has an extraordinarily beautiful sound, which I could well imagine just from looking at the patina on the wood. It could be yours... for a mere £45,000.

Some of the detail in the instruments was gorgeous, especially the elaborate fretwork on the stringed lutes and fiddles.

I'm so glad I went in to have a look round, as it was a fascinating store.

They offer tuition on harp, viol, lute, recorder and other instruments, run workshops and often perform early music concerts locally.

In addition there is the Yorkshire Music School in the same building, teaching piano, rock guitar, vocals and drums to aspiring young musicians.

Saltaire is often a surprising place!

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Salts Mill yard

The walk through Salts Mill yard from the rear used to be a frequent route for me, my regular lunchtime leg-stretch circular when I was working. Since I retired, I rarely go that way, more often taking the canalside route past the mills. This day however, I was wearing a decent pair of leather boots, not my usual walking clobber, so I decided I would avoid the canal towpath as it is currently really muddy in parts.

Salts Mill always looks stunning on a sunny, blue sky day. The honeyed stone is shown at its mellow best. This route is the one you'd take as a visitor arriving from the main car park, and passes right beside the massive chimney before entering the mill through the glass portico into the 1853 Gallery on the ground floor. (Many visitors, of course, enter from the Victoria Road end of the mill, from the village, as I usually do now.)

I took a detour through the Mill itself. The soft music, calm atmosphere and scent of lilies in the 1853 Gallery is supremely relaxing. I always leave feeling better about myself and the world.

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Salts Mill from the park

Somehow, seen from across Roberts Park in winter with no leaves on the trees, the bulk of Salts Mill appears much more dominant. It really is a huge building!

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

A bowls match

It was a Monday morning in the depths of winter but there was a bowls tournament underway at Salts Sports Club. With four teams playing on each of the two greens, it appeared to require a good deal of concentration so as not to get in the way of the others' trajectories. I've only once, years ago, tried playing, though there is a club (not Salts) linked, rather bizarrely, to my church. (I think the church owns the land they play on.) Many countries seem to have a variation on the game: think French boules, Italian bocce and Spanish pétanque. The game being played at Salts is crown green bowls, where the playing surface is slightly raised in the middle. The smaller yellow jack is rolled onto the green and the players then have two weighted balls (woods) to deliver as close as they can to the jack. See HERE for a full explanation. It seems a very sociable activity and I know some people play on into their eighties and nineties, so there's time for me yet!

Monday, 27 January 2020

Bradford City AFC

Even further down Manningham Lane towards Bradford city centre, I came to Valley Parade, the home ground of Bradford City football club. They are currently in League Two with a slim chance of 'going up' in the world again this season. I used to have a season ticket in the late 1990s, in the heady days when they were in the Premier League for two seasons. It was good fun but times change, the people I used to go with moved away and my interest eventually waned...

In 1985, the stadium was tragically the scene of one of the worst disasters in football history, when 56 people died and nearly 300 were badly injured in a fire that ravaged through the old wooden main stand in a little over nine minutes. The stadium has had many alterations since, and the current Kop end, main stand, hospitality suites and function rooms were extended and improved in the late 1990s/early 2000s. The ground's capacity is around 25,000, though the highest attendance this season has been about 14,000.

Sunday, 26 January 2020

Student days

After I'd walked round Lister Park, I suddenly took it into my head to walk down Manningham Lane towards Bradford city centre. It was, in many ways, a nostalgia trip, as I passed two places I once used to live, as a student and then when I returned to Bradford in my late twenties. Even in those days (1970s) it was a bit of a run-down area, full of student bedsits. These days it is even more sad, with many empty properties, a lot of litter and decay. The once-grand Victorian villas, former homes of wealthy Victorian industrialists like Titus Salt, now need a good deal of work to bring them up to a decent standard again, though it could be a lovely area if it had enough money spent on it.

One street with particular potential is Apsley Crescent (above). (I believe it was the birthplace of an old school friend of mine, who reads this blog. She may be interested!) It is supposedly a conservation area, having some large and at one time beautiful properties, built in the 1850s in the Classical and Italianate styles that were popular in Victorian Bradford.

Most of them are now either empty, used as commercial premises or broken up into flats and bedsits. The Manningham area is one of the most culturally diverse in Bradford, with many residents of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin, Afro-Caribbeans, Eastern Europeans, and still some students living there (though many now live in rather stylish modern blocks in the city centre, of a luxurious standard that would have been unthinkable in my student days!)

Saturday, 25 January 2020

Press photography exhibition

The exhibition I went to see at Cartwright Hall was Assignments 2019: British Press Photographers' Association. It didn't disappoint, having some wonderful examples of sport and documentary work taken all over the world on assignments by British press photographers. I particularly enjoyed a shot of the footballer Harry Kane, caught in a balletic pose during a match (third pic). The exhibition is on until mid-April, so there is still time for local folk to see it.

The area in which the exhibition was displayed also holds two sculptures. One is by Anish Kapoor: 'Turning the world inside out', a massive stainless steel piece, purchased in 1997, that reflects its surroundings in a beguiling manner. The other is a Francis Derwent Wood marble (1921), called 'Humanity overcoming War'. (Oh, that we could!) Derwent Wood also created the statue of Sir Titus Salt that stands in Saltaire's Roberts Park.

Photography in Cartwright Hall is not, I think, encouraged but I did manage these quick snaps on my phone. I hate it when they forbid photography, as I think seeing pictures encourages other people to visit. The lighting (as so often) created a lot of reflections on the glass of the pictures. I don't know why they don't use non-reflective glass. It's daft when you can't properly see the pictures you've come to view!

Friday, 24 January 2020

Blue sky day

There was an amazingly uplifting blue sky when I visited Bradford's main art gallery at Cartwright Hall recently. The view of the hall from the water gardens is rather attractive, I think. The Edwardian Baroque building opened in 1904 as a purpose-built gallery, a gift to the city from Samuel Lister, a wealthy local mill-owner. It sits centrally in Lister Park, a pleasant oasis in the city.

For many years it has lacked a tearoom, apart from the kiosk by the boating lake that is only open in summer. Now it has a smart new café in the basement, serving coffee, a good selection of cakes and light meals, though I think people haven't yet realised its existence as it was virtually empty when I visited.

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Clearing up

Back to Roberts Park - and the huge tree that had fallen into the river (see HERE) has been (mostly) cleared up, with just a few twiggy branches remaining in the water. I suppose they'll get swept downstream in time. I happened to be walking past and I saw the men working, sawing the trunk into manageable pieces and shredding some of it into wood chips. They must somehow have pulled the tree back onto the land. What a job! It has all left rather a scar on the bank and in the woodland, but no doubt Mother Nature will step in to regenerate it all.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Black-winged harpy

I was somewhat disconcerted to see this creature standing on a branch above the river, though I shouldn't have been. Closer inspection revealed it to be the young cormorant that I first spotted fishing a few days ago. It was drying its wings after a spell of diving. It is a very efficient fishing machine, diving underwater for long periods and surfacing some way from where it first disappeared from view, always with a beak full of fish that it swallowed as it broke the surface of the water. 

So... not a black-winged harpy then... 'that fierce, sudden black-winged harpy, with its talons and its beak all cold and hard...' as Virginia Woolf put it in 'To the Lighthouse'. Phew. (That might, however, be the Loch Ness monster, rising from the water beneath!)

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Open day at Dowley Gap locks

Having seen the new lock gates being delivered (see yesterday) I was keen to enjoy the Open Day they had on Sunday at Dowley Gap locks. It was an event designed to educate people about our canal network and to enable the public to view the almost finished repairs. You can see the new top gates in the photo above (pulled back into the walls at either side). You can also see the wooden dam that is holding back the water of the canal beyond and, mounted on a barge, the crane that was used to lift the heavy gates into place. I'd hoped to see that take place during the week but the day arrived stormy, with rain and wind. Since my eyesight isn't fully recovered after surgery, I judged it ill-advised to walk up there. (I'm hoping these photos are not really as blurred as they currently look to me!!)

The photo below shows the old gates loaded onto the barge. I think the new gates were made at the Stanley Ferry workshops near Wakefield so maybe the old wood will be taken back there. I was looking back in my files and I realised the other two sets of gates at Dowley Gap were replaced in 2013, at the same time as they drained and repaired the aqueduct. That was a much bigger job and I documented it HERE. I was told that a set of lock gates lasts about 25 years before they need to be replaced, so it must be an endless programme of repair work for the Canal and River Trust. There are apparently 1569 locks in England and Wales, so that's a lot of gates!

There were many Canal and River Trust volunteers giving up their Sunday to show people round and chat. They do such good work.

They also had a few activities for children. I watched as they built a model of the nearby aqueduct, carefully balancing stones over a mould to form the arches. The actual Dowley Gap aqueduct has seven arches. The model had three. They were also teaching children to carve stone. Actually, I'd have liked a go but it was rather busy around the table.

(Rather amused to see the two women in my picture above, apparently posing for a photo! In fact they were pictured on a large information hoarding so it wasn't me they were smiling at but another photographer in a previous incarnation!)

Monday, 20 January 2020

A delivery

I've been doing quite well with my New Year resolution to have a walk every day, if I possibly can, even after the cataract surgery. There's always something of interest to see on my perambulations (albeit things are currently a little blurred). One day I happened to be on the canal towpath when a barge passed slowly by, carrying the new lock gates that have since been installed at the Dowley Gap locks. It was preceded by a pair of swans, so that it looked a little like a stately parade! There was some banter from the boatmen as they passed and they both gave me wide smiles for the photograph. The gates are huge, heavy things. It seems something of a wonder that the relatively shallow water of the canal can support such a weight, but it has been doing so since the 1770s, being originally built for carrying heavy freight between Liverpool docks and the mills and factories of Yorkshire.

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Summer Sunday stroll 5

Bingley Five Rise Locks
[The end point of my walk from Saltaire to Bingley along the towpath of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal - although I did walk all the way back home again.] 

And so, we arrive at the famous Five Rise Locks just in time to see a wide beam boat being lifted in stages up the staircase. Two traditional narrowboats can fit in a lock side by side, but the wide beam boats take up a lot more room. Some of the longest boats don't fit either. Lock sizes are not standardised across the waterways network. The locks on the Leeds-Liverpool canal are about 19m long and some locks in the Yorkshire network are even shorter than that. 

Some of my readers may recall the time (seven years ago, yikes!) when I went walking in these locks, when they were drained for restoration of the lock gates (see HERE). The chamber walls look so high when you're at the bottom.

Looking back towards Bingley, the locks drop away so steeply that you can't really see them all. 

The Five Rise Locks are permanently staffed by a lock-keeper, often with several volunteers assisting too. It's such a complicated obstacle to navigate and things can go badly wrong if you don't know what you're doing. There's a lovely tribute to Barry Whitelock (HERE), the country's longest serving lock-keeper, who worked here in Bingley from the age of 19 until he retired in 2017. I don't know who has taken over from him, but there must be some satisfaction in carrying out such an historic role.

When the locks are not busy (rare in summer), the lock-keeper hangs out in his office at the top of the locks. I expect there's a kettle in there but, if not, he can always nip over to the café across the road.

The Five Rise Locks café is a very popular spot with walkers and cyclists. There's usually plenty to watch, if you choose a table on the canal side. Next to it is a service facility for boaters, with toilets, showers and sewage disposal. This stretch of the canal from the locks towards Crossflatts also operates as a marina, with some permanent mooring for boats.

Saturday, 18 January 2020

Summer Sunday stroll 4

Bingley to the Five Rise Locks
[Continuing my walk from Saltaire to Bingley along the towpath of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal] 

In the centre of Bingley, the canal towpath feels rather separate from the town. There are a few places where you can move between the two but, because the canal was moved sideways when the relief road was built, there are high walls between the canal, the roads and the railway. There are swans gliding along by the reed beds and the canal feels like an oasis of peace amid the bustle. 

A little further along, commerce intrudes as you pass the old mill that is home to Damart, maker of thermal underwear and now a large catalogue and mail order business. The canal is wider here - another winding hole and mooring spot before the long haul of the Three and Five Rise Locks. 

Snuggled against the wall of the mill, the canal is again lifted, 30ft (9m) this time, by the Three Rise Locks. This is a popular spot with fishermen. The fish must like to congregate in the pool at the base of the locks. 

Beyond the Three Rise, the towpath enters another leafy stretch, sweeping round a couple of bends, hugging the hillside, and offering lovely glimpses of wide-ranging views up the Aire valley. 

Then finally, you round a bend and see the full glory of the astonishing Five Rise Locks, one of the wonders of our waterways: the steepest staircase on the longest canal in the UK.  Built in 1774, they carry the canal another 60ft (18 m) higher, with five lock chambers to navigate. Because of their complexity and the amount of traffic they carry, a full time lock-keeper is employed here, who with the help of volunteers ensures the safety of both boaters and the gongoozling public. (A gongoozler is an affectionate term for people who enjoy watching the activity of boats and people along our canals. Me, I suppose!)

Friday, 17 January 2020

Summer Sunday stroll 3

Dowley Gap Lock to Bingley
[Continuing my walk from Saltaire to Bingley along the towpath of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal] 

Just beyond the locks at Dowley Gap there's a road bridge which carries the prettily named Primrose Lane over the canal. Just beside the bridge is a pub called The Fisherman's Inn, and there are a few tables on the canalside, so it's a nice spot to stop for a drink. It overlooks a winding hole, which is the term for a wider bit of canal where narrowboats can turn around if they need to. You can imagine that such long boats have to do quite a lot of forward and reverse to turn round. I once saw one try it in Saltaire, where a winding hole is marked on the map, but they had such a lot of trouble, getting virtually wedged across the canal! 

A little further along the towpath is a curious bridge, part stone and part metal, that carries a water pipe across the canal. It is part of the 32 mile long Nidd Aqueduct, which, since 1899, has brought water all the way from Scar House Reservoir in Nidderdale in the Yorkshire Dales to the water treatment works at Chellow Heights, to supply Bradford and the surrounding areas. 

The canal skirts round Bingley South Bog on its left, and enters the outskirts of the little market town of Bingley.

At this point, we are about 15 miles from Leeds and 112 miles from Liverpool - still a long way to go if you were a horse hauling a narrowboat to the docks. It's probably a good thing they couldn't read or they might just have sat down on the job!

These days our transport is so much faster and you can get a good idea of this in Bingley, where the canal, the Bingley relief road (a so-called by-pass that goes right through the middle of the town!) and the railway line all run alongside one another. In fact the canal had to be shifted sideways to make room for the bypass when it was built in 2003.

Old mills alongside the canal have been converted to apartments with some new blocks added too. They tend to leave the mill chimneys in place, as a reminder of the past.

Here there is a rather sculptural pedestrian footbridge over the canal.

A few older industrial units, garages and suchlike have been left, among newer builds like these townhouses that back on to the canal right in the centre of Bingley. I'm not sure that mill chimney will survive much longer, given the amount of foliage that has taken root in its brickwork!