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

Saturday, 29 February 2020

A Dales village in winter

I had a mooch around Kettlewell in the rain and hail. The Dales villages have a very different character in winter than in summer. There are few, if any, tourists (though the conference and retreat centre at Scargill House does bring visitors to Kettlewell). There isn't the summer buzz but the quiet has its own charm.

Kettlewell still has a traditional red telephone box (probably quite necessary, as cellphone coverage is very patchy) and it adds a touch of brightness to the centre of the village. The photos above and below show the views along Kettlewell Beck, up and down stream, as it flows down to join the River Wharfe.

At the top of the village, the old maypole sits in a little garden and the road leads up to St Mary's church, which is set back on the right.

Kettlewell Beck was fast-flowing but not overfull or doing anything nasty.

It was dull enough to take a few slow-shutter speed photos of the churning water, even without a filter.

Friday, 28 February 2020

Bench with a view

Scargill House (where I was staying on my break) sits in a small estate: a series of limestone terraces, mostly wooded, climbing up the hillside behind. There are traces of a couple of very old, ruined stone dwellings up there, believed to be post-Roman, possibly shepherds' huts or small cottages, evidence that the valley has been inhabited and farmed for centuries. Scargill House itself dates from the 18th century. It was originally a gentleman's residence used for hunting and fishing.

In the late 1950s, it was sold to the Church of England and became a Christian community, run as a conference centre and retreat house. In 2008 that venture folded and the house was put up for sale again. Under the leadership of a close friend of mine, a new charitable trust, the Scargill Movement, was formed and the property was bought and has since been revitalised, initially by a team of dedicated volunteers and eventually developed into a residential Christian community. Like Lee Abbey in Devon (where I have also stayed several times) many in the community are young people from many different countries, who volunteer for a year or two. It is a wonderful place to stay, to study, to rest and recharge, with rather a wonderful story behind it too.

The views from the corner of the estate, looking over Kettlewell village, are stunning. If it hadn't been so cold, I could have sat on that bench for hours!

Thursday, 27 February 2020

Wintry scenes

I thought when I booked it many months ago that it was either mad or inspired to take a break in mid-February in Kettlewell, up in the Dales. In the end it turned out to be a bit of both. I was staying at Scargill House on a Christian study break, which proved to be a wonderful and thought-provoking experience. The house itself is welcoming, comfortable and cosy. Some of the lounges have huge windows, from which you can watch, in comfort, the weather as it sweeps down the dale.

I took these photos within a minute or so of each other, looking from the main house down the drive. Sandwiched between the weekend storms Ciara and Dennis, the skies were unpredictable and dramatic, jumping from calm to gusty, with bursts of excoriating hail (and snow on the tops) and the occasional breath-taking shaft of sunlight slicing through. Great weather for photos and I did manage a few lovely - if muddy - walks.

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Concert for Palestine

I went with friends to enjoy a wonderful concert at my church. It was organised by a couple in our congregation, as a 50th birthday celebration and to raise money for the Amos Trust. The Amos Trust is 'a small, creative human rights organisation, committed to challenging injustice, building hope and creating positive change'. In particular, they are working for justice in Palestine, in the West Bank and Gaza, calling for peace, reconciliation and equal rights for all Palestinians and Israelis.

The music was provided by singer-songwriters Yvonne and David Lyon. My ability to appreciate music is greatly impaired because of my hearing loss, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. We were also treated to a tasty Middle-Eastern inspired meal, prepared and cooked by members of the church. It was a lovely way to spend an evening, with chance to catch up with folk from church that I don't always see, since we have a number of different Sunday services. I gather that upwards of £1200 was raised for the Amos Trust.

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

The roar of War

I most often take photos of the stone lion called 'Peace' (see HERE) that sits atop its pedestal in the centre of Saltaire. That's because I love its pose, licking its paws, and because at one time it was the only one that you could capture without overhanging tree branches getting in the way. Since they chopped down the big trees a few years ago, that problem has been removed - and with it the tendency for the lions to go green with lichen. For a change, here is his opposite number, 'War', looking ready to spring off his perch if provoked. (Rumour has it that they do roam the streets at night. I'm never awake to verify this... )

Monday, 24 February 2020

Salt, pepper and plaster dust

Well...  Sir Titus Salt's statue in Roberts Park and a cannon capable of peppering cannon balls everywhere! (I wrote about the cannons HERE.)

Also, in the background, the tower of Saltaire's URC church. Sadly the recent storms have apparently caused a large part of the ceiling plasterwork in the church to collapse inside. It happened overnight last week so thankfully no-one was injured but the church has had to be closed for obvious safety reasons. It looks as though it may be a while before it can be fully inspected and the necessary remedial work can be carried out. Hopefully the money can be found to restore it. These old buildings have so many problems. It's quite a tragedy as it is unique and beautiful inside.

Sunday, 23 February 2020

Dob Park bridge

The main objective of my walk in the Washburn valley was to visit this Grade II listed, 17th century packhorse bridge across the river. The single span bridge with a high round arch is made of gritstone and paved with stone setts. It was built to enable horses with panniers to cross the river, even when the river was in flood. It carried the routeway from Dob Park Mill. Beside the bridge are the remains of a paved ford, part of a medieval monastic trade route and used by farmers and traders in Nidderdale to get their carts to the market in Otley. It's an attractive spot, though the river was quite full after recent rain and it was tricky to get a good vantage point from which to take photos.

On my way back to the car, I saw a red kite soaring over the fields. They were reintroduced in 1999 to the nearby Harewood House estate as part of a conservation initiative. They have since spread out across a wide area, a very successful reintroduction for what was once an endangered species. Although you often see the birds nowadays, it's still a lovely sight. They are quite distinctive, with their characteristic forked tail. I was quite pleased with this photo, as I don't have a very long lens.

Saturday, 22 February 2020

The Washburn valley

A friend recommended a walk in the Washburn valley, just outside Otley, so I took advantage of a balmy morning, before Storm Ciara arrived, to go and explore. The walk I had originally planned set off down the track above... and it looked so very muddy further down that I decided to forego that pleasure! Maybe I'll try that in the summer. Never mind, I followed the minor road down into the valley, which gave some attractive views. The Washburn is a tributary of the River Wharfe, and in the late 19th century it was dammed to make a chain of three reservoirs, with a fourth added in the 1960s, built to supply water to the city of Leeds. It is an area of quiet beauty and tranquillity, beloved by walkers. The Six Dales Trail, a relatively new long-distance trail, passes through the valley, connecting Otley with Middleham some 38 miles north.

This area of the lower valley is part of the Dob Estate, a 'country house' estate that was originally a deer park and has been in the Vavasour family since the 1500s. It is mostly rolling farmland, with a few woodland plantations. There are working farms and some very attractive residential properties scattered about, mostly conversions of old farm buildings.

My walk took me past the gates of one large farm, where the road turned into a rutted farm track. The free ranging hens gently scolded me for disturbing them, with that soft, throaty, burbling cluck that I remember so well from when I was a child, observing the hens my grandparents used to keep in their large garden. 

Friday, 21 February 2020

Cool pool

Bradford City Park was looking rather splendid in the winter sunshine when I passed through the other day. It's rare to see it empty. There are usually a few children or youths splashing around in the shallow water but it was really too cold for paddling! It meant that for once you could see the reflection of our beautiful City Hall, just a little blurred by the faint breeze across the surface. Although the sun was bright, it was too cold to hang around for long, so I took a quick snap on my phone and I headed off to Waterstone's book shop in the Wool Exchange, where at least it was warm and cosy. I omitted to take any pictures in there, but you can see the magnificent building on my blog HERE.

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Girls in the Wind

'Girls in the Wind' may have been on display at The Hepworth for a while but I'd never noticed it before. A small bronze sculpture by Betty Rea (1904-1965), it depicts two young friends, their hair and clothes blown by the wind. I liked the liveliness and movement in it, which contrasted with the heavy feel of the bronze itself. 

Rea studied at the Royal College of Art and stayed faithful to figurative work when others were moving towards abstract modernism. In an art world largely dominated by men, these depictions of women by a female artist have a significant place. 

The ethereal sculpture below attracted me. Called 'Double Vision' and created by Leeds-born artist Caroline Broadbent, it is made of nylon and explores duality and liminal space. The dress is a metaphor for the person, the meeting point for the inside with the rest of the world. 

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Wakefield windows

I had a trip to The Hepworth in Wakefield with a friend just before Christmas. I wanted to see an exhibition that included some of David Hockney's early work and, anyway, it's a while since I'd visited, there's a great café and it was chance to catch up on news with a good friend. We enjoyed ourselves, though it's arguable that both of us would have come away with better photos had we not been distracted by chatting!

As always, the building itself excites me as much as the work on show. It's all about light and shadow, with some wonderful views from the windows. In the photo above, I managed to frame the spire of Wakefield Cathedral in one of the characteristic holes in a huge Barbara Hepworth sculpture.

Below is a striking hand-painted bronze sculpture by Rebecca Warren. I think it's a representation of a human form, though to me it just looked lumpy! I liked the colouring and patina though - and I loved its juxtaposition with the glowing golden branches of the willow tree outside.

The sculpture was more attractive in close-up. I could see a face (perhaps an angel) in this bit, though it wasn't meant to be a face.

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Treasures at the garden centre

The local garden centre is quite a big place and has some quirky displays, with a lot of old machinery hanging from the rafters. Since I last visited it has added some new departments and now has a few animals (rabbits, guinea pigs and rats) and reptiles. I'm not sure if they are for sale or just a crowd puller. I know young children love visiting pet shops. They have a large parrot called Elvis and I'm pretty sure he is just there to amuse visitors.

The reptiles are fascinating. I feel OK when they are behind glass! I'm not so keen to come face-to-face with these creatures, especially the snakes, but I marvelled at the colouring of the lizardy thing.

I'm not sure what the insect is, possibly a locust?

There are also tanks full of tropical fish, which are for sale. I do like watching those. Goldfish make me smile, as I remember when I was a child we looked after one for some neighbours. It managed to jump out of its bowl and died. My mother spent hours touring the local pet shops trying to find one that looked the same, to replace it!

At one time, we had an aquarium at home. My favourites are always the neon tetras, such colourful little things looking as though they are illuminated from within:

Monday, 17 February 2020


A puddle... one of many currently around the village. Some are more scenic than others.

Sunday, 16 February 2020

More macro practice

My mastery of macro photography is still very much 'a work in progress'. The depth of field is very narrow with a macro lens and, given that I can't really see the detail on the screen on the back of the camera, I'm finding getting the focus right is a very hit and miss affair. Still, practice makes perfect or so they say. Some of these approximated to what I was trying to achieve...

I'm awestruck by the beauty and variety of our flora, especially when viewed so close up. Many of these blooms were tiny, on alpine plants. It always amazes me how our world has so much to wonder at; so many different creatures and plants, so extravagantly formed, with such exquisite detail. We should treasure it more than we do.

The alpine succulent below reminded me of one of those Chinese dragons.

'And all of creation sing with me now; 
Fill up the heavens, let His glory resound.'

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Shipley Wharf

In winter, when I tend to take fewer long walks, I make a point of walking rather than taking the car if I want to go into Shipley town centre to the library or shops. If I haven't too many heavy things to carry back, I'll take 'the scenic route' back, avoiding the main road. I join the canal towpath at Shipley Wharf. The view up towards Salts Mill and Saltaire from the elevated bridge is one that I rather like; I call it the 'three chimneys view'. Two of the chimneys belong to the old mills on Ashley Lane. The third one, on the right, is Salts Mill chimney. It is much taller than the others but so much further away that perspective plays tricks.

Friday, 14 February 2020

Be my Valentine

I suppose there was a time when Valentine's Day was something to take a little bit seriously, and I think I've received a few cards in my time, some welcome and some not so... There were a few years, in between those when my mum used to send me a Valentine card and these latter years when I couldn't care less! Cynicism aside, I was nevertheless amused by this Valentine window display in an animal charity shop. Cute, I thought. I have to confess that I don't think I've ever watched 'Lady and the Tramp'. I think it has just been remade? One of these days I'm going to sit and watch all these movies that I never saw yet.

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Flood waters

More photos from the flooding on Sunday. In 2015, the water surrounded the bench in my photo above and inundated the car park and mill buildings on the far bank. I think, apart from the basement, they were spared this time. Further out, beyond the park, the flood plain was doing its best to hold the water. This is the site of the new nature reserve, so one hopes nature can adapt to the boggy conditions, and wild flowers will still bloom in the meadow in the summer.

The picture below shows, in the far distance, the football pitches between the river and the canal. The river's normal course is between the blue stands and the line of trees in the middle distance. On Sunday, you really couldn't tell the difference between this side of the trees, normally grassland, and the river itself. The new bench and newly planted trees seemed to be holding firm, thankfully. It would be a sad shame if all the work volunteers have put in to the nature reserve were to go to waste.

Things were even more dramatic upstream by Hirst Weir and the rowing club. You can see the clubhouse through the trees, impossible to get to. The normally minor trickle of Loadpit Beck comes down, from the right, to meet the river here. There is a little footbridge that crosses it. You can just see its handrail in the trees, in the midst of the swirling mass of water. There are some houses, just behind where I stood to take this photo. They were above the water line but I imagine it was making the residents rather nervous.

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Storm Ciara

Storm Ciara dumped a whole load of torrential rain, along with gale force winds, on the UK on Saturday night through to Sunday. The towns in the Calder valley were again badly affected by flooding, despite considerable sums being spent on flood defences since the epic disaster of December 2015.

In Saltaire, the floods weren't as bad as 2015. Compare my picture below with the one HERE, taken in 2015 from about the same spot. This time the water didn't reach the Half Moon Café and the alpaca statue. In 2015 the alpacas were standing in water up to their necks.

It's quite scary though, watching the force of so much water. It can do a lot of damage. They were busy putting up flood barriers to protect The Boathouse Inn, which was badly damaged in 2015. When I was there on Sunday, the water had not quite reached the level of the terrace. In theory the river level was supposed to peak about the time I was there but I haven't had chance to go back to see if it got worse or better.

I'm not sure the dog in the picture below can understand why he can't walk along his usual route around Roberts Park. It looked as though the cricket pitch playing surface was spared. I'm sure the greenkeepers will be relieved.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Industrial quirks

The Calderdale Industrial Museum showcases some of the more unusual local industries. Halifax is famous for being the birthplace of the now ubiquitous 'cat's eye' reflective road studs. They were invented in 1934 by Percy Shaw, who patented the invention and set up a company to manufacture them, which is still in production. There are several stories as to how they came to be invented. Most seem to relate to the steep and precipitous road between Halifax and Queensbury, which Percy Shaw often drove along. It has a steep drop on one side and it is said that he got the idea to light it with reflective studs, having seen a cat's eyes shining in the light of his car headlamps or, possibly, from navigating through the fog by the gleam from tramlines picking out the route. He sounds to have been quite an eccentric, but in 1985 he was made OBE for his services to export.

Halifax also manufactured heavy earthenware used in sewage pipes, drainage and domestic sanitary ware. There were clay mines locally as well as coal mines, and there are exhibits in the museum related to mining, with heart-rending tales of children (boys and girls) as young as 5 or 6 spending their days crawling along narrow, filthy tunnels hauling carts full of coal, or sitting alone in the dark by the ventilation doors, to ensure a supply of air. This was stopped in 1847 by the Mines Act, after which only boys aged 10 and up could work in the mines.

Cast iron lamp-posts, taps and pipes were made in Calderdale:

Halifax also made - and still makes - confectionery. There is a factory near the railway station, originally Mackintosh's, now part of Nestlé, that produces Quality Street, After Eight Mints and other goodies. The museum has a large tin of Quality Street that appears to be falling in through the ceiling - to the delight of at least one small child that I saw there.