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Thursday, 30 April 2020

Fish ladder

I mentioned in a post recently that they were planning to construct a fish ladder on the weir beside Salts Mill. It is one part of a larger scheme up and down the River Aire to take advantage of the improving water quality and to allow salmon to return to the upper reaches of the river. As I walked through Roberts Park I noticed diggers at work, and I guess they have started to construct it. It's a good time to be doing it as the water level is as low as I've seen it. We've had several weeks without significant rainfall and the river responds quite quickly to the changing conditions. It's odd that I noticed the sound of the river is different as it slaps down over the huge slabs that form the weir. Usually it sounds more like a rushing waterfall but at the moment it almost sounds like a machine, duller and heavier.

It all reminded me of that old joke that 'a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle'. Well, they may not need bicycles but they apparently need ladders. To paraphrase another joke, 'How many men does it take to build a fish ladder?' It looks like the answer is at least six: one to operate the digger and five to watch him.

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Two trees, two weeks

My favourite trees, photographed just two weeks apart - the top pic was taken on 12 April and the bottom pic was on 25 April. What a difference! The sunshine has really caused everything to go spring mad. It neatly illustrates the impossibility, at this time of year, of keeping my blog really current. I go out, take photos, process them and write up blog posts but then I end up with a backlog of posts lined up. Spring is rather later arriving up here than in the south of England, but maybe it is sometimes further on than my blog would suggest! Eventually the rate of change in nature slows down and it ceases to be an issue again.
It looks like we're losing the blue skies for a period now, though we could really use some rain so I won't complain.

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

A rainbow and a memory

I've been following a few photography projects that I've seen online. The inspiration for this image came from a photographer called Paul Sanders, who teaches 'mindful photography'. He says: "I, like many of you, will have seen the rainbows drawn and painted by people and then placed in the windows of shops, homes and offices to acknowledge support of our health service heroes. This got me thinking and playing. Remember that I spoke about approaching things with a child's mind and that photography is really about playing anyway, so I played. Get your camera or phone and photograph things with the colours of a rainbow - remember the verse from school? Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain - Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet - simple or you can sing the song that goes "Red and yellow and pink and green, orange and purple and blue, I can sing a rainbow" it really depends on how much playing you want to do! Fill the frame of your phone or camera with the colours, doesn't matter if the images are out of focus, remember we are playing and there is no judgement. What you are effectively doing is photographing abstract colour. It is a celebration of gratitude, not only of the power of observation but of the key workers and front line health services battling to save the lives of those affected by the Coronavirus."
A dear friend of mine, also - coincidentally - called Paul Sanders, recently passed away, having been infected with Covid 19. My rainbow is dedicated to his memory, as well as to the NHS heroes who looked after him and continue to care for so many other people.  Paul was a warm-hearted and very kind man, who will be sadly missed by his family and friends. Sending my love and prayers to his family. 

Monday, 27 April 2020

A six mile pick-me-up

I usually walk three miles or so in my local 'lockdown' exercise strolls. Sometimes that doesn't feel enough, either because the weather is so nice or my mood is so sombre or I just feel cooped up, so occasionally I will set off for a longer ramble. All three of the reasons applied the other day - and, despite the weather being so lovely, it took me at least half of the distance to start to feel lighter and more at peace with the world. I find the restrictions are having a kind of numbing effect; I'm not depressed but I feel rather muted.

My route took me east along the canal to Buck Wood and then off down a track that crosses the River Aire via a footbridge, towards Baildon. The route back is along the river bank for much of the way. It passes through a little nature reserve, where a pond has been constructed. It was a peaceful place to linger a while, watching the birds. They know no restrictions, busily getting on with nesting and courting.

There is plenty of blossom everywhere, so very pretty. Look how the sepals on these flowers (below) are pink, peeling back from the white petals. Each individual bloom reminded me of a dancer.

By the time I got home I found I'd walked about six miles, and I did feel better for it.

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Project 'Inside' 2

More idling away of time in lockdown... This triptych is made with paper and coloured acetates through my macro lens.

Saturday, 25 April 2020

Crossing the tracks

I knew there was a railway crossing point just up the line from Saltaire station but I'd never used it until the other day. The need to keep to local paths for our exercise, as the lockdown rules dictate, means I am seeking out the less travelled paths and exploring areas that are new to me. To get to this crossing means walking up through the Hirst Wood estate, past a small industrial estate, so the first part of the walk isn't very scenic. Then, turning right along a little cinder path, you arrive at the railway. It's on a straight bit of track so you can see a long way up and down the line, meaning it's not difficult to see oncoming trains. There are fewer running anyway at the moment.  A hop, skip and jump across and you are suddenly deep into Hirst Wood and enjoying the peace of the forest. (Peace, that is, until a train does come along. They blow their whistle as a warning as they near the crossing. The blast can startle you when you're in the woods!)

Friday, 24 April 2020

Spring flowers

It's hard to say what my favourite flowers are; there are so many I appreciate. Tulips, however, have to be near the top of my list, for their wonderful variety of colours, their simple, elegant shape and the way that, even as they fade, they pass through a variety of stages of beauty. I spotted the vibrant red ones naturalised underneath some trees, with some pretty blue scilla in the background. The delicate lemon ones below were in a flowerbed beside the top station of the Glen Tramway. 

 I chanced upon these cowslips too, cheerful yellow with those sweet little red spots at the centre.

Thursday, 23 April 2020


Given that I love this time of year when all the trees are in blossom, I count myself fortunate to live in an area where there are many mature ornamental cherry trees. Their blossom is riotous, extravagant, explosive and wonderful against the very clear blue skies we've been enjoying. (Is the intense blue a positive spin-off from the coronavirus lockdown? Less pollution?)

The tree below isn't in a very scenic spot, slap bang in front of some utilitarian social housing flats but it is beautiful to behold at the moment.

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

The end of the day

It's not often that I catch a sunset around here. I can't see them developing from my house as there are too many buildings in the way. When I do go out at twilight, I rarely catch much colour. I have never managed to work out what the conditions are that are most likely to produce the lovely tints.

Saltaire's church can look very attractive in the right circumstances, silhouetted against the western sky as the sun drops low behind it. On another evening at a similar time, everything looked much more blue. The photo below is looking along Albert Terrace, beside the railway station.

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Evening light

I've found there are fewer people about in the village and in Roberts Park in the early evening so sometimes I go out after dinner for a short walk as the sun is going down. (It's more restful when you don't have to worry about 'keeping a social distance' and dodging people.) The attractive golden light in that last hour before sunset often highlights slightly different views too.

Monday, 20 April 2020

Backyard blossom

I'm taking a stroll most days through the streets of Saltaire village. It seems wrong to waste both the lovely spring weather we've been having and the daily exercise slot allowed under the lockdown rules. I'm probably getting more exercise than I usually do, in fact. They always say that during WWII the population became fitter, since war rations provided a more balanced diet than people usually had. This may be apocryphal... However, I do wonder if the current lockdown may have a beneficial effect too, as people get more regular exercise, have time to cook and eat fewer takeaways. Anyway, I digress from what I was going to say, which is that every time I go out I notice something 'new' and on this occasion it was a pretty spray of blossom tumbling over a fence.

Sunday, 19 April 2020

Conkering the world

When they announced the Forest of Saltaire initiative (see HERE) I thought it sounded a worthwhile venture. However, I'm not a great one for gardening  - I can kill a 'living lettuce' on the way home from the shops - so I didn't end up doing anything at the time. Last autumn I picked up a couple of horse chestnut conkers, just to enjoy their shiny smoothness and rich colour. Then they got tossed into an empty container in my backyard, which happened to have a little soil in it, and I forgot about them. In the New Year, I noticed they'd softened and cracked and I remembered the forest idea. I really didn't hold out any great hopes but I planted them in some fresh potting compost. I'm really excited that they have sprouted and produced leaves. My friends are questioning whether they really are horse chestnuts!! I assure you they are, nothing illegal going on here, honest. Now all that remains is for me to attempt to keep them alive. I'm going to have to remember to water them. I might transplant them into a bigger pot soon. I also noticed a sycamore seedling has rooted in the front garden, so I think I'll have to rescue that too. I certainly don't want it establishing itself by the house wall but, rather than just toss it in the garden waste, I might try and nurture that too. We need more trees. 

Saturday, 18 April 2020

Chim chim cheree

Oh, a touch of Mary Poppins: 'chim chiminey, chim chim cheree' - came to mind as I noticed Salts Mill's chimney prettily framed by one of the dark pink cherry blossom trees on Saltaire Road. Maybe in a few more days the blossom will be even further unfurled but I wanted to take advantage of the sunshine to get the photo. It may not last!

As I walked further up the hill, white blossom trees softened the wider view. Talking of white, I've noticed the stone of the mill chimney has started to look very white lately. I think it must relate to the repointing work that was done a few years ago. I guess some of the mineral salts have started to leach out of the mortar.

Friday, 17 April 2020

Nature notes 12 April

A few days of warm sunshine have seen nature ramping up for spring. The geese in Roberts Park have free rein over the grass now there are fewer people sitting around in the sunshine.

In Hirst Woods, the early adopters among the trees - principally the birches, sycamores and hawthorn - have unfurled fresh green leaves. The bigger trees like oak, beech and chestnut are slower to react. The beech leaves are all still tightly coiled like little bronze daggers on the twigs. 

Wood anemone and lesser celandine lift their sweet faces to the sun.

On the south-facing slopes by the river, early bluebells are in flower. Those in the shadier woodland are still a few weeks away from their peak; they have plenty of leaves but few flowers as yet.

The sunshine has made dandelions spring up everywhere, their bright yellow discs looking fresh and clean. They have a bad press for some reason, but unless they happen to be rooted in your pristine lawn, I think they're very cheerful.

And finally, I have heard that the lockdown is having a beneficial effect on pollution and wildlife. Even so, I didn't expect to spot a crocodile in the River Aire... !

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Peace in our time

In the midst of the current turmoil, it is still possible to find tranquil scenes in nature. In turn that perhaps provides us with a measure of peace in our hearts. Walking along the canal to Field Locks in the warm spring sunshine was balm for my soul. I love the feeling when my whole body gets into its rhythmic stride and my mind stills, to pay attention to the scenery.

This stretch of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal out east from Shipley is by no means one of the prettiest; in fact in parts it's pretty messy and ugly. As you get nearer to the locks and pass through Buck Woods it gets rather nicer.

These are peaceful pictures but underneath you can almost certainly detect the rapidly beating heart of nature, as Spring, pulsing resurrection life, starts to quicken the trees and the wildlife.

Incidentally, in the photo below, the overhanging leaves are ivy, climbing over a tree, rather than very early tree leaves. The trees were only in bud when I took the pictures. It has all greened up a bit since then.

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Negotiating the locks

This rather impressive widebeam boat moored just downstream from Field Locks whilst I was there. I had a brief chat (at a suitable distance!) with the boatman, exchanging information about our respective camera clubs. His was Harrogate, though, since he lives on the boat and travels around, he said he didn't get to club nights very often.

At one time Field Locks used to have assisted passage and a lock keeper used to sit in a little hut alongside, certainly in the summer months, waiting for traffic. The hut is still there but now there are smart instructional signs and the boatkeeper I spoke to had to run up and down opening paddles and generally sorting it all out for himself. He seemed to know what he was doing. A three rise lock is quite complicated to negotiate.

Going up, the top two locks have to be full at the start and the bottom one empty. The middle lock then fills the bottom one and the boat moves a step. The top lock then fills the middle one and again the boat can move. Then water from the canal refills the top lock and the boat can pass out from the lock chamber. You can work out the 'going down' sequence for yourself, perhaps!!

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Field Locks

In March, before the lockdown was fully imposed, I took a walk along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal from Saltaire in the direction of Leeds. After Hirst Lock in Saltaire it is a walk of three miles or so to the next set of locks, Field Locks. These are an impressive staircase of three locks in an attractive setting, with woodland on either side.

Monday, 13 April 2020

Tiny planet Saltaire

One unexpected bonus of the current crisis is that the car park in the centre of Saltaire has been completely empty for days. It means you can get a panoramic view of Salts Mill's long frontage without cars in the way. I remembered my phone has a pano setting too. It gave me the photo I've used as my new blog header. Then I remembered that there's a way of converting a pano into a 'tiny planet' so I had a go at that. It proved quite difficult, mainly because I was working with such a large file that my computer was struggling. There's an art to them. For one thing you have to have an uncluttered foreground (which becomes the centre of the planet) for it to look right, and that is often difficult. You also need the edges to be blended to avoid a hard join and I haven't quite managed that here. Still, it's quite fun - and an undoubtedly different view of Saltaire.

Sunday, 12 April 2020

Be kind

Here are a couple more of Saltaire's decorated windows. The one above has a spring theme and was apparently inspired by David Hockney's recent work, 'Do remember they can't cancel the Spring'. 

Then I spotted the one below: Be kind...

.... and spread a little sunshine... and hearts and rainbows.

Today, Easter Sunday, we celebrate Christ risen, bringing hope, love and new life out of death. Perhaps we need to hear that message especially at the present time.
Wishing everyone a very happy Easter, even though it may be the strangest you've ever spent.

Saturday, 11 April 2020

Spot the difference

Here's that iconic view again, of the New Mill from Roberts Park, looking across the weir. You'd have to have a keen eye for detail to notice the difference in this shot from the last one I took in March (see the third photo IN THIS POST). What has changed? Well, someone has been along with a chainsaw and felled all the saplings and bushes that were encroaching on the bank beside the weir. It has opened up the view marvellously, and will be even more noticeable as the summer comes and the trees get their foliage. I'm not sure that the reason was simply to improve the view. I've read somewhere that they are intending to build some kind of fish ladder to help salmon to migrate from the sea further up the Aire, as the water quality steadily improves. They have not been seen in the upper reaches of the river for 200 years. See HERE for an article about it.

Meanwhile, in Roberts Park, the magnolia trees along the promenade are all in full bloom. I love them.

Friday, 10 April 2020

Otley riverside

Otley is normally a busy small town but you don't have to walk far to find some space and tranquillity. The River Wharfe flows through the town, with parkland beside it. The weir dates from the time, not all that long ago, when mills lined the banks. Now a smart new housing development has sprung up, and the old Victorian engine house has been converted into a restaurant.

On one side of the river, Wharfemeadows Park and its colourful flower beds provides a place to stroll and relax. You can follow a path downriver to a small nature reserve, though I didn't go that far. On the other bank, a little park rejoices in the name of Tittybottle Park, where Victorian mothers and nannies would nurse their babies. It's only a few weeks ago that the whole of the area in the photo below was underwater with the bad floods we had.

I happened to bump (not literally) into some friends in the park. They live in Otley but travel a lot and I don't see them often. So that was a pleasant interlude. We conducted a brief chat at the required 2m distancing.

Thursday, 9 April 2020

Otley odyssey

My car needed an MOT test before the end of March (in the early days off the lockdown) and my own garage, where I had booked an appointment, suddenly closed due to the coronavirus! I had to make a new arrangement quickly to avoid finding myself in trouble with the law. It was a 'necessary journey' and I managed to get the test done in Otley. I had an hour to fill while I waited. Otley is a market town, usually really bustling. To find it so quiet was very strange, though it's an unexpected bonus of this unfortunate situation, at least for us photographers. Instead of being distracted by lots of people and cars, the view along Kirkgate (above) leads your eye up to the moors and woods of Otley Chevin.

Normally, to take the picture below would be virtually impossible as there is always traffic queuing at the junction. The building, one of the oldest in the town, is the former Prince Henry's Grammar School, dating back to 1614 in parts though what you mostly see now is a 1790 Tudor update. Thomas Chippendale, the famous cabinet-maker and furniture designer, was educated here (as that blue plaque tells you, when you get close enough to read it.)

Otley Parish Church is almost impossible to photograph, well hidden among the huge old trees in the graveyard.

The United Reformed Church has a rather fancy spire - and yes, there is still a livestock auction market held in Otley, though no longer up that street. Otley is surrounded by rolling farmland and has always been a hub for the agricultural community. They have an annual agricultural show in May; I saw a poster saying it is cancelled this year.