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Sunday, 31 May 2020


The cricket season would normally be in full swing by now, the sound of leather striking willow and the shouts of 'howzat' ringing out - but because of the lockdown the pitches are standing idle. Not quite 'abandoned' though... The grass remains mown, though the playing crease here appears to be artificial turf (or maybe that is a practice area?)  One day I walked past Saltaire Cricket Club in Roberts Park and the roller machine was outside. I was amused to see its various decorations - especially the arms with painted nails! I assume it has been decorated by the same hands that tend the flowerbed I showed a while ago (HERE). 

Saturday, 30 May 2020


Nature marches on whilst we humans remain largely confined. I don't feel I'm 'moving on' at all!  But the roses are starting to come into bloom as June arrives. Those in the allotment garden that borders Victoria Road provide a wonderful display throughout the summer. This pretty lemon variety has a lovely, subtle scent.

In an attempt, perhaps, to brighten the outlook, someone has stencilled a rose on the wall at Hirst Lock. It's red though... that's a mistake, as red roses are symbolically Lancastrian. Yorkshire roses are white!

The canal network has been closed for weeks due to the coronavirus restrictions. At the locks, the gates were padlocked to prevent use. I think the restrictions are in the process of being eased across the country but I've read that the Leeds-Liverpool Canal may not open now due to a water shortage, after two very dry months. It's more bad news for the boat hire companies that rely on summer trade.

Friday, 29 May 2020

Albert Road architecture

All this lockdown exercise has me pounding the streets of Saltaire in a way that I haven't done since I started this blog and was intent on studying the history and architecture of the village. It is thought that, unusually, it was all planned as a complete entity by Sir Titus Salt and his architects, Lockwood and Mawson, even though it took several years for whole village to be completed. There are recurrent motifs throughout the village, and there are several designs of windows with rounded tops. Some of the most ornate are to be found on the large houses on Albert Road, built for the Victorian professional classes: teachers, accountants and senior managers at the Mill. Originally this road formed the western boundary of the village and would have had a pleasant aspect over open fields. Of course, more modern development has encroached but it is still a wide and pleasant street. 

Thursday, 28 May 2020

The quiet eye

'In common things that round us lie
Some random truths he can impart,
The harvest of a quiet eye
That broods and sleeps on his own heart.'

Those lines were written by the poet William Wordsworth in the early 1800s (A Poet's Epitaph). I'd argue that they are as applicable to a photographer or an artist as a poet, perhaps more so. I'm interested in photography as a 'mindful' practice and lately I've been seeking to slow down and notice the 'common things that round us lie', often to be found in the smallest details. Here is the 'harvest of a quiet eye' from a recent walk. 

The pretty blue egg shell is, I think, a blackbird's egg. I couldn't tell if it had hatched properly and been discarded from the nest or been damaged by a predator.

Spring is beginning to segue into early summer. The hawthorn blossom is fading, the 'candles' on the horse chestnut trees are at their peak (cue lots of sneezing from me!)

In Trench Woods, along Shipley Glen, the lichen covered rocks and old tree trunks are sometimes almost indistinguishable from each other; trees have embraced the terrain through which they grow.

Then there's evidence of man's activity: an old gatepost stands in a field like a prehistoric standing stone in miniature.

Young calves were as curious about me as I was about them. Look at him! Big ears, whiskery nose, eyes perfectly set to see forwards and sideways. Not the most beautiful face, though perhaps his mother loved him...

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

No 11 Victoria Road

I pass this doorway at the corner of Victoria Road and Caroline Street several times a week and one day - as sometimes happens - the way the light was catching it gave it a whole new beauty. The coloured glass panels positively glowed and I noticed the Victoria Hall's tower reflected in the central window.

The building is now part of the offices of chartered architects Rance Booth and Smith, who have restored and imaginatively reinstated aspects of the original building to provide office space that is both contemporary and historical.

When it was first opened in the late 1850s, the corner shop was a grocer's, before becoming a specialist bakery in the early 1900s. By 1937, trading as H W Ready, it was apparently 'the place to go' for catering for weddings and funerals. By the 1960s, as new, more modern shops opened in Shipley and the mill contracted, demands changed. There were at that time three bakeries in Saltaire in close proximity. No 11 had a change of use and became a furniture shop, then a TV repair shop, later a wool shop and then a seller of artificial flowers. Rance Booth and Smith took over in 1989.  It would be interesting, I so often think, if walls could talk. What stories these old buildings would tell.

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Roaming along the river

I don't often explore the Aire river bank beyond Hirst Woods towards Bingley. The path is narrower and it's neither as picturesque nor as easy to access and navigate as my more local stretch but sometimes it's good to make the effort. I was rewarded with the sight of a mother goosander and her four chicks, sunbathing on rocks. I haven't spotted many tiny ducklings and suddenly they all seem to be more visible and growing fast.

I managed to pass under the railway bridge without being spooked by the noise of a train overhead.

Back in the familiar local patch, it has all become noticeably leafier and more verdant in the last week or two and the bluebells here, among the first to reveal themselves, have all long since faded. I wonder how long it will be before the rowers get back on the river? It's quiet without the gentle splashing of their oars up and down this stretch.

Monday, 25 May 2020

Good afternoon, moon

One day I noticed that you could see the moon above the New Mill's tower, in the middle of the afternoon. I'm not exactly sure why the moon sometimes shows up during the day, though I've seen it before. It seemed to me an interesting juxtaposition of different elements in this one image: the Italianate chimney, the tree clothed with fresh spring green, the fluffy clouds and the mysterious moon. I liked it.

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Secret spaces 2

One of the silver linings in the cloud of the coronavirus lockdown has been the opportunity necessity to explore some of the hidden paths in my local area. One such walk took me along a track at the back of some houses and through a wood, before pitching me into an old and overgrown cemetery belonging to St Paul's Church in Shipley. The church itself has a graveyard around it but at some point around the turn of the 19th century it must have become overcrowded. An overspill cemetery was established a mile or so away in Nab Wood. Nowadays this area is rarely visited and, I think, is no longer used for burials. It sits next door to but is separate from the current municipal crematorium and cemetery. Most of its graves date from the early 20th century. There's been some recent attempt to tidy it up a bit. (Last time I tried to explore several years ago it was almost impassable.) It's still dark and overgrown and many of the graves are damaged. It is, however, wonderfully atmospheric.

The picture below was a bit of an accident, in that I'd jiggled one of the settings on my camera by mistake so that it applied a retro filter effect to the image - but I decided that it had worked out quite well for the subject matter.

Saturday, 23 May 2020

Secret spaces 1

A child's hideaway: a pretty pink teepee, the ideal spot for a cosy read or even a snooze. You could be forgiven for thinking it was pitched in a secret glade. In fact it was on the grass in front of Saltaire's church, outside the row of cottages that are part of what was originally the stable block for Salts Mill.

The stable block sits around a central cobbled courtyard. The buildings are now all converted to residences and often the heavy front gate is shut, concealing what's inside. When the gate is open, there's a glimpse of a lovely wisteria around a doorway. Its flowering season is short but I always think the blossom looks glorious against the blue-mauve glass panels in the door.

The third 'secret space' is one I've only recently discovered, at the back of St Paul's Church in Shipley. I didn't realise there is a footpath through what is presumably part of the original graveyard. The headstones were removed from all the graves years ago and laid as paths and up against walls. I suppose it was to keep things safe (the stones can work loose and topple) and to enable easier grass mowing. The path cuts a corner off my usual route up to Shipley and provides a sweetly peaceful little space in the midst of the busy streets.

Friday, 22 May 2020

Urban trees

With more time than ever to 'stop and stare', I've been really noticing how the colours of spring trees are as varied as their autumn foliage. I'm lucky to live in an area with lots of woodland to explore but often it's the urban trees that stand out as singletons. Their different shapes and leaf colour can truly stop you in your tracks. Here's a few I've particularly noticed recently.

There are several pairings of maples in the locality, one with slightly variegated pistachio green leaves set against another whose colour reminds me of chocolate. These two are on the edge of the Wycliffe estate and there are some around Saltaire's Exhibition Building that are similar in colour.

I was excited to realise that this tall specimen is an elm. It has distinctive asymmetrical leaves and a forked trunk with deeply fissured bark. English elms all but died out in the last century due to Dutch Elm Disease. This one is either a slightly different variety or a very hardy old soul.

Behind St Paul's Church and bordering Crowgill Park there's a line of lovely mature trees - sycamore, I think, though I didn't walk up close to inspect them.

Along the Coach Road there are some pretty old hawthorns with their craggy bark and lovely blossom and a little further down there's a superb copper beech. Its spring leaves are a really wonderful shade of purpley-red.

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Project 'Inside' 3

A dead tulip...  Most of them lost their petals as they shrivelled but this one hung on, reminding me of a dancer, perhaps - or someone wearing a scarf in the wind. The things you do when you're locked down, hey?

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Mosaic art

This interesting mosaic, made of tiles or pottery pieces, along with the shutters and the greenery made me feel suddenly as if I was somewhere in the Mediterranean, instead of in the middle of Saltaire. I don't think this is a coronavirus-inspired 'cheer you up' artwork but it cheered me up anyway. Inspired by Frida Kahlo, perhaps?

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Floating or beached?

I've shown this little fella before. He's the first (or last, depending on which way you're walking) of the quirky cast-iron sculptures on the Aire Sculpture Trail. They are based on designs by children from the local Wycliffe Primary School and were made by Mick Kirkby Geddes. The sculpture trail brightens up a footpath that runs along the river bank from Baildon Bridge to join the canal towpath beside the New Mill in Saltaire.

On the same walk, I passed under all the hawthorn trees along the Coach Road. At the moment they are thick with blossom and rather beautiful.

In theory, I could now be making excursions further afield, since the UK government have eased some of the lockdown restrictions. I'm biding my time though. There are still no cafés or pubs open, few public toilets or other amenities. It seems a little premature to start exploring again, when the virus in this country is barely under control. Although I'm getting bored of walking the same local routes, and I sometimes don't know whether I'm floating or beached, much like the little chap in the top picture I'm endeavouring to make the best of it and to stay safe.

Monday, 18 May 2020

A heart tree

More rainbow coloured artwork. This 'heart tree' has been painted on the window of Salt Pots Ceramic Studio. Normally you can book parties and workshops here to enjoy painting on plates and other ceramics, helped along by coffee and cake - all good convivial fun. Of course, the studio has had to close, along with the majority of our shops, salons and services, because of this virus. One wonders how many of them will be able to reopen when the lockdown is lifted. I imagine the future will be pretty uncertain for some. I think it likely too that non-essential creative and cultural outlets may be among the last to be allowed to reopen, since they could be considered non-essential. Essential though, for those who rely on them for income - and essential for those of us that feel life is hardly worth living without being able to play and explore.

Sunday, 17 May 2020

Enjoy the view

There's a rather splendid view from near the top of the track I was following in yesterday's post, as it arrives in Baildon village centre. The picture above is a composite of two photos merged together. I tried a panorama with my phone but it didn't really work. The estate of white houses is in lower Baildon and in the distance is Wrose and Idle, with the telecommunications masts visible on top of Idle Hill. To the right in the far distance is the city of Bradford. You can actually see Lister's Mill from this viewpoint but it's too small to discern on the photo. Saltaire is away round to the right, well out of shot. There's a handily placed bench at this spot, a lovely place to rest after the steep climb and enjoy the view.

Saturday, 16 May 2020

To Baildon

There are basically two ways to get to Baildon on foot from Saltaire. The more intrepid route involves walking up the steep path beside the Glen Tramway and then negotiating a series of narrow paths around the crags and up into the village above. In this time of 'social distancing', I decided the chance of meeting someone coming the opposite way on the path and having no way to avoid close contact was too risky, so I chose the longer route round the bottom of the cliffs. It is scenic in its own way, a weird mixture of suburban, semi-rural industrial, woods and moorland. The escarpment saw quarrying for its gritstone in the past, which is what has left it so craggy and rough. I guess many of our older houses have sills and lintels made from the stuff. Then there's the hamlet of Baildon Green, originally a farming community that expanded in the 19th century around a small textile mill. It sits overlooking an open area of ancient Common Land that used to host a large annual gathering of gypsies in the past, though that tradition appears to have died out.

A little further east, the track climbs towards the centre of Baildon on the hill above. There are some interesting old houses, all perched precariously on the hillside.

It's a nice walk, especially on a lovely sunny morning.

Friday, 15 May 2020

Hope - far and near

Mid-morning on a Monday, a fabulous day with blue skies, warm sunshine and hardly a breeze but the pandemic lockdown meant there were few cars or people in the village centre. I was able to stand (without fear of getting run over) in the middle of Victoria Road to take the photo above. With the shops on the left (all closed), Salts Mill to the right (also closed), the railway station down to the left (trains running but fewer of them and hardly any commuters), local schools and Shipley College (closed, so no students about), I have never known it so quiet.

My eyes are always drawn to the hill across the valley. It's called Hope Hill, which I love as it reminds me of Psalm 121: 'I will lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my hope come from?' I wonder who named it and how many other people, trekking to work in the Mill perhaps, have also found strength and encouragement from this view?

You can barely make it out in the top photo but there is a farm right up near the top of Hope Hill (Hope Farm, of course). I'm not sure if it is still a working farm or just a farmhouse. At one time, years ago, one of my daughter's teachers lived up there. I recall she once took her class pond-dipping in her garden.

My circular walk took me round through Baildon and back along West Lane, from the centre of Baildon to the top of Shipley Glen, passing across the hillside below the farm buildings (see photo below). It's actually a fairly built-up residential area for most of the way, though you wouldn't know looking up from the valley. The trees on the escarpment hide the houses (which sit on a kind of wide step halfway up the hillside) and it all looks deceptively lush and green. There are some substantial old mansions and even older farmhouses but the space has been infilled over the years with large estates of modern houses. Where there are still a few fields, there were lambs lazily enjoying the sunshine.

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Lockdown bandit

Until now, despite the pandemic lockdown, it hasn't been mandatory in the UK to wear a face mask. Some people have been donning them, but I'd never bothered. I'm not entirely convinced by the science, at least as far as low grade and home-made masks are concerned, and I worried that it would make me touch my face more and thus put me at more risk. Since the recent slight easing of restrictions, the guidance recommends face coverings 'in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible and [you] come into contact with others that [you] do not normally meet, for example on public transport or in some shops'. So I decided I needed to make myself some. 

I don't want to order online as there is still a shortage of PPE and I don't want to cheat those more needy out of supplies. I rooted around in my sewing box for a few scraps of suitable material and some elastic, got my sewing machine out and set to work, using a pattern I saw online. I was reasonably pleased with the result. At least they fit quite snugly and are more comfortable than I imagined. I used quite thin elastic, since with my hair, hearing aids, glasses and earrings, there's not a lot of spare room around my ears! I found my glasses fog up so I unearthed some pipe-cleaner to mould around my nose, which helps a bit. I couldn't find anything else suitable; I have no plastic-covered wire and paperclips weren't bendy enough. The only trouble is the pipe-cleaner was bright green so it will probably bleed and rust when I wash the masks. I might have to take it out again. 

Made a couple for my daughter too. It brought back a memory of sewing tiny long-sleeved blouses for her to wear, when she was just nine months old and we had our first family holiday in Greece. You couldn't buy light summer baby clothes with long sleeves, and I was desperate that she wouldn't get sun-burnt. (Sunscreen for kids wasn't as effective then as now.) Here I am, still sewing things for her out of love and concern for her safety! It was a satisfying afternoon's work. 

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Walker Wood bluebells

The last of the bluebell photos, I promise, though they are so lovely. My neighbour tipped me off about an area of woodland I hadn't explored before, near the bottom of the Glen Tramway. It's called Walker Wood, and it has a very different feel from Hirst Woods, with which I'm more familiar. Walker Wood is a continuation of the woodland that runs all the way along the escarpment, from Shipley Glen to Baildon. It's a very steep site, and strewn with rocks and mossy boulders so it has quite a magical feel.

Exploring the woods has been so refreshing this spring, a welcome distraction from all that is going on in our world. I've been trying to find quotes about bluebells; strangely there seem to be few of them. Perhaps even poets have been struck dumb by their beauty.

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

May abundance

The cherry blossom has its brief days of glory and then shatters in a confetti of petals on the ground. Thankfully that isn't the end of nature's treats because, hot on its heels, comes the clematis. One fine specimen scrambles over a wall right in the middle of Saltaire's residential streets. It brings pleasure each time I see it.

Meanwhile the woods are still frothily full of wild garlic, its delicate blooms looking so much like lace tossed carelessly on the ground. It smells oniony and I rather prefer the fragrance of bluebells, which are in flower at much the same time. Occasionally the two intermingle prettily but more often there'll be swathes of white and swathes of blue in adjacent but separate drifts. Those below are both in Northcliffe Woods, bordering the path up the wooded ravine in the south of the park.

Monday, 11 May 2020

The blue hour

The time just before sunrise and just after sunset is known to photographers as 'the blue hour'. It rarely lasts an hour but it's the time when the sky goes dark blue and yet the shadows retain a little detail. Everything looks a little ghostly. It's best to use a tripod to get a good quality photo but my phone did a creditable job in capturing it as I walked home from the park one evening.

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Hirst Wood bluebells

I have to go and tiptoe through the bluebells in Hirst Wood at least once every spring. They are amazing. I set off one day (about a week ago) when it was cloudy, as overcast light tends to show the colours better. By the time I got to the woods the sun was shining merrily. Normally that would be lovely but I was a bit aggrieved! I'm also not sure whether they were quite at their peak. Sometimes the fields of blue seem more intense. I might try and find time to go back again. They're really beautiful though and the scent is incredible too.