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Tuesday, 30 June 2020

The Rochdale Canal

There's a really pleasant walk along the towpath of the Rochdale Canal through Hebden Bridge. It has lots of interest and history since many of the old mills and warehouses are still standing, most now converted into residential units. I began my walk by passing under the bridge that takes the road down to the railway station. As in many of our Yorkshire valleys, the roads, rail, river and canal jostle together in a narrow corridor. The building on the right just beyond the bridge is the Machpelah Works, built in 1840, a listed building now mostly apartments but once a fustian (cotton cloth) warehouse.

Beyond is a row of cottages, built in the early 19th century. Its traditional windows with the woodwork all painted in different colours really make it stand out as an attractive focal point.

Beyond the cottages and a mill (that's now a really great nursery where my youngest granddaughter used go), there is a small marina with a Visitor Information Centre beside it, forming an attractive open space in the middle of town. Further still and there is a series of locks and an aqueduct that carries the canal over the River Calder.

Then there are more old warehouses and houses related to the canal. The Rochdale Canal was fully opened in 1804, the first completed Trans-Pennine route to Manchester. (The Leeds-Liverpool, a much longer route, didn't fully open until 1816, although the bit through Saltaire from Shipley to Skipton was open by 1774. )

I ended my walk at the picturesque bridge, though you can of course go much further along the towpath - a very attractive walk.

Monday, 29 June 2020

HB details

A few details that caught my eye during my wanderings around Hebden Bridge. The clock was installed on St George's Street to mark the Millennium in 2000. It has rings of orbiting planets that move around the clock face.

I spotted a round arched window in a building that I think is known as Machpelah House.

Who wouldn't like a turquoise door surrounded by pink rambling roses?

The prow of a canal boat moored on the Rochdale Canal.

Detail of another narrowboat - with daisies on the canal bank.

And another pink rose. I liked the delicacy of the flower against the gritty stone of the gatepost it was growing over.

Sunday, 28 June 2020


Hebden Bridge used to be called 'Fustianopolis' or 'Trouser Town' as it was famous for making the hard-wearing cotton cloth known as fustian, which includes corduroy and moleskin, commonly used for making men's trousers. Of course, the textile industry has largely disappeared from these valleys though there's a newish company called HebTroCo that manufactures jeans and hardwearing men's wear to suit the generally bearded, liberal, creative male population of the town and elsewhere.

The (surprisingly controversial) needle sculpture in the town square represents a fustian cutting knife. It's also, I think, a sundial and the base shows aspects of the town's history. 

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Hebden Bridge(s)

The original, narrow packhorse bridge spanning Hebden Water, dating back to the 1500s, still stands in Hebden Bridge town centre. Packhorses used to have to make the arduous journey to and from the weaving village of Heptonstall high on the hill top, taking cloth to the market in Halifax.

A little further up Hebden Water is a newer road bridge, with attractive views up and down stream.

After our dry spring, the water is very low and it all looks quite innocuous. The town sits at the junction of Hebden Water with the River Calder, its watery geography further complicated by the Rochdale Canal that runs through town alongside the Calder. When it rains the rivers rise quickly, fed by run off from the high moorland all around. There have been several devastating floods, notably in 2015. Locals anxiously watch the rising of the water up the curved steps by the old bridge (see my second photo)  as they give a quick indication of how bad things are getting! 

Friday, 26 June 2020

The greatest town in Europe?

To celebrate my recent birthday, I went over to see my family for the first time since early March. As I've mentioned before, they live in Hebden Bridge, a bustling town in the Calder Valley, over the moors from Saltaire. It's a funky little town, attracting a lot of creative people, and the town centre reflects that, with masses of small independent shops. (The Co-op supermarket is probably the only chain store in town). It's a bit of a tourist hotspot too, given its history and quirkiness, so the town centre is usually heaving with people. I often drive straight through to my daughter's home on the far side of town.

It was, however, the summer solstice and I'd hoped to catch some sunset shots on the drive home. Sadly, too much cloud meant that aim was frustrated but I did have an evening wander around the town. It was much quieter than usual - a combination, I suppose, of the relatively late hour and the lockdown keeping people at home. It lacked the usual bustling atmosphere but at least you can see the buildings in my photos!

Hebden Bridge has been called 'the greatest town in Europe'. (See HERE) I wouldn't rate it that highly but it's certainly a lovely place to live and well worth a visit to explore.

The steep-sided valley is prone to flooding and the earliest settlements were all up on the hilltops. The town itself, originally just a tiny settlement around a river crossing, grew in the 19th century when weaving mills developed, making use of the area's abundant water power. Most of the buildings date from that time and the town rises dramatically up the surrounding hillsides, making use of every scrap of available land. 

This is an interesting building, called Machpelah (a Biblical reference to the cave used as a burial place by Abraham in Genesis) apparently because the land was originally bought by a Baptist minister as his burial site. These cottages appear to date from the early 1800s. Some of the windows have 'blue plaques' that tell who lived or worked here at various dates in their history. From the rows of windows in the gable, I would imagine that part of it was a weaving workshop. Prior to the growth of mills in the Industrial Revolution, weaving was a cottage industry. Many buildings in this area have multiple windows in the upper storeys to let light into the workshops.

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Dramatic skies

After all the blue sky, sunny weather we've been having for weeks, photographically at least it was a relief to get back to some cloudy and more interesting skies. Here's quite a brooding, dramatic sky above the equally brooding and dramatic canal-side facade of Salts Mill.

Applying a few textures makes it even more dramatic.

[Bloggers... Is anyone else struggling with the 'new Blogger' interface? Or is it just me? Seems such a palaver now to upload photos. Every step in the process now seems to consist of three. I keep losing photos I've uploaded because, if you upload several at once, you can't choose which ones to add to a post like you could before. If you then remove photos from a post they don't stay 'available' for the next post and you have to fish them out of the blog album, which takes ages to load. So frustrating. I hate how they suddenly change things for no apparent reason. 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it', software developers!]

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Joyful exuberance

Beyond Saltaire, the main road down into Shipley town centre is lined with business units, most of which have had a facelift in the last year or so, with new cladding and paintwork. It all looks a good deal smarter as a result. There is a small patch of waste ground between the units, which had some scrubby trees that have been felled. It has opened up a glimpse of a view over to the old mills alongside the canal and up to Baildon on the hill beyond. Red, pink and white valerian has sprung up. It's a (garden escaped) weed but it adds some joyful exuberance to the boxy industrial feel of this stretch of road. It also does a neat job of hiding the self-storage containers that have recently been squeezed in to the space behind. 

Tuesday, 23 June 2020


At the end of May, one of the beautiful, mature trees alongside the drive leading to Saltaire's URC church succumbed to the drought. Its trunk suddenly sheered in half and a large portion of the tree fell across the drive, thankfully injuring no-one and damaging nothing, as far as I'm aware. (See HERE) Since then it has been tidied up and the trunk cut into logs. I believe experts have also assessed the others in the vicinity. 

From the moment the lockdown was ordered in the UK, the weather turned dry, sunny and warm. I dread to think how depressed we'd all have been if it had happened at the end of autumn and we'd had to survive in lockdown in the dark and cold of winter. As it was, at least we were mostly able to enjoy the sunshine. We had the sunniest and driest spring ever recorded, strangely coming after the wettest February on record. It is all, apparently, to do with the jet-stream. Climate change and the warming of the Arctic region is causing it to 'stall' for long periods, stuck either to the south of us - bringing wet Atlantic low pressure systems, or to the north, bringing high pressure in from the Continent. Such extremes are unprecedented and an alarming wake-up call. If only governments would listen... I fear we will see many worse casualties than this Saltaire tree in the future.  

Monday, 22 June 2020

The calm of the lake

It's not very big but Tong Park Dam is an oasis of calm, not far from the residential areas of Baildon, so it's a popular spot with families and dog-walkers. Saltaire Angling Club owns the fishing rights so there are often a couple of fishermen sitting quietly on the banks. There was a pair of mute swans but they never came anywhere near me, so they are just white dots on the photo! There was also a family of moorhens, with three little chicks whizzing around like clockwork toys. There was very little wind (for a change!) and a heavily clouded sky lent a steely look to the water. A couple of patches of water lilies added some grace to the scene.

Sunday, 21 June 2020

To Tong Park Dam

After I'd visited the Hall Cliffe Community Garden in Baildon, I walked down Ladderbanks Lane, past some very gracious old Edwardian villas and some quite attractive, modern 'executive detached' houses. Then I took an old footpath down to Tong Park Dam. The path is wonderfully overgrown, almost like a tunnel in parts, with huge oak trees underplanted with holly and hawthorn. The surface is lined with worn flagstones and the whole path is quite low down between banks, making it, I guess, a holloway: a sunken lane. There was once a mill at Tong Park and the lake was its mill dam, so perhaps the footpath was a route to work for some of the millworkers.

At the end of the path, the view opens out over the lake, with what must be one of the most attractively-sited cricket grounds in the area, sadly lying idle this summer.

There were some ponies in a field and, though they were quite small, I noted they had feathered feet like shire horses. I've done a little research without really reaching any conclusion but I see that gypsy horses, bred to pull the brightly painted Romany caravans, have a similar look so these horses may have some gypsy heritage.

Much of the area around Tong Park Dam is rich in wildflowers so it was no surprise to see some beehives, with honey bees flying in and out.

Nor was I surprised to see yellow rattle growing, a semi-parasitic annual that feeds off the nutrients in the roots of grasses. It therefore has a weakening effect on grasses and enables species diversity and a stronger growth of wild flowers. This is turning into a nature walk...

Saturday, 20 June 2020

More Flowerpot Men

Bill and Ben, the Flowerpot Men have a comfy bench to sit on in Baildon's Community Garden, where they can watch the small children at play. Their friend Little Weed has also popped up to say hello. I'm not sure if anyone much younger than me or living elsewhere than Britain will know these characters. They were the stars of a children's TV programme that aired in the 1950s and 60s (see HERE), one of the series called 'Watch with Mother' that showed a different programme each weekday. The characters talked in a funny language and said 'flobadob' quite a lot. At the end they always said 'Babap, Ickle Weed!' and Weed would reply, in a very high pitched voice: 'Weeeeeeeeeed'!  The tortoise, is, I think, a character called Slowcoach who used to amble into the scene periodically. Oh, I remember it like it was yesterday!

In another part of the garden there is another flowerpot creation - perhaps their grandad with his dog, though I don't recall them in the TV programme. He is leaning against a rather elaborate 'bug hotel', quite a work of art.

My grand-girls would have been delighted to search for the fairies, hiding in the foliage. 

Friday, 19 June 2020

Happy Birthday Gran!

Among the many skills that my daughter and granddaughters have (apparently) been polishing in lockdown is the ability to make stop motion animation. I was thrilled to receive this on my phone this morning. (Equally thrilled that I've managed to upload it here for posterity!)

Feeling so blessed to have such lovely family and good friends. We may still be 'locked down' but I've seen friends today and received so many messages and cards. I'm excited to be seeing my grand-girls tomorrow - for the first time since early March.

Hall Cliffe Community Garden

Seeking a change of scene, I drove the few miles over to Baildon the other day for a walk. It was quiet, still under lockdown, with few shops open yet so there was ample space to park in the village centre.

Just opposite the parish church there is this little gem of a community garden. The site was originally the tarmac playground of the church school. When the school closed, the land lay unused. In 2004 it was leased from the Council by volunteers, who created - and continue to maintain - this lovely, accessible garden. It really is beautiful.

There were several mums and dads there with little children who were delighting in exploring the winding paths and the small playground at one end. I can imagine the garden is well used and much appreciated by local residents.

Several of the beds were planted with carefully colour themed plants. I seemed to be attracted to the purple and yellow ones!

I wasn't quite sure what the yellow-flowered plant was but I've checked out my guess and it is an evening primrose, tall and slender. The cheerful purple one with the attractive markings is a variety of  geranium.

Fragrant honeysuckle tumbles over a wooden arbour:

and the lovely roses are in bloom.

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Project 'Inside' 4: Alstroemeria flower

I bought some alstromerias - the lily of the Incas - both to cheer myself up and to practise some macro photography. To be honest, I soon get bored with this kind of work. I'd love to be able to recreate those pretty, soft focus flower photos that I see everywhere on my social media photography feeds. It seems too technical a process to be really creative, as far as I'm concerned, fiddling around with a tiny depth of field and trying to get the lighting and focus spot on. I did, however, enjoy the way the close focus brought out all the subtle colours in the petals. This is one bloom from the spray; each stem has four or five of these individual blooms and they are relatively small so this is a larger than life-size picture.

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

All Saints Church, Bingley

I was pleased to discover that the door of the church of All Saints in Bingley was unlocked when I walked past. (This was ages ago, just before the coronavirus lockdown closed our churches. I haven't got round to posting this before now!) For the first time for several years, I went in to look round. It is sited in the oldest part of the town, near The Old White Horse, the historic coaching inn on Old Main Street. It's not a huge church but it's quite attractive inside. Some clear glass windows make the interior fairly light. There are some nice stained glass windows too but the one I really wanted to see, designed by the pre-Raphaelite artist Burne Jones, is now obscured by the church organ, which was resited in the 1960s. Very clever planning!

Some of the church dates back to the 15th century but it was restored with alterations and additions in Victorian times, as so many of our churches were. It retains the pews and Victorian carved oak screen separating the chancel from the nave.

The east window (above) over the altar has five 'lights' depicting the virtues, with some very nice faces on the figures (see below for a detail). It is the work of a stained glass artist called Henry Holiday and was made in about 1890. Its effect is rather spoiled by the protective metal grill on the outside which gives the tracery effect you can discern on the lightest areas, but I suppose sadly the threat of vandalism makes that necessary.

I don't know to whom the Annunciation window below is attributed, but it was very colourful.