Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Going caving

I met up with my daughter, son-in-law and granddaughters at White Scar Caves recently, to do a spot of caving! White Scar is up near Ingleton, on the western edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, deep underneath Ingleborough, one of the famous Yorkshire 'Three Peaks'. It is the longest 'show cave' (ie: those that the general public can enter) in Britain, as visitors can walk about half a mile inside the system, though experienced cavers have, of course, explored much further into the whole system of tunnels.

The system was first discovered in the 1920s but some of the guided walk we took was opened up much more recently. There is a trail of natural tunnels that have had concrete paths laid, metal walkways with streams flowing beneath and some long staircases; some sections require you to double over and creep under low overhangs. The hard hats were mandatory and very necessary. I'm not a great fan of being underground in enclosed spaces... You'd never get me actually potholing, even when I was younger. But the visitor trail is safe inside, even for little children to walk through, and the caves are very interesting. It does sometimes flood, but they have a careful monitoring system and would not allow you inside if there was any danger. The children had to wear woolly hats under their safety helmets. Even then, the littlest one managed to knock hers off (there was no chin strap) and lose it in the abyss!

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Hole in the heart

I seek, wherever possible, to notice and photograph the beauty in the world... both where that is obvious and sometimes where it might be hidden. I suppose I try, in my own small way, to magnify and share beauty. There seems to me to be enough that is ugly and tough in this world, without adding to it. 

A recent visit to Bradford city centre, however, has me breaking that self-imposed guideline, simply because what I saw breaks my heart. The ugliness I show above is Darley Street, once the heart of Bradford's retail centre. 

There's a story behind it. I've lived in and around this area for many years, since I was a student at Bradford University in the very early 1970s. In those days (the 1960s and 70s) the city was full of imposing, some might say forbidding, Victorian architecture but it was also a time of great change, with many of the old buildings being demolished and modernist concrete blocks being erected in their place. The bottom of the city centre was where the main civic buildings were (still are) - plus a wonderful and rather classy department store called Brown, Muff & Co and a concrete development that had replaced the Victorian Swan Arcade. A little higher up there were the chain stores: Boots, Marks and Spencer and such like, in and around a concrete mall called the Kirkgate Centre (where once had been a lovely Victorian indoor market). At the top of town there were other markets and stores. 

There was a gradual decline in the traditional retail trade. A large department store on the northern edge of the city (Busby's) was an early casualty and then its building burnt down, replaced by a retail park. Brown, Muff and Co (taken over by House of Fraser in the late 70s) closed down in 1995. New shopping parks, more accessible by car, were built on the edge of town. Chain stores in the middle of town continued to get by, with smaller shops opening and closing all the time. The top end of town just about survives, thanks to the markets and an influx of new independents, many of them bars. 

In the early 'noughties' (2000+), some of the concrete office buildings and shops in the lower end of town were demolished to make way for a new shopping mall. Unfortunately, the recession hit and work was halted, leaving a huge and literal hole in the lower part of the city centre. (See HERE).  It is only very recently that The Broadway development has been completed, opened in 2015. 

Many of the stores (like Marks and Spencer) simply relocated to The Broadway and closed their original shops. The predictable result is that now there is another 'hole', a figurative one in the middle of town, at the heart of the city centre. On the street where M&S used to be, there are literally now only two shops open, one of those being Specsavers. All the other premises are either empty or being temporarily used for community arts ventures.  Last time I walked up that way I was shocked to see the decay and litter. This time, I was heartbroken; it is all so seedy and run-down. I really cannot see what can be done to rescue it. Pity poor Bradford... 

Meanwhile, cosmopolitan Leeds gets bigger and better, as fashionable high-end shops (like John Lewis) continue to open there. I, like most of my contemporaries, much prefer to take the short train ride to Leeds to shop there. I feel like a traitor...

Monday, 15 January 2018

The United Reformed Church

I've taken so many photos of Saltaire's magnificent Grade 1 listed church, I've enough to fill a calendar and more. (One day I might make one!) There are only really two good view points: head-on down the drive, as here, or from the north side as seen from the canal towpath. (See HERE). I have to complain that Sir Titus Salt and his Victorian architects did not consider the building from a photographic viewpoint (!) as the sun only illuminates the building satisfactorily in the early morning. Later in the day it moves round to be an annoying backlight. In fairness, I suppose the trees that surround the church weren't so big in the early days so the church would have stood out more. If you can work within the limitations, however, it is a really wonderful building to photograph, and the overall scene looks so different depending on the seasons.

Sunday, 14 January 2018


This is the point where the Leeds-Liverpool Canal crosses the River Aire on an aqueduct (to the right of my photo). It's just a mile or so out from Saltaire. It's the furthest point of my favourite walk, the point where I leave the canal towpath, slip through a stile in the wall (which you can just see, where walkers have worn a groove in the earth) and clamber down to the riverbank to return home.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Two trees, two days

I had a quick and restorative walk on Boxing Day, taking my favourite route out along the canal towpath and back along the river bank. It's only about three miles but it's enough to wake me up! The furthest point takes me as far as my favourite trees and I like to check on them every now and again. It was a beautiful day, with sunshine and blue skies.

A few days later, I did a different walking route which took me past the trees again. They looked a bit different under a lowering sky. Within a few minutes of me taking the photo, the rain started. Luckily I was already heading for home.

Friday, 12 January 2018

It's that cormorant again

The juvenile cormorant that I spotted early in December seems to have taken up residence on the stretch of the River Aire between Hirst Weir and the aqueduct. One day when I passed, it was perched on a tree stump grounded on the weir. Perhaps fish are easier to catch as they tumble over the weir? From a distance I thought it was the heron, which often frequents this spot, but as I got closer I could see it wasn't. Handsome birds, aren't they?

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Old Bingley

From the vantage point of Ireland Bridge, Bingley's parish church and the cluster of old houses around it looks quite pretty. It would be a lovely place to live, if only the river didn't regularly flood these properties.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Unremarkable scenes

I've been inspired in the past year by a photographer called Lizzie Shepherd, who is based in Yorkshire. She exhibited at 'Art in the Pen' in Skipton last summer and I've been to a couple of talks and presentations she has given, including one at the camera club I belong to. I find her work intriguing. She is technically superb and compositionally precise but, along with the detail, there is often a soft, almost ephemeral, quality to her images that I really like. I find the mixture of precision and gentleness to be very beguiling. She often photographs the kinds of scenes that I find myself intuitively drawn to. Some of her work is very subtle, what she herself calls 'unremarkable scenes' - but the more I look at them, the more I see. My own work is nowhere near her league (nor is my equipment!) but nevertheless she inspires me.

The photo above is what I'd call an unremarkable scene. It was taken on a walk round Bingley St Ives estate on a really dull, dreary and misty day. (Not the kind of mist that enlivens a scene!) I'd passed this way many times before but never really noticed the spiral sculpture. Something about the light that day drew attention to it. For some reason that I am struggling to grasp, I really like this photo: the subtle colours, the way the spiral is counterbalanced by the little fir tree on the left, the tilt of the sculpture echoed by the tilt of that birch trunk, the horizontal branches that bring your eye round... Not everybody's cup of tea, I know, but I like it.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Green building

Here's an interesting house on the outskirts of Bingley... It was built a few years ago, with a very innovative and energy-saving design. It is part buried in the ground and has a turfed roof. From the roadside, it looks as though it could be an industrial building or even some kind of water storage tank, but the elevation that overlooks the valley is fully glazed, which must provide a magnificent panoramic view from the main living areas.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Flood gauge

Well, that snow barely lasted a day until it melted (I made the most of the photos I took!) and since then it has rained a lot. Crossing the footbridge into Saltaire's Roberts Park, I always take note of the level of the river. It's easy to gauge. When the water is 'low to normal', the shallow meander holds a muddy beach where ducks and geese gather. (See HERE) As the river level rises the beach gets smaller, until the water laps up against the little wall that defines the edge of the park. That's what it was like the other day, and the cricket pavilion was rather attractively reflected in the unusually calm water. In flood conditions the water will pour over into the park, flooding the footpath (along which the folks in my photo are walking) and lapping up against the second little wall that bounds the cricket pitch. (See HERE) I've only ever seen it rise higher than that on the notorious day of 'the great flood' in December 2015. (See HERE) That day, it inundated the park all across the grassed area and right over the path at the other side, flooding the Half Moon Café at the far side to a depth of several feet.  I shall be monitoring the situation...

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Winter wonderland

All these photos were taken within a mile of so of Saltaire, exploring the towpath of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal and then crossing the river on to the carriage drive that served the great house at Milner Field, where Titus Salt Junior lived. The house is long since demolished but everywhere there is evidence of the grand estate that surrounded it.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Down in the park

Roberts Park looked really beautiful in the snow. There were a few little children sledging on the gentle slope behind the bandstand, though there was barely enough snow to facilitate it. The newly repainted bandstand made a wonderful splash of red, set off beautifully by the snowy ground.

Sir Titus himself was shivering a little. Oddly enough, at the moment I took this photo, it was almost exactly 141 years since the great man breathed his last. He is recorded to have died at 12.40 on the afternoon of 29 December 1876, aged 73. He had been in poor health for some time and a trip to the sea air in Scarborough, in the hope of aiding his recovery, saw no improvement. He returned to his home in Halifax. By 17 December he was declining rapidly; telegraphs were sent to his children advising them to come at once but he lingered over Christmas. His death was widely mourned and at his funeral an estimated 100,000 people lined the streets to pay their respects as the procession passed.  His body is interred in the family mausoleum attached to Saltaire's church.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Snowy Saltaire

More snow photos... but no apologies. It's not every year that we get so much down here in the bottom of the valley, though it didn't last more than half a day before it melted in the rain. So pretty though, and it completely transforms the familiar views around the village. Above is Albert Terrace, the cobbled street, brightened and lightened by the snow.

The corner of Amelia Street, where it joins Albert Terrace, has an even more timeless air in this weather. Amelia was Sir Titus Salt's eldest daughter, who acted as his personal secretary until she married in 1873.  

The lion statues all had a little covering of snow, making them stand out against the backdrop. The building above is the old school, now part of Shipley College.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Salts Mill in the snow

Two different views of Salts Mill's classic south frontage.
The view in the photo above is usually obscured by trees and you can rarely get a decent photo out of it but in winter you get a better idea of the sheer length of the building. That's my neighbours' allotment in the foreground, snoozing under its white blanket.
I've photographed the view below so many times in all weathers and lighting conditions. I like the way the snow lightens up the scene - and I love those red rosebuds, just hanging on despite the weather.