Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Fountains Abbey

Last Friday, it was bright and sunny when I opened my bedroom curtains in the morning so I decided I'd drop my plans for the day and take off on an excursion. (The freedom to do that is still a joyous novelty!)

I headed for Fountains Abbey, a well-known National Trust beauty spot, about an hour and a half's drive north of here. It is so popular that it is fairly unbearable in the summer. There was the promise of snowdrops and fewer people about on a winter's day. I'd forgotten, however, that it was the half-term holidays for a lot of schools so it was busier than I anticipated.

I did enjoy my day but - does this ever happen to you? - I found myself quite underwhelmed when it came to taking photos. I just wasn't 'seeing' them and that left me frustrated. It was all incredibly muddy too, unpleasantly so, even on the paths and having to watch where you're walking is a distraction. Then the sun disappeared! So it wasn't the best day out but it still beat being in an office or stuck in the house.

There were snowdrops too, a welcome reminder that the seasons turn. Warmer, more colourful days will be here soon.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Whiling away a winter evening

On these dark, winter evenings, if I'm at home, I occasionally watch TV but mostly, to stretch my brain, I read or do puzzles (crosswords or sudoku - and I'm having fun with some logic puzzles at the moment). I used to be an avid reader when I was younger and then, as a busy mother, I let it slide a bit. Now I have more time, I'm back to reading in a big way, though I find I can only read a few chapters before I need a short break. Whether it's age, eyesight or the sapping effect of technology on my brain, I'm not sure.

The very best relaxation though, as far as I'm concerned, is sorting through my photos and experimenting with processing. So it's a nuisance when I can't get out for walks and I run short on stock. Then I resort to trawling my photo archives, maybe finding an image I missed first time around, or one that I can see could benefit from a new treatment. I sit at my desktop for serious work but sometimes it's fun just to play on my iPad. I have some photo apps on that, more frivolous. I've also been scanning some very old family photos. I might show a few of those one day.

You'll recognise the photo above: my favourite trees, along by Dowley Gap Locks. In an idle half hour one evening, I added some textures and a few 'birds', just for fun.

Monday, 19 February 2018


I'd love to know what these two are gossiping about... They are part of a now rather faded and grimy mural under one of the bridges over the Leeds-Liverpool Canal in Shipley.

Linked to Monday Murals - see HERE

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Winter etchings

We've had intermittent snow showers during the last week. Some days have been worse than others and some locations have had more than others, even within quite a small geographical area. It's either been falling as tiny, hard, sleety lumps or big, soft, wet flakes. In both cases, it has often barely settled before melting. When there has been a white covering for a while, it has soon disappeared.

I like the way snow renders everything in monochrome. Pictures look like etchings. These two very different photographs were taken back in January.


Saturday, 17 February 2018

Blue note

A canal boat moored up for the winter made a picture that pretty much sums up how I feel at this stage of the year. Blue, dull, scratchy with slight glimmers of bright yellow here and there.

I know I shouldn't complain. All the rain and snow we've had means we're certainly not short of water like some places. The nights are beginning to get shorter again and there are bulbs peeping up through the soil - even in my garden! (I actually got around to planting some tulips and crocus in tubs, quite an achievement since I do not possess a single green finger, though I love gardens.) I've been planning a summer holiday, which is fun and escapist, but I'm longing for some dry days so I can go out and explore and to take some more photos.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Evening falls...

Evening falls and Salts Mill is briefly illuminated by the setting sun, its windows silvery and the brickwork glowing amber. The line of parked cars on Caroline Street is thinning out, as weary commuters alight from their trains and make their way home through the chill, to warm firesides and dinner. Just a fleeting moment caught on camera... Within seconds, the warm glow had ebbed away as the sun was swallowed up in a cloud.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Orange wellies

Making a style statement: toddler-wear in bright yellow with orange wellies. How cute. Perhaps the mallard ducks, with their bright orange feet, thought she was one of their own... 

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Fog, rain, sleet

Fog, rain, sleet, wind - oh, what dreary weather we're having. I know it's winter but I much prefer the type of winter where we get dry, crisp, sunny days. It's been much colder overall here this winter, than last, but I don't mind that. (I always find it's easier to get warm when you're cold than cool when you're too hot! So our northerly climate suits me well, actually.) But I do mind the damp and dull days, when you really can't get out for a good walk. This was what it looked like driving back from my daughter's the other day. The views over towards Haworth were obscured by the drizzly mist and I had to dodge huge puddles and sheets of water sluicing across the moorland road. I got home safely... and that's the nicest bit: getting home, pulling up a chair by the fire and having a mug of hot tea to warm me through again. Aahhh....

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Winter quarters

This is where Saltaire's ice-cream boat spends a few weeks in the winter. Under the terms of its licence, it has to move from its habitual berth by the Victoria Road bridge for so many weeks a year. Anyway, I suppose it is safer from vandalism moored here, when it isn't being regularly used. I guess the demand for ice-creams has fallen sharply since the temperature dropped (though they do also serve hot drinks). I wonder where the ice-cream man overwinters? Chile, perhaps?

The buildings it is moored beside were once warehouses and are known as Shipley Wharf. Nowadays they hold a restaurant, gym and offices.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Dog walk

'The path less travelled' (see Thursday), just like the path I more often take, can be walked 'out' along the canal and 'back' along the river. It isn't very pretty in either direction but it is quite interesting. The path back along the riverbank squeezes round the back of the Victoria Mills complex of redeveloped mill buildings and new-build flats.

It is the route of the Aire Sculpture Trail, so every now and again you come across a cartoonish animal, like this rather sad-looking dog. The sculptures enliven the walk, as does keeping an eye out for the kingfisher that lives along this stretch of water. I've only ever glimpsed it once. Unfortunately, the route is all a bit litter-strewn, which appears to be a consequence of the floods of a couple of years ago overlaid by rubbish dropped more recently, possibly by dog-walkers or by the school and college students who use it as a shortcut. I do wish folks would take their litter home with them!

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Saltaire Brewery

Tucked away down a side street in the Dockfield area of Shipley and overlooking the canal, the Saltaire Brewery isn't actually in Saltaire at all. It isn't far away though, and who can blame them for using the name of the world-famous UNESCO World Heritage Site as their brand name. The craft brewery was established by Tony Gartland and Derek Todd in 2005. The brewhouse is sited in an old generating hall that once provided electricity for Bradford's trams. They now produce around 60 different beers, including their bestselling 'Saltaire Blonde' ('a straw coloured lager ale with creamy, soft malt flavours') and a dark stout called, enticingly, 'Triple Chocoholic' ('a strong chocolate bouquet and a rich chocolate flavour, with a balancing bitterness'). I don't drink beer but I'd be tempted by them if I did. They have an excellent reputation.

There's a Brewery Tap and shop, open Wednesdays through to Sundays (pm only), so you can sample their products - and some from other featured breweries. There's a beer club too, like a mini beer festival, on the last Friday of every month. I've noticed the beers are stocked in lots of pubs and shops, or can be ordered online. No excuse not to try it!

Saturday, 10 February 2018


Shipley's Dockfield Road area used to hold several big textile mills. As they closed, other industries moved in and now the area is a somewhat uneasy mix, with a lot of commercial units, large and small, a few rows of Victorian houses that were presumably once linked to the mills and some newer residential developments (see yesterday).

It looks to me as though it may be 'on the up'. The influx of new housing will change the feel of the area and I think it will all get tidied up. Some of the businesses appear to be expanding too. This unit belongs to 'Specialised Covers', a manufacturer of 'innovative solutions in vehicle protection'; they make fabric covers for cars, caravans and motorbikes. It's a family-run business, established for over 35 years and, judging by the size of the extension (?) they're having built, they look to be doing rather well.

A few doors down there is a studio belonging to Q20 Theatre, another long-established organisation, who produce high-quality street theatre, indoor and outdoor events and promotional entertainment. They're involved in a lot of our local community events and have some hugely creative and experienced performers.

Not far away from them is a children's soft-play and adventure centre, Funopolis.  I've taken my granddaughters there once or twice. They love it - but it's huge and rather easy to lose sight of the children. It took me a good half-hour, last time, to entice the kids out of the maze of slides and tunnels.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Coming soon

A little further east along the canal towpath, I came across the site of a new development: Swanside, by Mandale Homes. They are building an estate of 2, 3 and 4 bedroom houses, on a site adjacent to the canal that used to be a factory. The building work is in its very early stages, with big machines currently clearing the site.

I'm glad they are able to use some 'brownfield' sites for housing. It is much needed and, although the conservationists may bemoan modern developments, I think the increased proportion of homes may start to turn this rather run-down area, where there are already a few late Victorian terraces and some newer flats, into a pleasant residential zone. Although it's untidy and somewhat bleak at the moment, it's only about a fifteen minute walk to the rail station and Shipley town centre, so it's potentially quite a convenient location.

The site is served by the Dock Lane Swing Bridge, a newish automated bridge over the canal. Dock Lane got its name because at one time it led to a dry dock, one of only a few along the canal, where boats were repaired. The dry dock has long since been filled in and built on. You can just see either end of the bridge on the left of my photos. The four houses below are very recently erected. They look very nice and seem reasonably priced, to me. 

Thursday, 8 February 2018

The path less travelled

From Saltaire, I can walk east or west along the canal towpath. More often than not, I choose west, which quickly takes me into fields, woods and wild places. Just occasionally, when I fancy a change, I'll turn east towards Shipley. The walk is much less pretty, cutting through downtown Shipley and skirting some old mills and industrial units. It does eventually reach wilder and more attractive parts, but only after a fair old trek.

Nevertheless, the option is not without interest, especially when I haven't been that way for a while. Beyond Saltaire and Salts Wharf, one of the first points of intrigue is this little old cottage: Gallows Bridge Cottage. It dates back to 1834, though it has been extensively renovated. I read that it may once have been the home of a 'lengthsman', someone who patrolled and cared for a designated length of the canal. The footbridge beyond is Gallows Bridge, which was built around the same time as the cottage. There has always been a bridge here, protecting an ancient right of way, since this part of the canal was completed in 1774.  I'm not sure what the 'gallows' in the name refers to... something even more ancient - and deadly, perhaps? You might think the cottage an idyllic place to live, but it is a bit isolated as indicated by the several CCTV cameras and alarm.

A few hundred yards further on, you pass Junction Bridge, a typical single-arched canal bridge dated 1774. It's held together in parts by concrete but you can still see the old, worn, stone setts across the middle. The building beyond is Junction House, sadly now very derelict. It was once a warehouse, boatmen's lodgings and had a canal toll-house attached. There's some interesting information about this whole area HERE, which is an extensive assessment of the area for conservation purposes. The 'junction' referred to is that between the now defunct Bradford canal, which  branched off here, and the main Leeds-Liverpool Canal.

The conservation document is not complimentary about the newish flats and town houses in the development alongside the canal (on the left below), which it calls an 'unsympathetic inward-facing modern development'. The buildings on the right of Junction Bridge are Junction Mills and Dockfield Mills, once worsted mills, still used as commercial premises.