Saturday, 22 July 2017

Friday, 21 July 2017

Open Gardens Shipley

A recent weekend saw many private gardens opened locally in Shipley, to raise money for The Children's Society. This is an annual event, though rarely do we see such good weather for it! It is always a delight to see what people can do with 'ordinary' gardens, the modest-sized plots that many of our suburban houses are blessed with.

The garden in my first photo above had a pretty rose-covered arch, a pond and plenty of areas to sit, lots of fruit trees and bushes, a greenhouse and a very desirable shed-cum-art-studio at the top of the garden.

The one below is a very steep plot, rising up vertiginous steps to woodland. It boasts a water feature, with a small waterfall cascading into a pool full of fish. There was masses of colour and some cute creatures hiding (spot the owls?). All could be enjoyed from a large terrace at the bottom, with some comfortable seating (and refreshments).

The plot below was a long garden, separated cleverly into 'rooms' to break up the view. The fence had a passion flower vine spilling over it. I remember being amazed the first time I ever saw one. The flowers have such an intricate structure, which earned the plant its name when Spanish Christian missionaries in the 15th century used the flower as a symbol of Christ's crucifixion. I didn't think they were hardy enough to grow as far north as this, but this one looked extremely healthy and was full of buds.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Welcome to Saltaire

This colourful sign, welcoming people to Saltaire, has been outside the rail station for some time now. I've taken a few photos of it but never got one I was pleased with. This isn't brilliant either but it'll have to do! There are obstructions to photographing it square on, so the only possibility is this rather oblique angle - but you get the idea...

The sign has been designed by students, Massimiliano Belli and Giada Dambra, from Bradford School of Art, taking inspiration from the Italianate architecture and layout of the village to show the key points of interest. Formerly there was just a blank, black screen, the reverse of a station signboard belonging to the rail operators. It looks much, much better now.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Fields of green

A few weeks ago, when the hawthorn blossom was abundant, I took my favourite walk along the canalside and back along the river bank. Cows were grazing peacefully on the fields of the Milner Field estate, which formerly belonged to Titus Salt Jnr. The may-blossom always reminds me of my childhood. It is lovely to be transported, even for a few moments, away from the hustle of today's world into something timeless.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

The Flying Scotsman

During the summer there are sometimes steam-hauled train excursions that pass through Saltaire and I've tried, without much success, to photograph them before. When a neighbour tipped me off that the most famous steam locomotive of all - The Flying Scotsman - was coming, I was determined to capture it as best I could. So here you are!

After many adventures, including being the first steam engine officially to reach 100mph (in 1934), this lovely old locomotive, originally built in 1923, retired from regular service in 1963. It passed into private ownership and travelled in the USA, Canada and Australia, before being bought by the National Railway Museum in York in 2004. It has been thoroughly overhauled and rebuilt over the last ten years and is now allowed to run on our main rail lines. 

It is pulling excursions all over the country this year. This particular trip is billed as 'The Waverley Excursion', a day's journey from York to Carlisle and back. 

I got the shutter speed right... zoomed in, you can clearly read the name on the side. It is, however, really difficult to know where to stand for a good view locally, especially in summer when there's lots of vegetation along the lineside. I elected to wait in the one spot beside a bridge where I knew I could see down the line and have recognisably 'Saltaire' things (like the church tower) in the background. The overhead cables and gantrys for the usual electric trains rather spoil the view though.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Tales of the riverbank

Returning from my walk, I left the Leeds-Liverpool Canal at Dowley Gap and cut down Wagon Lane, to join the River Aire. The river meanders through the playing fields belonging to Bradford and Bingley rugby club, and then through an area called Ryeloaf Meadows, a wet woodland managed for conservation by Bradford Council's Countryside Service. It was staked out by 'eco-warriors' at one time, seeking to prevent the building of the Bingley relief road, which now passes through on stilts. Some years later, despite the faint hum of traffic from above, the area seems to me to have recovered well. Growth is lush. In parts, trying to follow the footpath is like trekking through a jungle!

This pretty plant is Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria). It's a plant that I overlooked for years, assuming it was a variety of lady lace, but it is a different genus. It grows profusely in wet places. It's an interesting plant with many traditional uses; it was once used as a strewing herb, thrown on floors in homes and churches to scent them. 

There were quite a few of these brown butterflies too. They had brown velvety upperwings with a few spots underneath. I'm not skilled at butterfly identification but I think it is a Ringlet

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Along the canal

Keen to get some exercise on a mild but breezy summery day, I decided a walk out along the canal towpath towards Bingley with a return along the riverbank would be just the thing. There was lots to see. The boat traffic along the canal is at a high level, as conditions this spring and early summer have been ideal. Cruising along in the sunshine must tempt both the hire boats and those who are lucky enough to own their own narrowboat. The trees are all in full leaf and there are flowers in profusion. I don't remember seeing either the bright yellow shrub (Hypericum Hidcote?) or the small name plaque at Dowley Gap Locks before, though I'm sure they've been there for a long time. It's funny how I keep seeing 'new' things even in familiar places.   

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Red poppies

Another impressionistic photo. This was some poppies I spotted hiding behind some tall grasses. I was practising differential focus with my telephoto lens. The effect was quite different depending where I aimed the focus point. I quite liked this one, where the foreground grasses are blurred, the poppies are sharper and the splashes of sunlight in the background give a bokeh effect.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Blue poppies

Apparently, Himalayan blue poppies (Meconopsis betonicifolia) can be tricky to grow but they seem to do well at Harlow Carr Gardens, grown in the damp soil around the stream side. When I visited, they were past their best, looking a bit ragged and faded but still an attractive colour. The blue was fading to a pretty pinky mauve.

I tried softening and lightening one of my photos, just for fun:

Thursday, 13 July 2017


I'm going through a bit of a phase where my 'normal' photography seems to me to be not quite hitting the mark. I keep going out walking with my camera but when I get home and look at my pictures, I am often underwhelmed and dissatisfied with them. It seems that lately I am more drawn to experiment and try close-up shots and more abstract impressions. 
Here's a selection I took at RHS Harlow Carr Gardens. I guess you either like this kind of thing or hate it!

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Pinks on trial

Another shot taken at RHS Harlow Carr Gardens. As well running four (soon to be five) beautiful and inspirational gardens across England, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) offers advice for gardeners and conducts experiments and trials with plants, both edible and ornamental. My eye was drawn to these pots full of pinks (dianthus). This was a trial to find the best varieties for container growing.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Pond dipping

As I wandered around at RHS Harlow Carr Gardens near Harrogate recently, I noticed a school group busily engaged in exploring a pond. The children, about seven or eight years old, were enthusiastically dipping nets and seeing what weird and wonderful aquatic life was lurking among the water lilies. Mind you, listening to their excited squealing, it was amazing that all the creatures hadn't heard them and hidden themselves away!

Monday, 10 July 2017

Saltaire's saltire

Looking up on a bright sunny day I noticed aircraft contrails making a saltire, St Andrew's cross, in the sky. The flag of Scotland, I am hoping it is a herald of Andy Murray's triumph at Wimbledon 2017... If not, it's not for lack of me cheering him on. Come on Andy!!

Sunday, 9 July 2017


There seemed to be quite a few 'classic bus' enthusiasts enjoying the sunshine and the 3rd Saltaire Historic Bus Running Day in Roberts Park. I'm not sure what Sir Titus was making of it. It was all horse-drawn carriages in his day, of course.

I hadn't realised that spotting buses is an alternative to train spotting and comes with all its own memorabilia - photos for sale, old timetables, models of buses...

Numberplates and signs:

Vintage ticket machines (oh! another wave of nostalgia! Remember the sounds they used to make?) and rolls of tickets to put in them, should you wish to role-play being a bus conductor. (As children, we used to be thrilled when we got tickets with red lines on them that indicated the roll was running out!) 

And books with such fascinating titles ... (When Buses Were Worth Spotting!)

Saturday, 8 July 2017

More bus nostalgia

More memories... This type of bus transported me to primary school and back, and to my grandparents' house, before we owned a car. You weren't supposed to ride on the open platform, though people did. It also meant people could hop on and off when the bus was moving! Unthinkable in these days of health and safety and much busier roads.

I can still remember swaying up those stairs as the bus moved off, and trying to see my distorted reflection in the convex mirror (which was there, I think, so the bus conductor could keep an eye on the top deck). My favourite seat, then as now, was always the one upstairs at the front, with a grandstand view of everything.

At the time, I didn't appreciate the craftsmanship in these vehicles... Look at that gorgeous wood-inlayed floor.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Bus nostalgia

I'm not sure whether yesterday's bus was linked in to this event: the 3rd Saltaire Historic Bus Running Day. Roberts Park played host to a dozen or so 'classic' buses, most brought over from the Keighley Transport Museum. I wandered down to the park just for a quick look, not expecting to find it particularly interesting. I wasn't anticipating feeling waves of nostalgia!

Bradford had trams (buses running on tracks in the road) until 1950 and from 1911 to 1972 it also had trolleybuses, which were powered by overhead cables. My own earliest experience of Bradford was as a student at the university from 1970 to 1973, so I actually used the trolleybuses. I was there when this trolleybus made its final journey, full of local dignitaries, on 26 March 1972, the last trolleybus system to close in Britain. I remember it well!  I am, I'm afraid, getting to that age when my early memories are now on display in museums!

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Bus stop

There's often something new to see in Saltaire. I wasn't sure what to make of this bus parked on Victoria Road outside Salts Mill.  It said 'Blackpool Transport' on it and was, as you can see, a rather noticeable bright yellow and black, like a wasp.

There is only a little 'Hopper' service bus runs through Saltaire village and that doesn't venture down to the Mill. Tourist coaches have to drop their passengers off up by the college's Exhibition Building. Victoria Road is effectively a cul de sac at the bottom, past the Mill, where there is barely room for large vehicles to turn, so you rarely see buses or big lorries down here. There was a vintage bus rally in the park and I've occasionally seen a vintage bus doing wedding duty at the church (see here) but this one didn't look very vintage to me, though I am not a bus expert! Day trip to Saltaire from Blackpool? A minor mystery...

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

An eyesore

Theme of the month for my online photo group for April was 'Something I dislike'. I chose to submit the above image, of a derelict greenhouse. It's on the site of what was once a thriving little garden centre just a mile outside Saltaire village, right beside Hirst Lock, which is one of the more picturesque parts of the local canal. Such a shame that a) the garden centre had to close and b) no-one is doing anything with the site. It is falling into ruin, with the three glasshouses and the huts gradually being reclaimed by nature. Not only is it an eyesore but it is also potentially dangerous if children got into it, with all that broken glass and twisted metal.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

I ♥️ Saltaire

Heart symbols seem to be a popular motif in the windows and gardens around Saltaire.

Monday, 3 July 2017

A tale of two gardens

I went visiting another couple of private gardens, opened to raise money for charity under the National Gardens Scheme. They were in neighbouring villages but couldn't have been more different. 

The one in the photo above was relatively modest plot around quite a modern house in Silsden. It was laid out with lush, undulating borders around a lawn, and with some attractive paved seating areas around the house itself. With varied foliage and some statement blooms, it was an inspiration to see how the owners had created a stunning garden in an average sized plot. Dotted here and there were some nice sculptures. You might be able to see a hen and its chick by the edge of the lawn, made of crushed wire.

The second garden (below) was much bigger: the grounds of an old stone manor house called High Hall, Steeton. The present building dates back to the late 1600s and was built by the Currer family. I have read that Charlotte Brontë's pen name, Currer Bell, was inspired by the name of this family and the bell at the south entrance of the house. There's also a legend that the seven Steeton men who fought in the Battle of Flodden, between the Scots and the English in 1513, cut their long-bows from a yew tree that still exists in this garden.  

The Arts and Crafts influenced walled gardens here were more formal and symmetrical, with herbaceous borders abundant with pink, white and purple blooms - peonies, alliums and iris among them. There was a pond, a belvedere and a dovecote, an adjacent walled vegetable garden and an area of woodland too. Absolutely gorgeous. 

Sunday, 2 July 2017


Moo! or perhaps that should be Boo! I'm not sure who was more surprised, him or me, when he popped his head over the wall and we came face to face!

Saturday, 1 July 2017


My neighbour stopped me as I was walking home the other day, to ask me if I'd take some photos of their nearby allotment. She has often seen me setting off with my camera and she knows I'm a keen photographer. I love taking pictures of other people's gardens, so it was a pleasant task to take on.

They've had the plot for a couple of years and have worked really hard to transform it. Despite the dry weather we've been having, it currently looks really lush and productive. There are vegetable and fruit beds, interspersed with bright flowers and even a small pond in the corner of the plot. The showstopper at the moment is the border of colourful annuals: white and yellow daisies, pink poppies and blue cornflowers, creating a random and wonderful kaleidoscope.

Friday, 30 June 2017

The end of the day

I love these long summer evenings - and May and June this year have been unusually warm and sunny until the final few days. People often take advantage of the last rays of sunshine on the terrace of Saltaire's Boathouse Inn, overlooking the river and Roberts Park. A relaxing evening with friends, over a drink, enjoying the view, is very pleasant.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Puddle two

This was another possible contender for the 'Puddle' theme (see yesterday). I decided it looked better in colour than mono, though. It's a reflection, in a puddle, of the rounded top of one of the big warehouse doors in Salts Mill.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017


Back to the rain again here... And back to March for my photo. The theme for March in my online photography group was 'Puddle' and the image had to be in black and white. There's rarely a shortage of puddles around here; the last few months have been exceptionally dry but it never lasts for too long. British weather is endlessly changeable. When there are puddles, Saltaire has some amazing puddle reflections from all the elegant buildings. In the end, I chose this image as my month's entry. It has a vague reflection of part of Salts Mill but it was the diagonal dynamic that appealed to me, and the mix of reflections and shadows.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

A hive of activity

It seemed curious to see beehives in the centre of town - but then I realised they were part of the Shipley Street Arts Festival too. The little copper plate covered a spy hole... and through the spy hole I spied....

 ... a Bee CCTV monitoring station - watching me watching them! 

Each hive had a different scene. I liked the Bee Cinema.  The interval must have been about to start, as the usherette was coming in with her tray of ice creams. What a funny buzziness!