Earlier posts

Earlier posts
This blog is a continuation of an older one. To explore previous posts please click the photo above.

Wednesday, 28 September 2022

Wise owls

It was lovely to see my daughter and granddaughters enjoying the parade. The theme this year was 'Good Day Sunshine!' and the parade had sections with different animals and birds. My family were owls, with rather lovely white, silver and gold costumes and elaborate headdresses, all of which they had decorated themselves.  

I've blanked out their little friend's face, as I don't have specific permission to post his image. 

The end of their section had some young stilt walkers - very competent. I'm pretty sure I couldn't learn to balance like that (even when I was younger!) 

Tuesday, 27 September 2022

Handmade Parade finally happened!

After a gap of two years due to the Covid pandemic and then a postponement because of Queen Elizabeth's death, Handmade Parade was finally able to take place in Hebden Bridge last weekend. It was a rather smaller affair than previously but no less exuberant. The participants are all local residents and there are workshops to help them make their costumes, as well as to train dancers, uni-cyclists and stilt walkers. I visited their huge warehouse workshop during the Open Studios event a few weeks ago - see HERE

Thankfully it didn't rain, though it was a lot colder than in previous years when the parade has taken place in early summer. I managed to get a vantage point on a corner so that proved quite good for taking pictures. It's always a wonderful atmosphere. Everybody seems to know everybody else in the small town, so it's all really friendly and good-natured. Great fun. 

Monday, 26 September 2022

A quiet corner

I always like this view, taken from in front of Saltaire's church, looking towards the stable block cottages and, beyond them, the tower of Salt's New Mill. It was really peaceful and pleasant there, in the warm, early autumn sunshine. To the left is the canal. The only bright colour is the rather garish ice cream boat, now permanently moored there.

Sunday, 25 September 2022

Sunday meditation: Lemons

 'When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.'

Or, alternatively, construct a mixed media art installation with a real lemon, a ceramic lemon, a photo of a lemon and a video of a lemon.  This 'explores the emerging chasm between nature, environment, and human activities in everyday life. We seem to ignore – or perhaps we do not recognise – that nature, the environment and humankind are intertwined.'  Hmmm.   

(By Akihiro Boujoh, a finalist in the Aesthetica Art Prize 2022)

Or even better: 'When life gives you lemons, make lemonade...and try to find someone whose life has given them vodka, and have a party.'  (Ron White) 

Saturday, 24 September 2022

Machines (mostly)

There is lots to see above ground at the National Coal Mining Museum, with some of the original machinery still working and sheds full of vehicles and machines, archived for posterity. You begin to realise that, when our mines were gradually closed, it signalled the end of an era not just for the miners themselves and their communities but for whole swathes of British manufacturing capacity that supported the industry.

I found it interesting to try to pick out small photographic compositions from the machinery. 

Not a machine of course, but included just because he was cute, a little Welsh pit pony called Ernie, one of four retired pit ponies still kept at the Museum. They spend much of their time grazing in fields around the museum but are brought in to stables so that visitors can see them and learn about their lives. 

Friday, 23 September 2022

Life underground

Because of the risk of sparks, visitors to the National Coal Mining Museum are usually banned from taking anything containing batteries on the tour below ground: cameras, phones, watches, car key fobs and suchlike are all surrendered at the pit head. Our camera club had negotiated a special private tour, and we were allowed to take with us down the mine our cameras, with batteries installed and switched on above ground, plus a tripod. We were all given safety helmets and small lamps and had to wear face masks too. Crammed together in the clanking lift cage with its mesh sides, I got a real taste of what my forebears must have endured every working day. The guides are themselves ex-miners and have very interesting tales to tell (though of course my deafness does not help when someone has a mask on. I couldn't lip read him, so I couldn't decipher much.) It was really dark so lighting for our photos was tricky - the supplied lamps didn't throw much of a beam. I was pleasantly surprised how well some of my images came out, after some careful processing, considering the gloom and the difficulties of positioning when there were a dozen of us in the same space. 

The tour passes round a circular route through tunnels, some wide and quite high and others very narrow where you had to duck under beams and doors. I was glad of the hard hat! It is broadly arranged so that you walk through a timeline from the earliest days of deep mining through to the later, mechanised operations. There are various vignettes set up to illustrate life below ground. 

In the early days it was common for women and children as well as men to work full shifts (12 hours) underground. Children could squirm into tinier spaces and were also employed to load and haul baskets of coal. Little ones as young as five were tasked with opening and closing the doors that allowed air to flow through the mine (see photo above). They sat for hours alone, with only a small lamp for light, which often burnt out. Read some of their stories HERE. It was not until 1842 that an Act of Parliament forbade the employment of women and children under 10 underground, though many women evaded this and continued to work illegally,  and they were still able to work at the colliery above ground. My own great grandfather was working as a miner aged 16 in 1881 and on the same census sheet one of the miners is shown as aged 14. 

When children were banned, mines started to use sturdy pit ponies to haul the loads of coal. The last of them was retired in the 1990s. Many of them lived for months on end in stables underground, only seeing daylight for a short break every now and again, though I think they were generally well looked after.

Miners worked in the dim light, using picks, shovels and brute force in the early days to hack coal from the seams. The tunnels were often so narrow they had to crawl and work lying down. In the 1920s/30s, mechanisation crept in. Pneumatic drills (using compressed air) had the advantage of not being likely to spark, and became the tool of choice. Read about a miner's day in the 1930s HERE.  (I found this article and photos really interesting, illuminating the life my ancestors led.) 

Coal was placed in tubs on tracks to be transported and, later, conveyor belts made the the moving around of coal and waste rather easier. 

Eventually larger drilling machines and 'ploughs' that scraped the seams made the extraction of coal quicker and easier, but of course needed men not only to work them but to install and maintain them. As a child, I remember being taken to the annual miners' galas in the 1950s/60s. There would be tents with displays and mock-ups of mines, and arrays of huge machines that looked (to a child) like menacing creatures, maybe dinosaurs or deep sea creatures, with rows of enormous teeth! Impressive.  

Thursday, 22 September 2022

Our mining heritage

Pit headstocks like those above used to be a common sight across Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire when I was young. We could see half a dozen of them from our back garden at my family home. They are the winding gear for the lift cages that took miners up and down to the deep coal seams. The last deep coal mine in the UK, Kellingley Colliery, closed in 2015 and there are now just a handful of open cast and small privately owned mines operating (although approval has been given recently for a new deep mine under the Irish Sea). Thankfully, some of the heritage has been preserved, notably at Caphouse Colliery, the National Coal Mining Museum, which is about 40 minutes drive from here. My camera club arranged a photography trip there, so I went along, although I've visited a couple of times before. There is lots to see above ground but the highlight, of course, is a tour below ground through part of the mine itself. 

Honouring the heritage is important for me. I grew up in a mining town in Nottinghamshire and my maternal grandfather and both my great-grandfathers on my mother's side of the family were miners, as were legions of their male relatives. Their careers spanned the period from the 1870s right through to the end of the Second World War. Mining was a 'reserved occupation' so they were at least spared conscription, though it was a tough and dangerous option and they all suffered respiratory problems in later life. My granddad had to leave the mines due to ill health and became a bus driver for a while but was crippled with chronic bronchitis and emphysema and died relatively young, at 66, as a result. 

Mines were originally privately owned by wealthy landowners, until the government nationalised the industry in 1947 after WWII. Safety was patchy and often poor and there were notable pit disasters. Safety lamps were invented in 1816 to try to prevent explosions caused by naked flames igniting 'fire damp' (methane gas). Even after electric lighting was introduced, flame safety lamps were still used to test for gas down the mines. I rather like them and the museum has quite a collection. I'd quite like one as a reminder of my family history; I might buy one one day. They come up for sale online.  

The museum illustrates some of its history with a few models of workers at strategic points. This one, sitting in the office at the weigh-bridge where loaded coal lorries were weighed, looked so realistic, with his pen and his sandwich, that at first I took him for an actual person!  

Clearly not an actual person but nevertheless a realistic and poignant depiction, this sculpture of a miner is displayed in the Museum's entrance: 


Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Daily exercise

My intention is always to go out for at least a short walk every day. In truth, I only manage that about fifty percent of the time - but when I do go for a wander, I usually enjoy it. I rarely stray from my familiar, local paths if I'm just going out for exercise yet it's surprising that it's never boring since nothing is ever exactly the same.  

As September progresses, the autumn tints are beginning to appear. Our horse chestnut trees in particular seem to have suffered from the drought and some of them have also become diseased. There's a fungus that causes the leaves to go blotchy but, in addition, an infestation of horse chestnut leaf miner, the larvae of a moth, has spread to UK trees from the Continent, causing browning and shrivelling of the leaves, with the result that many of our horse chestnuts are exhibiting an autumnal appearance already. The foliage of the rest of our deciduous trees will soon follow suit. 

I was mildly surprised to see all these swans on the canal. For one thing I haven't seen a swan locally for ages and, for another, it's fairly rare that they manage to raise seven cygnets to young adulthood. Encouraging to see... I often fear that the local goose population has an adverse effect on other species. When I got my phone out to take a photo they all swam over expectantly, hoping for some food. Once they realised I had none, they resumed their stately progress downstream.  I wonder if they've realised that technically they have a new owner now - King Charles III rather than the Queen. The monarch can traditionally lay claim to all 'unclaimed' swans in open water. 

I also spotted a kingfisher flying along the river - so small, so fast and always keeping to the deep shade of the far bank. It was impossible to photograph but lovely to see nevertheless.

Tuesday, 20 September 2022

A trip to Leeds

I rarely feel the need to go shopping in Leeds anymore, though there was a time when I would enjoy it. Most things I need can be obtained more locally. One day recently I decided I'd go as there were a few things I wanted that I thought I could find there quite easily. Hmm... not so. The first three shops I had intended to visit turned out not to be there anymore, or at least not where I thought they were. Confusing! The shops I did find didn't have what I wanted, either. It turns out that going to Leeds is one sure way of 'feeling my age'! Even the act of purchasing something seems fraught these days: do you have a loyalty card? Do you want a loyalty card?  May we have your email address so we can send you an electronic receipt? No, no and no! 

I didn't have my camera but I took a few phone shots along the way. The area around the station, City Square (above), has been smartened up quite a lot lately.  Channel 4 TV moved their headquarters from London to Leeds a year ago, sited in the Majestic building (left, above). The Majestic was built in the 1920s as a cinema, and later became a bingo hall and then a night club. In 2014 a fire destroyed the interior and roof and it has been re-imagined, with soaring glass windows on the upper floors where the TV studios are. The other significant building on that side of City Square is the 19th century Post Office, fronted by a magnificent, larger than life-sized, bronze statue of the Black Prince on his horse.

Another tall office block, 1 City Square (above), originally built in the late 1990s, has recently been refurbished. It still seems 'new' to me! But I guess as it's actually 25 years old, the top-rate accountancy, asset management and law firms who use the office space need it to be right up-to-date. 

The Victoria Gate development, opened in 2016, is where John Lewis have their department store. It's very smart and rather confusing somehow, all glass and glossy marble. I find it hard to tell whether you're in the actual store or not - and hard to find my way around, harder still to find sales staff - though, when you do, they are very helpful. I noticed there were a lot of empty shop units in the mall. Even the high-end locations seem to be struggling lately, never mind the ordinary town high streets. It's not going to get any easier either, I guess. The approach road has, for unknown reasons, been painted like a rainbow - or perhaps it's a Pride flag. 

I personally prefer the old-fashioned glamour of the County Arcade (below - which I've shown before on my blog) - though I can't afford to shop there, with the likes of Vivienne Westwood and Jo Malone having stores along the mall. 

Monday, 19 September 2022

19 September 2022

The day of the Queen's funeral. In memoriam

HM Queen Elizabeth II

1926 - 2022

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.' (Psalm 46)

'If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.' (Psalm 139)

'For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.' (Romans 8) 

Sunday, 18 September 2022

The last rose

Even the roses, which have an amazingly long 'shelf life' over the summer and continue to bloom relatively late in the year, are beginning to fade as autumn approaches. They seem to have gone out of fashion to an extent these days. I seem to see fewer in gardens than when I was younger, which is a pity as I really like them. There are always some beautiful flowers along the side of Victoria Road as you walk down towards Salts Mill, and I like to see them with the mill as a backdrop. I thought this one a particularly pretty cultivar, with its pink petals a dark blush on the outside, fading to the palest shell pink in the centre. A little hoverfly was just nipping in there to explore! Pale pink roses always take me back to my family home. We had a long driveway and our neighbours planted a hedge of pink roses along the boundary. They were magnificent and provided my sister and I with lots of pink petals from which to make 'magical potions'! I seem to remember they were named after Princess Margaret, the late Queen's younger sister. Funny what details stick in a child's memory...

Saturday, 17 September 2022


Saltaire's vibrant and creative community means that people make the most of any space, either to create a little bit of beauty or to make a statement, one way or another. One house, without much of a garden, has nevertheless placed plants (fake) and various little statues in all the available space, including on a windowsill. I'm quite happy to see a serene and peaceful Buddha as I pass by, and the yellow flowers are quite uplifting too. 

Friday, 16 September 2022

In lock step

I spotted these two narrowboats double moored on the canal below Hirst Lock. They've been there a while now, as has the one a little further along. They appear to be 'twins', with a similar livery and shape and one of them appears to have a cargo hold, covered with tarp rather than a hard roof. One of them has the name 'Aqua Vitae Leaded Light Co' painted on it, though I can't find any reference to it on Google. Even if they are working boats, they are still subject to the same restrictions on movement that the Canal and River Trust have imposed on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal as a result of the severe water shortage the drought has caused. They could be enjoying the delights of Saltaire for a lot longer! 

The third boat had its own lawn - fake grass though! I'm always fascinated that no two boats are quite alike (even the 'twins' above) and they are personalised in all sorts of ways. 


At the lock itself, the gates are padlocked so the lock can't be used. There were some clouds but no rain (though there have been some showers in the last week or two).