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

Saturday 31 October 2020

RHS Photographer of the Year

Harlow Carr just happened to be hosting the winning photographs from the RHS Photographer of the Year 2020 competition so that was a bonus for me. The entry standard is very high and there were some beautiful images from all over the world. There are various categories. I particularly liked the 'abstract' winner, a mandala constructed out of maple seeds (samaras) (below left).

Some of the photographs can been seen much larger HERE; it's worth a look. 


Friday 30 October 2020

Sculpture in the Gardens

There are usually sculptures to be found scattered throughout the gardens at Harlow Carr. The ethereal metal deer have been there a while. I find those quite pleasant and they looked 'at home' within the autumnal scene. 

There were a lot of new works in the woodland that I hadn't seen before. Some were naturalistic looking pieces, like 'Willow Knot' by Lucy Hainsworth (below), carved from willow wood, which I thought attractive but unremarkable. 

On the other hand I emphatically did not warm to 'Omphalos' by Melanie Wilks (right), a red sandstone carving which was supposed to be 'about growth and separation, referencing the coil of an umbilical cord'. To me it looked like something nasty a large dog might have left behind! 

Then there were the more whimsical offerings, like 'Global Growth, Material World' by Victoria Ferrand Scott (below): 'strangely coloured, camouflaged spherical forms cluster like virus cells and spread between the trees'. Well, the virus had to get in there somehow, didn't it? 

Elsewhere, there were some concrete casts of feet, spread out in a square 'reflecting on the current mandate for social distancing and our sense of isolation and confinement during lockdown'. I didn't think you needed a sculpture to make you do that; just looking around at the visitors was enough! 

Even more whimsical was 'Paper Trail' by Linda Thompson: 'white paper markers lead visitors on a trail of discovery'... to a rather old-fashioned looking figure in wellington boots and a hat. 

I don't really think I'm a sculpture philistine. It's just that when you've wandered the Hepworth and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and feasted on world-class artworks, more local offerings can seem a bit tame. In many ways, I'd rather simply enjoy the beauty of the gardens and nature itself. Perhaps the pieces give children something to seek out and enjoy. 

Thursday 29 October 2020


When I visit Harlow Carr gardens, the thing that I most enjoy is wandering my familiar route around the grounds and noticing what catches my eye. It is something different every time, as colours and aspects change with the seasons. I especially like the gravel borders, where plants are spread naturalistically in drifts, along with grasses that soften and add movement. So pretty, even as the plants begin to die back.  

There's a vibrant purple wall at one point, which always thrills me. The planting in the pots in front of it changes frequently. Lovely. 

In the vegetable garden, a sinuous 'hedge' is made of crab apple trees, the boughs now heavy with fruit that look like Christmas baubles. 

The annual borders, though fading, still offered a riot of colour and form. 

In the alpine house, a near perfect crocus was blooming, petals lightly flushed with mauve. 

The flower of Primula Viallii (Orchid primrose) is rather unusual, like a tiny red hot poker. 

And finally, the tawny autumnal shades of the herbaceous borders, given definition by the neatly trimmed cones (of box?) at the corners.  

Wednesday 28 October 2020

Glorious autumn

Whilst English woodlands can be very attractive in autumn, they tend to lack the bright reds that give those 'wow' touches. Gardens and arboretums are a safer bet, with acers and colourful shrubs artfully arranged. With that in mind, I decided to visit the RHS gardens at Harlow Carr in mid-October. You now have to book an entry slot but of course you can't always predict the weather. Sure enough, I'd only been there about ten minutes when it started raining! 

I'd only been there about an hour when my camera battery gave up the ghost - and I discovered that the spare I had with me was also flat! Grr. So some of these are taken in the rain, some on my camera and some on my phone. If you can't tell which is which, I'll maybe stop lugging my big camera everywhere!

Some of the bridges over the streamside garden have been rebuilt, with rather lovely stonework. 

Even dying herbaceous plants can add colour. The collapsed leaves of 'whatever they were' (!) - possibly hostas - toned in beautifully with the acer in the background. 


Tuesday 27 October 2020

Mill works

For quite a while, there has been a lattice-work of scaffolding on the canal side of the warehouses behind Salts Mill. They must be doing some maintenance work, perhaps to the roof. They've also cut back all the vegetation that was growing along that stretch. I can understand why, as the tree roots do damage and the leaves are a nuisance. The trees did serve to mask the rather ugly pre-fab buildings on the approach to one of the most iconic views in the area, where the canal cuts between Salts Mill and the New Mill, but they were, in truth, beginning to mask the view too. So it's swings and roundabouts, I guess...  I suppose I'll get used to the new 'bare' look. 

Monday 26 October 2020

A drift of leaves

Like most children, I used to love shuffling along through a drift of autumn leaves. They make a lovely swooshy noise, don't they? Nowadays my swooshing is done visually, raking through with my eyes to find attractive combinations of shape and colour. I found a gorgeous pile of sycamore leaves along the pavement on the Coach Road. These are all 'found' images, rather than being arranged by hand. 

We've a competition scheduled at my camera club for a 'multi-image spread' so I may have to try a few more of these collages. 

Sunday 25 October 2020


Autumn is the season when reds start to sing, though we associate the colour with Christmas too. There are a surprising number of shades of 'red'. It's a colour that sits well with the honeyed stone that built Saltaire. Quite a few of our houses have cheerful red doors and the sunflower below, just beginning to fade, looked good against that bright scarlet... what we Brits might call 'pillar-box red', after our scarlet mail boxes.  

The purple-red of the Virginia creeper on the wall above is echoed in the house door of No 27, more of a cardinal red than a scarlet. Both are echoed in the new leaves of the shrub behind - a photinia, if I'm not mistaken. 

I once read that a photo with a splash of red somewhere in it is more likely to win a photography competition than one with no red. Whether that's true or not, photos with red in them certainly have impact. I don't think either of these are competition winners but I like them both anyway.


Saturday 24 October 2020

The Hepworth garden

The area in front of the Hepworth was until last year a stark and rather bare strip of little more than grass. The garden designer Tom Stuart-Smith was commissioned to turn it into a public garden and this has now been achieved. I saw it last year as it was being landscaped (see HERE) so it was interesting to see the finished scheme. I suppose by October most gardens are past their best but this one, with its sweeps of naturalistic planting within a defined framework, with sculptures interspersed, still looked pretty good.  The huge 'Pitchfork (Yellow)' is a work by Sir Michael Craig-Martin. 

I prefer Lynn Chadwick's 'Dancing Figures', made in 1956 and referencing the swagger of the Teddy-boys of the that era. 

The Barbara Hepworth work above (and below) is 'Ascending Form (Gloria)', and the tall white column in the distance is 'The Three' by Rebecca Warren, an oddly lumpy painted bronze piece that looks as if it's made of icing sugar. 

I loved all the soft grasses, offsetting the strong lines of the surrounding buildings and sculptures. I particularly liked the black seedheads of Echinacea pallida, strong and sculptural themselves, set against the soft mauves of Michaelmas daisies. 

I have to say though that it wasn't until I saw THIS aerial photo of the garden that the design really made sense, in the way it echoes the sculptural forms of The Hepworth building itself. 

Friday 23 October 2020


I found the Brandt/Moore exhibition at the Hepworth, exploring the works of these two great artists of the 20th century, really fascinating. Bill Brandt was a photographer and Henry Moore a sculptor. They were contemporaries and first met in 1942 during WWII in London. Their work explores common themes: labour, society, industry, the British landscape and the human figure, and although using different media, they have uncanny parallels when you see them together. Moore's abstract reclining nude carved of elmwood (above), has more than an echo in Brandt's close up, abstracted studies of the human form (below), which look like an extension of the pebbles of the beach they are posed upon. 


Some of the exhibits are studies of Londoners sheltering underground during the London Blitz, and again there are many parallels between the two artists. (Apologies for the unavoidable reflections in the glass covering the pictures.)


There was also a video playing, a war-time Ministry of Information film, about the stoicism and courage of Londoners during that dreadful time of nightly air raids. It actually brought a lump to my throat, seeming rather poignant in this current national (global) crisis. I fear we as a nation have largely lost the 'let's all pull together' qualities displayed in the war. In the early days of lockdown it seemed there was a surge of community spirit. The Cummings debacle, social media commentary and a general sense of mistrust of our leadership seems to have rather dented the spirit of togetherness. 

Both Brandt and Moore documented the dirty industrial north in the pre-war years. Moore made a series of works sketched underground in a Yorkshire coal mine. Brandt photographed Durham miners and their families at home in the harsh conditions of the 1930s and 1940s. These images too had a poignancy for me. Growing up in the immediate post-war years, in a mining community, these kinds of scenes were familiar to me. My own family's circumstances had improved by the 1950s but I'm pretty sure my grandad and my great grandfather were well used to scrubbing off coal dust in a tin bath in the kitchen - and my aunt still had a dolly tub and mangle for the laundry, when I was a small child. 

A shout-out to the Hepworth on two counts: one, their very well-organised procedures related to keeping everyone as safe as possible during this time of Covid; and secondly, their enlightened policy of allowing personal photography pretty much everywhere in the gallery. It's refreshing - and good practice, as I'm sure it encourages more people to visit, one way and another. 

Thursday 22 October 2020

Nipping in

The Hepworth in Wakefield recently reopened for a few days each week, after being closed because of the pandemic. There was an exhibition I really wanted to see and I read that it had been extended until November. However, rumours began to fly about a reimposition of a stricter lockdown to stem the rapidly rising cases of Covid-19 in Yorkshire and in the North of England generally. I realised if I did want to see it I'd better go soon, in case indoor venues like the gallery were forced to close again. So I nipped off to Wakefield, on a dull and damp day that didn't entice me to go 'out'. The brutalist concrete gallery, opened in 2011, sits right beside the River Calder and the water was swirling around rather dramatically, full of flotsam, after recent heavy rain. You get amazing views from the gallery's large windows. 

The gallery is named after the sculptor Barbara Hepworth, who - although she settled in St Ives, Cornwall and was part of an artistic community there - was born and raised in Wakefield. The gallery holds a large collection of her work. At the moment these 1970 bronzes: Parent I, Parent II and Young Girl, from her 'Family of Man' series are displayed in the gallery's grounds. They were some of her final works, resembling piles of stones but hinting at human forms. She said she wanted them to look as though they had risen out of the ground. 

The exhibition I wanted to see was Bill Brandt/Henry Moore. Some of Bill Brandt's photographs show Barbara Hepworth's sculptures. He visited Barbara in St Ives to take a series of portraits. He arranged to have some of her huge works, including this 1956 bronze work 'Involute', transported to the beach to photograph, where they look almost like organic forms left behind by the sea.   

Wednesday 21 October 2020

The autumn feels

I'm getting the autumn feels. A glorious morning a week or so ago enticed me out to take my 'annual' photo of Saltaire URC church, surrounded by autumn colour. Actually, it's not quite so surrounded as it was in the past, since the large tree nearest the church on the right collapsed earlier this year, leaving a big gap. It still looks very beautiful though. 

The park keeper's lodge in Roberts Park looked rather good too, embraced by a horse chestnut tree that is well on its colour journey. The lodge has a ridiculous number of fancy chimneys. I sometimes wonder if there's a secret sacrificial altar or something in there? 

The view below shows the trees that line the Upper Coach Road, on its way up to Milner Field. The light roof on the left is Titus Salt School. Away in the distance are the telecomms masts on Idle Hill. Some of our trees are already very autumnal, others have hardly started to turn. But there is a crispness in the air some mornings that reminds us of where we're heading. 


Tuesday 20 October 2020

Mealbank quarry

Ingleton Waterfalls Trail: As the final stage of the trail meanders down into Ingleton village, there are lovely views back up to the fells. The route passes through a disused quarry, where until 1910 limestone used to be extracted. You can still see some of the workings, including a ruined Hoffman Kiln. The area is now an SSSI, managed as a nature reserve. 

The trail ends in Ingleton village and I should really have had a mooch round there and taken a few photos. I was, however, pretty exhausted by this stage. Five miles is an easy, comfortable distance for me usually but this had been a very strenuous five miles! I'd had enough... and I had to get back anyway as I had an appointment to get a flu jab, which feels a fairly important thing to do this year. 

I'm glad I managed it. As I said, the trail has been on my list to visit for some time. I probably won't do it again as I'm not getting any younger but I'm pleased to have achieved it.