Earlier posts

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

Sunday 31 December 2023

Look in any window...

Ooh, sorry, tiny photo! It's because it's long and thin. (If you click on the photo, you should be able to make it bigger.) I just made a triptych of some of the reflections I caught in windows around the canal area at the back of Leeds railway station. I love the way the glass distorts things. 

I hope soon to be looking out of different windows, as I will, all being well, be moving house. I still don't have a confirmed date. The legal process is taking a frustratingly long time to complete. I do, however, hope to move before the end of January. With that in mind, I will not be posting as regularly on here (if at all) for a couple of months. I shall need to get organised and get a broadband connection up and working. (There isn't one at the moment.) Then I shall have to find time to go out with my camera again. I shall still do my best to keep up with the blogs I follow - and I will be back, so don't go away! 

Wishing everyone a very happy New Year and good things in 2024.

Saturday 30 December 2023


There's never a dull moment when you're walking along the canal towpath. I didn't expect to see a man looking into a hole (see yesterday) and I didn't expect to see a Greek statue - but there you are! The narrowboat it was on was named Thira, which is another name for the Greek island of Santorini. The mythology around it is complicated, starting with Jason and the Argonauts but I can't find a god or goddess named Thira. 

Friday 29 December 2023

A man and a hole

On one of my wanders along the canal I happened upon a man looking into a hole. The man was a Canal and River Trust (C&RT) staff member and the hole had appeared beside the canal pound, between the swing bridge and Hirst Lock. As I peered into the hole alongside him, he explained that when the water level rises it can overtop the bank and then, as it soaks away it takes a little bit of soil with it. Over time, that causes the ground to sink - a small sinkhole. He and his mate (who declined to be photographed) were just about to try and repair it. The C&RT staff and volunteers must constantly be busy as there are frequent issues with leaks and collapses. The canal is 250 years old and needs endless maintenance. 

The canal and river network was at one time managed by British Waterways, a governmental corporation. In 2012 its assets were transferred to a charitable trust. The grant received from the Government is reducing all the time. When I asked my MP about this, the reply from DEFRA (Dept for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) was that 'it is wrongly assumed that there is an obligation on the Government to fund C&RT beyond 2027 and that it [the funding] should be inflation-adjusted; neither of which is the case. The Government does not routinely inflation-proof funding it provides, and organisations ranging from charities to Government departments are expected to absorb inflationary pressures. We want to avoid a cliff edge in C&RT funding and so the new Government grant is being tapered at an annual 5% reduction to help the C&RT continue to meet the objective of reduced reliance on government funding.'  In other words, the charity is expected over time to generate its own funding - but I find it hard to see how they can do this. It's not like the National Trust, which can charge massive entry fees or annual membership to visit their properties. There is only so much that can be raised in fees from boat owners and it's impractical for the C&RT to try to charge the people that use the canal and river paths. They do operate a membership scheme but I think only the most public-spirited canal users bother to join. It is a huge black hole opening up, not just on the canal bank but in its funding. It's such a short term view from the Government. Once the waterways network starts to crumble it will rapidly become unusable and that will accelerate the decline. Such a shame. 

Thursday 28 December 2023

The Poet Laureate

I bought myself a book in Salts Mill - which, in itself, isn't unusual. The bookshop there is such a rich and tempting cornucopia of literary goodies. What made this more exciting was that the author, Simon Armitage, was there doing a book signing. Simon is the current UK Poet Laureate, an honorary position granted by the monarch, on the advice of the Prime Minister. He was appointed to the position in 2019 and will hold it until 2029. The role doesn't have any specific duties but the incumbents generally provide suitable verse for national occasions (which must be quite a daunting task!) You can read Simon's poem for King Charles' Coronation HERE.  I rather like it. 

Simon Armitage was born and lives in Yorkshire, and is Professor of Poetry at Leeds University, amongst other positions. I've read some of his work before but he came to my attention originally when he created the Stanza Stones, in collaboration with the sculptor Pip Hall. They are rocks scattered across our moorlands, inscribed with verse by the poet and forming a sculpture trail of some 47 miles across the high Pennines.  I have been to find a few of them in the past. (See HERE).

Wednesday 27 December 2023

Advent Windows #6

Here are two detailed windows that both need close inspection to enjoy their full beauty - but beautiful they are. The first belongs to Martins, one of the estate agents who have premises in Saltaire. Appropriately, it features intricately cut houses and a church, and Father Christmas on his sleigh, pulled by reindeer, swooping through the night sky. 

The one below takes inspiration from the wonderful C S Lewis series of Narnia books: 'This is the lane of Narnia', said the Faun. 'Where we are now; all that lies between the lamppost and the great castle of Cair Paravel on the eastern sea.'  Aslan, the great lion at the heart of the books, is depicted at the top.  


Tuesday 26 December 2023

Christmas sparkle

Just to continue the Christmas theme a little longer, here are some of the decorations and Christmas trees that adorned Harewood House last year. It must take them days to set it all up so beautifully each year - and there are always enough baubles to supply the entire city of Leeds!  

It was delightful though. You have to be pretty hard-hearted not to be warmed by the sight of a traditional tree laden with lights and trinkets. There were as many decorations below stairs as there were in the State Rooms too, with an array of Nutcracker soldiers in the kitchen as well.  

Monday 25 December 2023

Christmas Day 2023

Wishing everyone a very happy Christmas, if you celebrate it. 

'For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. 
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.' 
Isaiah 9: 6-7

This nativity scene is part of the reredos behind the altar in the Lady Chapel at York Minster, directly under the extraordinary Great East Window, the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in England. (See my earlier post HERE). The reredos isn't medieval, because this part of the Minster was destroyed in a fire in the 1830s and was closed for a long time. I think the carved altar screen dates back to the 1920s. It is ornate but pleasing nonetheless, showing the magi on the left and shepherds on the right, worshipping the infant Jesus. 

These depictions of the Christmas story (the reason for the season!) can leave us feeling that it is all rather sweet, lovely and 'far away' but, as the video below shows, it is a very current story. 

Sunday 24 December 2023

Baubles and candles

More from Harewood House: 'Below stairs' (that is, the servants' realm) was decorated rather more traditionally than the State Rooms that I featured a week or two ago but still sumptuous and with more baubles than you could count. If I just had a single tree as pretty as this one (below) I'd think I'd done well! 

For those heavily invested in Christmas decor, the gift shop had baskets full of trimmings. Basically you could choose any tasteful colour scheme and find masses of decorations to bring it to life. 

And the stairs were twinkling with (battery-operated) candles. It was delightful. 

Saturday 23 December 2023

A different kind of rainbow

Many people locally have been excited at the appearance of extremely rare clouds known as nacreous clouds or 'mother of pearl' clouds. My Facebook feed was full of photos one morning and I was a bit frustrated that I'd missed them. I've said before that I can see hardly any expanse of sky from my current house and I hadn't been out anyway because of the wind and rain of storm Pia. Later in the day, towards sunset, I popped out to put some recycling in the bin and I glanced up. I thought I could see a bit of pink so I raced inside and grabbed my phone and took a few photos. On reviewing them on my phone, I couldn't see any colour so I concluded I'd stared at a bright spot and got one of those retinal smears that can temporarily happen. Excitement over. 

It was only later that I looked at the photos on a bigger screen - and - yes! There it is, unmistakably, a little patch of rainbow cloud. Wow! It feels like a real privilege to glimpse this, even such a small patch in such uninspiring surroundings. They are usually only seen in winter at higher latitudes in Scandinavia and northern Canada. The technical explanation is HERE on the Met Office page.  

It seems that even a storm can bring gifts with it. 

Friday 22 December 2023

Advent Windows #5

Here's someone with a sense of humour! Jane's 'Christmas Down Under' window is a tribute to their friends who live in New Zealand. 

The window below makes wonderful use of the stained glass which is a feature of many of the village houses. It was added when Saltaire's housing stock was sold by the mill's owners into private hands in the 1930s. People started to make alterations to the houses once they were no longer bound to the mill and leaded windows were fashionable at that time. 

Thursday 21 December 2023

Advent Windows #4

Here are two more successful, clear and colourful window designs. Window maker Jamie chose the theme (above) 'to pay homage to all the cheeky cats patrolling the village'. (There are so many that they even have their own Facebook page - Cats of Saltaire!) As I was taking the photo, a man I presume to be Jamie came along the street and entered the house - with a dog! 

The other window shows a variety of objects with a Christmas feel, simple but bold:

Wednesday 20 December 2023

Salts Mill Christmas

I always enjoy a wander round Salt's Mill's galleries and shops and it is even more special just before Christmas. It has big, tastefully decorated Christmas trees - nothing tacky or overdone. At the weekends in December they have choirs or bands performing festive music in the 1853 Gallery, amongst the Hockney artworks, the books and art materials, and the precious Burmantofts pottery. When I was there, the Bradford Concert Band were playing, just a handful of musicians but in that vast, enclosed space the sound reverberates really strongly.  I was humming 'Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly' for hours afterwards! Fa la la la la la la la la!

Tuesday 19 December 2023

Advent Windows #3

Sir Titus Salt, the Victorian founder of Saltaire, usually creeps in to the Advent references somewhere. His luxuriant beard makes him a dead ringer for Father Christmas, so why not? This was a window in a house on a narrow street in the heart of the village, where there are inevitably cars parked outside. The reflections of the lights in the car roof added even more sparkle to the scene. 

In the old Salts Hospital, now apartments, one of the residents, Lou, has taken up an ongoing theme of the Christmas song 'On the first day of Christmas'. Each year the next verse is depicted, but with a 'Veg on the Edge' (our community gardening group) twist. She says she only initially intended to do one verse of 'The Twelve Days of Vegmas' but people have made it clear they expect to see more! Seems like she's given herself a challenge for quite a few years to come. 

Monday 18 December 2023

Advent Windows #2

Deceptively simple and actually quite clever, two creative displays that make good use of the multiple panes in the windows of our Grade II listed houses. 

Elizabeth, who made the display below, has gone for a Victorian theme, in keeping with the age of the surrounding village: 

Sunday 17 December 2023

Advent Windows #1

As is now the tradition, Saltaire's residents and businesses have gone all out this year to create 'Advent Windows' throughout the village. One or two are revealed every evening from the first of December until Christmas Eve, the period of Advent, to make our own village Advent Calendar. This started in 2006 and has become a much loved feature of Saltaire. I know many regular readers of this blog have come to love them as much as I do, so I shall of course show a selection again this year. 

My first choice has these two angels with doves, and bright stars in the sky. I think these vibrant, bold but essentially simple designs are usually the most successful - certainly the easiest for clear photos. Its creator, Natalie, says she is 'wishing for love and peace in the world'. Aren't we all? 

All the windows, as they are revealed, can be viewed on the Saltaire Inspired website HERE.

Saturday 16 December 2023


'Mizzle' was the best description for the weather on a recent short walk at Bolton Abbey. I found this helpful explainer: 'Mizzle' is not, exactly, the same as 'drizzle'. As the word implies, it is mist that is lightly precipitating into droplets, but the droplets are small enough to remain airborne and do not fall as drizzle.' It added atmosphere to the scene but didn't make for the most pleasant walk, especially when it did occasionally segue into proper drizzle. Happily the café in the village provided coffee and then soup to bookend the expedition. 

Our rivers are swelled by so much rain but generally speaking they are just about coping with the volume. 

In parts, a few autumn leaves still cling on despite the best efforts of named storms to dislodge them. (We have just had Fergus, hot on the heels of Elin - fancy names this year!)

There was a waterfall that I haven't noticed before, cascading down near the footbridge. On the other side of the bridge the stepping stones were nowhere to be seen. 

From the end of the bridge you get perhaps the best view of the ruined end of Bolton Abbey, trashed by Henry VIII's reforms in the 1500s, though the other end of the building was preserved as a church for the local population, and it is still used for worship to this day.  

Friday 15 December 2023

Swan song

Two very random shots taken on a walk along the short stretch of canal towpath just beyond Salts Mill. There were more swans than I've seen in a very long time. This year's brood must have been very healthy and the cygnets kept safe from predators. 

Further along, they are continuing the process of demolishing HMRC's (the tax office's) old banking centre. They have trimmed all the foliage beside the railings so that you can now see the building in a way you couldn't before. What you can't see from my photo is the ditch alongside the towpath that prevented me from getting close up to the fence - so it's a poor photo but one that I'm posting just as a record of the demise of this once busy and significant building.

When it has been demolished (a long process due to the amount of equipment, electricals and asbestos in the fabric) plans have been approved to build a riverside village of 289 houses here, with some small commercial office space for flexible working and a café facing a new 'pocket park' - Saltaire Mark II you might say. See HERE for impressions of how it may look. 

As a postscript, I'm adding a couple of photos I took (on a different walk) from the other side of the river, where you can see the HMRC building from the back. From there, there is more evidence of the demolition actively happening. It won't be much fun for the people who live in the adjacent Victoria Mills apartments (to the left in the bottom photo), whilst all this work goes on. They have a construction site opposite too, where some retirement apartments are under construction. It won't be long before the area has completely transitioned from a business and industrial zone to a residential area. 

Thursday 14 December 2023

A lone tree and an old sign

A bit of an arty shot, taken on the edge of Barden Moor just above Embsay. Lone trees are attractive to me in any season but the lack of leaves in winter shows off the wonderful structure. This was only a small bush but evocative nonetheless. 

In the village of Embsay, I came across this old signpost, wreathed in a creeper. I love the pointing hands. You don't see those on modern signs. 

Wednesday 13 December 2023

St Mary's Church, Embsay

Between the village of Embsay and neighbouring Eastby lies the village church, St Mary's. It's a Victorian church consecrated in 1853, and built to serve the mill workers and poorer people of the parish. Previously they'd used a room in the school for worship or had to travel to Skipton to the parish church there. In the 19th century there were six cotton spinning mills in the village, with a large population of workers needed to staff them. 

The church is in an attractive setting within a graveyard and with a lych gate at the entrance. I was happy to discover it was open to visitors. It's not fancy inside but has some very lovely stained glass. 

The window behind the altar is especially fine, depicting the Ascension in glorious saturated colours. It was made by a Belgian artist, John Baptiste Capronnier, and cost £250 at the time, equivalent to nearly £40,000 today. You know my love of stained glass. I think it's an under-appreciated art form, with fine pieces like this scattered throughout our churches and not able to be brought together in exhibitions as paintings are. 

Another window commemorates Rev'd Charles Vernon Brown, vicar here for 40 years from 1884 to 1924. That was made by Shrigley and Hunt, a Lancashire stained glass maker, according to the church's website. 

There was every sign that St Mary's has a lively worshipping community, which is good to see in this day and age.