Sunday, 22 October 2017

Shadow variations

A brief spell of bright sunshine means shadows - and chance to play a little. This is one of the original Victorian fire escapes on the main mill building of the Victoria Mills complex, now converted into apartments.

I like it in mono but it also makes an interesting colour study, with the blue tones over-saturated.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Chariots of fire

The top of Otley Chevin is rough heathland, bordered by a road called Yorkgate, which is thought to follow the course of a Roman road that linked the Roman towns of Ilkley, York and Tadcaster. These days it is fairly peaceful up there, though The Chevin attracts a lot of dog walkers. The sound of Roman chariots is replaced by the intermittent roar of jet engines from the nearby airport: chariots of fire, maybe.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Autumn tints

Autumn tints in the old woodland on the side of Otley Chevin.

Thursday, 19 October 2017


From the heights of Otley Chevin, I spotted the little village of Leathley, nestling in the valley beside the River Wharfe. I drive through it every time I visit Harlow Carr Gardens and every time, I vow to myself that one day I'll stop and explore it a little more. (So far, I never have stopped!) The village has some very attractive old stone buildings, though it seems to lack a real centre. I think at one time it was part of a landowner's estate and the population was mostly involved in farming. Nowadays it appears to be a base for wealthy professionals to settle, within commuting distance of the big cities (Leeds, Harrogate, Bradford).

I applied a slight tilt-shift effect to this photo. It seemed to lend itself to that 'toytown' treatment.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Otley from the Chevin

I went walking with a friend around what is known as Otley Chevin, a ridge on the south side of Wharfedale, overlooking the market town of Otley. It's an attractive area of old woodland and heath with some lovely views over the valley. The artist J.M.W. Turner often stayed with friends near here and his famous painting: Snow Storm: Hannibal and his Army crossing the Alps is said to have been inspired by a stormy sky he sketched from The Chevin. You can certainly see the weather coming in from a long way away.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017


A tangle of rhododendron stems looked like a sculpture... or serpents... or dancers, to me. There's something 'other worldly' about them.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Pear tree...

... minus partridge but you can't have everything. This caught my eye. It's only a young tree. In fact, I saw it being planted just a couple of years ago (see HERE) in the gardens belonging to Shipley College's horticultural department. It is now proudly displaying a very respectable crop of fruit. The golden pears really glowed in the sunshine amongst the leaves that are now turning a deep russet red. I've enhanced the effect a bit to bring out the richness of the colours.

But remember your Shakespeare:  'All that glisters is not gold.'

Sunday, 15 October 2017

The no longer perfect tree

Those who've been following my blog for a while may recall me talking about my favourite 'perfect tree', a rowan that stands just across the railway lines from Salts Mill's huge chimney. Not only does it carry pretty white blossom in spring, red berries and leaves that turn a vibrant orange in autumn but it was an absolutely textbook 'child's drawing' shape. (See HERE). Well, no longer. Someone (presumably from the local council) in their wisdom (?) came along some while ago and trimmed the lower branches, which has utterly ruined the shape. I'm actually feeling quite cross about it. I can't see that it was dangerous. The branches didn't hang low and they looked strong. There are big sycamores and ash trees across the road from my house that seem a lot more dangerous, with their branches well overhanging the road and whipping about dreadfully in high winds. Just corporate vandalism, I feel.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Jeremy Corbyn

I've always voted Labour and briefly held membership of the Labour party back in the Blair years, resigning over the Iraq war. I rejoined the party some months ago, since I felt they had put together a manifesto for the last election that I could really support. I was nevertheless a little surprised to receive an invitation from the local Labour group, on Tuesday, to apply for one of 100 seats available at a meeting locally, where Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, would be speaking. I was even more surprised on Wednesday to discover I had been allotted one of the tickets for the meeting - on Thursday at the Victoria Hall in Saltaire! It was all rather hush-hush; I suppose they didn't want vast and unmanageable crowds to turn up. 

I duly went along. He arrived a bit late (he'd been visiting a care facility) and it felt a little like waiting for a rock star to turn up! Palpable excitement in the room. It was pleasing to see the huge mix of people gathered: all ages and ethnic groups, students, business people in suits, ordinary blokes in jeans and trainers, techie types, young mums and a fair sprinkling of retired folk (the full spectrum... ageing hippies, purple-haired sirens, grey perms and M&S grandmas like me!) How's that for a list of stereotypes !?  but what I really mean is that it wasn't a stereotypical gathering.

Mr Corbyn spoke well and clearly, without notes, for maybe 30 minutes. He talked about the Labour party's history and core values, the development of the current manifesto, the enormous recent growth of the party (now over 500,000 members) and its wide spread of supporters, and about some of the key policy areas in the manifesto. He was serious, though with a twinkle of humour. There was a quiet authority and confidence in what he said, though he was very 'ordinary' and apparently quite relaxed, accepting being the centre of attention but not playing that up. He seemed (to me anyway) very genuine, very sincere and very well-informed. When he talks - about poverty, housing, families struggling with dementia, students, the environment - you can sense that his opinions and views are formed by really hearing people, by being genuinely in touch with the reality of ordinary people's day-to-day lives. He's been a constituency MP since 1983. That doesn't always guarantee that one's feet remain on the ground, but in his case I sense he is a real listener and learner. I heard vision and passion in what he said but sensible pragmatism too. 

There was some enthusiastic applause. I actually found myself, several times, saying 'yes' out loud, so heartily did I agree with what he said. There was no time for questions from the floor, which was perhaps a shame (though so often people's 'questions' are actually statements of opinion and so maybe it was sensible to avoid opening things up in that way, in a packed schedule). At the end though, he avoided a standing ovation (which I'm sure would have been forthcoming) by inviting people to come and speak to him and people surged round, asking for 'selfies' and the odd autograph. He seemed mildly amused by it all, very gracious and generous. I think my photos show that what he was doing, as people crowded round, was listening. He has that knack, I think, of making people feel like they are important and valued. 

I think I can say I was something of a fan before though I don't tend to have 'heroes'. Seeing him and hearing him speak live, I am now sure that 'what you see' with him really is 'what you get'. If he became our Prime Minister (and I sincerely hope he gets the chance), I think there'd be a radical shift in tone coming out of government, as well as direction. It remains to be seen if he could retain his calm rootedness, under pressure in office. I hope he could. I hope he can continue to seek the collaborative, consensual, informed approach (nationally and internationally) that he seems to believe in. I've never understood why governments ask for advice (from experts and end-users) and then so often seem to ignore it. I don't believe he is 'the messiah'. (Nor does he! He stressed many times that it is all about a grassroots movement, a collaboration, a pooling of ideas.) I know there'd be areas of conflict, as there are in all parties. Perhaps he has things to learn when it comes to effectively managing his team.  But I long to see the policies he espouses given a chance to work, and I long to see a more respectful and caring attitude coming down from the top in our society. It will, I accept, take a long while to really turn the country around. I hope we can. I will work towards that, even if that only means going out shoving leaflets through letter boxes. 

As I say, it was a privilege to experience this and I am thankful. 

(All iPhone photos) 

If you want to comment, please make your comments respectful. I shall delete any that are rude or inflammatory. 

Friday, 13 October 2017

Man inside. Help!

'Man inside. Help!' is the rather poignant message, in English and Russian, on a steel plate on the Soyuz TMA-19M descent module (see yesterday). I suppose that's just in case it landed by mistake in your back garden, instead of on the steppes of Kazakhstan!

I found the whole exhibition awe-inspiring and rather moving. It all looked a bit like something you might have knocked up in your garage! Or perhaps a Victorian diving bell... There was little hint of the very sophisticated technology that it must contain. The outer skin of the capsule, scorched red and black, just hinted at the epic journey the module has been on, protecting Tim Peake and his colleagues Yuri Malenchenko and Tim Kopra as they flew out to and back from the International Space Station. It has done something like 74 million miles in space, docking with ISS and orbiting earth for six months in 2015 -16.

The scorched and charred skin.

A glimpse of the control panel in the module.

The navigation window and a panel that linked up communications between the module and ISS.

View of the module and the steel cables that attached the parachute. The little flag sticking out is the 'black box' antenna that enabled the recovery crew to locate the module on its return to earth.

(iPhone photos, so the quality is not the best, I'm afraid.)

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Tim Peake's spacecraft

I just had to make a trip to the Science and Media Museum in Bradford to see a spacecraft! It's the Soyuz TMA-19M descent module that brought the British astronaut Tim Peake and two other astronauts back to earth on 18 June 2016, after his six month long mission to the International Space Station. The exhibition is on in Bradford until 19 November and then on tour around the country.

You can see the capsule itself, with all the scorch marks caused when it re-entered the earth's atmosphere, heating up to 1600ºC in the process. Also on display is the huge parachute, the area of two tennis courts, made of nylon (of the type that toothbrush bristles are made of!) with very strong cords woven from steel, which supported and slowed the module as it hurtled back down to earth to land in the deserts of Kazakhstan.

I don't think the space suit was Major Peake's, but you can climb inside it and peer out through the hood. There is also a virtual reality simulation, so that you can experience the space descent yourself. We didn't have tickets for that - but I'm not sure I could have coped with it anyway!

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Masham's church

The Anglican parish church in Masham, St Mary the Virgin, has a tower that dates back to the 12th century (Norman, 1100s) though the rest of the church has been altered many times since then. The spire was rebuilt in 1856. It is very light and bright inside, partly owing to the white painted ceiling that reflects light from the clerestory (upper) windows. It also, unusually perhaps, has some paintings hanging in the nave, a Nativity by Sir Joshua Reynolds above the chancel arch and another of the Virgin Mary, though I don't know who the artist of that is or how old it is. It looks quite modern so perhaps it was commissioned to mark the Millennium. Certainly one of the stained glass windows is a Millennium project, by glass artist Glenn Carter, depicting the scenery, flora and fauna of the area. (If you look carefully you can see a sheep and a shepherd's crook.)

The church sits just off one corner of Masham's market square and its large churchyard provides a peaceful oasis, almost like a park in the middle of town.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Cute canines

It was interesting that the recent Kilnsey Show didn't permit dogs on the showground. There was no such restriction at Masham Sheep fair and there were plenty of dogs, of all shapes, sizes and breeds. Most looked as though they'd rather be somewhere else right this minute...  A dog in want of a scent trail to follow is a sad dog.  

There was a working dogs display, with two lovely border collies herding geese. I wasn't standing in a very good position to take photos of it but it was quite funny. You have to marvel at the skills and intuitive sense of these dogs.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Those Morris dancers again

It's always nice to see a Morris dance team adding some colour and music to the festivities. These were the oddly named 'Bunnies from Hell', dancing in Masham. They seemed not quite as traditional as some Morris sides, but energetic and entertaining nonetheless. And they had very good musicians.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

All things woolly

From this ⬆️  to this ⬇️ ... 

Yorkshire has a centuries' long tradition of sheep farming - and with it, of course, a long tradition of spinning and weaving, originally as a home-based industry and then, after the Industrial Revolution, in the mills that sprang up all over the area. Thankfully the skills of the homeworkers never quite died out and there are guilds dedicated to supporting those who still practise the crafts of spinning, weaving and knitting. 

At Masham Sheep Fair, dedicated to all things woolly, you could buy full fleeces as they come, straight off the sheep, and you could also buy skeins of wool, handspun and hand dyed. 

In the village hall, there was a wool craft fair. Ladies were demonstrating spinning and weaving and there were some beautiful products to buy, including sweaters, scarves, throws, socks and a good selection of knitted soft toys.  

Saturday, 7 October 2017

The sheep races

Among the events at Masham Sheep Fair are the sheep races. Four sheep are enticed along a run, with the promise of some food. They all have ribbons and there is a sweepstake, betting on which sheep will reach the food trough first. It's a light-hearted way of raising money for charity.

However, there has been a petition raised by animal rights activists (who have probably never even seen the 'races') to have them banned as being cruel. To be honest, the sheep didn't look in the least uncomfortable or frightened to me. The crowd weren't roaring noisily and the animals were just running after the food, which I have often seen them do in the fields when the farmer arrives with the buckets. 'They don't know they're racing. They aren't actually racing. They're just trotting for some food.' It's hardly bull-running, as the local paper pointed out. They don't get stabbed at the end!

Friday, 6 October 2017

Masham Sheep Fair

The small market town of Masham, in Wensleydale, has for the past 30 years held an annual sheep fair in the market square. The fair commemorates the sheep sales that used to be held here, which thrived because of the town's proximity to Jervaulx and Fountains Abbey, with their large flocks of sheep. The fair raises a lot of money for charity. This year, the beneficiary will be the Yorkshire Air Ambulance.

I love the bustle of these kind of events and Masham is a lovely setting, its square lined with fine Georgian buildings.

Incidentally, the judge in the photo below (in the pale green jacket) is Sir Gary Verity. He is a sheep farmer but perhaps is more famous for being the Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, the county's official tourism agency. He was responsible for bringing the Grand Départ of the Tour de France to the county in 2014, and since then for inaugurating the Tour de Yorkshire cycle race.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

A walk in the woods

A walk in the woods, around the Bingley St Ives estate. Signs of autumn are very visible.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017


The theme in my online club for September was 'Fear'. I find the emotion themes are really difficult. They seem to need people in them and I rarely feel very comfortable photographing people. I came up with this composite image, using one of the willow sculptures that are dotted around Harlow Carr Gardens. Rather light-hearted - so we'll see what comments I get this month.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Kay Latto

There is an autumn sculpture trail at RHS Harlow Carr Gardens, an added pleasure as you walk through the natural beauty of the gardens. I was particularly impressed by these pieces made by the Ripon-based artist, Kay Latto.

The one above is called 'The Space Between'. Unusually, it was designed to view from the front, the back being hollow. The bust below is 'Summer', one of four heads collectively entitled 'The Four Seasons'.

They are first sculpted in clay, kiln fired and then a mould is made and cast in bronze powder and resin. I think the faces have a wonderful strength and beauty.  If I won the lottery, I'd buy things like this!

Sunday, 1 October 2017

These boots...

... were made for walking - but now they're plant pots. Rather a good idea, I think, and certainly colourful.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Still rolling along

Another of my photos from Leeds Dock - You may recall seeing a post featuring this sculpture before (HERE).  The poor guy is still trying to roll the ball along, getting nowhere. It takes on a different feel after dark, with the lights twinkling in the reflective sphere. The sculptor is Kevin Atherton and it's entitled 'A reflective approach'. There's a similar but smaller sphere further back.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Leeds Dock at night

I met up with some friends from my camera club in Leeds one evening to take some photos around the Dock area. This is where the Leeds-Liverpool Canal ends and joins up with the Aire and Calder Navigation. The canal basin area has been redeveloped in recent times and is surrounded by apartments, offices, bars and restaurants. The Royal Armouries Museum is also in the vicinity (to the left on my photo). It can be quite a lively place during the day and at night comes to life with all the lights reflected in the water. It was drizzling heavily all evening so I had to keep wiping rain off my lens. (One of my photos has some interestingly blurry 'bokeh' caused by the raindrops.) At one point we all decamped to a café for coffee and to get dry, which warmed us up and provided some good camaraderie. Great fun - and I feel a lot safer in this kind of environment when I'm with friends. Not really a good place to hang around alone at night, I guess.