Thursday, 25 May 2017


Liverpool trip
To my delight, there was a Victorian carousel - Herbert Silcock's Golden Gallopers - at the end of Southport Pier. I love carousels. Since it was the week of the famous Grand National horse race (yes, ages ago!), held at the nearby Aintree racecourse, I decided that was a good excuse to treat myself to a ride, which I haven't done for... oh, at least 35 years! It was a smooth and graceful ride. I love the colours and the tinny organ music. This particular carousel was built over 100 years ago by Savages of Kings Lynn. It was purchased by the Silcock family, who run Southport's pier amusements, in 1989 and took three years to restore. A few of the 33 horses and the three cockerels are the originals but most are faithful reproductions. 

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Southport Pier

Liverpool trip
Southport Pier is really long, at over a kilometre; it's the second longest pier in the UK after Southend. I couldn't see from one end to the other, or even capture it all in one photo. It was a bracing walk (!) and I didn't stop at the ice cream and doughnut shack part way down, but thankfully there's quite a smart pavilion café at the far end so I could wrap my hands around a hot coffee to warm up.

Interestingly, at one time, pleasure and fishing boats used to berth at the pier head. When the bay silted up, the pier was extended, but nowadays the tide goes out far beyond the pier and the bay is too shallow for boats. There was once a tramway, originally for transferring baggage and goods, but that finally ceased in 2015 due to rising costs. For those who can't manage the walk, there is now a little land train that runs up and down.

I couldn't see the sea, even from the pier head - but I could see Blackpool with its famous tower, further up the coast.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017


Back to my Liverpool trip last month... So many outings, I'm finding it hard to fit all the photos in!

Whilst in Liverpool, I took the train a few miles up the coast to Southport. As with most of our northern coastal towns, the resort's heyday was in late Victorian and Edwardian times, when those with money came to stay in elegant hotels, believing sea-bathing to be a cure for many ills, and the working class had day-trips to the seaside. The legacy of those times is found in Southport's extensive Marine Gardens, recently restored by the town council in a £5.5 million project.

The huge lake, with its elegant bridges, was at one time the scene of elaborate, masked Venetian galas and firework displays. (One of the stone, arched bridges is in the background of my photo below. The tall suspension tower belongs to a newer road bridge behind the gardens.) Things are rather more sedate these days but it's very pleasant to stroll around. There are children's playgrounds, bowling greens and a miniature railway that has run through the gardens since 1911.

Southport is nowhere near as run down as many of our seaside towns. It is close to several prestigious championship golf courses, strung out along the sandy coast, including Royal Birkdale which sometimes hosts the Open Championship. The town also holds several major shows each year, like the Southport Flower Show, the UK's largest independent flower show, and it is a conference venue.

One of its 'jewels' is Lord Street, a long and wide boulevard with gardens in the middle. It holds many of the town's public buildings and many shops and cafés, under elegant glass arcades. There's also a market and a pedestrianised shopping area, so the town is a magnet for those who love shopping. I enjoyed my day there very much! (Treated myself to lunch in the Westminster Tearooms too: smoked salmon sandwiches, tea in a silver teapot, fine bone china teacup - wonderful!)

Monday, 22 May 2017

Cloud mirrors

Such a beautiful day...  I walked past my favourite trees again and enjoyed the way the clouds were echoing their shapes.

We're having a lovely spell of dry weather, though before long they'll be saying it's a drought! This coming Bank Holiday weekend (27-29) is the annual Saltaire Arts Trail, so let's hope the good weather continues.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Over the hills and far away

This was the view from the bottom of the drive of Beacon Hill House (see yesterday). Being so high up, it commands superb views across the Wharfe valley to the moors and dales beyond.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Beacon Hill House

Since 1927, the National Garden Scheme has encouraged the owners of exceptional private gardens to open to the public on one or two days a year to raise money for charities. Over £50 million has been donated, from admission fees and plant sales. I picked up a booklet showing all the gardens open this year in Yorkshire and (now that I'm a lady of leisure) I am going to enjoy visiting a few of the more local ones.

Beacon Hill House sits high up on the moors between Ilkley and Bolton Abbey. Its open day coincided with one of our first very warm and sunny days of the year but much of the steep plot of about seven acres is woodland, so there was plenty of shade. The house was built in 1848 by a businessman, Benjamin Briggs Popplewell, who chose the 1000ft high location hoping that the bracing, clean air might cure his consumptive child. (I don't know whether it did!) The original gardens were more formal and exposed than what exists today but there are traces of Victorian arches, walls, follies and a rather splendid Gothic dog kennel.

It has not been a good Spring for gardens. The magnolias were badly browned by frost and a recent spell of very dry weather has left many plants looking parched and weak. There were some rhododendrons in flower but some were past their best and the herbaceous plants are not yet flowering. The daffodils are over, though the woods were full of bluebells. The house has a pretty orchard and some of the trees had blossom. I love seeing trees coming into leaf, all maturing at different rates too. There were some attractive coppery tones among the spring greens.

Friday, 19 May 2017


A recent walk, with friends, through Bingley and up via Eldwick to Shipley Glen was both green and pleasant, on old footpaths and tracks that also took us through some of the wealthier residential parts of the area. There are some fabulous properties tucked away, both old and more modern. The lovely house above is the Grade II* listed Gawthorpe Hall in Bingley (not to be confused with the Tudor Gawthorpe Hall near Burnley, which has Brontë connections). This Bingley manor house dates back substantially to the 17th century (1600s) but may encase a medieval timber framed house. I think it is split into at least two dwellings nowadays; what a wonderful place to live.

Conversely, the buildings below - Old Mill House in Eldwick Beck - appear originally to have been a row of cottages associated with Eldwick Beck Mill, built in the 1850s and now amalgamated into just one or two houses (I'm unsure of the exact configuration).

The property below really appealed to me. Perhaps it is that old apple tree in its front garden, just bursting into blossom when we passed. It is Springs Farm, in Eldwick Beck, which is, as far as I can find out, a yeoman's farmhouse dating back to the 1770s.

The little hamlet of Eldwick Beck is, I understand, now a conservation area. It is very attractive, sitting as it does in a dip around Loadpit Beck, a stream that eventually finds its way down to the bottom of Shipley Glen where it joins the River Aire. The beck is named after the Late Bronze Age 'bloomeries' in the area, where axe heads were cast from iron ore (lode), probably to be used for clearing land for agriculture.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

A sea of blue

I wish I could transport you to Hirst Woods to see (and smell) the bluebells. They really are spectacular this year. I don't know why people travel to the more 'famous' woods to see them when there are these on our doorstep. I would have expected the woods to be packed with people on a stunningly beautiful spring day - but there was just me and my camera, and a handful of dog-walkers. Photos don't do them justice really. The woods are a sea of colour as far as the eye can see - although the colour actually changes from a pinky mauve in the sunshine to a deep, deep blue/purple in the shade. 

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Apple espalier

Apple blossom, on a tree trained as an espalier against a wall.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Gayle Mill

Another tick off my bucket list... Gayle Mill, near Hawes in Wensleydale, has been somewhere I've wanted to visit since it was featured some years ago on a C4 TV programme called 'Restoration'. The programme asked viewers to vote for a heritage restoration project, which would win a grant for its completion. Gayle Mill came in the top three in the national finals and though it didn't win (despite my vote), it attracted sufficient interest for the restoration to be completed.

It is a Georgian mill, originally built about 1784 as a water-powered cotton mill (strangely, as this is the heart of sheep country!). It was turned over to flax and later wool spinning, before becoming domestic accommodation in the 19th century. (There are intriguing remnants of Victorian wallpaper.) Around 1879 it was turned into a sawmill, the waterwheel being removed and replaced by a water-powered turbine that drives various woodworking machines (sawbench, circular saw, planes and lathes) by a series of belts and pulleys from a central lineshaft, as well as generating some electricity to light the mill and some nearby houses. The sawmill closed in 1988 and the building looked set to be converted to apartments. However, the North East Civic Trust oversaw the restoration and the mill is now managed by a trust and used as a working mill, museum and workshop for a variety of heritage skills training courses.

It was fascinating to look round. The volunteer who guided the tour was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic. He explained and demonstrated how the turbine worked, fed from the river via a sluice and down the mill race, seen in my top photo. When the river level is low, there is a mill dam higher up the hill that can feed water to the mill. He showed us these amazing cartwheels (below), explaining how they are made from three different types of wood that have different strengths and flexibility. The iron rim is made smaller than the wheel, heated in a fire and, when expanded, slotted round the rim. As it cools, it shrinks and pulls the wood tight on the spokes. This is a very skilled process. Like many of these country crafts, the skills are dying out and places like Gayle Mill are fighting to keep them alive.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Yockenthwaite stone circle

My second visit to Yockenthwaite in as many weeks, but I went searching for this...
I got quite excited when I found it, this almost perfect prehistoric stone circle in Langstrothdale. It is thought to be a Bronze Age burial cairn. That means it could be 4000 years old... imagine that!

Although the Dales seem quiet and tranquil these days, in the past there was a lot more activity. There are traces, like this stone circle, of prehistoric times; there are Roman roads and settlements; there were medieval hunting forests; there are many remains of lead and coal mining, which began in Roman times but peaked from the 16th century onwards, dying out by the late 1800s. Nowadays it's all sheep farming and tourism. How things change.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Up hill and down dale

Two different views of the stunning scenery in Upper Wharfedale. Streams like this one in Buckden Gill often disappear underground into the limestone, which is characterised by rocky pavements with deep clefts, potholes and underground caverns. The broad valley floor, gouged out by glaciers many thousands of years ago, holds grassy meadows full of sheep and the characteristic limestone barns.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Up close

During my short break in Upper Wharfedale, the weather was unusually bright and sunny. It's delightful to see the Dales in such conditions - pale limestone, spring greens and blue skies are a winning combination. It was, however, really too bright and contrasty for good landscape photographs so sometimes I concentrated smaller subjects - the swirls and eddies of the streams, bits of sheep's wool caught on twigs, the wildflowers and birds like the pretty male chaffinch, who posed nicely for me on a rusty wire fence.

Friday, 12 May 2017

On top of the world

I was fortunate to be able to have a short holiday in the Yorkshire Dales again recently.  I stayed, as usual, at Scargill House, the Christian community near Kettlewell in Upper Wharfedale.

One day, I decided to follow a walk up Conistone Dib to Conistone Pie that I'd seen in an issue of the magazine 'Country Walking'. It wasn't a long walk, less than four miles, but it was steep and scrambly in parts. (I'm not brave and I hate heights and there was one point where I thought I may have to turn back, as it was a steep and rocky climb up a narrow cleft. But I gritted my teeth and looked for the worn and shiny rocks that indicated foot and hand holds - and hefted myself up! Yay!)

Conistone Pie is a little outcrop of limestone that provides far reaching views up Wharfedale (above) and Littondale and across to the impressive bulk of Kilnsey Crag. It was jolly windy up there so I sat down in the sheltered lee of the rocks to eat my lunch, where I got chatting to a lovely lady. She was bravely walking the Dales Way (alone) and she quite inspired me to continue with my gym regime and regular walking, as one day I'd really like to walk a long distance path. The Dales Way goes from Ilkley to Bowness in the Lake District, a distance of some 78 miles, and passes right up Wharfedale through some of the loveliest scenery imaginable. You can just about see the Dales Way track on the far right, a dark line above the limestone cliffs.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

The Blue Phone Box Library

You may remember a picture I posted some time ago (here), showing a little free library box that the Hirst Wood Regeneration Group had provided for local children beside the playground. Children were invited to borrow books and return them later, or replace them with another. It proved very successful and early incidents of vandalism were successfully dealt with by some great work by the police and local community. Recently, an old phone box has been acquired, painted and converted. It is able to hold many more books. It is now open and looks great. When I went past, there were several children using it on their way home from school. I have to say that the Regeneration Group are doing a wonderful job on the small Hirst Wood estate, which is adjacent to Saltaire but has always been a bit of an overlooked and relatively deprived area. So great to have good news stories to report.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

It's black over Bill's mother's

'It's black over Bill's mother's'' is a phrase you'll probably only understand if you're from the North of England or the Midlands. It's what people say when there are storm clouds visible on the horizon. The origin of the phrase appears to be doubtful. Some say it refers to William Shakespeare, others to Kaiser Wilhelm II, the last German emperor, whose character and foreign policy was changeable and blustering. Others say it has more local origins. But whatever the truth of the phrase, it is often apt round here!

Saltaire's houses are dwarfed by the huge bulk of the Victoria Hall which extends back in a T-shape behind its tower.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Dragon Boat Festival 2017

As the summer gets underway, there is no shortage of amusement in Saltaire. Last weekend we had the Tour de Yorkshire coming through the village and this weekend it was the turn of the dragon-boat racers. It is the third year that this festival has been held in Roberts Park. This year it was bigger and better: three days of racing including a Youth Championship for schools, a Charity Championship and a Corporate Championship, with teams drawn from across the North of England. It all aims to raise thousands of pounds for various charities, including the Lord Mayor's nominated charity for 2017, Young Minds. Saturday's racing saw over 40 teams battling it out.  It all seemed more lavishly organised than previous years, with a pontoon across the river that made getting in and out of the boats much speedier and easier. 

Despite a chilly day on Saturday, the park was crowded with people picnicking and enjoying the sideshows. There was live music (another addition this year); a fun fair; displays by the army, police and fire service; market stalls and loads of food and drink, all reminiscent of the second weekend of the Saltaire Festival. Many of the visitors didn't really seem to be taking much interest in the actual racing, although you could watch it on a giant screen as well as some limited viewing alongside the river. All in a good cause, although some of Saltaire's residents might heave a collective sigh of relief when it's all over and the village goes quiet again...

Monday, 8 May 2017


Liverpool trip
In Port Sunlight's memorial gardens there is this sundial. It celebrates the Diamond Jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth II in 2012. I've never seen one like this before; it is analemmatic, using the shadow cast by a person to indicate the time of day. You have to stand on the relevant month as marked on the paving stones and read the time from one of the two rings of markers, the outer being GMT and the inner British Summer Time. So it was almost two in the afternoon when I was taking the photo. 

Sunday, 7 May 2017

War memorial

Liverpool trip
The Port Sunlight war memorial is as fine as any I have ever seen, and one of the largest in the UK. It was unveiled in 1921, after WWI, but now carries the names of all the Lever Brothers employees killed in both world wars. It was designed by the Welsh sculptor Sir William Goscombe John. It's theme is 'The Defence of the Realm' and it includes figures of women and children, as well as military personnel. Lever had been concerned that Britain would be invaded during WWI and, despite being 63, he joined a local volunteer corps (forerunner of WWII's Home Guard).

Saturday, 6 May 2017

The Leverhulme Memorial

Liverpool trip
Saltaire's founder, Sir Titus Salt, is honoured by having a statue of himself in Roberts Park. William Hesketh Lever, the founder of Port Sunlight, has a memorial in his model village too, though it is not his own likeness. The figures at the top and the base represent Inspiration, Industry, Education, Charity and Art, a fitting tribute to the visionary, philanthropist businessman. Unveiled in 1930, it is a work sculpted by Sir William Reid Dick. It was dedicated to the memory of the 1st Lord Leverhulme, who died in 1925, by his employees at the Port Sunlight works.

For want of anywhere better to place it, I include here also one of the first advertisements for Sunlight Soap, which was produced at Port Sunlight. Lord Leverhulme's business success came not only from recognising the need for good, sweet-smelling household soap (since, by mid-Victorian times, people increasingly had access to washing and laundry facilities at home) but also to his recognition of the importance of branding and advertising to create a market for his products. Lever Brothers were among the first to sell bars of branded, wrapped soap. Prior to that soap was bought by weight, sawn off a block in the grocer's.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Sunlight glass

Liverpool trip
The stained glass in Christ Church, Port Sunlight, is rather special. It has huge east and west windows (too big for me to photograph effectively) but I also liked the windows in the transepts and side aisles too. As far as I'm aware, it is relatively unusual for a nonconformist church to have figurative stained glass. They are often quite plainly decorated. 

The window above represents the main streams of English church life since the Reformation and key figures within them: Episcopal (Thomas Cranmer), Congregational (John Robinson), Presbyterian (Richard Baxter) and Methodist (John Wesley).  The work is believed to be by a London company called Heaton, Butler and Bayne, who were very well known in the late 19th and early 20th century. Examples of their work can be found in hundreds of churches across Britain - and I am really pleased to have discovered this fact, as I believe they also made the beautiful windows in my own church

The windows below are the work of the Hungarian artist, Ervin Bossanyi (1891 - 1975), whose work, in a byzantine style, is highly prized.  

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Christ Church, Port Sunlight

Liverpool trip
Like Sir Titus Salt, William Hesketh Lever (he later became the 1st Viscount Leverhulme) who founded Port Sunlight, wanted his employees to have a place to worship where they "would learn that the way was clear and open between their souls and God". Christ Church, opened in 1904, was a 'free' church, open to all who confessed themselves disciples of Jesus Christ. 

It's a wonderful building, built from local red sandstone and open and spacious inside. The interior is much richer than many nonconformist churches, with wonderful stained glass, an Italian marble floor and English oak pews and screens.

Outside, in a open mausoleum, are the tombs of the 1st and 2nd Viscounts Leverhulme and their wives, with bronze and green marble sculptures by Sir William Goscombe John RA.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Port Sunlight's houses

Liverpool trip
Port Sunlight's 800 houses were built between 1899 and 1914, to house some 3500 people. Designed to provide a healthy environment for the workforce and their families, they form a pleasant garden suburb beside the adjacent Lever Brothers soap factory,  The designs, commissioned by William Hesketh Lever and produced by some 30 different architects, were influenced by William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement.

As in Saltaire, residents were expected to conform to strict rules and regulations. Female employees at the factory had to stop work when they married. The Bridge Inn opened in 1900 as a temperance pub, since Lever himself was a strict teetotaller and non-smoker. Within a couple of years, representations were made to allow it to sell alcohol. Lever decided to hold a referendum and, unconventionally for the time, allowed women to vote too (perhaps believing that might influence the decision to stay 'dry'). In the event, 80% of voters wanted the pub licensed and Lever decided not to use his authority to stand in the way of that change.