There’s more to York than ……

Don’t misunderstand me – I do like York.  We visit quite often for the shops, for the history, even for the ecclesiastical bits.  Like most cities though, especially those that have rivers running through them, it seems to me that some of the best bits are around the edges.  My brief time as a canoeist was spent mostly on the Ouse, and I do miss that particular viewpoint.  Next best thing though is walking by the river, and that’s what we went intending to do today.

Coffee then (is Costa quite as good as it used to be?) and then down to the river and heading north (roughly) along the good tarmac path for a 5 mile or so “there and back” walk in pleasant conditions that hint at Spring (though I suspect with a fair bit of winter yet to be dealt with).  Some pictures attached which seemed to work best in monochrome (with a touch of sepia here and there) and in the square format that I do rather enjoy.

I used the Olympus with the 20mm pancake lens.  That rig slips easily into a jacket pocket, doesn’t weigh very much, gives decent results, and offers a simple, uncomplicated approach to composition in which moving the feet substitutes neatly for twisting the zoom!  So – squabbling gulls, skeletal trees and swirling waters.

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The Piece Hall, Halifax

Halifax in Calderdale, West Yorkshire (or better the West Riding of Yorkshire) is the place of my birth and although my emotional attachment to it is somewhat tenuous these days, it still has significance for me, and I’ve been glad to visit it several times since our move back to Leeds.  One of its major attractions is the Piece Hall ……

The Piece Hall was erected by the manufacturers (of woollen and worsted cloth) and is a large quadrangular building of freestone occupying an area of ten thousand square yards with a rustic basement storey and two upper storeys fronted with two interior colonnades which are spacious walks leading to arched rooms where goods in an unfinished state were deposited and exhibited for sale to the merchants every Saturday from ten to twelve o clock. This structure which was completed at an expense of £12,000 and opened on 1 January 1779 unites elegance convenience and security. It contains three hundred and fifteen separate rooms and is proof against fire.”

— Samuel Lewis, “A topographical dictionary of England” (1831)

It reopened recently after an extensive, £19 million, restoration and we took the opportunity to go and take a look at the transformation on a beautiful autumn day.  The old stones and the 315 rooms are still there, the latter with a change of purpose and now housing a range of eating options and boutique-style shops….. although in truth many are empty as yet and many have variations on the theme of “coming soon” in their windows, so it is still something of a work in progress.

The dramatic change is in the great courtyard within the square of C18th building, which is now a wonderful conglomeration of paving, steps, stainless steel tubes, gradients and even water features which offers a huge range of opportunities to visitors of all ages and backgrounds.  It wasn’t all that busy on the day we went, but even so the mix of ages, races and purposes was truly striking.  I’ll include some images, a fairly random selection from those I developed, and add to them a recommendation to visit and an intention to return ourselves!

Potteric Carr. Oct 27th 2017

I’ve had a “fits and starts” kind of relationship with this blog recently if truth be told.  This latest start was stimulated by a reminder that my subscription is due in a month or so, and that I shall have to pay £85 if I’m going to continue.  Pause for thought!

Actually I’d quite like to keep it going, although doing so means another shift of emphasis, albeit still with a leaning towards photography, and I guess that this posting is a sort of trial ….. do I really want to make the effort?  Is it the most appropriate way of keeping some sort of diary / journal?  Will anyone else read it?  Does it matter?  In the end of course, it doesn’t matter at all (although interestingly an old friend has recently made contact via the website, presumably after “googling” me and thus stumbling across the blog, and maybe that answers the question!)

The shift in photographic interest then is towards wildlife, and particularly birds.  Much of our activity in this regard takes place at several local wildlife reserves, especially Potteric Carr, run by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust on the southern edge of Doncaster.  It’s an interesting and pleasant place to be – and they serve a decent cup of coffee!  I’ll add a few images each time, and maybe I’ll try (as much as anything else for my own education) to include some “notes” on any species of particular interest – it should be said that I have a smallish repertoire here and so species that I regard as new and interesting will no doubt seem very ordinary to more experienced avian watchers.

Our most recent visit was back in October (27.10.17), and amongst the usual suspects, we came across three species new to us:

Golden Plover:  Pluvialis Apricaria

Snipe:  Gallinago Gallinago

Black Tern:Chlidonias Niger

The Golden Plover were in amongst the great flock of Lapwing that seem to be almost a permanent fixture, seen from the West Scrape hide.  I confess that it was a guy with a scope that pointed them out, and it was only in developing the photographs that I realised how many of them (the plover that is) there were, standing mostly fairly still in the midst of the commotion of Lapwing, all facing upwind of course.

They seem to be reasonably plentiful; the RSPB handbook suggests 22000 breeding pairs in the UK with possibly in excess of 300,000 individuals here in the winter.  There is some decline in the breeding population though, attributed to the all too familiar problem of loss of habitat.  I’m not sure whether those that we saw are resident or winter visitors …. Time will tell, I guess.

Snipe are secretive, but in fact again reasonably plentiful.  They are though also in decline and for much the same reason.  They have a liking for wet grasslands, fens and bogs and as these have increasingly been drained for agriculture so the numbers breeding have reduced, and a high proportion of breeding Snipe is found on nature reserves.

In addition to the “locals” RSPB suggests that a million or more migrate from Iceland, the Faroes, Germany, Russia and Scandinavia and winter here, so worth keeping an eye open for in the next few months.

The Black Tern caused quite a stir at Potteric, and was spoken of in reverential terms in several hides.  We finally got to see it from the Duchess hide and following some sightings in flight, it eventually settled where I was able to make a photograph which is at least clear enough for positive identification.  It is something of a rarity, there being no breeding pairs in the UK, and their established migration routes being further to the East.  RSPB says that “huge numbers gather on some European and African estuaries”.  Not rare then, but rarely here!

A good and satisfying visit all told ….. and a few pictures follow.


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Woodlesford. March 7th, 2017

It’s been a while since we’ve had a days walking, and the suggestion of a decent forecast encouraged us to dig out the rucksack and the maps and get started.  Woodlesford is a village on the edge of Leeds, which I guess wouldn’t want to see itself as a suburb, but in many ways is.  Pleasant area, about 5/6 miles to the east of the city, it has some very posh looking houses near the canal, and doubtless some much more ordinary houses closer to its centre.  The canal has a lock, something of a car park and a line of tethered canal boats, some lovingly tended, others in dire need of TLC.  It also now has some surprising animal residents which were well worth a chuckle and a photograph, though I’m not clear just what is the connection between Woodlesford and the Gruffalo!

We headed towards the city along a towpath which ranged in quality from a good road surface to genuine Yorkshire mud, puddled by the recent rain and ploughed by “mountain bike” tyres.  The path is part of the “Trans Pennine Trail” which pretty much does what the name suggests.  In fact we discovered at what we decided was lunch time that from about Thwaite Mills on it was closed for some works related to the city’s flood defences – a good enough excuse to turn round and head back!  Incidentally – Thwaite Mills was closed as well, except to pre arranged school visits.  I guess that’s not so surprising; the economics of keeping such an enterprise open for passing trade must be difficult – shame though.  Check out the web site before visiting.

It’s always an interesting experience, I find, approaching a city either along or alongside a canal.  There’s a gradual change in scenery and in sound and smell as the very rural gives way to the industrial and eventually the civic.  It’s something of a reminder of the heritage of the canal system of course; only recently has it become about leisure and recreation.  Its initial purpose was very much to do with industry and commerce, the vital supply route.  We learned a while back that there are moves towards a resurgence of that original purpose in the transport of aggregates and such like into the city on barges, which probably makes all kinds of sense.  The canal itself is quite wide, although the locks aren’t, but no doubt they’ve thought of that!

Anyway, it was a good beginning to our walking season.  We live in hopes for much more as the year develops.  A few pictures follow …… which include the Gruffalo!

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Beverley. Feb 28th 2017

We remember driving through Beverley on the way home from Hornsea a couple of years ago, and so decided that we should spend a day there and take a good look.  In addition we had seen advertising for a wildlife photographic exhibition in the town’s art gallery – and we made that our first stop after coffee.

The gallery is housed in a building which is part quite old and part very new and is called the “Treasure House”.  The exhibition was very impressive indeed, some of the images really quite stunning.  One aspect of it was the work of “young people”, some indeed as young as 10 years old.  Great promise for the future – indeed great skill for the present!  The information with each image spoke on occasion of great patience in waiting for the right moment, and sometimes (particularly in the “adult” section) of a very high level of technical ability and indeed kit.  There was a considerable section of underwater photography the images in which were all quite fascinating.  It’s on till April, and well worth a visit.  Certainly inspiring – perhaps a little intimidating at times too!

A more than decent lunch and a stroll while making photographs of the market square and surrounding streets, and then eventually to the Minster, which is of course Beverley’s major claim to fame.  It’s a very impressive building.

There are connections in and around the town with its agricultural heritage, which include the vital canal for transport and a couple of windmills.  We didn’t have time to get to either of those sadly, but they constitute a more than adequate reason for a return visit.  A few images follow ………

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RSPB Old Moor. 22nd February 2017

This is a place that we’ve visited a good few times now since moving to Leeds, and which is only about 45 minutes away down the M1.  I guess that like many such sites in West and South Yorkshire this was an industrial area, maybe open cast mining, which has become a quite wonderful centre for fresh air breathing and wildlife watching.

We’ve not seen it in quite this mood before though!  There’s a storm called Doris – yes really! – developing to the West of us and it’s due to clobber Yorkshire tomorrow, and today seemed to be a sort of precursor.  Bright and breezy doesn’t quite tell it – it was blowing the proverbial “hoolley”, which meant that many of the birds were hunkered down, but the reedbeds and indeed the surface of the water were quite spectacular in their movement.  Some of the still images point to that – I’ll try to post a video which makes it much clearer!

I do enjoy this place, wherever the weather.  They serve a good cup of coffee and decent food in the cafe, the environment is very visitor friendly being well signed and well pathed and the visitors seem to have a shared sense of enjoying the place and the experience.  There is a sort of hierarchy (perhaps only in my imagination in truth) which is based on the length of camera lenses and the casual shoulder carrying of ‘scopes on tripods, which can be just a touch intimidating.  In truth though I’ve never found an “expert” here unwilling to share their expertise, and generally in a non-patronising way!

So we were glad to be there.  In the midst of all that’s going on in our world today there’s a real refreshment “blowing in the wind” in places like this, which makes them resources beyond price.

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Bridlington. Feb 17th, 2017

We decided to go to Bridlington!  Leeds was shrouded in the dullest of February weather, but there was the hint in the forecast of something a little better to the East, so to the East we went and, as the images indicate, found blue skies and sunshine which lasted most of the day – excellent!

We thought we’d been there before, but in fact realised that we hadn’t.  In some ways it seemed basically similar to other East Coast resorts that we have visited – Scarborough, Filey and Whitby for instance which though they each have unique characteristics, bear a distinct family relationship to each other.  There were certainly people around enjoying the day, but this was a winter’s day and not even “half term” for the local schools, so it wasn’t going to be crowded.  Many shops, amenities and “attractions” were closed along the front, but we found a perfectly good chippie that provided us with a good lunch for £6 each!

It’s still something of a fishing harbour with all the shore-side facilities that support “the fleet”, but maybe most of the boats were out on the water, or maybe there just not there anymore.  There’s a touch of “faded glory” about the place I felt, and maybe not quite the signs of resurgence that are evident in say Scarborough or Whitby.

We walked into the “Old Town” which was good to see, offering a different aspect to the town.  The Priory is imposing – standing almost protectively above a field of allotments and greenhouses.  There’s an influence of “Dads Army” around too, some of it having been filmed here.

A good visit – a good day – and a selection of images …….


Brid, North Bay
Brid: Harbour
Brid: Harbour Steps
Wind Farm
Speed Boat Hire!
Waiting for the Tide
Winter Sun
Fair Ground
Bridlington Priory
The Bayle
High Street, Old Town
Snakes etc
Market Place, Old Tower