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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Saltaire. Jan 27th 2017

Salts Mill and the surrounding town of Saltaire are familiar enough to most people living in Leeds, and of course we’ve been here several times.  The Mill itself is always interesting – and they serve a decent cup of coffee – even it it is something of a shrine to David Hockney.  I appreciate his work (he says condescendingly) and I admire his advances with picture making technology, particularly his use of an iPad.  I do confess though to finding it a touch the same, but maybe that says more about my inability to appreciate good art when I see it!  I find the building itself fascinating, as of course is its heritage as an industrial venture on the grand scale.  The noise of production must have been appalling, but Titus Salt seems to have done his level best to “do the right thing” for his employees, as is well documented.

After lunch in the “Victoria Tea Rooms we wandered (on what really was a bleak January day) a mile or so long the canal bank towards Shipley.  Obviously some of these great looming mill buildings have been very creatively restored and are in good and purposive use, often as office buildings I think.  Others have yet to be restored and so are perhaps more evocative of their past.  Boats aren’t on the move much at this time of year, but there were several on moorings, at least a couple of which were worth a picture I felt.

We strolled around the part of the estate that Salt had built for his workers.  Different grades of houses from fine looking detached to rather more snug terraces, presumably appropriate to the station in life of their original occupants.  They have in common though that they look well designed and well built – odd little bits of detailing mark them out as having been put up with care.  I hope that’s right!  There’s certainly scope for individuality now as I guess they are all privately owned, albeit limited by the area’s status as a “World Heritage Site” – we rather enjoyed the very maritime looking collection in one front yard.

The United Reformed Church is a splendid looking building ….. and has in its grounds the mausoleum in which Titus and his family are buried.  Thus its cupola is the last of the images which follow:


Restored Mill Buildings
Gentrified Mill
Restoration Project (1)
Restoration Project (2)
Restoration Project (3)
Reflected Mill
Mill Windows
Saltaire Street (1)
Saltaire Street (2)
Garden Sculpture (1)
Garden Sculpture (2)
Saltaire URC

Altofts to Wakefield 4th Feb 2016

We’ve been a bit short on walking recently (walking as in proper “days out” that is!) and I’ve been very short on photography for some months, other than the “phone snaps” that I’ve taken of the boat building process. So here was an opportunity to set both of those to rights with a decent weather forecast encouraging us out onto the towpath of the Calder and Hebble Navigation between Altofts and Wakefield.

It’s an attractive walk in characteristic scenery so the usual combination of canal architecture, trees, reflections and of course boats. There was however quite a jarring note at Stanley when we came across the huge accumulation of rubbish and debris strewn across the grass and the footbridge. At second glance this maybe was more benign than it looked at first glance. I hadn’t come across the notion of a rubbish screen before, but the logic is fair enough. The wire screen built in under the footbridge is presumably intended to filter out the rubbish coming downstream in the river and prevent it entering the canal. If that’s correct then it certainly works, and obviously the “collection” has been considerably increased by the effects of the flooding.

What is saddening of course is to look at the huge amount of “stuff” that has been simply tossed in the river – and it’s hard to see that human hands haven’t been involved here! Plastic bottles by the hundred ….. what a waste, and what an indictment!

That apart though, it was an excellent walk, much enjoyed in fresh winter sunshine … a selection of images follows……


Building Wee Rob November 2015 (2)

Building Wee Rob November 2015 (2)

We’ve rather reached a point in the process now which means that the construction is pretty much finished, with the conspicuous exceptions of the deck and the cockpit coaming. I probably shan’t be able to do much about the former now until the Spring, basically because it’s too cold! Epoxy resin needs something close to 15C to go off properly, and unless we get some freakish weather that’s not going to be available for the next few months, and heating the garage isn’t practical. So we pause!

There’s stuff still to do though ….. I shall paint the interior using primer and Danboline (the latter being International’s bilge paint), and that needs only an ambient temperature of 5C. I can treat with Deks Olje my now complete Greenland paddle, and odd items such as the floorboards. I can also get cracking on the coaming, at least to the point of buying some Ash (I think) and ripping it into bending stock. Being kiln dried it will then need soaking for a week or so before steaming and bending into shape, then to await the thermometer and the epoxy.

I mentioned last time that one of the factors involved in the whole process is thinking ahead to the next stage, and indeed beyond, if the work is to progress. To take that to an extreme, I’ve begun thinking about the next boat! I have a great deal of respect for marine ply and epoxy in combination. I’ve used them many times now, and they work on the whole very reliably. I’m rather taken though with the possibility of building a kayak that uses neither! I have a copy of “Building the Greenland Kayak” by Christopher Cunningham, which details the build of a very traditional and sweetly shapely “skin on frame” kayak. The framework, traditionally driftwood but in my case probably a combination of WRCedar for the main frame and Ash for the bent ribs, is lashed together. Traditionally again that’s done with sinew, presumably extracted from the seals which are hunted in the kayak and whose skins are used to cover it (about 6 to a boat!). Fortunately for the local seals there are synthetic substitutes for both the sinew and the covering which I, obviously, intend to use.

I suspect that the finished product will not be a boat I can use – I might struggle even it get into it! It is par excellence a sea kayak, and the joy of its lashings are that they allow a measure of flex in the boat which means that it can work with the movement of the sea rather than resist it. Such flexibility is rather less of a requirement on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal! The framework though is just so beautiful and indeed sculptural that I really want to try and build one for it’s own sake – knowing incidentally that it will truly stretch my woodworking abilities, such as they are.

While that’s going on I can happily and reasonably comfortably I hope, paddle my “Wee Rob” on the flat waters of the canal system! Time alone will tell!

Of competitions, judges and space in pictures! April 2012

I blogged a little while back that I’d entered a competition cunningly titled “4 on a board” at the local camera club. I was better pleased with my entry than was the judge – but that’s the way it goes I guess – can’t be seen to argue with the referee! I was intrigued though with his response to the first of the four, entitled “unlocking Leeds” – I’ll post it here.

Unlocking Leeds

He was complimentary about basic competition, focus and so on; critical though of the lack of interest in the sky, and suggested that the image would be better if cropped about half way up to remove the bulk of the canal which “isn’t doing much”. Now I’ll come back to the latter comment shortly – but the sky thing? Yes, big dramatic skies are great – perhaps; or maybe they are becoming as much a cliche as the milky water in long exposures of waterfalls. Both of them seem to be things that “judges like” …… but maybe judges should be encouraging lateral thinking and difference rather than simply and safely affirming cliches.

There were only 7 entries in this competition! The immediate consequence of that was that after the tea break our friendly judge (and he was friendly and indeed is an old and well respected friend of the club) showed us some of his own work. Now that was interesting, particularly in that he showed us how in the first 3/4 images he put up he had photoshopped in various elements to, as he saw it, improve the image. One of these was a seascape taken I think at Morecambe on the west coast which had a pier neatly on the left 1/3 line, and a relatively quiet sea with a horizon stretching across 2/3 up the picture. He hadn’t seemed to like the empty horizon though (or perhaps feared that “judges” wouldn’t like it) and had cloned in the tourist boat “Endeavour” which offers sea trips of Whitby on the East coast to break it up! What I would like to know – and he couldn’t really give me an answer except in terms of the opinions of “the judges” – is why not have space? Why not allow the viewer space in which to imagine and reflect – surely one of the most impact-ful features of a seascape is its bigness and emptiness, its relatively huge scale which can give a perspective to our being and emotions.

I have the impression that to be a competition winner, a picture has to be technically correct, dramatic, and simplistic. It mustn’t present judges with any sort of challenge or disturbance, but must convey its message and its worth with an uncomplicated immediacy. That may or may not be true, and the extent to which it is or is not true may vary at the level of the competition. I can’t help feeling though that if it’s true at all, then competitions and judges are not to be taken very seriously as an assessment of artistic merit. I think the way forward is to continue to put entries into club competitions – but to be clear that it’s only for fun – in the spirit that if “the judge” doesn’t like them, that’s his or her problem!!!

By the way – the canal in my pic? Canals have been the commercial arteries that have born the lifeblood of these northern cities carrying raw materials and finished products back and forth. Their role has of course changed, but in that picture the canal is the foreground because it’s the way into the city; it’s the way to approach the great wooden gates which literally unlock the city of Leeds. That’s the narrative that was in my mind in the making of the image and to crop it our would deny the journey – so I won’t!

Lincoln March 22nd 2012

We spent a day in Lincoln – well, why not! In fact we’d been gifted some train vouchers and Lincoln was the most interesting sounding place in range, so to speak, so there we went. The trains ran on time, though I have to confess to the thought that the journey would have taken us half the time in the car and would have cost us less than the taxi fares to and from Leeds station! Still – an experience it was, and we greatly enjoyed it.

The images here then are fragments of that day. The city is of course dominated by the Cathedral, but Lincoln is much more than just a cathedral city. We enjoyed its waterfront area, which was where our “tour” began and ended. I don’t have a title for the sculpture (if that’s the correct genre?) stretched out above and across the River Witham, or indeed a name for the artist, but I greatly enjoyed the work which connects the two banks between “High Bridge” and the almost Monet-esque bridge a little lower down. The neatly arranged (in odd numbers of course) pigeons were a bonus!

I suppose we couldn’t not visit the cathedral, and I couldn’t not photograph it! It is a colossal structure close up and with wonderful detailing in that structure. I wanted to avoid the cliches and so looked for interest in some of the details – hence the headless saints and the rocket that seems to offer 11 steps to heaven.

People watching is a city-centre sport of course, as is watching people watching people! The busker was excellent, and I fear that without using flash to catch his face, I haven’t really done him justice. The “tour” reached a fine conclusion in, or rather outside an Italian restaurant by the Brayord Pool eating an excellent meal – and this at the end of March at 5.00 pm or so!

Leeds and Liverpool Canal: Saltaire to Bingley  28.2.12

Unseasonably mild it was, but still grey and overcast with a frustratingly flat light. Complaints made though, it was a good day for a walk, on a well made and firm towpath and the clear objective of the “Bingley Five Rise Locks” to look forward to.

Most of the images can speak for themselves. It was interesting making our way through Bingley itself, and emerging from the peace of the early stretch of the walk into the noise and bustle generated by the major road through the town, which runs very close to the canal – as of course does the railway, with the River Aire never all that distant; the classic valley combination of industrial West Yorkshire. Just the 4 images included here, from the Tower Blocks through to the Damart chimney – lots of verticals here it occurs to me, and all in portrait format!

The “5-rise” itself is quite a sight, rising in stately fashion from the stillness of the canal water – it’ll be rather different during the season of course with boats working their way up or down. Four of the five locks have just had new gates fitted, and it made an usual sight to see the fresh, new timber, untreated (as yet?) instead of the more usual selection of blackened and slowly rotting wood of many of the other locks we’ve seen on these walks. There are no boats on the move just yet, but plenty moored alongside, and I thought that the heavily craned working boat was an interesting contrast to the finely decorated “No 1”.

There’s many a cyclist on the towpath, and although we didn’t always hear their bells, relationships remained generally cordial. It was though great to see the little group of children, who seemed to be with a teacher from one of the Saltaire Schools riding out together. They were particularly polite as they passed us, and constituted a small but significant good omen for the future.

I do enjoy the architecture of these industrial towns and the two towers of the Pace Building and the United Reformed Church duly welcomed us back.