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!
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.
This was just a lovely walk in beautiful Yorkshire countryside on a fine spring day, in good company, not particularly long or taxing, but just thoroughly enjoyable. Photographically I quite enjoyed the abandoned farm machinery as I always do, but was particularly taken with the reflections that we found around the small lake. It’s odd (is it?) that life looks so much better upside down and rippled a touch by movement in water!
We booked three nights at the Bull’s Head in Castleton to give us two full days in the Peak District. It’s not actually all that far away from home, but we just don’t seem to go in that direction, and so set about putting right that sad omission. The weather forecast wasn’t great – not much new there by the standards of this year – but for our first full day we calculated that if it (the forecast) was at least somewhat accurate, we could spend a morning getting to Chatsworth, drinking coffee and looking round the house, and then in the brighter afternoon take in the grounds. And that was pretty much what we did!
It’s a big outfit is Chatsworth – very slick and well organised, like a sort of upper class theme park which must employ as many people now as in its stately hey-day. The coffee was good, but we didn’t on the whole enjoy the house all that much. It was very crowded for a start (I guess everybody had seen the same forecast) and looking long and reflectively at anything wasn’t easy! He and she of Devonshire have, to their credit, incorporated a fair amount of contemporary art, which created some interesting incongruities. Most of the decor, both framed and painted direct on walls and ceilings, just seemed to my untutored eye to be a standard mixture of austerely posed ancestors spiced with mythical creatures, who were mostly naked (or very nearly).
In truth I find “stately homes” difficult anyway because of their place and role in the making and maintaining of a stratified and classified society. Plainly life for the very rich was good, and the evidence of that was all around. Even if one buys into the “Downton Abbey” picture of the benevolent rich (and I’m not sure that I altogether do!) the manifest inequity of distribution of wealth at every level, and the implications of status and “worth” that go with it are uncomfortable to say the least. Yes we’ve moved on as a society, but the echoes are still there, and indeed seem to be at the heart of much political debate and conduct – patricians versus plebs!
So the pictures were made in the garden. Now in a sense the possession of such a garden is all part of the same whole, but I guess it just felt better for being outside, and the natural artwork is so much more attractive anyway that the over-adorned walls of the building. In addition again he and she of Devonshire have brought in some interesting sculptural work that both fits with and creatively clashes with the older surroundings. I’ve included 15 (actually 16, but more of that in a moment) of my images. There’s much here of early autumn beauty; there’s also the hare that re-appears around the garden in slightly different poses and sizes; there’s water and fallen leaves (always a good bet), and there’s a “squirting willow tree” which is actually surprisingly old and suggests that even the upper classes had some sense of humour!
Incidentally – the duplication of CW2. Sadly (unlike the Yorkshire Sculpture Park for instance) the authorities (whoever they might be) have felt the need to surround the contemporary sculptures with post and chain fences. Fair enough in a sense, but it gets in the way of a good photograph. CW2 is as snapped; CW3 has had a measure of photoshop erasure of unwanted distractions. The problem though is that I couldn’t find a way of taking them all out and I’m, not sure that the compromise is better than the original – so I’ve put them both in while I think about it!