Cliffe Castle Park in Keighley is being restored with funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Work started on site in June and I’m following progress and sketching whenever I can.

At the edge of the pond – layers of topsoil and ballast which is being laid.

We’ve had hot days and wet days recently, and the work on the pond continues. Digging out has given way to establishing what will be the final shape and preparing the groundwork.

Mud. Rain all day; wet weather all-in-one suits for surveying and measuring at the edge of the pond.

The full size and shape of the original pond was very interesting to see once it had been completely excavated and cleared. The two ends taper to a curved point exactly as the plan from the 1870s shows and at the northern end it was just possible to see a flight of steps leading down into the pool. Placed here in the narrowing tip of the eye, the steps would have been a safe way to climb into or out of the pool with the sides and edges at the top making good hand-holds.

Steps down into the pool, drawn more clearly than a photograph would show. They were half covered in soil when I saw them and it was hard to make out just how many there are.

Rainy days have alternated with hot dry ones and on a sunny afternoon I watched the huge heaps of hardcore being redistributed around the site and banked up at the edges. Once a digger has shovelled great scoopfuls of ballast into position it all has to be shaped and tamped down – which was being done with a wonderful little machine called a remote control trench roller.

This is a delightful thing to watch. It’s articulated in the middle so it can bend and turn right or left and easily go up and down slopes – quite steep ones – and it’s operated by a small hand-held remote control at the end of a long cable. (It must be fun to operate. It gave the impression of a thing that had a mind of its own and knew what to do, kept in order by being on the end of a long lead like a dog.) 

It gets the job done very efficiently, but I’m certain it requires a good deal of skill and looks easier than it is. When a job looks effortless you can be sure it’s something that comes with practice and experience.

More updates on the work of the conservation project, photos, plans, and background information at: https://m.facebook.com/Cliffe-Castle-Heritage-Lottery-Bid-304048249751094, at the Cliffe Castle Park Conservation Group website and on the Parks Service page of Bradford Leisure Services.

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