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

Things are looking a bit drab and gloomy in the park at the moment. We’ve had some cold, sparkling days when the sun has shone for a few hours but a lot of the time the light has been dull, the colours flat, and to make matters worse many of the bushes and small trees in the borders have been bulldozed and uprooted in preparation for new planting. This is what gardening and landscaping has to include, I know, but nevertheless it all has to look a bit grim for a while. 

Having said that, the tangled roots of upended bushes can be very interesting things to draw…… 

But however much pleasure there is in the subtle greys and browns and purples of winter, there’s no denying that diggers and high-vis jackets brighten up the landscape. A few days ago I caught sight of something going on in Dark Lane and hurried over to see what was going on. 

I never get tired of watching diggers at work. This time it was all about trying to find the location of a broken land drain, a mixture of following up diagnostic information (supplied by a camera sent through the pipes) and experimental digging. The field began to look as if a giant mole had been at work. And in fact a digger does look very much like a huge animal that can do the work of five men in a tenth of the time, with an elegance that makes it look effortless. So the men were doing quite a lot of standing around, and peering down holes. 

I peered down too, into the drain they’d uncovered near the wall that’s sealed with an inspection cover that I’d never noticed as it’s usually covered with leaves. There’s an inlet pipe here letting in a constant flow of crystal clear water, and a couple of outlet pipes leading off in different directions down the slope of the hill. This must be just one of the many underground springs that flow beneath the surface down the side of the valley. Years ago there was a well down in the corner of the field near the Beechcliffe gate, and you can still see where it’s covered over. There’s a lot you can learn about both the past and the present if you take the time to look – and take every opportunity to be nosey, and peer down holes. 

More updates on the work of the conservation project, photos, plans, and background information here, and at the Cliffe Castle Park Conservation Group website and on the Parks Service page of Bradford Leisure Services.

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