Cliffe Castle Park in Keighley is being restored with funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Work started on site in June 2016 and I’m following progress and sketching whenever I can.

Looking towards the drive from Dark Lane at dusk, in January

The evenings are getting lighter now, the days longer. A couple of weeks after Christmas I stood about half way along the Dark Lane path and sketched this view across the field at about 3.30 in the afternoon; now I can walk up there at the same time and catch the sun while it’s still behind the treetops and casting long shadows over the field. There are snowdrops and crocuses, buds on the trees and birdsong everywhere. 

There’s also an awful lot of mud. It can’t be helped; we’ve had a lot of wet weather, the diggers and dumpers have churned up the lawns where work is continuing, and removing all the shrubs from the terrace borders has been messy. It’s getting better –  new plants will be going in soon, more land drains have been repaired which should improve the places that have always tended to get soggy, but there’s still a lot to do. 

High-vis jackets brightening up a landscape full of mud

As we’re coming to the end of winter and looking forward to spring, I  thought it would be a good time to look back at what’s been done as well as what’s still to do – so here’s a round-up of the stories I’ve recorded so far and a hint of what’s to come. 

Demolition of the car park wall

It all started last summer with the careful demolition of part of the car park wall, and then work began in the main site on the top terrace behind the car park; the old glasshouses were taken down, the animal enclosures removed, and the site was prepared for new building. A lot of earth moving went on at this time, with plenty of impressive heavy machinery and the viewing windows in the security hoarding were much appreciated – by me, as I could now see what was going on and sketch it – and by small children and dogs, who could look through the low level window (now unfortunately missing after the Christmas storms). Small boys loved the diggers; dogs were more interested in the rabbits

Digger and dumper seen through one of the viewing windows

Some interesting things were found during the demolition and the digging of trenches and foundations, some of which will eventually be on display in the museum, but in the meantime I was able to sketch them and wonder about their stories. 

Assorted metal objects found with the assistance of a metal-detector

After what seemed like a long time, building work started on the foundations for the glasshouses and a simply gigantic circular concrete container was set in place where the domed palm house will be (except instead of a palm, this will be be a Norfolk Island Pine); eventually the framework for the glasshouses started to go up and the dome and its cupola were carefully assembled and glazed, before being lifted by an enormous crane one chilly February morning, watched by assembled crowd of contractors, park and museum staff, conservation group members and Councillor Sarah Ferriby from Bradford Council. 

Glazing panels for the dome carefully wrapped in plastic and delivered on pallets

The elegant shape of the pond, following the exact contours of the original ornamental lake

The pond is a story in itself; being much more visible it’s been easier to draw – you can follow progress herehere and here – and the carved marble fountains which have been taken away for conservation work will soon be back. 

Dark Lane path behind the bandstand under construction 

With so much mud around one of the best paths for walking on at the moment is Dark Lane, along the top of the lower field – one of two completely new all-weather tracks. Other paths have been resurfaced and now new sitings for benches are being laid (- soon there’ll be completely new places to sit and sketch)… 

View across Airedale in January, with the afternoon sun fading fast

Right now there’s work going on at the pond, on the bandstand, on the flights of stone steps leading up from the lower terrace to the museum and on the glasshouses. Lots already acheived, but plenty still to do –  and many more discoveries to make and stories to tell.

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.