28th March 2017

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

From time to time the Conservation Group volunteers organise a guided walk in the park to give people a chance to find out a bit about what’s going on, and learn something of the history that’s the reference for all the restoration work – and last Saturday morning was a spectacularly beautiful day for a walk in the park. I joined in and observed from a little way off, sometimes hiding behind a tree in the hope that people wouldn’t notice me sketching and get self-conscious.

Starting at the museum entrance where people gathered on the steps, we trooped around the corner to the ornamental rockwork beside the Conservatory commonly known as the Grotto, to learn some interesting facts about this strange and rather mysterious part of the park. It was built in 1878 as part of Henry Isaac Butterfield’s great re-modelling of the house and grounds and designed to be part Gothic rockery, part summer house and part strategic tradesman’s entrance – it’s a weird and fascinating feature and I’ve been studying it recently, intending to do a whole post on it; here’s a sketch by way of a preview –

Those who weren’t daunted by the damp gloominess of the tunnel slowly shuffled through it and out into the spring sunshine on the other side, and I got chatting to Councillor Zafar Ali from Bradford Council who had noticed me sketching and wanted to have a look.

The next stop was at the other end of the Castle at the children’s playground. By now Claire who was leading the walk was getting into her stride; I was enjoying her lively commentary as she described the planning behind the restoration project and the progress so far, and it was obvious a lot of other people were enjoying it too…

Then it was down the hill to Dark Lane(some interesting history behind this – it’s the route of an ancient track from Keighley to Utley, with stories dating back to the Civil War. It was a right of way that was an annoyance for the Butterfield family who devised various ways to make it less visible and intrusive, and eventually got it closed by Act of Parliament). Then across to the other side of the park by the Holly Lodge entrance, and I watched the walkers as they wound along Dark Lane, which is being laid as an all-weather pathway along its original route beside the wall at the top of the Lower Field.

Next the bandstand. This is always an interesting talking point as many people wonder why the 1960’s design is not being rejected in favour of something more Victorian, but the fact is that it does a really good job, acoustically, and what we want is a bandstand that works. So it’s getting a makeover – the roof has been repaired, and it’ll be made sound and spruced up. Philip did an acoustic demonstration –

Last stop was the pond, where there’s lots to learn. The original lozenge-shaped pond created by Henry Isaac Butterfield was altered many years later to become the deeper round swimming pool that still existed in living memory – until it too was filled in and covered with a rockery and trees. The site has been carefully excavated and both the round pool and amazingly the original Victorian pond were found to be recognisable and more or less intact – fascinating to observe as they emerged from heaps of earth and stone. The new pond will be a re-creation of the original, the same overall shape and in exactly the same spot, and landscaped and planted in a similar way to the Butterfield’s prized water-feature.

There will be other Heritage Walks run by the Conservation Group so watch out for news of the next one, and if you fancy a walk in the park, put the date in your diary!