Search results for: "The Grotto"

11th April 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.

Tucked away beyond the Conservatory lies the Grotto…

If you arrive at Cliffe Castle from the car park and make your way down the path towards the museum the first thing you come to is the mouth of the tunnel, dark and spooky; long ago the entrance was planted with ferns (which would have looked lovely) and more recently it was liberally draped with ivy which added to its darkly gothic tone. Up until now I have to admit that it gave me the creeps.

But I’ve always found that drawing something is a good way to overcome any misgivings, and now I’ve sketched it from all sorts of directions I feel quite differently about it.

As you come further down the path you realise the tunnel is part of a larger structure, a sort of conglomeration of rockwork that’s quite hard to describe. Most of the vegetation has been stripped off it and now you can see more or less what it must have looked like when it was first built and before it was planted – mostly with rhododendrons – and it’s very strange indeed.

To understand it better it’s helpful to know a bit of its history….

In the late 1870’s when Henry Isaac Butterfield was executing his grand building and landscaping plans at Cliffe Castle, he employed a French stonemason Monsieur Aucante, a specialist in the field of ornamental rockwork to create a marvellous structure that would provide – 1. a cleverly concealed entrance by means of a tunnel, for tradespeople and goods to enter the house with their deliveries unseen by the family and guests; 2. an aerial walkway leading up to the flower gardens and glasshouses at the back of the Castle; 3. an intriguing rocky retreat rather like a natural cave, that would look eye-catching and romantic and serve as a cool place to sit in on a hot summer’s day; and 4. a striking piece of architectural landscaping that would shape the wonders of nature’s creation into something even more grand, and provide a support for an attractive natural display of flowering shrubs.

Clearly Monsieur Aucante set about the task with skill and ingenuity, creating a striking feature with natural pockets in the rock to be filled with soil that would support plants, but it wasn’t until I was drawing the strange fluid shapes of this flowing convoluted limestone that I realised what I was looking at, and why it looks so strange. These swirling holes and curling channels have been eroded by churning water and pebbles – they’re exactly what you find for instance at The Strid – and they would have been formed horizontally, not vertically, which is what makes them look so odd in a vertical wall. It makes you wonder where exactly all this rock was collected from, and how it was extracted and transported from its original site, presumably by horse and cart.

Nevertheless the skill of the craftsman didn’t stop there. Some of the stone has been worked – if you look closely you can see that the central pillar supporting the front of the cave is carved in the form of a tree trunk. Because it’s now closed off with locked iron gates you can only stand outside and wonder what it might have been like in its heyday, and speculate as to whether the bricked up wall to the right as you peer into the gloomy interior hides the beginning of the flight of steps that led up to the aerial path that wound its way to the gardens beyond.

The whole place is a bit of a mystery. Although it’s referred to as the Grotto, this is one thing that it’s not; a grotto is a highly decorated, often shell-encrusted whimsy and this was never conceived as such a thing, but it’s hard to find a simple word to sum up what this whole feature is and the word Grotto has somehow stuck. And in a way it sounds right, I think, even though to be pedantic we should be calling it something else. Grotto. A strange, fantastical, weird place, full of possibilities and probably odd stories that we may never know. It deserves more attention and with some loving care, who knows what strange and beautiful things may develop in this rather forgotten corner? Only time will 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.

Welcome to the blog-page of my website.

You can find selected posts on specific subjects here:

CLIFFE CASTLE MUSEUM AND PARK:
Heritage and Restoration

A Heritage Walk in the Park

The Pond
Progress on the Pond

Glasshouses
The Glasshouse Terrace
Victorian Technology Unearthed
Buried Treasure
Glasshouses & a Victorian Obsession
The Dome
Raising the Dome

Dark Lane
The Lower Field

The Fountains
The Fountains; the dolphins return

The Grotto

The Great Beech – a Farewell

To help make it easier to find posts on different subjects, this post stays at the top of the blog page as an introduction with links.

The most recently published post is just below this one – simply scroll on down the page.

If you want to find my entire sketching record of the restoration work at Cliffe Castle Park in 2016 and 2017, the project called Drawing The Work, the link below will take you to all the posts in the series.

Cliffe Castle/Drawing The Work

Other Cliffe Castle posts that are not directly about the restoration work, but about activities and daily life in the park are archived under the category:

Life In The Landscape

And posts about the perimeter walk project that started in July 2018 are under the category

A Park of Many Parts

If you’re looking for a particular post or subject, you can always go to the Home page or the foot of any other page, and scroll to the bottom of the screen where you’ll find a Categories drop down menu, and also a Search button.

If you simply want to see the sketches from Drawing The Work on their own, and not read the post – I’ve put a selection of the sketches on the Drawings page.

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.

Know what this is? I knew what it was as soon as I saw it because I’ve wanted one for ages – it’s a hotel for hibernating insects. It stood centre-stage in the Pop-up Park, the exhibition/event that Bradford Parks department and the Conservation Group put on in the Airedale shopping centre all last week. I got so excited by the insect hotel that I ignored everything else for a while as I sketched it and enjoyed its lovely wonkiness. This is a very superior model – many are simple box constructions, sometimes quite small – and this one is also a teaching aid to use with children, with doors to open and close and questions to find answers to. But how lovely it would be to have an insect residence in the park!

Bees have been a part of park life at Cliffe Castle for a long time and many, many people have come to watch them as part of a visit to the museum – but probably just as many people don’t know that they’re there. (The hive is moved to East Riddlesden Hall in the winter and comes back to Cliffe Castle in the spring.) There were beekeepers in the Pop-up Park on several days during the week, chatting to visitors – and I managed to catch some in action just outside the museum one memorable afternoon in the  summer, when they were checking the hive which they’d brought out to a quiet corner behind the grotto.

The Pop-up Park was a great opportunity to showcase some of the things that happen there regularly. Importantly, it was also a chance to find out what people most enjoy in the park by asking them to fill out a questionnaire about future events, and to give ideas for the café and what it should provide. (If you didn’t get to the Airedale centre and would like to give your thoughts on these things, the questions are here at the bottom of this post. You can hand your comments to the staff at the museum, or send them through my contact page here.)

Saturday was the last day for the event and a Pop-up Bandstand was a perfect way to round off the week, with Herr Jens’s Bavarian Oompah band. Oh, I do love a brass band! Herr Jens’s band plays on the bandstand at Cliffe Castle in the summer and I always enjoy the concerts there, but this time it was festive Christmas music and there’s something particularly wonderful about a brass band playing carols at Christmas. I stood there sketching and singing (I couldn’t stop myself – luckily the instruments were loud enough to drown out the sound of my voice.)

There’s plenty going on at Cliffe Castle over Christmas, and if you’re interested in the restoration of the park, have a look in the windows of the Conservatory where there’s a display called ‘What the Dickens’ showing some of the plans for the restoration project – but don’t miss going inside to see the Conservation Group’s very funny and clever homage to Charles Dickens’ – ‘A Cliffe Castle Christmas Carol’.

A very happy Christmas to everyone!

**********

Would you like to give your views on events in the park, and its café?
Cliffe Castle Park group would like to know your thoughts on events. You can answer these questions in the comments box on the Contact page here, or write them on paper and hand them in at the museum.

Please tell us if you are: female/male/child/group/family

What good events have you been to already?

What good events have you gone to in other parks?

Do you go with family/friends?

At what season/s would you like to have park events?

Any suggestions for the kind of future events you’d like to go to?

Café:

When would you like/need the park’s café to be open?

What sort of food and drink would you like to be available?

Do you think what’s on offer should change by the season/week/day/occasion? Any comments?

Would you like to use the café as a meet-up place?

Do you think dogs should be allowed in the café?

Have you any suggestions for the café?

Thanks for helping by giving us your thoughts and ideas!


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.

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.

Finishing the animal enclosures

Everywhere in the park things are taking shape and getting nearer to completion, and even though there’s still a lot to be done, every day there are signs that we’re in the final stages. The animal enclosures and the aviary have now been constructed and the back wall is clearly visible (with work still going on) behind the Grotto – which has now been fully cleared of its tangle of ivy, and has a smart new pair of Victorian style street lights. You can now see the steps of the aerial walkway that climbed from the cave up and across to the flower gardens behind the castle (I haven’t drawn these right, because in my sketch they don’t seem to end up in the cave as they should – the sunlight was very bright that afternoon and the shadows too dark for me to make it out properly). 

The Rose Garden

Beneath the bank of rhododendrons the rose garden has been planted with red and white standard roses in neat lines that look like something straight out of Alice-in-Wonderland, and dainty wooden slatted benches are appearing all over the place, all curvaceous and pretty. (Will they be comfortable? I’m not too sure about this, but time will tell.) 

Glasshouses

Glasshouses and dome

The glasshouses are still getting finishing touches but at least we can see them properly now the hoardings have been removed. A chance for me to try drawing the dome, and make a mess of it – I got all the elipses wrong and the proportions aren’t right either, even after a couple of attempts – but there’ll be plenty of opportunities to practise from now on!

Cherub on the north fountain

And at long last the fountains are complete, cherubs and all. I wish now that I’d had the chance to sketch the top bits before they were hoisted up and fixed in place because actually it’s quite hard to see all the detail, as they’re so high up – but they look lovely.

Cherub on the south fountain

Next Sunday is the Cliffe Castle Garden Party – not the official opening of the completed park as was originally planned (this will happen at a later date) but a chance to celebrate everything that’s happened so far, and with work going on at the speed we’re seeing now, there’ll be plenty more finishing touches ready by then….


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.

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!