Archives for category: conservation

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.

The beech tree in early autumn, in earlier and healthier times

The beech tree in early autumn, in earlier and healthier times. (photo: Sue Skinner) 

Throughout living memory, one of the most well known and well loved landmarks in Cliffe Castle Park has been the ancient and truly enormous beech tree in the lower field. It stood alone and magnificent; without competition from other trees nearby it had room to grow to its full potential and acheived a size and shape that was something to marvel at. It was beautiful in every season. 

Early spring (photo: Sue Skinner)

Early spring (photo: Sue Skinner)

Early summer (photo: Sue Skinner)

Early summer (photo: Sue Skinner)

Autumn (photo: Sue Skinner)

Autumn (photo: Sue Skinner)

Winter (photo: Sue Skinner)

Winter (photo: Sue Skinner)

Sadly the tree had been struggling in recent years and had reached the point where it was in danger of collapse, and with a tree of this size even falling branches can be dangerous; each massive branch was as big as a sizeable tree. Last week it finally had to be felled. 

Beech Tree felled (photo: Sue Skinner)

Beech Tree felled (photo: Sue Skinner)

Stump and trunk (photo: Sue Skinner)

Stump and trunk (photo: Sue Skinner)

Stump (photo: Elaine Cooper)

Stump (photo: Elaine Cooper)

It’s never easy to have to see an ancient and well loved tree taken down, but anyone looking closely in recent times will have seen it was in trouble. In the words of Bob Thorp, Trees & Woodlands manager: “the signs indicating a potential catastrophic failure have been present for at least 5 years – only 20% of the crown was producing normal sized leaves and shoot extension, the other 80% of the crown struggled to produce even small leaves and practically no shoot extension.  The effect of this loss of vigour is the tree is unable to make and  lay down sufficient new wood to deal with  mechanical stress – when that happens the tree begins to collapse.”
The tree was in danger, and potentially a danger to anyone passing by. The cause of its failure was probably the fungus Meripilus gigantes, a parasite of beech trees that makes the top of the tree slowly thin out until finally it can’t sustain itself and will start to collapse. 

Fungus on the trunk (photo: Sue Skinner)

Fungus on the trunk (photo: Sue Skinner)

Fungus on the ground at the root (photo: Sue Skinner)

Fungus on the ground at the root (photo: Sue Skinner)

Unfortunately I was away from Keighley at the time this happened – if I’d been there I’d have been sketching the whole process of felling – but this is an important event to record. It’s important to say our goodbyes and remember an old friend, so this has had to be a photographic rather than a sketched account – and it’s good to have a few pictures of the tree in all its glory at healthier times. 

Some of the timber has been saved, (a cross-section of the bole will be particularly interesting and hopefully may be displayed somewhere in the park or museum) and it may be possible to use some of the wood in a creative commemorative way – but all this is for the future. For now, it’s time to celebrate this wonderful tree and treasure our memories. 

Do you have pictures or memories of the beech tree you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments section below! 

​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.

After a long pause at the site of the pond when nothing much seemed to be happening, in the last couple of weeks things have really started to move. 

I hadn’t sketched in this part of the park for a long time, but I didn’t realise just how long until I looked back and found that it was back in the summer of last year. Things have moved on quite a bit since then, but there have been delays – mostly because of the complicated infrastructure needed for the workings of the pond and the two fountains – and for a long time there hasn’t been anything much to record. 

But all that changed recently when mysterious box-like brick structures started to appear in the pond itself, and then a great deal of digging and landscaping began all around the perimeter. Pipes were laid in deep trenches that seemed to be going in all sorts of directions. Mounds of topsoil were built up around the site and rockwork began to be laid along the edge of the pond itself – these lines of rock will define the edges of the pond and the path that will go around it. And then a large green cupboard the size of a small shed was installed, evidently full of electrical connections – the control centre for all the filtration and supply for the pond and both the fountains. I haven’t had time to study all this groundwork and infrastructure enough to be able to describe it or explain it properly, but I did manage to catch some of the work as it developed – and things are moving along fast. 

Looking more carefully at all the sketches I’ve done of the pond, I wish I’d thought of doing some drawings at regular intervals from a fixed point. What I’ve got is hardly an accurate record of how the landscape has changed – I can’t even work out if I’ve got the trees in the right places, though the largest ones are roughly where they should be. A landscape architect would have drawn this in a much more faithful and recognisable way! It’s just another of those things that I’m learning as I go along. 

The next exciting thing will be the return of the fountains, fully restored and ready to go back on their bases and have the water supply connected; there’s still a lot to do, but things are shaping up! 

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.

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.

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.

The two marble fountains are landmarks in the park – or were, because the top parts of them have now been removed for repair and conservation. I sketched them a while ago when I heard they were to be dismantled, not knowing exactly when they’d be going, and as always I discovered a lot of things I’d never seen before. That’s what drawing does!

The lower bases are more or less the same, except that the south fountain has a carved mouse crouching under a lily leaf, so badly eroded it’s almost impossible to find, and the north one has a lizard, only slightly more visible – both difficult to draw because of their rather blurry state (I tried several times and never succeeded in getting anywhere).

But the middle part of both fountains – the first tier – are much easier to draw. These fabulous fishy creatures are curled around each other and water must have once spurted from their open mouths. I feel sure they’re dolphins, even though no dolphin ever looked quite like that. They form the support for the second tier, and this is where the two fountains are quite different; the south one has a cherub clasping what must have been a large fish, but both fish and cherub have lost their heads and all that remains at the top is the metal spout that would once (presumably) have come out of the fish’s mouth. I’ve been wondering if there are photos or drawings of the fountains in their original state that can be used as reference in their restoration – it’ll be difficult if no pictures exist. I don’t know when cherub and fish were beheaded, but it’s said that someone climbed the fountain one night in a drunken state and knocked off both their heads.

The north fountain is topped with a chubby cherub mounted on a huge feathery bird which looks to me like a goose – or could it be a swan? His fat little legs straddle its back and his arms are wrapped securely around its neck which stretches upwards as it flaps its wings – it’s wonderful. I can’t wait to see how it looks when water is once again spouting from the bird’s beak…..

Both fountains have little lion’s heads decorating the columns under the cherubs and as I was sketching them I thought this is a bit odd, as they’re not part of the watery fishy theme (even the mouse and the lizard have their logical place in the natural surroundings of the rocky base). I’d like to know who decided lions would be a good idea. We’re they part of the commission, or did the Italian stonemason just find lions irresistible?

Dolphins, fish, goose (or swan), mouse, lizard and lions. And these are not the only curious creatures that inhabit the fountains – although the strangest ones of all are recent arrivals and are invisible to all of us except those who have smartphones and play Pokemon Go. I’m not even going to try to describe what all this means, except to say that I’ve had some fascinating conversations with Pokemon players who’ve been catching or battling with these peculiar creatures and I’ve learnt about how to hunt them, how to tend to them if they get hurt while battling, and even how to procure and incubate Pokemon eggs, until they hatch……

What next? I missed the actual moment of the dismantling and removal of the fountains, which was frustrating, but luckily I’ve been supplied with photographs. Now they’re gone, for the moment, but they’ll be back – with a full complement of curious creatures and restored to their former glory. I can hardly wait!
 
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.

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.

While the path is being laid in Dark Lane at the top of the lower field and the wall is being slowly and carefully repaired, work continues on the top terrace at the site where the new glasshouses and café will be – and although it’s not possible to get a really close look at the work, it’s always interesting to watch through the viewing windows in the wooden hoarding. There’s now a big heap of rusty old iron pipes and other bits and pieces lying in a twisted pile in the foreground – mostly Victorian heating pipes removed from what was probably a kind of service tunnel. Some of these look very interesting even in the battered state they’re in now – and some will definitely be conserved and kept for the museum, so I look forward to being able to examine them more closely some day.

The day I sketched these, some large red box like structures had recently arrived on site and I sketched one of these in the background as well, wondering what it was. Later I had the chance to ask and now I know that these are trench boxes. They’re lowered into a trench to stabilise the sides and make it safe to work at the bottom of the hole without any danger of the sides collapsing; they’re expandable, to fit different sizes of trench, and they’re also used as temporary shuttering to support cement poured in at the sides. Such a clever solution to a common problem.

The Victorians were as excited about the new technologies of their day as we are about ours – I think possibly even more so – and Cliffe Castle has plenty of examples of these materials and construction methods.A while ago I managed to get hold of a small piece of the original aggregate that lined the pond, so I could get a close look and examine it properly. I don’t know exactly what it’s made from and hope some day to find out. (There are unexpected black shiny bits in it that look like coal.) I dived into the internet to research Portland cement, and found out it was invented and patented in 1824, and sold in barrels – a hugely easier and much safer material to use compared with lime mortar, though expensive. But I can imagine that this would have been good stuff to use for lining the pond.

Whenever I sketch things like this I find myself asking questions and looking for answers (not always easy to find) – and the more I sketch the more interesting it becomes!

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.

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.

The starting point of the path that follows the route of Dark Lane, the ancient track that led out of Keighley in the direction of Utley

There are several ways you can enter Cliffe Castle Park, but most people don’t realise that if you come in through the Holly Lodge gateway that leads in from Spring Gardens Lane, you’re following part of an ancient road that used to continue straight on across the top of the lower field. This is Dark Lane, that led out of Keighley in the direction of Utley, and which is clearly marked on old maps. (It’s remembered as being an escape route during the Civil War – I imagine by defeated Royalists fleeing the battlefield and avoiding the main highway – but I don’t know if there are real records of this.)

The route is being restored as a path, and soon it’ll be possible to walk along it all the way across the top of the field until it joins the tarmac path leading down to Beechcliffe.

Dark Lane path behind the bandstand, under construction

The wall that runs along the edge of the field is what’s called a Ha-ha wall – a retainer for the bank behind it that was raised by Henry Isaac Butterfield to conceal Dark Lane which at that time was still a thoroughfare. Ha-ha walls (and sometimes ditches) were common features in Victorian landscaping where the idea was to have an uninterrupted view across your land without the sudden appearance of people walking about in it, or at the edge of it – and to stop these people being able to see you or your house. (The word Ha-ha is supposed to be what someone strolling about the estate would have said when they came across it unexpectedly, though whether it’s ‘ha ha! How amusing, what a good idea’, or ‘ha! ha! What’s this, who put that there, I nearly fell over the edge of the damn thing’ I can’t be sure).

Dark Lane wall at the start of repair work – and a wasps’ nest discovered

On the day the repairs to the wall started I went up to do a quick sketch and found work in one section had paused for a while because a wasps’ nest had been disturbed –  hidden deep in the wall where stones had fallen away. I stood back at what I thought was a safe distance and sketched with one eye on the wasps, and recorded the state of the wall, (above) and returned a week or so later to see how things were progressing (below)…

Repair work in progress

I was interested to see how the path itself is being made. I’d already spotted corrugated bands of rigid black plastic holding the hardcore in place peeping out at the end of a newly laid section, but a few days later I arrived just at the right time to see this black lattice being stretched out and arranged between the timber edges. It’s clever stuff – ribbons of plastic that are bonded together vertically at staggered intervals, so when you pull the ribbons away from each other the whole thing spreads out into a long flexible mesh which will stand up and make a sort of retaining grid of holes about 15 or so centimetres deep (I didn’t measure). I have no idea what it’s called and when I asked, the men laying it couldn’t remember either and told me they call it ‘egg-boxes’ – so for now, egg-boxes it is.

Constructing the path

Once the hardcore has been poured and shovelled in, it has to be tamped down firmly so I got another chance to watch the mechanical compactor in action – though one of these days I really must have a better look at this machine while it’s resting and sketch it properly. While it’s trundling up and down I find myself concentrating on the operator and the machine itself is still a bit of a mystery to me. Trouble is, there’s just too many interesting things to draw!

Compacting hardcore on the path in Dark Lane

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.

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.

The pond taking on its finished shape – still with some way to go. Click on the picture to view a larger image.

One of the advantages of sketching is that you can ignore things that get in the way and just pretend they’re not there. In this case, the metal security fencing that surrounds the site of the pond – it’s nice to be able to imagine what it’ll be like without it. I didn’t want to leave everything out though – the red water tank on wheels was a nice focal point and a lovely colour in the afternoon sun. 

The finished shape is looking good. When it’s completed I’m told the depth will be about half a metre; the edges will be fringed with rocks and whole site will be landscaped and planted. 

In the meantime I managed to catch a bit more of the work before the edges were completed; the hardcore needed more tamping down and shaping before the concrete went in:

….and this machine, which trundles slowly along doing a job more delicate than that done by the remote controlled trench roller – this, they call the Whacker Plate. Which is exactly what it does!

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.

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.

It’s been almost three months now since work started on the conservation project, and I thought I’d look back over what I’ve managed to sketch so far. Here’s a list of the series up till now – click on any of the headings to go straight to the post.

(1) Beginnings

(2) The Wall

(3) Glasshouses

(4) Old Public Toilet block

(5) Butterfield Topsoil

(6) The Viewing Windows

(7) Park Life

(8) The Pond

(9) All Weather Work At The Pond

At the same time I thought I’d round up some of my own favourite moments in drawings and bring them together in one place – so here are just a few, selected from what I’ve already posted. 

Right back at the start of the work it was all about dismantling and putting aside what could be saved to reconstruct later…

and there’s never been a shortage of interesting tools and machinery.

I’ve tried to keep ahead of what’s going to be demolished and record it before it’s gone – even something as humble as the old toilet block – though I enjoyed drawing this as much as anything because of the stunning view across the Aire Valley. (Click here to view a larger image)

I was out of sight when I drew this, half hidden in some bushes and peering through the wire security fencing – at this stage there were still no viewing windows in the wooden hoarding – and if anyone had seen me they might have wondered why I was interested in this huge mound of earth. In fact I was watched – but only by rabbits…..

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 …..who seem very comfortably adapted to the building site.

 The viewing windows are wonderful for watching the work on the top terrace (- and they’re also great for rabbit-watching.)

Events in the park have still been going on. The Fresh Aire music festival was a wonderful day out – great music, terrific atmosphere, and really interesting fringe activities; this was the Aire Valley Forest School making beautiful leafy crowns by weaving together twigs and flowers.

The pond has been excavated. Bit by bit different parts of the older structures came to light…

…and now the reconstruction work is well under way, with some interesting machinery – especially this one, that I love watching – the remote controlled trench roller.

This was the way the pond site looked not long ago before work started; now, every day things are changing. (Click here to view a larger image).

There’s still a huge amount of work to be done but it’s been an exciting start – and it’s going to be fascinating story to watch.

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.

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.