Archives for category: heritage

As part of the Grand Opening Event at the end of July, I’m excited to say that Cliffe Castle Museum are going to be putting on an exhibition of all my sketchbooks and drawings from the Drawing The Work sketching project! 

Kirsty Gaskin the curator has come up with a really clever plan for the exhibit – to have a static display with the drawings and sketchbooks behind glass with the pages turned over day by day, but also to make two facsimile sketchbooks for people to handle and look through. I think this is a real brainwave, and I’m so lucky to have the museum putting all this into action. 
I’m absolutely delighted about the exhibit because I hope it can demonstrate how sketching can be a really unique and exciting way to record a project of this sort – and I’d love to encourage more people to do it. It’s been interesting to realise over the course of the restoration project just how how my sketching has had unexpected benefits – not just for me, but also for the Conservation Group, the museum, for workers on the site and for visitors to the park (- I’ll write a bit more about this later on in another post as it’s something worth exploring). 

While I’m announcing things – I want to say a big thank you to Yorkshire Urban Sketchers and to the international Urban Sketchers movement for all their inspiration, support and encouragement, because without them I would never have started any of this, let alone been able to carry it through. 

The Grand Opening is on Sunday 30th July, and will be an extraordinary Victorian themed day with some amazing attractions – follow the link to the announcement on Facebook and more details will be posted nearer the time. Posters are already up in the park. Put the date in your diaries!  

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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​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 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 tagged along 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 Grotto behind the Conservatory to learn some interesting facts about this strange and rather neglected part of the park (it’s a weird 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 obediently 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. (We exchanged cards, and I ended up using his with a picture of him on it to cover up the drawing I did of Claire as she delivered her commentary at the Grotto. I’ve been trying to sketch members of the group whenever I get the chance and so far I’ve only captured her from a distance so I thought this was an opportunity not to be missed, but it was such an appalling drawing I had to find a way to get it out of sight. I’m determined to do better soon.)

The next stop was at the other end of the Castle at the children’s playground, a good place to sketch from a slight distance without being too obvious. By now Claire was really getting into her stride; I was really enjoying her commentary and it was obvious a lot of other people were too… 

Then it was down the hill to Dark Lane and across to the other side of the park by the Holly Lodge entrance, and I stalked the walkers as they wound along Dark Lane path and then crept up on various individuals in the crowd. 

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, and by now I’d filled several pages of sketchbook and run out of steam. The next Heritage Walk run by the Conservation Group will be on Saturday 29th April, starting at 11.30 – so if you fancy a walk in the park, put the date in your diary! 

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 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.

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.

This week the dome is going to be raised and put in place on top of the glasshouse frame, and to celebrate this landmark event I’m making a selection of my sketches available to buy as prints, from Photobox.com. (You can see these collages here on my website.) If you’d like to know more, send me a message through my Contact page and I’ll send you a link to the album and the password you’ll need to access it so you can have a look. The fee you’d pay to order is simply the cost of the prints from Photobox. 

Over the last week the dome that will be the crowning centrepiece of the top stretch of glasshouses has been gradually assembled on site. It sits there looking huge (will it seem smaller when it’s up in the air?) and now it’s being glazed. The curved glass panels arrived carefully packed in lots of plastic wrapping and strapped to wooden pallets – and it’s toughened glass, not plastic, so what with the structure of the dome itself the whole thing is going to weigh 9.5 tons, which is going to need a big crane to lift it. All being well this is going to take place this Thursday, and needless to say I plan to be there to watch…..

Glazing panels being unpacked

I’m finding the dome itself a real challenge to draw – first there’s the difficulty of getting the curves and elipses right, especially hard when drawing standing up and in a smallish sketchbook – and then there’s the question of how to deal with the glass. I haven’t managed to get it anywhere near right but at least every time I draw it I learn something more about its shape and construction.

Dome and cupola partially glazed and almost finished

Watching it being raised by crane and lowered into position is going to be so exciting…….!

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.

Treasure means different things to different people. To me, anything that’s been buried and then rediscovered years later has a story to tell, and trying to unlock its history and understand what it is and how it got there makes it fascinating and uniquely valuable.

Intriguing old corroded metal objects dug up during the site clearance

These objects were discovered by metal detector while the top terrace was being cleared, before the diggers started work on the deep trenches for land drains and the foundations for the new buildings. As soon as I heard about their discovery I was dying to have a look and to draw them and I wasn’t disappointed – rusty, corroded, broken, and when I saw them, still encrusted with dirt – they all have a story. And if their full meaning is impossible to make out that only makes them more intriguing. It’s tempting to think of cleaning them up, but at the same time their present state is what they now are, and as the manager of the museum Daru Rooke puts it, ‘their mystery is tied up in their corroded uncertainty.’

Some of them are not in fact all that old (there’s a 2p piece there somewhere) but others are obviously from earlier times. Looking closely I could identify nails (some I thought possibly horseshoe nails) and a squashed thing that looked as if it might be silver – perhaps the tip of a cane? Others looked as though they were brass, but I couldn’t work out what they might be. 

Since my sketch they’ve been thoroughly examined by the museum staff and the collection includes ’19th century nails and brads; a disputed umbrella ferrule/ crushed cartridge case and some non specific fixings.’ So the squashed thing could be a cartridge case. I hadn’t thought of that. (I think I prefer umbrella ferrule…) And a brad, for those – like me – who are not familiar with the technical specifications of nails, according to the dictionary definition is: ‘1 : a thin nail of the same thickness throughout but tapering in width and having a slight projection at the top of one side instead of a head. 2 : a slender wire nail with a small barrel-shaped head.’

Very strange rocks dug up from the site of the old pond

Unlike metal, limestone doesn’t corrode. Bury it, and it won’t be very much changed when it’s dug up again, and these extraordinary rocks were unearthed  when the pond site was excavated. They weren’t entirely unexpected as they appear in old photographs, firstly making a craggy sort of edging around the original pond, and later forming the structure of a rockery when the pond was filled in. But perhaps no-one expected them to be quite so wild and strange, the way eroded limestone can be. They’ve now been removed from the site to be stored, ready in due course to be reassembled around the pond and this should be interesting. Another milestone to look forward to!

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.

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.