Archives for category: Public Parks and Gardens

​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.

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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. 

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.

The restoration project at Cliffe Castle is funded under an initiative called Parks For People. I’ve been sketching the work since it began last June, but when the building and landscaping is completed later this year, the project will continue – only from then on, it’s all about the life of the park as a living landscape, a place where people and nature can come together. I’ll carry on drawing. Instead of Drawing the Work I’m thinking of using the title Life in the Landscape – so from time to time titles such as this one will start to pop up here now. Hope you’ll want to keep following the story! 

Since work started last summer the population of the park has been swelled by a small army of workmen, but regular park-users still come every day, occasional visitors come from further afield, and everyone has their own reasons for being there and their favourite places to be. 

With work in progress, many of the figures in the landscape wear high-vis clothing, workboots and hard hats, but the regulars are there too, every day, doing whatever they do

It’s easy to see what some people are doing. I go there to walk, to sketch, and to take photos. I also go there to think, to clear my head, and to stop thinking (and I know plenty of other people do this too). I spend a lot of time just watching things; trees, sky, dogs (and their owners); birds, rabbits, squirrels; and the landscape of the Aire Valley. 

And a lot of the time I watch people, because that’s what a park is – a living landscape, with people doing what they do. 

The playground is one of my favourite parts of the park.

People of all ages, shapes and sizes come to the playground. There’s something there for everyone; smaller children bounce, swing, twirl, clamber, crawl and slide. Parents and grandparents push, guide, encourage, and watch; then they sit, and stand, and talk. Teenagers come there after school to hang out and chat as well as swing clamber and climb. And in the summer there’s the ice-cream van. (I love sketching here, but in case you’re wondering – in this location I never draw faces, and never make anyone recognisable, at least not if I can help it – particularly children. It’s an invasion of privacy.)

Other people come to walk their dogs, and play with their dogs, and to let their dogs play with other dogs, and to exercise….

The daily flood of school students on their way home through the park. (The figure in the distance, top left, is a dog walker and not someone having a tussle with a goat)

Children walk home from school. Families come to play cricket and football, and in summer to have picnics, to meet, to lie on the grass, to eat ice-cream, to hang out and to listen to music on the bandstand. 

And some people do things that are difficult to describe, but interesting to watch….

There are as many reasons for coming to the park as there are people who come there, which is what makes it such an interesting place to be. It’s life played out in the landscape. No wonder I never get bored. 

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 back in June 2016 and I’m following progress and sketching whenever I can. 

Councillor Sarah Ferriby being interviewed by a reporter from the Telegraph & Argus at the raising of the dome

At 16 minutes past 11.00 on Thursday 9th February – an extremely chilly morning and a red-letter day in the calendar of the restoration project – the dome was raised into position on the top of the glasshouses. No fanfares, no brass band, no speeches – but a great sense of accomplishment and perhaps a little relief that the whole thing went off without the slightest hitch. The 9.5 ton dome was lifted by a crane so immense I couldn’t get even half of it onto the page of my sketchbook, and I watched with excitement as it sailed upwards and was guided smoothly and expertly into place.

As everyone assembled in hard hats and high-vis vests I sketched the crowd, including Councillor Sarah Ferriby from Bradford Council (Environment, Sport, and Culture) as she was interviewed by a reporter from the Telegraph and Argus. I drew the contractors as they made preparations and at various times during the lift itself:

Guiding the dome into place; impossible to get the crane and the dome onto the page – things happening too fast

I wish I could have sketched the whole process from start to finish as it unfolded but the truth is I couldn’t decide whether I should try to do that, or take photos, or video the actual moment of lifting, and stupidly I should have spent more time paying attention and looking closely at what was going on. Besides, I knew I could rely on my friend Christina Helliwell who was there taking photos to get great shots – and of course she did.

Christina Helliwell taking shots of the crane as the dome is lifted

So with her permission, here are some of the highlights that I couldn’t draw, as captured expertly through her lens. 

Fitting the hoists. The dome has been nestled firmly into a square frame of steel girders to support it safely. Bright red hoisting straps are fitted to the frame (a nice touch, these red straps – probably brightly coloured to be clearly visible but they look very celebratory).

A tall order – the truly colossal crane with the dome prepared for lifting. There are two hydraulic lifts – one blue, one red – with platforms to raise workmen up to the top level so they can guide the dome onto the framework 

A delicate operation: the crane lifts and swings the dome forwards while guide ropes on two sides are held by men on the ground keep it from spinning

Airborne! The moment when guide ropes really come into play

Final adjustments, and it’s in position! 

So it’s up – and now clearly visible from many parts of the park, and even from the Skipton Road. A new part of the landscape, a milestone in the progress of the project and a hint of what’s yet to come. 

***This post was amended to correct a mistake I made wrongly attributing Councillor Ferriby’s areas of responsibility; it should have read Environment, Sport and Culture, not Sport, Education and Culture ***

SPECIAL OFFER! 
To celebrate the raising of the dome 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, get in touch through my 
Contact page and I’ll send you a link to the album and the password you’ll need to access it. The fee you’d pay to order is simply the cost of the prints from Photobox. 

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 back in June of last year and I’m following progress and sketching whenever I can.

Things are looking a bit drab and gloomy in the park at the moment. We’ve had some cold, sparkling days when the sun has shone for a few hours but a lot of the time the light has been dull, the colours flat, and to make matters worse many of the bushes and small trees in the borders have been bulldozed and uprooted in preparation for new planting. This is what gardening and landscaping has to include, I know, but nevertheless it all has to look a bit grim for a while. 

Having said that, the tangled roots of upended bushes can be very interesting things to draw…… 

But however much pleasure there is in the subtle greys and browns and purples of winter, there’s no denying that diggers and high-vis jackets brighten up the landscape. A few days ago I caught sight of something going on in Dark Lane and hurried over to see what was going on. 

I never get tired of watching diggers at work. This time it was all about trying to find the location of a broken land drain, a mixture of following up diagnostic information (supplied by a camera sent through the pipes) and experimental digging. The field began to look as if a giant mole had been at work. And in fact a digger does look very much like a huge animal that can do the work of five men in a tenth of the time, with an elegance that makes it look effortless. So the men were doing quite a lot of standing around, and peering down holes. 

I peered down too, into the drain they’d uncovered near the wall that’s sealed with an inspection cover that I’d never noticed as it’s usually covered with leaves. There’s an inlet pipe here letting in a constant flow of crystal clear water, and a couple of outlet pipes leading off in different directions down the slope of the hill. This must be just one of the many underground springs that flow beneath the surface down the side of the valley. Years ago there was a well down in the corner of the field near the Beechcliffe gate, and you can still see where it’s covered over. There’s a lot you can learn about both the past and the present if you take the time to look – and take every opportunity to be nosey, and peer down holes. 

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.

If you were to go up to the top of the park today and look at this view of the tower,  you’d see that already things have moved on from when I did this sketch a couple of weeks ago. It’s exciting to see the start of new building – even though at this stage the framework for the café row of glasshouses looked more like a monstrous white spider crouched next to the tower wall, all pale and ghostly in the dim light of late afternoon. 

I’ve peered through the viewing windows since then; the work is progressing fast but every time I’ve been there the windows were wet with condensation from morning fog and I couldn’t see well enough to draw. Winter sketching has its challenges. 

More to follow soon…. 

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.

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 in June and I’m following progress and sketching whenever I can.

A well made path is a lot more than just a convenient way to keep your feet dry when the grass is wet and muddy. When it’s well thought out, a good path can take you on a slow journey of discovery through a landscape that you thought you knew, and show you familiar things in a different way. 

I’ve walked across the top of the steep grassy slope between Moorside Wood and the children’s playground often enough, and I know what I’m going to see. But now a curved stepped pathway is being created here, curling up the hill and inviting you to discover what’s around the corner. Even though at the moment it’s still unfinished, already it’s easier to climb without feeling you might turn an ankle on the slippery grass and you can look around as you go without needing to keep one eye on what’s happening underfoot. So now, as you leave the wood, you can appreciate the pleasure of a slow winding journey and the anticipation of what’s going to unfold as you follow the path up the hill…and if you walk the other way the same thing happens. The path curves downhill enticingly towards the entrance to the wood. 

Elsewhere, other paths are getting a makeover.

The steep path that leads from the Beechcliffe entrance up to the playground and the tower is now being prepared for a new covering of tarmac; this was in a dilapidated state and it’ll be more enjoyable to walk on a good firm surface. When it rains hard, rainwater comes rushing down this gully and once or twice I’ve seen it looking like a raging torrent; no wonder the path had become so eroded. 

All the paths in the park are going to be repaired and restored – the main drive is already done. Slowly but surely things are taking shape, every day a bit more progress, and every day something new to see.



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.