Archives for posts with tag: Cliffe Castle Park

Fallen leaves

The days are so short now that the light is often fading by the time I get up to the park, so I’m watching where I put my feet (it’s often muddy) and with my eyes down what I mostly see is the ground. But this is often the best place to look for the most colour and beauty on a dark misty afternoon. I can’t help picking up leaves one after the other just to marvel at them – whole trees look spectacular when they turn gold, as some do – but individually every leaf is a world of beauty. There are so many of them lying around everywhere, making a nuisance of themselves on the paths and lawns and having to be raked and swept up – and yet each one taken separately is so incredibly lovely and every one unique.

Most of the trees have lost their leaves now, and this year some never turned the truly glorious colour we hope for in Autumn anyway, but near the Beechcliffe entrance there are three handkerchief trees that always turn a wonderful golden yellow, and these still glow in the fading light, so yesterday I did a fast sketch of one of them before the cold made me move on.

Handkerchief tree

I did a brisk walk, round to the pond, (enjoying the fountains) up to the Castle (a quick look at the animal houses that are still not finished, but it was too dark there to draw) and over to the playground where there were a few mothers, hands in pockets and coats zipped and buttoned, with children all open coated and un-gloved running about and climbing on things with never a thought for the cold.

Mothers in the playground

It may be damp and cold (and the forecast is for it to get colder) and the afternoons may be short and dark, but out there in the park there’s colour and life in the landscape. 

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For a long time now I’ve been thinking of ways I could share the experience of walking about in the park with a sketchbook – not just by showing other people what I do but by giving them the chance to do it themselves, and get to know how it feels. Some months ago I was excited to get together with Louise Garrett – a sketching friend and fellow member of Yorkshire Urban Sketchers – and we started to plan ways we could do this. Last Thursday we ran our first experimental Sketchwalk.

We wanted to make this a welcome-all-comers occasion, something that would be enjoyable for people who’d never sketched before as well as for more experienced sketchers, so we worked out a programme we hoped would be good for everyone and invited some volunteers to come and try it out.

One of the best ways I know to relax and warm up your eye-hand co-ordination and to have some fun is to do some blind contour portrait drawing. You make a hole in a piece of paper and stick this over the pen you’re using, covering your hand so you can’t see the paper you’re drawing on, and you then draw ‘blind’, simply by looking at your subject and feeling your way. The good thing about this is that not even an experienced sketcher is going to be able to make a slick clever looking drawing, but amazingly it seems that everyone always makes a hilariously half-way recognisable portrait – and it’s a great ice-breaker. 

Blind contour portraits

We used ordinary A4 office paper and smooth-flowing ballpoint pens, resting on clipboards, and after we’d done a few of these sketches and laughed at the results we trooped off into the park to do some outdoor sketching using the same materials.

Sketching standing up – one of the things we wanted to help people feel comfortable with!

The café terrace is a great place to sketch from

There are some wonderful new sketching locations now – the glasshouse terrace has some great vantage points. I was a bit worried that we were throwing beginners in at the deep end here, (figuratively speaking) but we suggested starting with several quick sketches before meeting up again to compare notes and it turns out that blind contour drawing really does the trick – it makes you realise that you can sketch something without being worried about what happens on the page, and you’re more inclined to look a lot more at the subject and less at what your pen or pencil is doing. Amazing! 

All kinds of things to draw – quick sketches on the Glasshouse Terrace

We weren’t short of interesting things to draw. I started by sketching part of the castellated top of the Tower House with the delicate white fleur-de-lis ridge decorations of the glasshouses silhouetted against the old dark stone (I added the colour later when I got home to emphasise the dark-against-light, light-against-dark) but I soon became distracted by watching the rest of the group and I started sketching the sketchers. It was a cold day and luckily everyone had dressed up properly – Louise had even come wearing two pairs of trousers, which says a lot about what sort of sketcher she is – absolutely determined to get out and stay out in all weather. 

My page of quick sketches on the café terrace

She’s a phenomenally fast sketcher, too – maybe this helps her to keep warm as she can move more quickly from place to place. I can’t draw for longer than 10 minutes or so at a time without taking a break, and I can’t get anything like as much down on the page as Louise can. It’s fascinating to watch her drawing at breakneck speed with intense concentration.

A few of Louise’s sketches… 

and one with a splash of added colour!

After a while I paused to move to a different viewpoint and couldn’t resist doing a bit of landscape sketching. This is the view across Airedale from the Glasshouse terrace – 

When I got home I splashed some paint onto it as an experiment – this is just ordinary typing or printing paper, not designed for watercolour – but apart from the fact that the paper crinkles like crazy it is possible to get some colour down in quite an interesting way. 

We deliberately used simple, basic, cheap paper because we wanted everyone to see how you can make perfectly satisfactory drawings on paper like this and not be intimidated. Sketchbooks can make you feel a bit self conscious – and loose paper sheets are better for sharing and looking at drawings at the end of a session. Smooth flowing ballpoint pens are good for this kind of sketching, too – you can make strong dark lines and faint ones equally easily, and there’s no question about whether or not to rub something out so that’s not a decision you have to make.

At the end of the morning we gathered back indoors for tea and cake, to warm up and talk through what we’d done and how it had gone.

In just a morning there’s a limit to what you can hope to do, and of course some people had ‘how do I do such-and-such’ questions. We kept it simple, and I hope there will be other opportunities to expand and grow on what we were doing, which was very basic. 

We learnt a lot from this trial run. Even though the group was small we had a good cross-section of people with very different levels of experience and got some very helpful feedback. Our aim was simply to help people feel comfortable about sketching in the park and to see how drawing helps you to focus, notice things, and put everything else on hold for a while – and everyone agreed that the sketchwalk did all that, so together with having a very enjoyable morning, I’d say that counts as a success. There may be some things we’ll do a bit differently when we do this again, but I think it’s a good start – and we’re looking forward to the next time! 

Today the ongoing work in the park was merely a backdrop to a very important annual event, and I made sure I was there to meet some of the visitors and to try to sketch a few very quick portraits. 

Teddy bear sunbathing

The sun shone. In fact it was hot, which perhaps explains why a lot of bears simply lay around on picnic blankets, in various bear-like positions. Though some adopted more thoughtful and even strenuous poses…. 

Short haired bear doing yoga

I’ve often wondered if bears are interested in yoga. This one seemed to be holding a pose with a placid and peaceful demeanour and I couldn’t help thinking this would be a good addition to a picnic. Teddy bear yoga – or perhaps teddy bear Tai Chi? I’d find a bit of practice of that sort in the company of teddy bears very calming – they’re even less stretchy than me, and very much better at acheiving peaceful stillness. Something for next year? 

Teddy in a pushchair

This is Jasper (I know that by his necktie) who was one of the few bears I saw to have acquired a really comfortable seat. No doubt he was going to have to ride home in less style when his owner reclaimed the buggy but in the meantime he was reclining contentedly and observing the crowds queueing for balloons. 

Fluffy grey Me to You bear

And by the time I left some bears like their young owners were looking a bit sleepy…. some were getting squashed into carrying bags or tucked under arms or into the luggage carriers of buggys. This is Baby Bear, a fluffy grey long haired Me To You bear, waiting to be picked up and taken home. 

I took my own bear along to see what was happening. He’s been with me for almost as long as I can remember (off and on – over the years he’s had sabbaticals and gone on expeditions and adventures of his own; at one time he was a remedial teaching assistant) so he’s getting to be a venerable age. People were duly impressed by this – he must have been the oldest bear there. 

Bear accompanying me sketching

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 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…..

wp-1468452030357.jpg

 …..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.

Sunny summer afternoons – or even not-so-sunny afternoons – are when the park is at its busiest and even now, with the work of the conservation project in full swing, life in the park goes on as always. A little disruption here and there, but for the most part people are enjoying everything as usual.

The bandstand (due for replacement as part of the project) is the stage for regular Sunday afternoon concerts and before it’s demolished I did a very quick sketch, just for the record, of the shape of the building itself. It’s efficient as an amplifier of sound, but it’s seen better days.

I’ve listened to some good music here this summer and enjoyed sketching musicians and spectators, but this last Sunday the bandstand exploded into life when the Fresh Aire music festival used it as the main stage for some terrific bands; this sketch below was Wolf 359, a symphonic heavy-metal rock band who just fizzed with energy and belted out a great dose of powerful sound. I had a great time drawing them:

This year there was a programme of acoustic music in the Conservatory, curated by Mike Green from Sound Of Bradford; I just managed to catch Mila Lee, the last act of the afternoon and I’m really glad I did – she’s an amazingly talented musician and unbelievably only 15 years old. In fact I later discovered that all of these performers are still in their teens – as Mike Green says, the talent to be found amongst young people in our area is simply amazing.

There was plenty more going on than the music though; lots of people in the crowd were wearing beautiful flowery-leafy crowns which were being created throughout the day by industrious pairs of hands – and very skillfully – by the Aire Valley Forest School (who also had a stand about bee-keeping, and I wish I’d had time to have a look at that). I spent a peaceful half hour hidden behind a tree watching and being amazed by their dexterity, marvelling at how they were creating these lovely leafy tiaras out of twigs and stems and flowers.

The park is a wonderful place all year round but it does come to life in the summer, and this year has been one of the best. The Fresh Aire music festival was a huge success, and a massive achievement by the group of voluntary organisers who plan, master-mind and execute it – all thanks to Kaya Kaka Capper and her team. Wow!

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 and at the Cliffe Castle Park Conservation Group website.  

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.

Windows in the hoarding on the park side of the site. The bank is covered in a glorious mixture of wild flowers and regenerating rhododendrons which look as if they’re going to recover; back in the day when the Butterfields planted these terraces the rhododendrons covered the entire bank in a wide semi-circle right behind the castle – a sweeping backdrop of colour in early summer. It must have looked amazing.

The viewing windows are in! I can now peer through holes in the hoarding that protects the site and see what’s going on behind the scenes. Which is …..well, to be honest, not much more than a certain amount of digging and earth moving, finishing off the land drains and generally organising the site for the next stage of work. 

The rabbits are even more at home now, hopping about amongst the pallets piled with conserved stone. Each pile has been carefully saved and labelled and secured with plastic film. Every now and then while I was looking through the viewing window a rabbit would appear, enter stage left, and hop leisurely across my field of vision before exiting, stage right.
Thoughtfully there are three windows, two at adult height and a lower one for small children (which would be ideal for rabbit-watching as well as looking at diggers. Something for everyone.)

The day I drew these was a bit challenging because of the weather; I’d been determined to get there but the clouds looked threatening, and as soon as I started sketching it began to rain and I had to draw holding my sketchbook and an umbrella in one hand and a pen in the other. A bit different from the week before, when we’d had some really hot days. I’d been wondering what it felt like working on the site under the hot sun and wearing high-viz jackets and protective helmets. 

The helmets stay on but the jackets are T shirts and the long trousers give way to shorts. Much more comfortable.

More updates on the work, photos, plans, and background information at: https://m.facebook.com/Cliffe-Castle-Heritage-Lottery-Bid-304048249751094 and at the Cliffe Castle Park Conservation Group website.  

As I can’t see what’s happening behind the security hoarding that now surrounds the site at Cliffe Castle (we’re still waiting for viewing windows) I thought I’d turn my attention to the old toilet block above the children’s playground, which will be the next thing to be demolished after they’ve finished taking down the café. I stood beside the tower to sketch, and the view across the Aire valley from here is stunning. 

I made a lot of mistakes in the drawing – quite a lot of the proportions aren’t right and there’s something very wrong going on with the roofline of the extension at the back, but I’ve learnt that things that go wrong with urban sketching are just as valuable as what goes right, or perhaps more so. You learn by making mistakes, and I now understand a lot more about the structure, though I’d like to know more.

This little building is in a sorry state, but because of that it’s full of bits of delectable rich urban decay, and I had a wonderful time taking photos of the rusty old iron downpipe that has gorgeous peeling layers of different shades of blue paint (why are old drainpipes hereabouts often painted this lovely turquoise blue colour?) and the extraordinarily beautiful iron bolt on the railings that secure the entrance. I know this project of mine is a sketching record but there are times when only a photo will do.

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.

More updates on the work, photos, plans, and background information at: https://m.facebook.com/Cliffe-Castle-Heritage-Lottery-Bid-304048249751094 and at the Cliffe Castle Park Conservation Group website.