Archives for posts with tag: construction machinery
View from the glasshouse terrace

View from the glasshouse terrace

There are still things to do, but at last the sloping terrace in front of the glasshouses is no longer a building site full of heaps of reserved topsoil and piles of hardcore and gravel. This view that I sketched a couple of weeks ago is now already a thing of the past; now the carefully raked surface that was a glowing tawny and russet brown in the afternoon sunshine has been covered with turf and is a beautiful green lawn.

The diggers are mostly gone, and I miss the excitement of their sheer bulk, their lumbering unpredictable movements and the colour and animation they brought to the site. There are many things I regret not documenting better, and I wish I’d drawn more of all the different kinds of diggers and dumpers and cranes that have come and gone, all with their own specialities and peculiarities. I find all of them exciting.

Digger on the glasshouse terrace

Digger on the glasshouse terrace

I haven’t drawn any of them with the care and attention they deserve, either – and neither have I learnt anything about hydraulics or the engineering of heavy plant (I love the use of the word ‘plant’ when it refers to machinery – as when you see a sign saying ‘Plant Hire’ and you know it’s not about renting a rhododendron, or my favourite traffic-sign that warns of ‘Heavy Plant Crossing’. I would have loved to have seen a sign in the park saying ‘Heavy Plant at Work’. Wouldn’t that have been something.)

Plants of the more usual kind have begun to appear in the glasshouses and I hope to get the chance to see more of this soon – I just had the briefest glimpse through the door the other day. Cactii, succulents – all kinds of soft beguiling colours and strange and exciting shapes. At last architecture and planting is coming together, and what’s been just a vision and plans on paper is becoming something real…..

Trial planting of ferns for a 'rootery' in the glasshouse

Trial planting of ferns for a ‘rootery’ in the glasshouse

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’ve been following progress and sketching whenever and wherever I could. I’ve called the project Drawing The Work, and my sketchbooks and watercolours are now on display in Cliffe Castle Museum until Christmas. 

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:, at the Cliffe Castle Park Conservation Group website and on the Parks Service page of Bradford Leisure Services.