Archives for posts with tag: landscape gardening
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.

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