Archives for posts with tag: reportage

One of the things I like best about blogging is reading other people’s blogs. A favourite of mine is The Perimeter by photographer Quintin Lake, an ongoing record of his long-distance exploratory walk around the British Isles. I love his choice of subjects and the way he frames his stunning shots, and his often wry humour is a delight. I would love to be able to tramp about the countryside (or the urban environment come to that) noticing and recording what I pass – though a walk on this scale would always have been beyond me.

I started to play with the idea of doing a perimeter walk of Cliffe Castle Park, sketching as I went (this being the extent of what I’m realistically capable of, spread over days or weeks or even months) – but not sticking slavishly to the edges. Like Quintin I’ll move inwards a bit here and there where necessary. And to make things more confusing I’ve not begun with a location that’s an obvious place to start as this is not at one of the gates – though it’s very near to the Holly Lodge entrance.

Two girls sitting on the wall in the Sensory Garden in dappled sunlight, one playing guitar

The Sensory Garden is still, like so much of the park, a work in progress – but it’s taking shape. The pre-existing raised beds are being planted with herbs, shrubs and plants that all have particular things to offer in the way of texture, scent and colour so that the senses of touch and smell will be as much a part of the experience as the ability to see, and at a height where touching and sniffing are a more natural and easy thing to do. I love this idea, and I found it interesting on this warm sunny afternoon that two girls had chosen to sit on the edge of one of the raised beds amongst the plants in the border, rather than finding a bench. Actually I notice this not-sitting-on-a-seat is quite a common thing in the park, and it struck me as I was drawing that I often do it myself – choose a spot, irrespective of whether there’s something there that’s designed for sitting on. It has to do with knowing where you want to be, I suppose. Anyway, there they were, in dappled sunlight, playing and singing.

Below the wall where the girls were sitting is the site of what will one day be an orchard – the top part of the enclosed field that stretches from the Sensory Garden down to the Skipton Road has been planted with young fruit trees, helpfully tagged with labels that include QR codes so that I was able to discover that this one is a young Bloody Ploughman. Perhaps another addition to the sensory experience will be taste! A little further down the field and stretches of grass have been left uncut to be little oases of wildflowers (this whole field has in the past been allowed to grow as a natural wildflower meadow) and there are grasses and clover, poppies and dandelions, dock and sorrel blowing in the breeze and the buzz of flying insects.

This journey of mine will be sporadic and most likely non-linear – I’ll probably jump about from place to place without following a regular clockwise or anti-clockwise route – but it’ll take me to parts of the park that I visit less often, and also demonstrate what an extraordinarily varied place it is. For its size it has an enormous range of different kinds of place – it’s truly a park of many parts.

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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. 

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 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. 

The site of the pond before excavation. Click on the picture to view a larger image.

Work has begun on the site of the pond, and knowing it was going to start any day now I sketched a panoramic view of it before work started. It’s a long, lozenge shaped area and before any clearing or digging began only the shaped edging stones that formed the rim of the round pond gave a hint of what lay beneath. Just a few of these were visible, close to the path.

This is not the first time I’ve sketched this part of the park; in October last year I recorded the trees that were going to be felled as part of the conservation project and three of them stood here, on the site of the pond. There were others, including a redwood, that went earlier but unfortunately I missed the chance to sketch them before they came down.

My understanding of the history of the pond is murky and incomplete – though hopefully it may become clearer over time. To get a better idea of what the site must have looked like at the time of the Butterfields I copied a plan from the 1870s in my sketchbook, and found myself with more questions than answers.

Historic plan of the pond, with questions and mistakes. (The path should be shown going all the way round the perimeter.)

It seems likely there was a fishpond here in the gardens of Cliffe Hall, the house that later became Cliffe Castle, and this pond was transformed into what was really a small ornamental lake around 1878, when the Butterfield family were doing an extensive programme of building, remodelling and landscaping. There was a fringe or border of large rocks mixed with decorative planting, and four magnificent carved marble urns on plinths that stood along the edge facing the house. (I’ve seen a photograph).

Later only the central, round part of the pond was filled with water, and up until the 1950s this would have been deep as it was referred to as a swimming pool, but the whole structure fell into a state of disrepair and at some stage must have been partially filled in and made much shallower – to the depth that’s now been uncovered – which would explain why reminiscences include memories of people falling into it when drunk, or of children wandering into it, and not coming to harm (as far as I know). Please, if you have any stories you’d like to share, or if any of these facts need correcting – do leave a comment at the bottom of this post.

The round central pond revealed – quite shallow but with the bottom intact and not broken up. The hole presently being dug out at the side of the round pond is going much deeper.

Excavation and removal of soil from the pond, with diggers and dumpers.

The large shaped edging stones and the huge ornamental rocks that were used to construct the rock garden that filled in and covered the site in the 1980s have been removed for storage and conservation, and diggers and dumpers have been excavating. 

There’s a lot more to do here before the whole site is properly excavated and cleared and it’s fascinating to watch – and clearly visible as the work is going on behind wire mesh screens. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next!

Postscript: this post was amended on the 15th August to include the sketch map with notes.

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.