Bluebells, bikes and Hockney

This time last week I was travelling back from Yorkshire, after a fabulous bank holiday weekend catching up with ‘old’ friends. The ‘green’ highlight of the weekend was a walk on the Bolton Abbey estate, starting at the Bolton Priory ruins, a 12th century Augustinian monastery overlooking the River Wharfe.

Bolton priory ruins on the edge of the River Wharfe, Yorkshire Dales

Starting point: Bolton priory ruins

At this point, not being the most sure-footed of individuals, I opted for taking the bridge over the river. For those less concerned about getting their feet wet (aka, my husband!) the alternative is to hop across 57 stepping stones (some, a little wobbly!).

Bolton Abbey stepping stones on River Wharfe

Stepping stone route for the more sure-footed walker

From the other side of the river, we followed an uneven path up into Strid wood, a site of special scientific interest and one of the largest areas of acidic oak woodland in the Yorkshire Dales. At this time of year, it is still carpeted with bluebells, and the trees and river banks were alive with birds.

A carpet of bluebells, in Strid Wood, Bolton Abbey

A carpet of bluebells in Strid Wood

At river level we spotted a dipper bobbing up and down in its search for food among the rocks, while pied flycatchers and grey wagtails skimmed the surface of the fast-flowing waters in their quest for insects.

Dipper and pied flycatcher

Down by the river: dipper (top) and pied flycatcher (bottom)

Further along the path, someone had left several piles of seed out next to a bench, and we reaped the benefit of their thoughtfulness with an impromptu photography session, as nuthatches, coal tits, blue tits, great tits, robins – and even mallards – swarmed over the easy pickings. And we didn’t get much further down the path before we glimpsed a treecreeper inching its way up a rough-barked oak.

Woodland birds (from top left clockwise): nuthatch; coal tit; great tit; treecreeper

Woodland birds (from top left clockwise): nuthatch; coal tit; treecreeper; great tit

We passed the ‘Strid’ itself, a narrow section of the River Wharfe where the water gushes with extreme force through a deep chasm of rock. The strid gets its name from the Anglo Saxon ‘Stryth’, meaning tumult or turmoil.

The frothing waters of the Strid at Bolton Abbey

The frothing waters of the Strid at Bolton Abbey

After a brief (uncomfortable!) rest further upstream, we crossed the river at the turreted aqueduct. The impressive castellations of this elaborate bridge hide the pipe that carries water from reservoirs in the Dales to the conurbations of West Yorkshire.

Rest stop by the river, Bolton Abbey

I could do with a cushion!

We then headed back downstream along the opposite bank, back to the start of our walk, where we tucked into hot chocolates and fudge cake. Yum!

‘The arrival of spring’

As for the rest of the weekend, given how close we were to Saltaire, it would have been rude not to check out the work of local artist David Hockney. His only permanent collection in the UK is exhibited at Salts Mill, a former textiles factory built by Sir Titus Salt in 1853. It is now a complex of art galleries, bookshops, shopping outlets and cafes across several floors.

Road across the Wolds, 1997, by David Hockney

Road across the Wolds, 1997, by David Hockney

The star attraction at present, rather apt for the time of year, is David Hockney’s collection of 49 five-foot framed pictures, all drawn on an iPad, entitled ‘The arrival of Spring’. Each picture depicts a specific day between 1st January and 31st May, 2011, and are a detailed study of the change in scene on Woldgate, near Bridlington, East Yorkshire, during that period.

The Arrival of Spring by David Hockney

The Arrival of Spring by David Hockney

The introduction to the exhibition summed up how I feel about 15minutesofgreen and the time I spend in the natural world:

These pictures depict fleeting moments of intense beauty, reminding us of the importance of – and the joy we can get from – looking very closely!

My Hockney favourites

My Hockney favourites

Saltaire village

Titus Salt also built housing, a church, schools and almshouses for his work force, and we enjoyed a meander around the fascinating Victorian industrial village of Saltaire, which is now designated a world heritage site and well worth a visit.

I loved the Saltaire lions: ‘Determination’ and ‘Vigilance’ are positioned outside the former factory school, while on the opposite side of the road ‘War’ and ‘Peace’ watch over the Mechanics’ Institute (Victoria Hall).

'Determination' Saltaire lion. Originally designed by the sculptor Thomas Milnes of London for the base of Nelson's column in Trafalgar Square. After he had completed the models the commission was taken out of his hands and Sir Titus Salt snapped them up instead

‘Determination’ Saltaire lion. Originally designed by the sculptor Thomas Milnes of London for the base of Nelson’s column in Trafalgar Square. After he had completed the models the commission was taken out of his hands and Sir Titus Salt snapped them up instead

Lots of lycra

So we’d experienced the nature, wallowed in the art, and nearly come to blows over politics at the dinner table (but that’s another story). And so to the sport, as our visit just happened to coincide with the Tour de Yorkshire, one of the biggest cycling events in the UK this year. We positioned ourselves along the high street in Ilkley, where an over-excited crowd had gathered.

The anticipation of the crowd, high street, Ilkley

The anticipation of the crowd, high street, Ilkley

After a lot of waiting, we saw … a lot of bikes … going very fast! Blink and you missed them.

A blur of lycra

A blur of lycra

I didn’t manage to get a glimpse of Bradley Wiggins (the only cyclist I stood a chance of recognizing), but I cheered on the rest of the peloton, and clapped extra hard for the stragglers further back (I know that feeling!).

Riders in the Tour de Yorkshire, Ilkley

Riders in the Tour de Yorkshire, Ilkley

Within a couple of minutes, they’d all gone past and I reverted to the serious business of admiring the town’s flower displays, which were simply stunning.

Ilkley flower display

Ilkley flower display

The flower beds of Ilkley were bursting with colour

All in all, an excellent bank holiday. Thanks to Steve G for organizing!

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