And so, the end is near…

This Saturday evening, we have a retrospective event for the Multi-Story Water project at Kirkgate Centre in Shipley. The funded period for the project officially ends this month, and although I’m sure it will have various kinds of after-life (not least this blog, which I expect to continue updating from time to time), we are presenting an exhibition to mark this end point.

For the launch evening on Saturday, we’ll also be remounting two well-received live performances — Too Much of Water and Salt’s Waters — and screening selected short films. We do hope you can join us. Please do RSVP Ruth if you’d like to come, so we can estimate numbers. (Like everything we do, it’s free of charge.)

Just Say “No” to the proposed Milner Farm development

[note: this piece was originally posted on 5th May, but for technical reasons has had to be removed and reposted. The text remains as was.]

Ten days from now — on May 15th, from 10am — the Regulatory and Appeals Committee of Bradford Council will hold a public hearing to discuss proposals for an “Innovation Centre” to be built on the footprint of the existing farm buildings of Milner Farm, Bingley. We are all invited to turn up and register our views on the planning application, whether pro- or con.

Here is a short, musical message for the Committee’s consideration, recorded the other weekend at the Higher Coach Road Residents’ Group’s “1950s picnic”, for Saltaire’s World Heritage Weekend:

The words to the song, in case you can’t make them out from the video, run as follows:

“Welcome to our Airedale home / We’re glad to see you all here,

We’ll go and put the kettle on / If you’ll just sit yersen in a chair

There’s allus a welcome around, IF / You leave the place as you found it

Cos we’ll not stand no muckin’ around with / Our ‘andsome Airedale ‘ome.”

And then there’s a verse, newly composed, which you can make out for yourself…

“Welcome to Our Airedale Home” was written by singer-songwriter Eddie Lawler, “the bard of Saltaire” (seen here on the far left of the frame) way back in the 1970s, as a contribution to the road protest movement against plans to drive a dual carriageway straight down the Aire valley. That plan, which would have been disastrous for the local environment, was fought off by concerted community activism (and some famous fisticuffs at Shipley Town Hall). Eddie dusted the song off this year in the hopes that this latest plan to mess with the greenbelt could also be sent packing…

The Higher Coach Road Residents Group is one of a number of local groups (including the single-interest Milnerfield Action Group) that have consistently opposed the redevelopment plans. Milner Farm lies directly to the west of the HCR estate, past Bradford Rowing Club. The farm’s fields come down a gently sloping hillside, and stop close to the banks of both the River Aire and the Leeds-Liverpool Canal (which cross over each other at the Seven Arches aqueduct).

This farmland, and the woodland to the north which contains the ruined remnants of Titus Salt Junior’s country mansion, Milner Field House, was once all owned by the Salt family. Today, it belongs to the Hartley Property Trust, which has entered into a consortium with partners including Bradford University, to propose a development that it claims will be a “beacon of excellence” for Bradford.

The public, however, is overwhelmingly underwhelmed by these claims. An online consultation which closed a couple of weeks ago attracted a grand total of 1355 statements of opposition to the plans, and only 6 in favour (a truly pitiful total by any standards – do the developers have no friends at all??). And just today, a statement released by Bradford’s Planning Officer indicates that the official recommendation to the councillors on the Committee will also be one of opposition — on the basis of harm to the greenbelt. The statement is as follows:

The committee is asked to consider a planning application, ref. 15/05538/MAF to develop an Innovation Centre (sui generis use) on the site of Milner Field Farm, Gilstead, involving the demolition of certain existing farm buildings, refurbishment and change of use of other existing farm buildings and construction of new innovation centre buildings, the formation of a new car park and the undertaking of ancillary landscaping, drainage and access works and landscaping works to the wider farmland to provide for enhanced public access, including to the remains of Milner Field House, and ecological enhancement. The application is an EIA application, within the meaning of the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations and is accompanied by an Environmental Statement.

The proposed development is inappropriate development within the Green Belt. Although the development would be likely to result in significant economic benefits, and additionally some public and biodiversity benefits associated with proposed woodland planting and increasing public access to the site, including to the remains of Milner Field House, it is considered that these benefits do not clearly outweigh the harm the development would cause to the Green Belt.

The development would also cause other harm, in terms of substantial harm to the Saltaire World Heritage Site and erosion of its Outstanding Universal Value, harm to the historic landscape associated with Milner Field House, harm to the particular character of the local wooded incline landscape, potential harm to the integrity of the adjacent Trench Meadows SSSI and harm through a reduction in road safety at the canal bridge on Primrose Lane. When these other forms of harm are considered in combination with the harm the development would cause to the Green Belt it is considered that the benefits of the development/ other considerations put forward by the applicant clearly do not outweigh this cumulative harm.

Let’s hope the councillors feel inclined to listen to their officers and to the public.

Do no harm.


River stewardship at Higher Coach Road

One of the things I was going to blog about before our site got hacked recently (all sorted now) was the events of Saturday 8th April, along the riverside near the Higher Coach Road estate (west of Roberts Park). Our friends from the Higher Coach Residents Group joined with an initiative led by the Aire Rivers Trust to help clean up and look after their stretch of the Aire.

Here’s Stewart Gledhill, who recently stepped down as Chair of the Residents Group, kitted out in hi-viz provided by the specialists from the River Stewardship Company. The RSC (no relation of the Royal Shakespeare Company…) are a Sheffield-based social enterprise specialising in river maintenance, brought in by the ART to help with work on the Aire. (You can find out more about the RSC in our film from 2013, City of Rivers, under the ‘films’ tab on this site.) These people really know what they’re doing, but they rely on local volunteers to get it done. Hence the importance of goodwill and community spirit…

Here’s one of the RSC staff identifying where volunteers need to get stuck in. Between 30 and 40 volunteers turned out during the course of the morning to help — a really good turnout from the RSC’s point of view. So well done HCRRG for getting word out, and also other local groups like the Friends of Bradfords’ Becks…

Here’s some kit being prepared by another RSC person, at the bottom of Bowland Avenue. The house in the background, complete with childrens’ art work on the fence, belongs to HCRRG stalwart Ruth Bartlett, who also took these pictures. (Thanks Ruth!)

And so people got stuck in along the riverbank, with gloves, litter-pickers and rubbish bags… And of course, because some of the debris being targeted was hanging in riverside trees (still there since the flood of Boxing Day 2015!), the RSC also needed to crack out the dinghies so that people could access the trees safely from the water. Looks like this was quite an adventure for at least one young member of the community!

Ruth kindly shared with me some bits of video of the work with boats — shot from the footbridge over the river. Not much is happening in this first one, to be honest, but I really like the general atmosphere — the sunshine, the birdsong, the sense of endeavour… and Ruth’s voice in the background, trying to decide what’s going on. 🙂

This second clip shows volunteers pulling a big rug or section of carpet out of the river… presumably either more flood debris, or something that some unhelpful person has simply fly-tipped. With all the water in it, it was incredibly heavy to move, although Stewart quipped that there was probably a body in there too. Some black humour on a sunny day…

Anyway, well done to everyone who turned out and pitched in. You picked a great day for it! Really brilliant to see HCRRG and friends taking care of their riverbank and having some fun doing it. “Stewardship” is an off-putting word, but what it really means is just looking after things that matter to us. Taking care. There’s not enough caring in the world these days, so every little counts.

After the Flood

AFTER THE FLOOD kirkgate jpeg


The next event for Multi-Story Water is in March, in response to the recent events at Christmas and beyond. We welcome everyone who has been effected, has an interest or would like to attend a general conversation about the floods.

What happened? What could have been better? and most importantly to celebrate some of the excellent community spirit and initiatives that came out of such a devastating event. What would you like to see for the future of your town? Come and join us at the Kirkgate Centre with representatives from The Council, Canal & River Trust, The Aire and Debris Removal Initiative to name a few! As always all are welcome, there will be activities for children too. We look forward to seeing you all on March 20th.


Community conversations

A new voice joins on the infamous blog! It is my first piece so please bare with me, as I am not as literary as my counterpart the ‘Mad Professor’. In the months that have passed i’ve walked the streets of Shipley & Bingley, knocking on doors, holding community meetings, events and finding out what really matters to people. There are now three established community groups; Higher Coach Road River Link, Crosley Woods Action Group & Dockfield Community Group….


All areas wanted to get to know their neighbours more, some suggestions to achieve this were a sports day, BBQ’s, street parties & trips to the seaside, among others. In a previous blog Steve talks about our meadow meander on 11th July ’15, more recently Canal Connections have joined us from Leeds to get people back on the canals’. First to brave the open waters were the Crosley Woods Action group….

Canal Water       CW Canal Trip

Some were even convinced to put in some hard labour for the trip!

LockCW Guys Lock

Fun was had by all and a plan to develop a path from Crosley Woods flats to the canal was hatched! Now to more watery adventures, just last Saturday (24th Oct) The Dockfield Community Group embarked on a soggy trip up to visit Hirst regeneration site for some local inspiration!

IMG_0340 - Copy IMG_0347


“I’ve lived by the canal for 10 years and have never been on a canal boat.” All were happy to have the time to meet new faces and plan another trip in the summer, hopefully with some sun this time.


Interesting conversations were had by all, one aspect that kept cropping up was the impact on wellbeing that comes from being on and around the water. One resident (a teacher) enquired about using the boat for extra curricular activities and the local GP reflected on the mental health benefits of such an activity. Enough seriousness and back to the story….while gently floating along the canal we were atacked by disgruntled swan and their signets.


And now back over to Crosley Woods, on Monday (26th Oct) Canal Connections & some lovely volunteers from the Department of Work and Pensions spent a day up at Crosley Wood flats. They filled 15 bags of rubbish and cleared a seating area in the trees for local residents, we were also helped by two lovely young boys!


Our trusty local builder and volunteer put in a lot of hard work to build a fire pit for locals, this should be great for the spring and summer!


Have a great Halloween all! Next steps for all groups are Christmas parties. Ho, ho, ho!

Not-quite-natural wetland: a sneak preview at Hirst Wood nature reserve

The other day I was treated to a guided tour of Hirst Wood Regeneration Group‘s new nature reserve area (next to Hirst Lock at the bottom of Hirst Lane) by the group’s secretary Pauline Bradley Sharp. The reserve has its official opening on Saturday 12th September from 1pm — on the first weekend of Saltaire Festival. (The opening will, we hope, be visited by our promenade performance for the festival, Pleasant Valley Saltaire – which kicks off at 2pm from Saltaire Visitor Information Centre. See festival info.)

DSC_0006Here’s Pauline with most of the reserve area behind her – the more natural, wetland area to the left of the path, and the more orderly areas and fresh planting to the right. The whole thing is beautifully laid out, and while there are some finishing touches to complete before the opening, it’s already a wonderful space to wander around and spend time in.

DSC_0012This welcome board stands at the entrance to the site, providing a map … you can see how the Leeds-Liverpool Canal provides the northerly boundary, to what is essentially a hollow in the landscape, no use for building on, because of the way it collects water.

DSC_0009But as is clearly indicated by this second interpretation board — in the heart of the site, on the approach to the pond area — this area is brilliant for wildlife, in terms of birds, insects, an so forth. A perfect location for a nature reserve: all that was needed was a bit of planning and a bit of love.


Here’s the pond from a bit more of a distance, and a sign indicating all the sponsors and supporters who have contributed to the project (a lot of love, as I mentioned!). The whole thing got going because of a £25,000 grant that Pauline researched and applied for — the Biffa Award scheme (designed to create sites compensating for Biffa’s landfill activities elsewhere!). It’s the latest and most ambitious in a series of area improvement schemes that HWRG has pursued in the last few years. They’re an amazing example of what a community interest group can achieve when they put their minds and wills to something.

DSC_0005Here’s the pond area again from a bit more of a distance. Most of what you see in this shot is land that will be quite boggy in most seasons and weather conditions — although that’s not especially the case just now after a fairly dry summer. One of the things I like best about the nature reserve is how nature is being left to take its course in areas like this — but it never looks scruffy or uncared for.

Pauline tried to show me the French drain that feeds the wetland area. I hadn’t heard the expression before, but apparently its a stone-lined drainage channel that guides surface water in a particular direction downhill. We couldn’t find it amidst the undergrowth, but Pauline then led me out of the nature reserve site and along its northern perimeter…


Here she is walking down the edge of the lock’s bywash, with the nature reserve to the right. A little further along, she showed me the crack in the wall where water runs out of the bywash and down towards the not-quite-natural wetland area! Now, it wasn’t quite clear to me why someone would construct a French drain instead of just repairing the wall, but maybe it’s all about taking advantage of opportunities that present themselves…

That;s exactly what a lot of local groups and organisations have done, in getting involved with the nature reserve scheme. Pauline told  me about a sort of snowball effect that has occurred (more so with this scheme than any previous HWRG initiative): the more people have got interested and involved, the more this has drawn in others…

DSC_0004This little garden area, at the west end of the site, is a good example. It’s planted in the colours of Saltaire Primary School, because the school has adopted it and will take responsibility for it. In the background of the shot, you can see the little outdoor classroom area they’ll also be using. And just below is a mosaic the children have made as a covering for an old manhole cover that was found on the site, and that has to remain in situ. So they decided to beautify it a bit…


Pauline joked that she’s not good with art like this, though the tree, pond and flowers look fairly clear to me (good job kids!). In this short Youtube video the children explain how the made it — and there are also some images of the site before it began to be redeveloped. There’s quite a radical difference.

DSC_0010Everyone is welcome at the nature reserve — even bugs! This is one of two bug hotels on the site. The other one (pictured in this previous blog post with its maker, when it was still in his front garden) is more of a traditional ‘house’ shape, but this one’s more ‘modernist’ — reminds me of a Frank Lloyd Wright building I saw in America once…

DSC_0011And here is Pauline (on her side for some reason – can’t get this picture to stand up straight!) with a log bench that has been made out of one of the tree trunks that, very controversially, were cut down from Victoria Road in Saltaire. It’s good to see that a new use has been found for it, despite the upset caused to some.


And no, this sign isn’t a comment on the Saltaire trees being cut down (!). Posted on the gate of the nature reserve, it records the fact that — a few weeks ago — some “idiots” could apparently find nothing better to do with themselves than smash up parts of a site lovingly prepared by volunteers… I’ve left this to the end of the blog post because I didn’t want to sour the main story, which is one of real endeavour and achievement. And thankfully, nothing was broken that can’t be repaired or replaced. But there’s a salutary reminder here that a place like this can only survive if there really a will from everyone in the community to protect and preserve it. Come September 12th it will be open to everyone, at all hours. Still, I’m confident that, once people see the value of what is on offer here – as a place to visit, hang out, watch the world go by — it will indeed be respected and cared for. Let’s hope so, anyway…

My thanks again to Pauline, for this sneak preview and for her excellent company.






World Water Day: 22nd March

Sunday 22nd March is World Water Day (a date marked annually since 1993 by the United Nations). To mark the occasion, why not join us for a special evening event at Shipley’s Kirkgate Centre – from 7pm? We’ll be showing two films, and hosting a bit of an informal discussion about them. How does the water in our local area relate to the global scene?

imagesThe main feature is Watermark (2014), the award-winning documentary film full of stunningly beautiful images. It brings together diverse stories from around the globe about our relationship with water: how we are drawn to it, what we learn from it, how we use it. We witness how humans are drawn to water, from the U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach to the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, where thirty million people gather for a sacred bath in the Ganges at the same time. We see massive floating abalone farms off China’s Fujian coast and the construction site of the biggest arch dam in the world. We visit the barren desert delta where the mighty Colorado River no longer reaches the ocean, and the water-intensive leather tanneries of Dhaka. Watermark immerses the viewer in a world defined by a magnificent force of nature that we all too often take for granted.

MSW RED AR 07As a short “curtain-raiser”, we will also be screening a much more local film, Wading to Shipley (2013), which has been available to view on this site for a while, but which you might not have seen on a big screen…. It traces a journey along the hidden reaches of Bradford Beck as it flows towards Shipley, revealing a surprising landscape…

We do hope you can join for a drink, a chat, and a movie… We’d love you to join us!



Shipley Connected

We’re excited to announce that the Multi-Story Water project will be among the partners represented at Shipley Connected – a major community planning event coming up on Saturday 25th January… We’ll be contributing to the conversation and encouraging the sharing of stories, memories and hopes…  Do come along and have your say!

shipleyconnctd1And here’s the reverse side of the flyer…

shipleycnntd2This marks the start of a new partnership between Multi-Story Water and the Kirkgate Community Centre, which we’ll be developing over the next couple of years. The idea will be to work actively with Kirkgate to engage local neighbourhood groups in conversations about both their own immediate concerns, and the ways in which these concerns might (or might not!) tie in with a renewed focus on the uses, conditions and potentials of the local rivers and canal… waterways that have shaped Shipley’s history, and that continue to determine (in part) the shape of its communities.

Shipley River Day – this Saturday!

Don’t miss our special “Shipley River Day” event this Saturday, July 13th, at Kirkgate Community Centre!  There are activities for all ages, interactive discussions, questions asked and answered… Shipley sits at the intersection of two rivers and a canal, but what do these waterways mean to us today?

See our electronic flyer here for full details…

1pm   Family Adventure Walk:
A roaming exploration of the connecting pathways along Shipley’s rivers and canal – complete with storytelling, activities and a bit of history…Please note: the walk starts from the far end of the car park between McDonald’s and Aldi (off the Leeds Road), and finishes up at Kirkgate.

2pm Information Market and Creative Activities
An opportunity to find out more about a wide range of watery topics including:
• Riverside footpaths and cycle paths
• Boating and fishing
• Gardening and allotments
• History, heritage and architecture
• Water quality
• Wildlife and plant life
• Flood management
• Hydro power and energy
We’ll have a wide range of “experts” on hand to share their knowledge,
but they want to hear your views too… Everybody’s opinion counts!

Participating organisations include:

Aire Rivers Trust
Baildon Woodbottom WMC
Bradford Council
Sustainable Saltaire
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
Environment Agency
Friends of Bradford Beck
Shipley College

4pm “Question Time” event
Join us for this special debate event, focusing on the key river, canal and water issues for Shipley and Bradford at large… Put a question to the panel, or share your own views!

The Kirkgate Centre is at 39a Kirkgate, Shipley (right oppposite Shipley Town Hall).

Salt or Sweet? Ask the Doctor…

So. The other week I posted a blog entry (“Saltaire inside out”) about visiting Shipley College and seeing the students’ 3D digital modelling work inspired by our Multi-Story Water routes. Little did I know, when mentioning that the video modelling Saltaire’s Congregational (URC) church also featured the playful addition of Doctor Who’s TARDIS, that said TARDIS would be touching down in Saltaire only two days later…

DOCTOR WHO SERIES 7BThe new Doctor Who episode for Saturday 4th May was “The Crimson Horror”, by Mark Gatiss (ex-League of Gentlemen), in which the Doctor and Clara find themselves in Victorian Yorkshire… in a model industrial village called “Sweetville” that has apparently been set up to save the citizens of Bradford from the foul polluted air of the city… Go figure. Instead of Salt it’s Sweet, but the architecture is unmistakably Saltairey…

sweetvilleApparently the tower in the middle – which in other shots looks remarkably like New Mill’s Italianate chimney – is hiding a rocket ship which (for reasons which escaped me) blasts off at the end of the episode. My favourite bit in this gloriously loopy story was that “Mr. Sweet” turns out to be a doll-sized, bright red, pre-historic leach — a hideous succubus on the chest of Dame Diana Rigg’s batty old villainess character… Said leach has survived over centuries in the river because of the pollutants keeping it alive… Now it has cleverly developed a scheme to produce its own red venom on an, ahem, industrial scale, in order to turn workers into obedient zombies. If the venom backfires it just turns you into a crimson corpse, in which case you just get thrown into the canal for the local police to haul out later… So there you have it. River and canal, both being recognised as fundamental to the Saltaire… sorry, the Sweetville story…