Our next stop, shortly after Shipley, was Saltaire.   We’d heard about this “model village” that was now a world heritage site, but we weren’t prepared to be as awestruck as this. The canal cuts right through the middle of the site and were were graciously permitted the grand total of 6 hour mooring along side the famous mill.

Saltaire Mill
Saltaire canal passage

Frustratingly there’s loads of mooring with rings immediately before this little section but there’s a concrete shelf just below the water level which means you can’t get close enough to step off safely. But gripe over, we took our 6 hours then found an idyllic spot about 1/4 mile beyond which meant we could stay up to 14 days and really absorb the atmosphere of the place.

Mooring below Hirst lock

Saltaire grew out of the vision of Titus Salt, entrepreneur and philanthropist. A very sucessful local business man, manufacturing cloth in Bradford, he naturally wanted to expand his empire. Being an upright Christian man with a strong social conscience, he was concerned by the squalid living conditions of his workforce.  Seeing the ecconomic potential of both canal and railway, he set about building a new mill along the banks of the River Aire. And so in the 1850s “Saltaire” was born.

Looking over the allotments on Victoria street

A purpose built town,”model village” where the whole production of cloth, from fleece to fabric, was done under one, albeit very large one, roof.  And the 4000 employees rented well built houses with amenities for their health and wellbeing. I suspect it was still a very hard life. There were strict rules about moral conduct, but Sir Titus recognised the financial benefit of caring for his community, and it was undoubtedly a better life than living in the slums.

backsteets of Saltaire
One of the back streets

The town was meticulously planned, generally speaking the higher up the ladder you climbed, the more space you got. There were libraries, schools parkland and playing fields, even a hospital and alms houses for those unable to continue working. Strangely though, the bath houses were never accepted, so they were converted into more living accomodation.

Victoria Street

Sir Titus demanded the very best and in true victorian style the buildings were ornately decorated. He managed to obtain the 4 lions that were originally intended to stand at the base of Nelsons column in London (The Trafalgar Square commission had been given to another sculptor after Milnes had made the Saltaire lions, hence the reason they were looking for a home.)

The Saltaire Lions

But perhaps one of the most impressive buildings is the congregational church, which is still an active place of worship. And very beautiful inside.

Saltaire church
The congregational church

Nowadays Saltaire has expanded and is home to more tourists than residents. As the British cloth industry was taken over by cheaper forgein imports, the grand mill fell into decline and disrepair. In the 1980s Johnathon Silver bought the mill and created a thriving environment for artists, visitors and small businesses. The most famous collaboration was with the artist David Hockney, another local man, who’s works are showcased in the many galleries. Hockney’s work is contemporary and not to everyone’s taste, certain aspects of his work are quite simplistic at first glance. But I enjoyed the grandeur of seeing whole series of large pieces displayed together.

Hockney exhibition

It wasn’t all expensive gallery, there was some fascinsting historical information and artifacts on display, in fact with several eateries, something for everyone.

Some of the old machinery

Mum was able to come down by train to share some of my explorations. We discovered 2 craft shops just off the main street, Barley Crafts and the Craft house, insentive enough to return, especially as the ladies at Barley craft insisted I stopped and had a cup of tea with them.  I was able to talk to people who had worked in mill before it closed production and had real living memories of how it was their grandparents day.

The Craft house pigs and Barley Crafts

Then we pretended to be promonading Victorian ladies and went to meet Sir Titus in Roberts Park.

sir Titus Salt
Sir Titus Salt in roberts Park

And his alpacas, Sir Titus was instrumental in popularizing worsted cloth made with Alpaca.

Saltaire alpacas

And finished the day with a traditional “Yorkshire Rascal”, now where did Eric go…

Enjoying a Yorkshire Rascal

The town is now a recognised World Heritage site, recognising the concept and the architecture. We spent several days just wandering around and left knowing there was still more that we hadnt seen.

Looking eastwards between the mills

We might get to see more of Saltaire next year because a film crew was making a feature for Netflix charting the rise of the Football association.

Not sure which century we’re in

Leeds, a creative city

I think Yorkshire is a very creative county, but there’s art and there’s art. Contemporary art seems to dominate Leeds at the moment, I like to think I’m quite open minded and able to see something good in most things. Sadly a lot of what I saw just made me shudder and laugh at the pretentiousness of it all.  One of Leed’s famous sons is Damian Hirst, (Although he was actually born in Bristol). His work is being showcased across the city this year, but in all honesty I’d rather it wasn’t. One of my favourite phrases is “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”

“Hymn” by Hirst

But each to his own, you might think differently.  I saw several of the sculptures around town but I don’t consider them worthy of gracing my pages. What I did like about the art in Leeds, is that it is all so accessible. The museums and galleries are free entry and interesting and even though I considered a lot of what I saw a waste of space. I was glad there were no obstacles to me coming back to look closer.  And I will admit I did like the juxtaposition of the sheep in formaldehyde standing in a room full of old oils.

Black sheep with gold horns by Hirst

Funnily enough most people ignored it, whilst I enjoyed watching the people. There was one piece I liked in the Leeds Art Gallery, a human form created by Anthony Gormley. The Brick Man was a scaled down model of the 180 feet version submitted as part of the regeneration for Leeds railway station. It was to be hollow allowing people inside, sadly it didn’t get planning permission.

The Brick man by Gormley

Next door to the LAG was the Henry Moore institute which I was really looking forward to seeing. But alas, it was full of installation exhibitions by other artists which left me cold, including a room with 3 trestle tables holding blocks of Shea butter, 2 were “representative”, 1 was “interactive.” I tentatively stuck my finger into the greasy mess and made my mark.. then I went off dutifully to wash my hands before I got a bill for millions for having touched something I didn’t realise was art.

A pile of Shea butter…?

This one, by the way, was one of the artists efforts and not to be touched…..
As I said not all of the art around Leeds was rubbish. This outdoor installation was a representation of flying birds made of of plastic milk bottles. I liked this one.

Flying milk bottle birds

But the very best and most enjoyable were the animated Dinosaurs lurking in various shopping centres for the summer season.

Watch out the dinosaurs have cone to town

Eric and I obtained our Jurassic trail card and dutifully tracked down all five of the monsters and got our stickers and stamps. We like art that is interactive and touchable and these marketing gimmick dinosaurs are no less worthy than Damian Hirsts obscenities. Yet for all my inability to comprehend a lot of what I saw, I still consider our stay in Leeds to have been enjoyable and thought provoking. Having got the ball rolling

I am happy to say I remain open minded and am willing to look at most things.

Arriving in Leeds

We like to think of ourselves as country bumpkins at heart, we love mooring in the middle of nowhere surrounded by wildlife and the incessant birdsong. But oh boy do we get a buzz when we enter a big city, and Leeds was to prove no different. Canals by their nature, being part of the industrial transit system, tend to occupy the backwaters of most locations. There’s always dereliction, but sometimes  regeneration and always graffiti. But not all graffiti is offensive. And this was our welcome into Leeds.

Colourful welcome into Leeds

Leeds has its fair share of victorian factory warehouse buildings. It’s a tall city, but we quickly saw some highly desirable waterfront properties as we approached the centre.

Looks a nice place to live

Our aim was to moor in “Leeds dock” a regenerated wharf surrounded by trendy eateries and in our case pylon moorings with electrics. But alas, despite the potential for a lot more  visitor moorings CRT and the local management team only provide space for 3 or 4 visiting boats and we weren’t one of the lucky ones. So we had 24 hours outside on the island high wall.  (At this point we are still on the River Aire with weirs and flood locks) but this gave us a brilliant view of the Royal Armouries Museum. A pity the weather had turned everything dark and grey

Looking towards the Armouries

The following day we were on the ball waiting for spaces in the dock and were able to reach our destination.

Entering Leeds dock

And get one of the prized pontoon places

With 48 hours to go exploring our first stop had to be our overshadowing neighbour the Armouries. Especially as it was now pouring with rain. I was a bit sceptical at first, thinking that this huge purpose built building might just be full of guns, not my idea of a fun day out. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It is a fascinating venue, so much so that after a few hours we got museum overload and left before we’d seen it all. The impressive glass tower housed a display of historical weaponry, and whilst you could say that once you’ve seen one sword and spear do you need to see more, the impressiveness was in the way in which they were displayed. Symmetrically and artistically, as they would have been in castles and kingdoms of old. And of course with the view through the round window of Firecrest moored below.

And the view through the round window is firecrest

The displays weren’t only of weapons of war, but went way back to early mans esential hunting tools, and modern man’s non essential, but visually more impressive  hunting tools.

It didn’t stop at what we know now, there were futuristic film weapons for zapping aliens, just in case. And the beautiful swords from the Lord of Rings trilogy. We were treated to guides in costume giving talks and actual displays of sword fights. All in all it was a very impressive and well done museum, and the best bit is that it is free admission and we got a good view through the rain streaked windows of Firecrest.

Space to explore

One of Leicester’s attractions is the National Space Centre

We’ve seen the brown signs as we’ve whizzed by on 4 wheels but never had the time to stop and investigate. So now that we were close enough to walk into space, it was time to take that giant leap. We invited Tim to join us for the day as he has a degree in astrophysics, I thought he might be able to give Eric some intelligent conversation.

National Space Centre.

Tim and Eric discussing the practicalities of living on the ISS

It was an interesting venue, even though it was geared towards the millions of little aliens swarming beneath our feet from the many school visits taking place. We got a better view looking up

Satellite in the rocket tower.

But being true boaters, once we’d done space, we nipped across the road to the Abbey Pumping Station, a free entry museum, (unlike the expensive NSC) which showcases Leicester’s industrial and technology heritage in magnificent Victorian building

Unlike the space industry where, practicality and weight take high priority, the Victorians added finesse to their structures.

Both eras are awesome but beauty is subjective and if I’m honest I be hard pushed to say which venue I enjoyed more.

It’s a good half hours walk back into the town centre, more if you stop to enjoy the cherry blossom along the river. But there is mooring beyond the museum’s and I’d strongly recommend visiting both if you’re feeling flush, (and yes you’ll see how an astronaut toilet works) and definitely visit the pumping station if you’ve got an hour to spare.

National Space centre

Abbey Pumping Station