Wednesday, 21 February 2018


Looking from Shroggs park in Halifax through a mist of silver birches to tall flats on the other side of a 'ravine'.
View from Shrogg's Park across a 'ravine'.
Until I looked at this scene I didn't properly appreciate the light and airiness
of silver birches.
Halifax is full of Victorians. All in a rush they filled the area with houses and mills. Then they went away again. In other words, they died. Or more particularly, Queen Victoria did. There's a statue of her husband Albert, and a promenade which keeps his name. But it's the ghosts of the local wealthy who hang around the place. Not with white sheets over their heads going 'ooooh' but in the landscape.

A short while back I posted about The People's Park in Halifax. (A Parade of Bare Bottoms.) Today we are crossing a wooded ravine (I expect there's a proper name for the steep, deep gullies which go right into the heart of town but 'ravine' will do) to another park - Shroggs.

Until I began this post, I'd assumed there had been a 'Mr Shroggs' and that he'd given the land for the benefit of 'the people' just as Mr Crossley gave land for The People's Park. But no. It turns out that 'shroggs' means 'scrubland' or 'brushwood' or 'area of stunted trees'.

Woodland path in Shroggs Park Halifax with rocks and overhanging trees.
Woodland walk in Shroggs Park, Halifax.
To the right there is an almost sheer drop to a busy main road.
Victorians liked shrubberies and stumperries and rockscapes. I've always assumed it was just one of those things. A fashion that came and went. But perhaps it was more to do with Victorian practicality. Presented with an area of stunted trees and rocky outcrops, one might as well take advantage of what's already there and enjoy the drama. Sling in some formal beds and wide walks and a drinking fountain, perhaps a band. Et voila! An enjoyable mish-mash of the contrived and the wild! Victorian furniture sometimes has mirrors in odd places. This wasn't so people had to crouch down to pluck their eyebrows. It was a way to brighten the atmosphere. Victorians liked tinkering. Sometimes they over-did it. Never mind the age of a church, bung down a regular pattern of tiles in the nave. But they weren't frightened of big projects. Find an area of unproductive ground, plant 60,000 trees and shrubs to give shelter and make it pleasant, put up some impressive gates to give access and open it to the public every day of the year!  Take what is, pitch in and make it 'better'. They were truly 'hands on'.

One of the wide walks in Shroggs Park, Halifax.
There are also formal flower beds and a mass of cocuses in some areas of grass.
(February 20th 2018)
Yesterday, someone compared Halifax to Luxembourg. 'It's a similar topography with ravines splitting the town. But in Luxembourg they've kept the rivers above ground and made it all beautiful.' Having looked at some pictures of Luxembourg, I can see what he means. Some day I'll have to check up on why the rivers in Halifax have largely been channelled into narrow spaces, out of the way places and underground. In the meantime I'll guess it was to prevent flooding, to reduce the amount of soggy ground and maybe (perhaps even primarily) to use the water for power. (I should probably have found out before embarking on this post but if I waited to know everything I'd never say anything - which would not be good.)

Twisted trees on the steep bank at the side of one of the paths in Shroggs park, Halifax, West Yorkshire
Twisted trees on the steep bank at the side of one of the paths.
But in 1872 one Colonel Ackroyd decided to give the people of Halifax a park. What's fun about this is that whereas The People's Park was a place to contemplate ancient statues and walk around quietly, Colonel Ackroyd decreed that in 'his' park people were to play games and music as well as walk along its broad paths, drink at its water fountain, admire its formal beds and sit between its trees. If you take a look at Historic England's site you'll see his intention right from the beginning was that there should be provision for 'cricket, bowls, archery and other games'. (You can now add football and a children's play area. I don't know about archery!)

In making this comparison, there's an awkward gap. The People's Park was designed in 1857 and Shroggs in 1872. But if I were a fiction writer I'd make Crossley and Ackroyd proper contemporaries so I could write a block busting novel about their contrasting approaches. One (Crossley) going for the working man's quiet contemplation and education (the classical statues) and the other (Ackroyd) consciously providing space for games and flirtation (what other use for a shrubbery?). It would be followed by a television drama which, spread over several episodes, would be as successful as Downton Abbey and make my fortune.

Looking down on part of the road network in Halifax, West Yorkshire.
Looking down on part of the complex road network from a hill opposite the park.
If you click the picture it will enlarge and you will be able to see how roads are
weaving over and under each other and how cars are coming in and out at
different levels. 
There are no modern-day local-benefactors on this scale. But here's something interesting about Calderdale Council which is currently resisting the amount of new housing the government wants for this area.

According to our local paper (The Halifax Chronicle) the leader of the council (Tim Swift - Labour) says the special topography of the area has to be taken into account. (There are, after all, what I call 'ravines' as well as slopes so steep we might as well call them cliffs - that's me doing that explanation, not a quote from the article). And Councillor Dan Sutherland (also Labour) says "We need to strike the right balance between providing enough housing for the future and both maintaining and improving access to the green spaces we all enjoy."

As you can see from the picture, roads go over and under each other in order to connect the multiple layers of industry and housing in Halifax. (Shroggs Park is above the upper top left of the picture). Given that some areas of town are highly populated . . . a park here and there is no bad thing.

Victorian men like Crossley, Ackroyd and Saville (who in 1866 gave a large area of land to the council on condition it did something about smoke pollution) used some of their wealth to create parks. I used to think if I were truly rich I'd put up clocks all over the country. I've now switched to grants for repairing roofs in Halifax. (In my dreams!)

If you had oodles of money to give away for the public good, how would you spend it?

Thursday, 8 February 2018


Alder tree flanked by Silver Birches opposite The Victoria Theatre in Halifax. UK.
I expect I will one day turn up to see 'my' tree and report on its monthly progress when the weather is sunny and bright for there are sunny and bright moments in the days. Many of them. But they don't necessarily coincide with when I am able to march to town with camera at the ready. But apart from missing the clarity of detail offered by a sunny morning I don't mind. This is winter.

And it's winter that's giving 'our' tree an opportunity to stand out. In summer these three trees merged into a green blob and the alder was invisible. The brown of its bark is dull and its trunk was permanently in shade. Overwhelmed by the brightness of the silver birches which flank it, their white bark flinging light in all directions, and their lighter branches and droopier leaves creating an elegant haze, it simply vanished. Completely unremarkable. But at the moment, in February, it's stolidness stands out against the hill in the background and the horizontal nature of its branches give it the feel of a pine that's dropped its needles. It's a small tree. At the moment though, with nothing much happening on either side, it looks bigger than it is.

Green/Grey Lichen on Alder in Halifax, UK.

Moving in . . . there are patches of lichen.

Yellow Lichen on Alder in Halifax, UK.

Some little flecks brighter than others. This is about four millimetres at its widest point but its lone splash of tiny colour immediately catches the eye and is of enormous significance in that it makes us look at the bark.

Lucozade bottle abandoned on icy, snowy, grass.

You won't like this. I think. No-body likes litter. Except sometimes I sort of do. Sometimes it's interesting. Like this abandoned Lucozade bottle which does for a manky patch of icy grass much as the little fleck of yellow lichen does for 'our' tree.

Rubbish plastic tearing to shreds in Alder tree.

But the whacking great bit of plastic that has been in this tree right from when I first met it has annoyed me. It's been pretty ugly and I've wished it wasn't there. But now it's beginning to disintegrate and becoming ribbony  it's becoming slightly festive. At least, in this light.

Silhouette of Alder catkins and lamposts against an evening sky.

And it's this light which is fading.

(I'll spare you a picture of the fairy lights.)

* * *

To see this tree over the last few months.



DECEMBER (One picture of inside a Street Plant Post.)

Thursday, 1 February 2018


Dandelion style plant in snow
These kind of plants . . .
I tend to bracket them with dandelions because they have yellow flowers.
But what are they really?
My neck twinges, my knees ache and the small of my back is complaining. I'd thought it would be fun to take photographs of street plants against the almost-full super-moon (even though it wasn't blood-red here). But it rained. Then it snowed. Abandon plan.

New plan - to photograph street plants against the warming sky as the sun came up this morning.

The snow was no longer snow. It had melted and frozen and hardened and slipperified. At the end of our street was a triangular puddle which had frozen hard with a sort of mountain ridge up the middle, dissecting the base and the apex. 'This,' I thought, 'is what the earth looked like when it was formed; when molten rocks pushed up against each other and rose and were made firm. Here,' I thought, 'in this ex-puddle, is a mini-Himalayas and I only left my house two minutes ago!' Thus it was, that marvelling at the wonders of winter - wham! I was down.

Thistle in snow
There are many kinds of thistle.
I doubt this one will grow tall enough to judge properly
before the council mows it along with the grass.
But maybe someone can give it a good (or tentative) ID?
Falling down, one finds, is very much easier than standing up. Informal ice-rinks in public places can plunge one into embarrassment. I crawled around a bit till I found a way to stand, stood, and looked at the prickly, frozen wasteland which stretched ahead. For all that I am devoted to my blog. For all that I had expected my dawn expedition to turn into an early-day street plant post . . . I decided a few photos are not worth dying for, slithered gingerly round in a circle . . . and came home.

Later . . .

The ice is melting. I set out. Sometimes the 'ing' on the end of a word is crucial. Bits of ice may have melted but others were still solid. So . . . down I go again, this time onto my side. And I land in a melted bit. It's becoming a habit this. Free ice-skating lessons! I stand as if I don't mind a thing and go home to change.

Later . . .

Row of plants in snow. (Some kind of willow herb?)
The leaves of this diagonal row of plants are familiar.
But what are they?
Some kind of willow herb?
Or . . . ?
Off I go again. Ahead of me a woman is treading warily, carefully hanging on to some railings, looking round anxiously for the next hand-hold. She launches out unsteadily and reaches a bollard. I take heart. She is making progress. So should I.

I set off up the hill. Half way across the icy expanse of a side road I get stuck. A taxi comes along. The driver slithers backwards into a parking bay. Good, I can proceed. Gingerly I reach the pavement. But the pavement is yet another ice-field and I can't get onto it. Now the taxi is coming back! Oh, help! The pavement has a concrete edging; I find I can stand there without slipping. But no-where else. In a semi-panic I pirouette so I'm facing the main road and proceed to walk pigeon-steps along the pavement's rim till ice gives way to the melt water of a council-salted route.

But despite dripping roofs and gurgling gutters, there are still icy patches. This just isn't working.

Feeling like a tanker that just ploughs ahead once it's on its way, I slide with difficulty to a halt at the edge of a small patch of waste ground. I do not go nose-first into the mix of ice and snow and mush. Progress!

Dandelion style flower in snow
I'm not even sure if this is some kind of dandelion
or some kind of something else.
Photographing street plants on rough ground feels like cheating. I like to find them in surprising places and wasteland is not surprising. Urban waste patches are more like fallow land on a farm than 'proper wild'. But how many times am I prepared to fall? No more!!!!!!!!!! And am I not being a bit snooty? Too pernickety about where I'm prepared to find inspiration? So that is where I landed up. And now . . . (oh! my arm aches!) . . .

For more about Street Plant Blogging.

The Street Plant link box has closed for this month but you can still read February Street Plant Posts on other blogs by clicking on the links below.
There will be a new link box from 1st - 7th March. Get thinking and looking! See if you can join us with your own Street Plant Post then.