Last year when I was staying with Judith we spent a day in Saltaire – a World Heritage site. A set of mills built by Titus Salt on the river Aire have been turned into lovely cafes,restaurants but the center piece is the David Hockney gallery, one’s of Bradford’s famous sons. This time I wanted to see the village that Salt built for his workers, the almshouses, the hospital, the churches. But first I wanted to take a hike, following a map that the site produces that I had picked up somewhere on my travels. This was to be my first real hike alone and I had concerns about getting lost, cows and five barred gates, but I’m still here to tell the tale, so I’m feeling very proud of myself.
After a quick shufti in Salt’s Mill accompanied by tea and crumpets I set out on the hike and promptly found myself confronted with two grassy paths leading behind a barn. Ok, I took the wrong one but soon it met up with the right one and I climbed up an escarpment with great views of Saltaire below. I only passed two men out walking their dogs before meeting the towpath halfway through the hike. It obviously pays well to know your trees in this part of the world with instructions in the guide like,’with the sliver birch coppice on your left’ and ‘head for the mature trees at the top of the hill.’ The grassy paths led
past Blaidon rocks until with one sharp turn I found myself in the middle of the same village of Blaidon, with a shop called Bagpuss, very expensive houses and a lovely little community garden. Continuing I came to Tong dam. Dam it, I thought, I’m sure there’s some connection in my ancestry with Tong Hall, but I didn’t have the info with me, but I didn’t see any sign of Tong Hall. Eventually I crossed the River Aire via a very long bridge with some interesting spiders’ webs – Ok, now I get why it’s called Saltaire – duh – and joined the tow path of the Leeds Liverpool canal. The only TV program I’ve watched so far on this trip (apart from the UEFA cup) was a documentary about the building of the Manchester ship canal, specifically about the lives of the workers who built it.
The towpath took me back to Salt’s Mill by which time my feet were tired. What a great way to get to the mill coming at it along the canal and river which was its whole raison d’être. I was ready for a cuppa and hungry too so I found a little cafe and then explored the village that Salt had built for all his employees, not just the bosses.
The bus journey back to Bradford enable a glimpse into this multi-ethic city since the schools had just finished for the day and the streets were back with kids walking home and catching buses. That’s something that’s not that common in the US since so many students are picked up in cars.
Back a’th’ mill I had time to prepare dinner – shepherd’s pie, sprouts, a cream donut and delicious pear cider – before watching England lose to Iceland 🙁