Caphouse Nature Trail

  • Canker.
  • The brook in full spate.
  • Tributary of Smithy Brook, swollen by last night's rain.
  • Inkcap fungus, Coprinus, on stump by the brook.
  • Stripy roots of birch.

Photographed this morning on the nature trail at the National Coal Mining Museum for England, Caphouse Colliery, Overton, West Yorkshire.

Nostell Priory

  • Cross-bedding in sandstone on the kitchen extension to Obelisk Lodge at Nostel Priory.
  • Obelisk Lodge
  • Woodland at Nostell Priory
  • Mute swan cobs, Nostell Priory lake.
  • Honey fungus on log by the outlet from the lake, Nostell Priory.

A Spaniel in the Wood


wrenheronA dull and dripping morning. A wren investigates the top of the beech hedge.

The heron is a regular morning visitor, perching halfway up one of the trees on a quiet bend of the beck.

blackbirdsAt this time of year we often have several blackbirds in the garden, most of them male. There’s an undercurrent of rivalry as two males strut around the lawn. Both have yellow bills but neither has developed a yellow eye-ring as yet.

blackbirdThere’s often a blackbird in the golden hornet feasting on the prolific crop of yellow crab apples.

blackbirdIt’s been our best year so far for Howgate Wonder cooking apples but unfortunately we haven’t had the time to do much with them. The blackbirds are enjoying the odd windfall but I must harvest the remaining apples before they get pecked and spoilt.

The Baines Family, 1912

Baines family

The Baines family, c. 1912; George William (who would then have been 39), William (13), Edward Henry (5) and Mary Alice (37).

plaque2While researching the life of composer William Baines for a college project in 1972, I was lucky to be able to interview a number of his contemporaries including a friend of the family, Nora Naylor.

Mrs Naylor who lived at 45 Cooperative Street, Horbury gave me this photograph of the Baines family, sent as Christmas card c. 1912.


It looks to me as if William has written the Christmas message as I’m sure that I recognise that handwriting from his early manuscripts and possibly the ‘To Nora Radley’ (her maiden name) in pencil.

Born in 1908, Nora told me that she remembered William and his tragically early death on 6 November 1922. Just as she was telling me this, her aunt, then aged 96 walked in and said ‘I remember when his parents were married.’

In the 1911 census, Nora’s aunt, then 35, is listed as a yarn reeler at a worsted manufacturer. Nora’s father, a widower aged 34, was an iron turner at the railway wagon works.


I didn’t keep meticulous records but I’m pretty sure that this photograph of Alice and George William was also given to me by Nora. It might have been taken at a roadside or railway cutting somewhere near Horbury – or perhaps on an excursion to the coast?

In the 1911 census the Baines family were living at 16 Church Street, Horbury, since demolished. He described his occupation as ‘Grocer and Music Teacher’. Considering their modest circumstances, I was surprised that the family employed a domestic servant; Annie Elizabeth Bradbury, 17, who was born at New Whittington, Derbyshire.

William Baines

William evidently learnt his musical skills from his father but I get the impression that his creative side owed a lot to his mum.

From these photographs you can also see that William inherited a certain sense of style from his father. In the earlier photograph George William reminds me of Pagget’s illustrations of Doctor Watson in the Strand Magazine.

Just my Bag

mantaray bag

I dream about drawing, literally; in one dream I was looking through a booklet thinking these drawings look like mine but I don’t remember doing them and is that really my signature?

In another dream I was trying to find a space in a busy workshop to continue work on a rough splodgy oil painting.

mantaray bagIt’s my subconscious reminding me – as if I needed reminding – how frustrated I’m feeling because of my current enforced break from creative work.

tree tops

foliageTo make things as simple as possible I wanted a discrete still life kind of object; not my hand which is my usual subject when I’m stuck for anything else to draw and not, for instance, a tree, attractive as the autumn colour is just now, which raises the issue of simplifying the foliage.

I wanted something with a definite outline and simple interlocking shapes. And, heavens to Betsy, what’s this, yep, the A5 art bag that I take everywhere with me.

mantaray bagI was drawing this in subdued light and picked up the purple crayon instead of the black, but I like the high colour key that gives the drawing.

mantaray bag
I’m  getting on with this new pen, a Uni-ball Signo Gel Grip, which is free flowing but, unlike the liquid ink pens that I normally prefer, it doesn’t bleed through the absorbent paper of my current sketchbook.

gel penEach of the bag drawings took between half an hour to an hour, drawn while Barbara was catching up on episodes The Great British Bake-off Masterclass, which makes reassuringly homely background viewing.

satchelA hour is about right for getting involved in drawing a bag. I didn’t have as long when I drew this green satchel the other day. But that’s not my bag.

Links; a larger version of a Mantaray bag, as sold by Debenhams. I like the idea that for each Mantaray bag sold a donation goes to the British Marine Conservation Society.

Uni-ball Signo Gel Grip by Mitsubishi

Cathedral Plane Trees

maplesI’ve got a chance to linger over coffee at a table overlooking the cathedral precinct listening to a song I’ve never heard before, but which could provide a theme-tune for the urban sketcher;

‘Pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag
And bury them in the sea . . .’

Sung by Lloyd Wade in the song by Eliza Doolittle. In my case, I can pack up my troubles in my A5 art-bag.

A friend spots me and tells me that she’s finding watercolour painting a wonderful escape from some ongoing medical problems in her family that she’s been coping with for years.

Nothing could be more therapeutic than sitting here with a latte, a toasted teacake and a sketchbook.


At last I’ve seen a peregrine in Wakefield!peregrine

As we came out of the Apple dealers at Trinity Walk I looked up at the blue sky and got a good view of it flying at just above rooftop level.

A few pigeons were disturbed as it disappeared in the direction of the cathedral and when we got to the precinct Barbara spotted it on a crocket – one of the decorative projecting stones – half way up the spire.


bikehandA wrecked bike, just the sort of thing I’d expect to come across on a walk through the woods on the edge of a city but this, I have to admit, was drawn from a photograph hanging in a corridor that I was waiting in.

The photographer wasn’t credited.

tree topsAt least I got the chance to draw these tree-tops from a third floor window the other day.

 scones and Danish pastriesMy glimpses of the natural world might be through photographs or through windows but I shouldn’t complain as I am getting to spend a lot of time in my other favourite habitats recently; cafes and coffee shops.

Maple Syrup

maple syrupToday’s still life sketch is my mum’s maple syrup. This Waitrose Organic Canadian Maple Syrup, No. 1 Medium, is from Beauce in the south-east of Quebec Province ‘on the Chaudière River where there is a naturally large concentration of sugar maple trees’.

It takes forty litres of sap, harvested in the first few weeks of spring, to produce one litre of syrup after evaporation.