Think of health before fashion

Edna during her operation


AN animal charity is urging pet owners to think about the problems their furry friends could endure if they have flat faces.

South Yorkshire-based Rain Rescue wants to raise awareness amongst the public about the problems flat faced pets like Pugs, French Bulldogs and Persian cats are dealing with due to poor breeding.

The rescue charity, which is located in Rotherham, takes in over 400 dogs and cats every year and is seeing a rise in the number of flat faced types of animals entering its care.

Now, the charity wants the public to be aware of what it means to own one of these breeds after it rescued Edna, a one-year-old French Bulldog who required major surgery when it was found she had narrowed airways and a dropped palate.

This meant that poor Edna struggled to breathe properly.

The British Veterinary Association has said that last year 93 per cent of companion vets treated flat faced dogs for breathing problems, demonstrating the extent of the problem within the UK.

They recently launched their #BreedtoBreathe campaign to get the message out to dog owners to think about choosing a healthier breed or crossbreed instead of prioritising appearance over welfare.

Recently, Holland’s Pug Club banned the breeding of pugs with a nose less than a third of the length of the skull to try and improve the health of the breed.

Rain Rescue wants to encourage anyone thinking of buying one of these breeds to really do their research, and know what a healthy pet looks like.

The charity also wants breeders and breeder clubs to change what they look for as desirable.

Deputy charity manager Lauren Sanderson said: “In the last 12 months we’ve taken in three French Bulldogs and a Persian cat who all had what is known as brachycephalic breed related health issues – from poor breathing, eye disease, dental problems and skin infections.

“It may not sound a lot but in Rain’s 17 year history it had only cared for one French Bulldog before this. Edna is also the second dog we’ve had to treat with surgery for poor breeding; the other was a Pug.

“Frenchies and Pugs are more popular than ever but sadly the public and those buying puppies do not realise the consequences.

“It’s often considered normal for these breeds to snore and snort but it isn’t. This is the effect of breeders choosing looks over health.

“In extreme cases this can mean they need corrective surgery like Edna did. Not only is this a huge thing for the animal to go through it can be very expensive, sometimes costing thousands of pounds.

“Thankfully Edna has now got the treatment she needed, has been adopted and is doing much better, but sadly her breed-related issues are not completely over. She still suffers from ear infections, another common issue in these types of dog.”

The British Veterinary Association has recently commended model and 2016 Love Island runner-up Olivia Bowen Buckland for her social media posts urging prospective dog owners to do their research before getting a puppy, after her French bulldog Reggie had to undergo surgery to help him breathe more easily.

In social media posts liked or shared by almost 65,000 people, Mrs Bowen Buckland wrote: “I’m so shocked at how many bulldog/pug owners don’t know anything about the breed they own or in particular BOAS (Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome). It actually baffles me. We knew this day may come Reggie & we knew what it may cost. Brachycephalic breeds are not easy. Educate.”

She also suggested that budding owners do their research in advance, adding: “I get so upset seeing the amount of difficult breeds being given up when a little bit of research could of (sic) raised alarm bells.”

British Veterinary Association junior vice president Daniella Dos Santos welcomed the words of the Love Island star.

BVA junior vice chairman Daniella Dos Santos

She said: “Celebrity influence has played a huge role in explosion in popularity of flat-faced dogs, so it is welcome to see a reality TV star with millions of social media followers start a conversation around the serious health issues many of these breeds suffer from.

“BOAS is a distressing condition for those dogs living with it. As vets, we often hear from owners that their flat-faced dog is healthy, but they don’t realise that loud breathing or snorting isn’t normal. In reality, dogs with short muzzles can struggle to breathe. That is why we ask all prospective dog owners to pick health over looks.

“Responsible pet ownership begins even before getting a pet, which is why it is commendable that Mrs Bowen Buckland has asked her fans to always do their research first.

“Anyone looking for a dog should talk to a local vet, as they are well-placed to give advice on the health and welfare problems associated with certain breeds and to suggest a pet that is suitable for your lifestyle and financial considerations.

“One way to make sure you are getting a healthy, happy puppy from a responsible breeder, who has carried out all relevant health tests, is to insist that they use the free, downloadable Puppy Contract.

“We hope that Mrs Bowen Buckland’s example will inspire more celebrity owners of pets with breed-related health and welfare issues to speak out.”

The British Veterinary Association’s #BreedtoBreathe campaign was launched last January.

Statistics from organisation’s Summer 2017 Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey showed that almost half of vets believed their clients who chose brachycephalic dogs were swayed by social media (49 per cent) or their celebrity idols (43 per cent) when buying their pets.

The study found that more than half (56 per cent) of the brachycephalic dogs that vets saw in practice needed treatment for health issues related to how they look, such as breathing difficulties, skin problems, eye ulcers or dental problems.

But vets reported that only 10 per cent of dog owners could recognise their brachycephalic dog’s breed-related health issues, while 75 per cent were unaware these potential problems even existed before deciding on the breed.

‘It’s hard work; you come, you work, you don’t work just when the muse takes you. Art is hard work’


IT’S my first time really talking to Kevan Cadman, who has been a studio holder here at Westgate Chambers since October.

Kevan strikes me as the sort of person who doesn’t sit down often; on both occasions when I have entered his studio he has been up, working with a focused, determined energy about him. You sense he’s got a real, creative hunger, which is not only visible by the numerous pieces of work which surround him, but there is a deeper, burning drive which makes a lot more sense as we start talking.

He studied art at university in York and tells me one thing which will stay with him forever is a quotation by his art lecturer: “If you think you’re going to have an artistic temperament forget it. It’s hard work; you come, you work, you don’t work just when the muse takes you. Art is hard work.”

This is something which obviously rings true and sheds light on my first impression of Kevan.

Kevan went on to work in education, something to which he dedicated 37 years of his life. I think it is fair to say that although it is obviously something he was passionate about, he became very frustrated with it by the end: “When I left teaching I was sick to death, and this sounds really corny, of filling in tick boxes, statistics and data. Boxes which were utterly meaningless because you don’t need to tick a box to know a child; you react with the child, you talk to the child, you build a relationship with them.”

His teaching career, and later frustration with it, is even more relevant as we start discussing his recent work.

The first piece that catches my eye is a mobile structure of clocks which are designed and shaped as flies. Stemming from the phrase “time flies”, Kevan’s way of working is quite unique: “Years of planning topics in primary, you often start with the word or the theme. That’s how you plan your maths, your history, your geography. So I wrote the words statistics and then wrote all these ideas, whatever came to mind.”

Another mobile structure is Dropbox, a series of white cubes of different sizes and hanging at different lengths. There is something quite mesmerising and thrilling about the work. He goes into a bit more detail about another piece on the wall: “I originally got some rods and I was also looking at bar charts, another form of statistics. But when I laid the rods out on the floor they kind of reminded me of sound waves.” After assessing the wave patterns which were created from recording a phrase about statistics (he did not wish to repeat the phrase), the central part of the work, the rods, mirrored the form of this wave pattern.

As we discuss this catalogue of work I use the term rebellion which may actually give the wrong impression of what is very neat and ordered work, but he explains that for him, like many artists, there is a need to be creative: it’s something which has always been there. And this stretch of work is another example of this: “It’s reclaiming the nonsense of the boxes and the statistics.” Kevan explains it is “tumbling out” of him at the minute: “It’s like the old phrase anger is an energy isn’t it?”

Either way, what he has done through this body of art is take something negative and make something quite beautiful out of it.

Juxtaposing the overall feel and style of his art-work, Kevan envisions his work being displayed in the natural environment. He recently took one piece to Boston Park and hung it on a tree: “It’s quite clinical I think, but I like it hanging in a more natural setting.”

The piece he is currently working on is inspired by the phrase “statistics manipulate truths” and he would like to present it in a natural setting “with stuff growing in or out of it”.

Like many creatives, his art doesn’t begin and end in the studio. I spot a couple of instruments in the corner and he tells me he has played music all his life, still gigging with bands Rotherham Rogues and Meadowland. I ask him what instruments he plays and there is a sort of pause and I imagine he is thinking to himself, where do I start? He tells me guitar is his main instrument, but he plays some keyboards as well. I gather he could get a tune out of anything with strings.

Having the studio has been a great aid to his work, originally a needs-must situation as he required a space to be able to leave his stuff safely, especially using the variety of tools he does.

He explains that after Christmas he tried to create some music at home but found he couldn’t. He came into the studio and it just worked: “I have a space where I can reflect upon and do all the things I haven’t had the chance to do in my teaching career. And I just like coming in.”

The music he creates in turn easily inspires some pieces of his 3D artwork; the two interlink and intermingle and always have.

One of the benefits of having a studio and being a member of ROAR is interacting with other artists who are also dotted around: “It’ difficult because as 30-odd years as a teacher I am with people constantly and suddenly I am on my own. So snippets of conversation, I need them. I think you can get lost in your own little world if you’re not careful.”

In a way we finish as we started, looking to the future links directly back to his strong work ethic. He clarifies, he wants to work as a professional artist and start by exhibiting his work: “To me, and not everyone agrees with this I know, there is not a lot of point creating art of any sort – music, poetry, 2D, 3D – unless someone is going to see it. It’s the sort of thing like if you clap in a forest and nobody hears it, does it make a sound?”

You can keep up with Kevan on his website”

Art workshop with a difference


BEING given the chance to design and create a working automaton isn’t something that happens every day.

But people can get the opportunity to be technical courtesy of a Rotherham arts organisation later this month (August).

ROAR (Rotherham Open Arts Renaissance) at Westgate Chambers in Westgate will host Matt Butt’s Automaton Workshop on Saturday, August 31, from 10am to 3pm.

The session will involve design, laser cutting and construction.

The cost of the workshop is £35, which includes all materials.

Interested people can book a place online via

Contact ROAR at or by telephoning 01709 835757.

This way there be witches…

Pendle Heritage Centre


WHAT have religious nonconformity, witches, architecture and the first man to run a mile in four minutes Sir Roger Bannister got in common?

The answer is that they all form part of what’s on offer at a fascinating museum in the heart of Lancashire.

Pendle Heritage Cnetre, on the edge of Barrowford, offers a wealth of delights to anyone interested in architectural, social or local history.

There is even an art gallery, the chance to shop and the opportunity to take a walk along the river known as Pendle Water.

The Grade II-listed farm buildings and walled garden which make up Pendle Heritage Centre are an attraction for both the history buff but also families.

Traditional building skills have been utilised to redevelop the ancient farmhouse called Park Hill in which the museum is located.

The building is certainly an ancient one and dates from the fifteenth century, built up and adapted over the years as its owners saw fit and offering an insight into ancient building techniques and the way of life of our rural ancestors.

The house, as it stands now, shows remnants of its past for all to see and the centre has done well to bring visitors as close as possible to the fabric of the building. It is like taking a trip through time.

The museum, set within the old house, has a suitably historic atmosphere and covers a number of elements of history relating to the building itself and the wider goings-on across Lancashire.

Inevitably, perhaps, the Pendle Witch Trials is a topic covered in great detail, telling the grim story of the trial and persecution of the alleged witches in the early seventeenth century.

There is an interesting short film on the subject, and displays include a witch’s charm and posters and images from the time.

But religious non-conformity in a more Christian vein was also a feature of the area, as another exhibition reveals.

Baptists, Methodists, Quakers and others found a voice in this part of the world where clearly people liked to think for themselves and live their lives as they wanted.

You can learn about the history of the Bannister family who lived at Park Hill in the 1400s, as well as the Swinglehursts who took on the property later.

Sir Roger stemmed from this Bannister clan and a portrait of him can be found at the musuem.

The centre’s fine brick-walled garden is an eye-catching creation started in Georgian times. It has been restored.

The Cruck Frame Barn at the Heritage Centre dates from the 15th century and originally comes from the Burnley area.

A statue of one of the supposed witch

It was rescued in the 1980s and rebuilt to show off its early construction techniques.

Pendle Heritage Centre is also home to the Pendle Arts Gallery which feature changing exhibitions of art and crafts.

There is also a popular conference centre, The Parlour Shop and Tourist Information Centre.

And, ofoucrse, should all this culture and history enervate you somewhat, you can have a brew and a cake or sandwich at the Garden Tea Room.

Pendle Heritage Centre is a top attraction for your list if you happen to be in Lancashire.

Most people who hear the word Pendle will immediately think of witches.

TV shows like Most Haunted have highlighted the place’s supposed spooky character and thousands of words hve been written on the famous witch trials of the early seventeenth century.

A display showing a historic domestic scene

Driving through the area with its imposing hills, bleak upland lndscapes and, very often, grim and gloomy weather certainly creates an otherworldly sense.

The fact that nowadays most people would see the famous witch trials, along with those at Salem in Massachusetts and elsewhere, as nothing more than the results of ignorance and prejudice is neither here nor there. It remains a great tale from history.

The story is that in 1612 Halifax peddler John Law collapsed in the town of Colne after being cursed by Alison Device for not giving her some pins.

She was dragged before local magistrate Robert Nowell and was so bewildered that she confessed to the ‘crime’ of witchcraft and also named her grandmother, Demdike, and another local matriarch, Chattox.

The two old women were interrogated and came up with bizarre tales such as meeting the devil near Newchurch. Inevitably, this led to Demdike, Chattox, Alison and Chattox’s daughter, Anne Redfearn, being committed for trial at Lancaster Castle.

However, the took on an even more bizarre twist when Demdike, her family and some neighbours held a Good Friday meeting at which they ate some stolen mutton. It was deemed by investigators as a witches’ sabbath, especially when human teeth taken from a graveyard were found.

Those attending were rounded up and imprisoned until the trial on August 17. After various fanciful offerings of evidence were given, the accused were found guilty and hung, except for Demdike who perished in prison.

Weird stories still remain today of spectral witches and weird goings-on, no doubt enhanced by paranormal investigators who flock to the area.

Such is the interest even today, that there are opportunities to take the Walking with Witches Trail, the Eastern and Western loops of which both begin at Barley car park.

The walks offer the chance to explore the rugged countryide that is the backdrop to the story and perhaps experience the isolation of this wild terrain.

You can almost step back in time to the lonely farmsteads of yesteryear and perhaps better understand why the supernatural was an everyday belief in times gone by, particularly in a country where even the monarch, King James I, was obsessed with the subject.

An old document on display

People believed in witchcraft and that the ills that befell them may well have been the devil’s work rather than their own stupidity or plain bad luck.

On the trail, the explorer can walk eastwards to Newchurch, Pendle, Faugh’s Delph Quarry, Drivers Height Farm and back down to Barley with views of Pendle Hill, or eastwards towards White Hough and Roughlee.

Both routes are between three and four miles in length.

On the trail, you will visit various spots important to the Pendle Witches story, such as Faugh’s Delph Quarry where Demdike claimed to have met the devil – so be careful! – and Saddlers Farm where her dwelling may have been.

An intriguing tale from a wild and wonderful part of the world. Explore the Walking with Witches Trail and fall under its strange Pendle spell.

Pendle Heritage Centre is open daily 10am to 5pm, with the museum and gallery open from 11am to 4pm.
Higherford Mill is open by appointment.
Address – Pendle Heritage Centre, Park Hill, Barrowford, Lancashire BB9 6JQ
Telephone – 01282 677152
Email –

Visit this historic manor house and you might just see a ghost


Bolling Hall in Bradford

IMAGINE the scene. You are a military commander about to attack a nearby town. You need a good night’s sleep so you retire to bed.

But restful slumber is exactly what you don’t get. A bad dream forces you from the land of nod and then you come face to face with a ghost urging you to rethink your aggressive plans.

Quite a strain on the nerves – but this Macbeth-like spooky scenario is what is supposed to have happened a few centuries ago at one of the north’s best-kept historical secrets.

The Earl of Newcastle was the unlucky receiver of spiritual solicitudes (if it did indeed happen ofcourse!) during the English Civil War.

Nearby Bradford, a Parliamentarian settlement, was going to be attacked the next day by the Earl who was preparing at Bolling Hall about two miles away which was distinctly Royalist.

The Ghost Room

The ghost pleaded with him, saying “Pity poor Bradford”, and the planned attack was toned down with minimal bloodshed.

Even today the Ghost Room has a spooky atmosphere but the whole of Bolling Hall is said to be almost teeming with spooks. The staff will tell you about their experiences and the young daughter of a family friend of mine spoke about seeing a spectral woman playing the piano in one of the rooms.

Few people outside Bradford, or maybe even in it, will know about Bolling Hall. It’s a discreet place, hidden away amongst Industrial Age terraces in a quieter suburb of the city.
But it is a historic smasher offering insights into the lives of the not-so-wealthy gentry of our country’s past.

Indeed, Bolling Hall stands as the oldest public building in the whole of Bradford in West Yorkshire and dates back to a time when today’s vibrant city was nothing more than a few streets and a church.

As with most old historic buildings, Bolling Hall is the sum of building works over a long time. It has a three-storey pele tower which was finished by around 1370 – around the time Chaucer was working on The Canterbury Tales – and is the earliest part of the whole building.

The Red Room

The original landowners were the Bollings who owned the land from the time of the Norman Conquest. A character called Sindi is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086.

But the Bollings came a cropper by choosing the wrong side in the Wars of the Roses and literally had to beg to get their property back off King Edward IV.

Over the years the property passed through various families – the Tempests, the Lindleys, the Woods – before eventually coming into the hands of the Bowling Iron Company which let it fall into repair before it was flogged to Bradford City Council in 1912 who had to utilise police help to get rid of squatters, pigs and chickens.

But the estate was never fabulously wealthy, by all accounts, and Bolling Hall reflects well-to-do but not rich families trying to emulate the fashions of the very prosperous and doing a pretty good job.

Taking a wander through the rooms of the Hall, there is very much a sense of ‘us and them’. The gloomier rooms for the servants are the Warm Kitchen and the Cold Kitchen featuring implements galore from times past.

The Blue Bedroom

But the Georgian Dining Room and Drawing Room show the relative luxury available to those who owned the property compared to their staff. More light from bigger windows is one obvious feature but so are the exquisite furniture, paintings and musical instruments.

The various bedrooms show off the sleeping arrangements over the years where servants would slumber in the same room as their masters and mistresses.

It’s all fascinating social history.

There are interesting collections of items from prominent Bradfordians around the house and those with a macabre curiosity may be fascinated by the death mask of Oliver Cromwell.

In fact, in the Civil War Parlour, you can see many artefacts from this period of strife in our country and which, as mentioned earlier, caused particular division in the area around Bradford.

Which takes us back to the Ghost Room, a somewhat oppressive part of the house with a stunningly decorated ceiling and Flemish portraits looking down on you.

A four-poster bed dominates the room and gives an idea of how it would have looked when the Earl had his unfortunate encounter.

One of the many old portraits at Bolling Hall

There are some who have suggested that the Earl merely made up this ghostly warning to give himself the opportunity to get out of the planned vicious attack on Bradford. “A ghost told me not to do it” was apparently an acceptable excuse in those days.

Bolling Hall is one of many beautiful historic buildings scattered across Bradford – others including Bradford Industrial Museum, Cartwright Hall and the Cliffe Castle Museum at Keighley – but it is probably the least known. And this is a great pity.

Bolling Hall in what is left of its grounds is a testament to the city’s varying fortunes over the centuries, as well as showing how those on the second rung of wealth were doing their best to emulate those on the top one.

It symbolises the curious history of class in this country in many ways.

The building is well maintained by Bradford Council who have gone out of their way to make visiting a fascinating – and free! – experience.

There are special activities and events throughout the year so it is best to link up to before you take a trip there.

Bolling Hall, located on Bowling Hall Road (yes, it’s a different spelling), can hardly be seen until you are pretty much on top of it but it still has pretty subtantial grounds around it in which to have a wander.

Youngsters will enjoy seeing the history brought to life through artefacts, dressing up and, perhaps, looking out for ghosts and scaring themselves silly.

They can even have a go at playing an old strategy game called 9 Men’s Morris. It’s a game that is harder than it looks.

Nearby Shibden Hall is getting a boost in interest and visitor numbers thanks to TV drama Gentleman Jack, based on Anne Lister who lived there, but Bolling Hall has an equally enthralling past, though perhaps it is more of a long-running soap opera than a gender-bender romp.

The 9 Morris Men game

Bolling Hall is a short journey away from south Yorkshire: up the M1 and M62 to Bradford and then a couple of miles from the end of the M606.
Easy to get to and easy to enjoy, Bolling Hall is indeed a hidden treasure which should be more widely appreciated.

A little town with a lot of Yorkshire pride


THE Yorkshire Dales are a national treasure. A landscape of rugged mountains and bleak but beautiful moors and fields which attract thousands of visitors every year.

So, for a town to call itself the “Gateway to the Dales”, it really has to live up to a big expectation.

Thankfully, the town of Skipton – north-west of the city of Leeds – is that mixture of old and new which gives it a distinctive Yorkshire character and makes it a vibrant place.

Skipton Castle

A rural market town with a toe in the modern world, it has always provided a welcome relief to people from nearby Bradford as a retreat from urban life, without having to travel miles down winding country lanes.

And it is a town with a distinctive character, often heroically protected against the advance of the 21st Century. Until relatively recently, for instance, the local paper the Craven Herald stoically remained as one of just two newspapers which kept news off the front page in favour of announcements. It looked like something from the 19th Century, deliberately so, and people loved it because it was distinct and had character. Alas, today it has taken the standard tabloid route.

I will admit to a certain bias in the matter as I worked on the paper in its ‘old look’ days. It had always looked like that and the modern expectations of what a newspaper should be could just ‘go away’.

Skipton itself has that rough Yorkshire resilience which is bred into those born in the county. But that very sense of self pride and identity is, ironically, what makes it such a welcoming place for visitors.

Yorkshire folk can be very friendly, contrary to popular opinion. It’s principally because we just want to show everyone else that they should have the good life like us!

A surprising amount of excellent things are packed into a relatively small town in Skipton, and it has certainly developed in terms of its shops in recent years. Outlets offering clothes, walking gear, artists equipment and even New Age paraphernalia have sprung up in tastefully developed shopping streets using old buildings in imaginative ways.

For instance, attractive small businesses have flourished along Coach Street, which leads from Swadford Street to the town’s main (and rather ample) car park, as well as on side roads from High Street.

Pride of place off High Street is Craven Court, a lovely collection of shops ranging from eateries to clothes outlets and gift traders which has been covered and protected from the elements to create an airy and restful environment.

The High Street itself is always a busy place, particularly on market days when stalls are strung out along the main road and attract customers from miles around. And it is a good market which seems to contradict the current business assertion that such venues are on their uppers. Meat, clothes, household appliances, even wooden art can be found. A great place to browse.

But shops can be discovered in all directions as you head off on streets leading off from High Street, and there is an air that quality is an important element in the commercial offer here. Even the charity shops – and there are many of them – have a slightly more upmarket air than can generally the case. There is a rather good Oxfam store specialising in books and music, one of the few charity shops I’ve ever visited with an impressive opera provision.

Bolton Abbey near Skipton

But, let’s not get bogged down by this modern obsession with shopping. There is more to life than that. Skipton offers other enjoyable pleasures, both in the town centre itself and nearby.

In the heart of the town, you can take a delightful boat trip along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Settle back and experience the slower pace of life when water transport was king and all those johnny-come-lately steam trains and cars weren’t even a thing.

It is delightful to head along the water, perhaps on one of the trips offering a recorded commentary by comedian Dave Spikey, and look at the wildlife alongside the banks such as voles, ducks and the occasional curious sheep or cow. Or walker.

Ofcourse, one should not dismiss the lure of the technology that followed the canal boats and a trip to the Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway just a short distance out of the town is worth the effort. If you’re going from Skipton you will head to Embsay Station to experience such delights as steam locos at full throttle, the electric autocar, Victorian and Edwardian carriages and special event days.

Indeed, on certain dates, a vintage bus service will take visitors from Skipton to the railway – an extra treat.

The countryside around Skipton is stunning and you can certainly see it from trains – modern or steam ones – and by car. Birdwatchers, for instance, can see some surprising species in the often waterlogged fields around the town and further out there is the potential for such avian beauties as the Ring Ouzel, the Curlew and (surprisingly often following a release programme a few years back at nearby Bolton Abbey) the stunningly majestic Red Kite.

The stunning countryside around the town

On the subject of modern trains, Skipton has a well-served and busy station with very regular services to both Leeds and Bradford, and a northern connection to the famous Settle-Carlisle railway. It would be a good opportunity to experience this route if you are staying in Skipton.

Back to the Skipton’s rich history.

It has a castle and any town with a castle must be worth a look, in my humble opinion.

The medieval pile was erected by the lord of the area Robert de Romille in around 1090 to stop those pesky Scots trying their luck down south.

In the English Civil War, the castle was a Royalist base until Oliver Cromwell got his hands on it after a three-year siege in 1645.

Today it is a big tourist attraction as well as a private dwelling. Well worth a visit.

Pop into the town’s Craven Museum – although it is currently closed for redevelopment so check its status before you go – and discover a lot about the history and culture of this charming town for yourself.

Skipton itself dates back well before the Normans. Its ‘sk’ element in the name is indicative of a Scandinavian settlement. Much of the North was under the Danelaw in Anglo-Saxon times, ofcourse (a north-south divide in the country back then which might explain part of the north-south divide now, in another one of my humble opinions). Skipton could have meant something along the lines of ‘place for sheep’ or ‘sheep farm’ in those days.

There are business developments around Skipton, ofcourse, and some are quite substantial but somehow they don’t impede on the historic look of the town.

Skipton is well worth making the effort to visit and decent roads make it a cinch to get to. You might choose to go for a specific reason but I think it’s the sort of place where a good amble is the right way forward. Amble around and see what you find. Ambling is good.

A passion for nature – and encouraging others

New chairman of the British Naturalists Association, Steve Rutherford, from Thorpe Hesley, taking a look around the grounds at Wentworth Garden Centre in South Yorkshire. 190756-1


THERE is a new man at the top of a national organisation dedicated to promoting natural history – and he is from South Yorkshire.

Steve Rutherford, of Thorpe Hesley, is the new national chairman of the British Naturalists’ Association (BNA) which is open to lovers of nature and encourages research.

Now, Steve intends to use his time at the top to encourage more vital natural history research and to encourage more people to discover the wild world around them.

He is passionate about fauna and flora and believes that bringing people together will enable the answers to be found to the big environmental crises of our time.

Steve Rutherford with a Great Crested Newt. 190756-2

Steve recently hosted an event in London about protection of UK marine wildlife which featured experts Maya Plass, Professor Sarah Wanless of Aberdeen University and Dr Tom Cameron from the University of Essex.

But on a county level, Steve has helped run wildlife workshops and visited schools to bring nature to children who are keen to learn.

Steve said that he was voted into the role of BNA chairman following the move of the previous incumbent, Roger Tabor, to become the organisation’s national president.

A member of many years standing, Steve said he was delighted to be chosen for the important role.

“It’s wonderful,” he said.

“It was a surprise.

“I have done a lot to try and promote natural history.”

A Great Crested Newt. 190756-3

Indeed, Steve is no stranger to working in the world of natural history. Prior to his retirement, he worked for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in the Dearne Valley for ten years as an information officer which included tasks such as leading guided walks and meeting guests and the public.

But he admitted that since his retirement he been able to throw himself into the BNA’s work of helping people fascinated by natural history.

“I have been able to dedicate my energies to people who wanted to develop as natural historians,” he said.

“With the BNA you can go for a grading system where you can apply for a qualification as part of the BNA.

“It is supporting people who want to learn about and study natural history. People who did not want to go to university but who provide data day by day.

“Anyone can get involved whether they are doing it for the fun of it or are experienced people.

“It’s people who have done extraordinary things like that but have done it in a quiet way.”

Steve Rutherford at Wentworth Garden Centre. 190756-8

The BNA was led for a time by TV botanist and academic Professor David Bellamy.

People can join the BNA as a member, with various opportunities available such as becoming a fellow.

Adding BNA Grade Recognition to membership acknowledges members’ natural history skills and achievements.

It also shows that individuals are furthering the study of natural history as well as building up their skills out in the field.

“I have been a naturalist all my life,” admitted Steve.

“My passion has always been natural history.”

He has written 17 articles for BNA publications on subjects ranging from house sparrows to wild flowers.

Steve set up the South Yorkshire branch of the BNA six years ago and it has already seen five members recognised for natural history work which they have carried out, one example being Mark Dudley’ work on hover flies of which there are 85 species across Britain.

Steve said that the local branch allows people to be recognised for their work and to encourage others.

It currently has 37 members, the oldest being in the mid-seventies and the youngest in their twenties.

Members’ interests are far-ranging covering flowers, frogs and newts, bird life and much more.

“We tend to all go out and learn from each other,” said Steve.

“It helps to develop your individual skills and encourages people to talk about their work. It helps people to develop.

“It’s a mixed group.”

The South Yorkshire branch meets at the Wentworth Garden Centre where members hold special events throughout the school summer holidays on Mondays for children, giving them the opportunity to get up close and personal with wildlife through bug hunts and pond dipping.

New chairman of the British Naturalists Association, Steve Rutherford. 190756-15

“I have also become involved in a number of schools in Rotherham where we have placed bug hotels,” said Steve.

“I want to develop on that theme.

“Children these days are becoming so switched on to what’s happening in the environment. Children do understand. With social media they have learnt so much.”

Steve is also a member of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, which has a number of nature reserves across the region including Potteric Carr in Doncaster, Sprotbrough Flash in the Dearne Valley and Denaby Ings near Mexborough.

He also does work for the Suffolk Wildlife Trust.

But prior to starting work with the RSPB, his professional life was quite different to his natural history interests.

After leaving school, Steve went into nursing for a few years and then switched careers to become a motorcycle instructor in Leeds where he ran a business.

But he has always been a wildlife fan.

Steve believes that now is a good time to be involved in natural history as more and more people become aware of issues such as climate change and habitat destruction via TV documentaries, news reports and the World Wide Web.

Steve said: “I think it’s started to get through to people now. A lot of the public became interested very quickly but we need to get politicians to understand.

“Over the last four to five years we have begun to understand the urgency of the fact that we have to look after the planet.

“David Attenborough has made a difference with his TV programmes.

“We need to act now on climate. We have got to act now, not just talk about it.

“I think the Government does understand but we need to get the urgency across to politicians.

“It’s going to have to change, It’s got to be the whole world involved.
“We can do this and continue to be prosperous.

“It’s a double-edged sword. We talk about climate but we need to talk about biodiversity and how that’s changing. We are having a boom time as more species are being seen around the British coastline. We are having new insects. We are increasing the birds. But the species that were here before are northern species and so they prefer colder and wetter conditions and they are now being pushed further north. Where will they go eventually?

“I think that’s where the BNA is able to help because we are interested on all aspects of natural history and encourage people to record all types of natural history.”

Steve Rutherford. 190756-23

Steve said that everyone can help wildlife by acts such as leaving untidy areas in gardens and elsewhere for natural plants to become established which in turn boost populations of insects and then birds, mammals and so on.

He said that people need to think of the bigger picture with conservation and that it is about helping the whole ecosystem rather than just individual species.

“People tend to think of honey bees but there are 270 bees in Britain which require a range of plants,” said Steve.

“People have concentrated on honey bees but all native bees need support.”

Steve is a man on a mission to encourage a greater awareness of the natural world, to help more people find out about it and to promote conservation.
He has his work cut out but is determined to use his new high-profile role as chairman to get change for the better.

Polar bears, zebra, giraffes and a rhino – all in the heart of South Yorkshire


WATCHING a pair of enormous polar bears messing about in a pool of water like young kids having fun on holiday will be a memory that sticks in my mind for a long time.

It was a hot day so the bears wanted to cool off – but there was clearly much more to it than that. They were obviously having a lot of fun too as they rolled around and played with what looked a bit of rubber.

Dozens of people were intrigued and entranced and viewers must have got the impression that these bears thought they’d struck gold by ending up at their rather special home.


Their residence is the extremely popular Yorkshire Wildlife Park on the edge of Doncaster at Branton and its four polar bears have arrived at various times since 2014.

But the big bears are just part of a huge array of beasts big and small – 70 different kinds in fact ranging from mini meerkats to ginormous giraffes – which are drawing in the crowds throughout the year at the venue which opened in April 2009.

Since then it has made a name for itself and brought in such unusual beasts as giant otters, painted dogs and black rhinos.

And people have been flocking there: families, school groups, you name it.

Set over 70 acres, the Yorkshire Wildlife Park is big and you certainly need to give yourself the best part of a day if you want to see the whole thing. You can buy season tickets if repeat visits seem a good option.

The venue is divided up into sections which you can explore at your leisure. Areas include South American Viva!, Project Polar, Land of the Tigers, Leopard Heights and Into Africa.

You can travel around in any direction you wish once you’ve entered via the Safari Village which has an array of interesting shops.

I ventured over to the baboons first and enjoyed seeing the group dynamics at play. The dominant male surveying his kingdom, his underlings vying for position, the females in clear charge of proceedings and the delightful youngsters annoying each other as well as the grown-ups.

Polar bears at play

The painted dogs weren’t doing much apart from lying in the sun. It was a hot day and they had the right idea. Their coats of yellow, white and black spots and stripes were really pleasing to the eye.

Next to Lemur Woods for an up close experience with ring-tailed and red-bellied lemurs. It was the ring-tailed variety who seemed most brazen, sitting eating leaves less than a metre from people. It was pretty amazing because you could spot one then two and suddenly realise there were actually around a dozen right in front of you.

Everyone seemed to like the lemurs – and why wouldn’t they?
Next on my visit was Project Polar where three of the afore-mentioned bears were enjoying some watery fun.

However, it was when one bear came out to be fed that a true impression of this animal’s size became apparent. They are huge and their paws, and claws, are testament to their ferocious reputation. But the one eating out of a handler’s hand (admittedly behind cage wire) seemed rather laid back.

The South American Viva! section offered up a variety of treats, including uber cute squirrel monkeys, biggest rodent in the world the capybara (as big as a medium-sized dog), giant otters, coati, mara and the plain weird giant anteater, a long-snouted hoover of ants and termites with a rather punkish personal decor. A bizarre creature indeed!

But it was this section which offered up my personal favourite creature of the day – the six-banded armadillo.


There were two of them who seemed perfectly happy going clockwise or anti-clockwise around a track they had worn out with their little feet along the perimeter of their pen, helpfully bringing them very close to the watching public who they studiously ignored.

As the little creatures, about the size of a chubby small dog, trotted along they would suddenly veer off to some spot which had caught their attention, snuffle around for a bit and then run back to their path to continue their never-ending journey.

The armadillos had their own agenda and nothing was going to steer them off from it. I could have watched them all day.

The Land of the Tigers contained, well, tigers. Three Amur Tigers to be precise, called Vladimir, Sayan and Tschuna. No cute little pussies these, and the way they fix you with their cold eyes is truly unnerving. Yet when they saw a handler with potential food they were almost playful and excited like our domestic moggies, running after him and jumping about.

My expedition continued to the Into Africa section where I had the pleasure of seeing giraffes, black rhino, ostrich, amongst others, and this led me on to Lion Country where the king of beasts were well and truly fast asleep in the blazing sun.

But there was much more still to see, including camels, brown bears, leopards and others.
There really is so much to do at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park and the little human beasties can also run off some that excess energy in an adventure play area and a play house with super slide.

Visayan warty pig.

There are plenty of opportunities to grab a bite to eat, have a drink or buy a souvenir, and the venue has ample parking though the Wildlife Park does get busy.

It runs special events too, so keep an eye on its website at to see what is going on.

The park is open every day from 10am, apart from Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so it can be an all-year-round treat.

The Yorkshire Wildlife Park is certainly much more than a zoo and the Yorkshire Wildlife Park Foundation supports conservation and welfare.

If you like animals, this is the place to visit. To me, the animals seem to have plenty of space and are well looked after. They seem to have the freedom to move around their spacious pens as they wish, which sometimes gives humans the chance to get very close.

It is a lively, interesting venue for all ages. My next visit is already on the cards.

The July edition of Chase is OUT NOW!!!

The July edition of Chase magazine is out today – free with the Rotherham Advertiser .

This month’s full-colour 40-page edition includes features on Yorkshire Wildlife Park, Skipton, Pendle Heritage Centre, Bradford’s Bolling Hall, new British Naturalists’ Association chairman Steve Rutherford, wine, motoring, poetry, and more…

Go and get your copy right now!!!!!