Just after Christmas, East Coast had a sale; a ridiculously good sale. Wasn't able to pin family down to dates within the timescale, and there weren't many trains on a Sunday in the offer, so I thought "Wonder how far I can go for £5 each way?" and the answer was York or Leeds. I love York; but I love Leeds more, and all I've done there for the last many years is change train, occasionally popping out of the station for a quick meal between journeys.
I set off at 5:35am from the village (first train out; only the second time I've done that), so by 9:30 I'd got to Leeds, bought my onward ticket, and wandered out to City Square.
As you can see, it's a bit wet; but the forecast for the rest of the day was good. And there was a happy sight on the way out of the station; Leeds is seriously cheerful about the Grand Départ in July.
(This year, I'm abandoning the French pronunciation of Grand and doing it in a Yorkshire voice in my head...)
Normally, I'm really organised on a visit; this time, other than the tiny map in the Kindle version of the Rough Guide and a quick look-up of bus routes, I was entirely unprepared for the trip after what had felt like an extraordinarily long week. I also have absolutely no sense of direction, which is always interesting in a strange city, even one I visited briefly last year. But I had a destination in prospect, and Leeds has lots of maps around at road junctions, so I found the bus stop, and the no. 1 bus; and I reached my destination about 2 minutes before it was due to open. Looked promising!
The extremely nice Baa Ram Ewe (Headingley branch); just opposite a big shopping centre, but based in a converted cottage; about 15 minutes from the city centre by bus. The person in the shop was American, and lovely, and I realised afterwards we hadn't exchanged names (sorry, lovely yarn-shop lady!); conversation ranged from London commuting to Yarndale to the beautiful yarns they had from West Yorkshire Spinners.
One of my aims was to fondle some of their own Titus yarn, as I hadn't managed to get anywhere near their booth at Yarndale, particularly given my final destination. A skein of duck-eggy-green, very springlike (Bramley Baths), has accompanied me home, along with a coordinating Crazy Zauberball; once the current knitting project is done that'll be the next thing on the needles! (Also picked up some gift yarn and a couple of skeins of discounted Colinette.)
All yarned-up, I got the bus back into Leeds and a train out to Saltaire. I've been through Saltaire so many times on the way to Keighley for the SkipNorth holiday, and every time I've promised myself that next time... I'd stop. But I've always had luggage with me, and luggage and cobbled hills don't really match. This time, I could have a ramble round. It had turned into a perfect spring day by the time I got there...
First destination: Salt's Mill. Built in 1853 by Titus Salt for textile production, and the heart of the planned community which surrounds it.
Textile production ended in the 1980s, and the mill was bought by Jonathan Silver. Since then, it's been converted into a series of galleries, shops and restaurants, and contains a huge collection of works by local boy David Hockney. This is the ground floor gallery
There were some beautiful pots. Some William de Morgan, some Islamic, some local.
These ones are Burmantofts - I hadn't heard of them before, but they're local, and from a company much better known for tiles and architectural features. Fabulous things.
After a lovely smoked chicken salad at Salt's Diner, and a poke around the shops (think I've managed to stock up on cards and small gifts for the next six months or so!), I thought I'd do the walk round the village suggested in the official guidebook.
Other than Albert Street and Victoria Street, all the others are named after members of Titus Salt's family.
Some of these names work better in a modern context than others.
Here are some of the rather posher ones, belonging to overseers.
Signs of spring
and a concert hall (the Victoria Hall, of course)
and, right next to the station, a pub. As you can see from the name, not in the original town plan. Salt doesn't appear to have been anti-alcohol - the mill-owned shops in the village would do off-sales - but preferred to build educational public spaces.
and one of my favourite shops - stand aside, Harvey Nicks, this town has a Clas Ohlson! Realise that not everyone's idea of holiday shopping is buying locks, hacksaws and cleaning materials; I love Clas Ohlson but don't get to Norwich very often...
Looking for somewhere to eat on the way back to the station, I again got lost, but heading downhill always seems to be a good move. I ended up in a Pizza Express (lack of research again!), but it was right next to St Paul's House, a spectacular Hispano-Moorish construction; former cloth-cutting mill which now seems to be full of lawyers.