Set in Stone

The Silent Eye’s Landscape Weekends were born from a mad-cap day on Ilkley Moor and a number of subsequent events up there.

Join us on Sue Vincent’s birthday (14th September) for lunch and a short walk to one of Ilkley Moor’s ancient monuments as we remember our former colleague and fellow director in the landscape she regarded as her home.

Meet: Noon at The Cow and Calf hotel and restaurant on Wednesday, 14th September 2022.

You can contact us via email at

©Stephen Tanham 2022

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being. and

Arnside and Autumn Pastels

(Above: Arnside at low tide)

At first glance, it has something of the ziggurat about it. In reality it’s the final bit of Arnside’s Victorian pier, taken from a short distance back in order to include part of the famous viaduct – nearly 1600 ft – that links Arnside with Grange-over-Sands.

Arnside has the kind of beaches that you’d rather photograph than paddle from. The sands around here share Morecambe Bay’s treacherous reputation. The danger comes from two directions: the estuary is the outflow of the rivers Kent and Bela. The Kent being so powerful that it has carved deep gorges in the limestone rock in its approach to the sea – this over rather a long time, admittedly…

The other is the strength of the incoming tide, which crosses Morecambe Bay with a speed faster than a galloping horse.

Frequent trains cross the Arnside viaduct, linking it, south, to Manchester and northwards to Barrow in Furness.

I love it, as you can probably tell… The whole landscape of estuary, cascading village, station and viaduct reminds me of an boy’s ideal model train set! Not that I’ve had one of those for a very long time…

It’s also a great source of good photographs – in particular sunsets, of which I must have hundreds in my iCloud online storage. Today, while taking the collie for her morning walk, the pastel colours of the October sky reflecting in the calm waters of low tide were the epitome of autumnal stillness.

(Above: a very calm Arnside)

Not that it’s always quiet… During daylight hours, the peace of Arnside village is disturbed by a series of very loud klaxon noises. These mark the turning of the tide – fed by the powerful currents in nearby Morecambe Bay. At very high tides, the klaxon is also used to signal the approach of the estuary’s own ‘bore’ – a single wave that travels inland, often for miles. It’s not as dramatic as that of the river Severn, but is a fascinating sight, and people travel to Arnside specially to see it.

(Above: The way to fine coffee…)

There is a safe place for the collie to chase her ball; it’s near the entrance to the village and forms a kind of wild park on the foreshore. When she’s exhausted with that, we walk though the town and along the shore path to a newly-opened tiny cafe set back in the rock in a steep path that takes you into the posh residential part of Arnside. It’s run by two young women who do their own baking. It offers some of the best coffee for miles around… and they sell home-made Cornish pasties… I admit it’s not your usual breakfast…but I always make sure I am hungry when we go.

The cafe is take-away only. It is too small to do much else. Clutching what we have come to call our ‘Arnside brekkie’, we walk a little way down the estuary to a favourite block of limestone which boasts an accidental cup-holder, and I spread out my walker’s padded mat to get a degree of comfort.

(Above: that Cornish Pasty moment…)

And then it’s back to the village with a wistful glance at the rapidly filling estuary. The drive home can wait a few more minutes while I finish the last of that coffee, and reminisce about the pasty…

(Above: the final few minutes of calm before the tide begins its race)

©Stephen Tanham 2021

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being. and

No strangers on the shore

“Lead them in,” said the man who taught me much about composition in photography. “You’ve got to ferry those looking at your images into the core of the shot…”

The steps, alone, were a perfect ‘lead’ down to the beach. Add in the storm wall and the high level of the promenade’s main body and you have a harmonic set of ‘pointers’.

The third element, and the reason the shot needed to be taken, was the way the central figure (my wife) and the collie were set against the curling pool of water from the draining high-tide.

(Above: the same shot without the ‘smooth’ filter applied)

Tess spends hours racing up and down the compacted sand, chasing the hi-bounce ball or the frisbee. I wasn’t expecting to find a new ‘view’ on this most familiar beach. Which goes to show that you shouldn’t discount the infinite combinations that nature can summon via light and tide.

I’ve put both shots in: after and before. I liked the second but wanted to get more emotion into the shot, and the use of the ‘smoothing’ filter seemed to offer that, allowing it to become more of a painting than a simple photo. Lens art is one of the names for this kind of approach. Purist photographers may not approve…

(Above: Functional rather than pretty, Heysham Beach has a fine collection of rock-pools. Best viewed in bright sunshine after a downpour or very high tide, like here. The surface of the beach is an ever-changing landscape)

Its a functional beach, rather than a pretty one. We’ve used it for years, it’s difficult to find ‘new angles’, but they are there…behind every tidal change. All we need is eyes and consciousness … and a willingness to ‘listen’ and see’ to what’s there.

©Stephen Tanham 2023

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being. and

Faro2 : The Shape that fell to Earth

Looking back, it could have been the sunshine… The bright blue sky was such a contrast to the cold grey clouds of Cumbria in early March.

But it wasn’t. There was something about the shape of Faro2 that actually spoke to me…

It looks crazy – the words emerging on the screen here. Sounds even more lunatic putting it into a mystically oriented blog-slot, and yet, why should one place – or ‘space’ – be more special than another? Surely such things speak for themselves … or not at all?

Let’s relive that dramatic encounter…

I’ve gazed on remote stone circles that felt lifeless, but this place – this unlikely exotic and largely abandoned place – reaches across hundred of metres to make me smile. Bring that camera here, it says. You’ll not be disappointed..

It’s not on the tourist map – unless you’ve got a very old one. This is our second visit to Maspalomas, Gran Canaria. We’ve been coming here for the past two years for a winter week of much-needed sun. Our hotel is an eight-minute walk away. We found it last year but didn’t have time to explore. My wife is not the same kind of ‘urban explorer’ as I am and is soaking up the sun by the pool.

Which is great, because there’s somewhere I need to photograph. I’ve sneaked out for a walk. And possibly a cold beer.

No-one said go and visit Faro2. It’s got ‘concrete cancer’, but its not contagious. One of the reception staff who was a child when they built it told us. Going to cost a fortune to demolish.

So they don’t… forty years on, freshly dropped from the blue sky. Still as amazingly energetic as the day they opened it – somewhere back in the 1980s.

(Above: the very strange and (to my eyes) beautiful giant ‘saucer shape’ of the FARO2 centre reveals its entrance)

The words ‘SHOPPING CENTRE’ lie like a scar over the top of what is a very beautiful construction; its proportions gentle and pleasing to the eye. Somehow its name – the smaller sign – FARO2, is much more in tune. Designers always say use odd numbers of things in arrangements. It’s dated and the faded pink renders it a very odd number. Works for me. Very post-apocalypse…

It was weird… I’ve never experienced anything like it, before. A sense of a building actually welcoming you… Perhaps it has something to do with photographers, and their ability to compose shots that show things off ? Even from a distance, I could tell it was mainly derelict…

(Above: there’s even a pub)

Yet there is activity. Lots of it. And there’s a bar-pub.. and quite a few abandoned men drinking beer. But I’m not ready for that, yet, even though the afternoon is hot.

(Above: one of the biggest bicycle rental shops I’ve ever seen. And it wasn’t there last year.. Derelict? What’s going on?)
(Above: the upper level is closed off. But just one person on patrol. Hmmm)

I was weaned on sci-fi. Here was a building that – usage aside – was straight out of that genre…especially tales of devastated landscapes where the survivors clustered around to create a new ‘home’; or point of congregation.

Not Mad Max, more subtle than that… Something about a group of local folks who loved a place so much they wanted to save it. A bit like Covent Garden in London.

Faro2 fell to earth… It’s not fanciful, it told me so when I glimpsed its exotic curves above the rooflines of the nearby houses. The now-revealed circular mezzanine confirms it… Pure spaceship.

And now, by some fluke, or the quantum flickering of synchronicity, the iron-mesh barrier to the upper levels has been moved by one of the crew emptying yet another closed shop.

(Above, the barrier removed, I sprint up to the circular middle floor. I’m alone and with camera…)

He says something. I don’t speak Spanish, and he can tell, so, he shrugs and, unmolested, I bound up the stairs with my camera at the ready. He’s probably gone to get his mate who does speak English to come and throw me out.

So I run and photograph while I can…

(Above: the imposing curve of the mezzanine floor)
(Above: the steak restaurant in the middle is not only posh, it’s still open!)

(Above and below: the sheer scale of Faro2 is revealed from above)

(The architecture is striking)

(From the far end: the distant mountains)

(Above: sad now, but, with a bit of work, Jinxie could live here?)

(Above: empty spaces under the sun)

(And then its time to go.. but not before a cold drink)

I collect my thoughts. A cold beer at Cleopatra’s Bar helps. There’s a thriving if small supermarket next door, but I only want a beer. Across from me a man who should be named Jinxie is looking back… perhaps seeing that I’ve been smitten and would I like to join their restoration action group?

And, for the full experience, we need to walk back via the bridge that crosses the ‘walkway to the mountains’. This ‘canal’ is an overflow from the distant peaks to carry the melt-waters to protect the resort of Maspalomas. Residents report they have never seen water in it, but it’s there if needed!

(Above: The overflow canal and linear ‘walkway to the mountains’. People do, apparently!)

©Stephen Tanham 2023

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being. and

Crank and Spin

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being. and

Teach your Children

The ‘great white hotel’, as we called it, began across the road from where our small apartments ended. Its elegant, curving facade made it one of the most impressive of the ‘grand hotels’ on the Atlantic island of Gran Canaria.

(Above: the small wadi) and the vast curves of the ‘great white hotel’)

Majestically, it hugged the line of the small ‘wadi’: a set of wide waterways designed to absorb the floodwaters from the nearby mountains.

“There haven’t been any in my lifetime,” explained the hotel receptionist, but it’s comforting to know they would save us, in the event…

Every day we would walk down to the local resort of Maspalomas passing the gardens at the back of the hotel. Every day, there was a well-meaning dad trying get his kids to engage with the giant chess pieces.

On the final day, we decided that nearly five hours on an aircraft warranted a pre-departure walk, even if it was just to stretch our legs. When we got to the place of the giant chess board, we were surprised at the scene of devastation before us….

Chess pieces lay ‘dead and dying’ around the perimeter of the board.

We suspect the children may have rushed down, just before their own departure, to make their feelings felt! Strong-minded little beings, their Grand Master future may be in doubt…

©Stephen Tanham 2023

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being. and

Thickening the Plot

May 2023 is fast approaching, and that realisation puts urgency into the need to create the ‘physical’ part of the landscape workshop ‘Water, Circle, Cross’, the Silent Eye’s spring event for 2023.

Lake Windermere is cold and icy now, but two months on, a band of explorers will be disembarking from a boat at Waterhead in the early mildness of May.

(Above: a place of great peace and beauty; ideal to convene our discussions before moving on)

Walking, we will cross the short distance to a place of great beauty – possibly via a lakeshore coffee…

(Above: the boat that brought us here departing… Perhaps we have entered a different ‘realm’ by crossing from water to land?)

With deep thoughts and expectations as to what the day ahead holds, we will walk a little further to reach a symbol of what was once ancient might…

(Above: where once a mighty force was based…)

But that’s how it looked… long ago. Today there is only archeological evidence of its presence. But what remains is impressive.

(But what remains is impressive…)

The words of Shelley’s great poem, Ozymandias, (Rameses the great) come to mind:

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away

Percy Shelley: Ozymandias
(Above: Ramesses II. As found in a Cairo slum, in 1820)

Even the mighty stone figure of Rameses the Great lay in the desert for thousands of years, his hubris unable to halt the flow of time and dust. We can ride the changes… or surrender to the sand. There is much emotion in a sentiment like this, and it encourages us to ask questions of our own lives… and possibly share the answers.

What part do emotions play in my world as it is now? Do I still have a hunger to know and experience more about my life, about my Self? Can the mystical quest be said to reside within me, and if so…where?

The answers are personal. Sometimes it takes the group deeper to share aspects of them, but there is no pressure to do so. The shared experience is sufficient… that and the inner voice of the higher self.

Here, we will be close to the town, but first an interesting outcrop of rocks holds a fascination….and beckons us.

(Above: one of nature’s natural stages)

The day before – for this is Day 2 – high above the lake, we began the creation of a simple group ceremony; an act of movement and sharing.

Here on the natural stage, we deepen it.

The mighty ring of hills known as Fairfield is to the north of us, and bears witness to our efforts.

(Above: the ever-watchful mountains of the northern Lakes will bear witness to our movements, our words and, above all, our intent)

We’ve already begun to bring the event into ‘existence’… Those familiar with mystical thought will know the value of holding the clear emotional picture of such a creation; it forms a pre-structure, something that will become a living blueprint for what follows.

And this is doubly relevant since ‘emotion’ is the core theme for the May weekend.

Events like this need to be journeys of both the outer and the inner. We are blessed in that the Lakes provides more mystical landscapes than we could use in a lifetime.

(Above: gentle workshops in the landscape can open internal ‘gates’ of the soul)

No inner journey succeeds without emotion to empower it. The bringing alive is the opening of a personal gate to a level of our-selves whose life is vivid compared to our routine daily existence. Workshops can do this… largely due to an often-unseen force: the power of a group working together to a noble goal.

Emotions empower and motivate. They also help focus – in the sense not creating ‘events’ in the right part of the landscape to carry forward a thread of adventure and self-discovery.

This is the first in a series of posts to give an insight as to what we will experience in the weekend of 19-21 May, 2023.

The photographs here were taken in early March, 2023 with the cold winter still in full force. The month of May is beautiful in the Lakes – busting with green and life; and the presence of so large and beautiful a lake as Windermere is the perfect ‘vehicle’ and backdrop to such a weekend.

Water, Circle, Cross. The Silent Eye’s spring workshop for 2023.

(Above: the symbol of our Water, Circle, Cross weekend)

For more information on the Water, Circle, Cross weekend, contact us on

©Stephen Tanham 2023

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being. and

Bench March

There’s something about March that is difficult to define…

It’s a classically liminal month. Not quite the end of winter; not quite the start of the spring. You can be knee deep in mud yet standing next to a clump of glorious crocuses.

When you get a good photograph, it’s to be celebrated … as they can be few and far between.

This shot isn’t great, but it’s colourful…. And the other foot was sinking in the mud.

Borran’s Park, Waterhead, near Ambleside.

©Stephen Tanham 2023

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being. and

Let’s go walking

The Unburnt…

(Above: High in the forest, a place of mysterious winter alchemy awaits…)

We have a favourite local walk that follows the elevated line of the old Preston-Kendal canal… It was closed as a waterway in the late 1940s and drained in the 1950s, but its structure is still visible along parts of the old route.

(Above: The walk begins along the line of the old canal, to Bridge 180, above, then turns left and across a farm footpath towards the River Kent)
(Above: down to the river…)

From the level of the canal, our path descends through a farmer’s land and emerges out on the wide plain by the River Kent; here in its final stages before flowing out into the north end of the vast Morecambe Bay.

(Above: the River Kent)

Our route crosses the Kent is via the old footbridge, built to take the workers from the nearby villages across the river to the site of the old gunpowder works. The location is now a popular caravan park. The gunpowder works had to be located away from the nearby village of Sedgwick because of the risk to life – there were many fatal explosions.

(Above: the old footbridge to the gunpowder works. Prior to this, the workers had to pick their way across the Kent using a set of stepping-stones!)

And here we begin the climb into the edge of Sizergh Forest – beautiful in any season but strangely sheltered and quiet in the winter. The ground is strewn with the crushed remains of last summer’s life… I remember clearly how beautiful it looked when the leaves were newly-fallen in the Autumn.

(Above: The remains of last summer’s life, finely crushed by passing boots and the storms of winter)

This natural recycling starts off a chain of thought about how things are used and re-used by nature, how ‘bodies’ that once were fit as vehicles for the mysterious presence that is ‘life’, come to the end of that process and are, themselves, recycled.

We could ask the question: how is the essence of life recycled?

I get the feeling that there is something new to discover, ahead in the forest, though the collie and I have walked this way many times. It’s dramatic how the changing seasons also change the entire feel of the landscape.

(Above; the river Kent now behind us, we climb through Sizergh forest)

We skirt the old gunpowder works and stay within the forest, all the while climbing, to emerge along a wide path that leads to a crossing of ways at which we are greeted by this strange sight:

(Above: the strange object has three chimneys, each one of them giving off smoke)

It’s a large unit for charcoal production. But the first I’ve seen in action. You could make your own charcoal in a large drum at home. The same process can be scaled up to the size of a kiln, as above. Given the reflective nature of the walk it seems no coincidence that we have come across the fascinating process of the multi-stage transformation of wood into a rather special fuel.

In earlier ages, charcoal must have been considered a ‘magical substance’. It burns hot, which is one of the reasons we use it for garden barbecues. It is practically smokeless, yet the process by which it is made involves burning… and smoke.

(Above: a close-up of the three chimneys of the kiln)

Charcoal is already ‘cooked’, and yet it gives beautiful heat and little pollution when it burns again.

A radial kiln is filled to slightly overflowing with suitable wood, such as oak. The excess wood is calculated carefully so that during the first stage of the charcoal process, the heavy iron lid takes the right time to lower itself, closing off the excess airflow initially necessary to get the kiln’s internal fire going.

When fully stocked with wood, the entire kiln is surrounded by a secondary stack of logs which form an initial bonfire to set off the primary process within the kiln.

Unlike the external ‘starter’ bonfire, the fire inside the kiln is ‘choked’ by having only a reduced airflow. This burns off the impurities in the wood while leaving the main mass of the wood unburnt. The result is a pure, hot fuel that has been sought after for hundreds if not thousands of years. the purity of the burning charcoal allows food to be cooked in close proximity without risk of poisoning by noxious chemicals.

We might say that the alchemical fire is still in the charcoal, awaiting its destiny of being a noble flame. Perhaps that’s analogous to human destiny, too…

(Ref: The kiln process as in the above photos, is detailed on an excellent website: here )

©Stephen Tanham 2023

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being. and

The Swift and Windermere

(Above: Windermere’s most advanced boat)

Just had to take this shot. Didn’t even know it was there until I stepped into the cafe next to the boarding pier for a quick cup of tea during one of our dog walks around Bowness-upon-Windermere. It was a grey Tuesday with poor light, and I hadn’t expected to find much to photograph,

I collected my tea from the counter and turned to set it down at my favourite table: the one facing Lake Windermere. There, framed in the gap within the less-than-attractive scaffold’s lattice was the the Lake District’s newest and finest passenger ferry – the MV (Merchant Vessel) Swift, full of happy passengers and waiting to depart.

Bowness is the largest lakeside town within the Lake District National Park and the major departure point for the passenger ferries that shuttle up and down the nearly eleven miles of England’s largest lake.

(Above: from the website of the operators of the MV Swan, two photos of the advanced construction techniques used to create it. The excellent website has an interactive layout telling the full story of the Swift’s construction)

After being formally handed over to Winander Leisure Limited by Damen Shipyards Gorinchem BV earlier in October 2020, the new vessel, operated by Windermere Lake Cruises Limited, carried her first passengers on Sunday October 25.

When I first saw the Swift, It looked old-fashioned, almost like an American river boat from the 1960s movies. But that look is deceptive. The ‘spacious riverboat’ is a correct perception. The vessel seats 300 people. But the interior is modern and digitally equipped with heated windows, electric doors and windows, toilets, USB and electrical sockets.

(Above: the MV Swift on a finer day)

The major innovation is the shallowness of the Swift’s ‘draught’. This will allow the boat to call at some of the smaller ferry points on the lake; something that dramatically widens the commercial scope of the new vessel. The existing large ferries are retricted to Bowness, Lakeside (for Newby Bridge) and Waterhead (for Ambleside)

(Above: Circle, Water+Cross, 19-21 May, 2023(

I haven’t sailed on the Swift, yet, but May’s ‘Circle, Water+Cross’ workshop offers us an excellent opportunity to employ it for one of our ‘mystical journeys’ across this most special body of water.

Further information on the May workshop can be found under the events page at http://www.the silent

©Stephen Tanham 2023

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being. and

A lushness of patio: #wantonwhimsy

(Image by the author ©️)

The New Zealand white slipped down easily as he typed furiously on the iPad. Hours seemed to pass, industriously. Ideas flowed and the plot thickened…

By one inch from the bottom of the bottle, he had it nailed. The robbery, the savage death in the pool of the sadistic villain, the near drowning of the woman – the kidnap victim who had given up hope of surviving. And the slipping away into the night of the mysterious dark stranger upon the arrival of Inspector Docker…

He reached for the packet of breadsticks: the only thing to have with wine when you were creating with this degree of success … and found it empty, causing him to look up.

She was standing there, looking down at him. No longer naked in the pool, but shimmering with silk thread and gold … and heels that made him blink and look again.

“I wanted to thank you for saving my life…”

The silken voice was just as he imagined, but the outline of the small gun in her purse came as a surprise. Perhaps there was more to this character than simply a victim?

He reached for his notebook.

©Stephen Tanham 2023

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being. and


Decline, Fall … and Renewal

(Above: Harry Ramsden… with his iconic straw boater)

As we approach the spring, it can be instructive to consider examples of how cherished things struggle to maintain vitality – and which ones succeed.

The inevitable cycles of growth, maturity and decay are ever-present. But they are not all-powerful. Business fortunes as well as personal fate obeys certain laws of success and decline.

As a young computer salesman with a (now long defunct) UK technology company named CTL, One of my successes was an organisation called ‘The British Wool Marketing Board – BWMB’, based in Bradford, West Yorkshire. They were responsible for the official auctions that supplied the raw wool from across the north of England and the Scottish Borders – big business in the 1980s, though that boom era for quality British wool was coming to an end, even then.

I had been working with them for about a year and just secured a major upgrade of the technology when they mentioned that the IT department were to have an outing – a ‘do’ (add a ‘w’ after the ‘o’ and you’ll approximate the lovely local twang) to a place called ‘Harry’s’; and would I like to come along?

It was a good sign to be invited, and I accepted at once – but had to admit that I knew nothing of ‘Harry’s …

So they told me the story of Harry Ramsden’s Fish and Chip emporium…

Established in Guisley, between Bradford and Leeds, and on the edge of the fabled Yorkshire Moors, Harry’s Fish and Chip restaurant began life in 1928 … in a hut.

Sadly, I couldn’t find a photo of this original building online. But the modern replacement – now renamed by the present owners – is shown here and through this post.

His excellent meals, served with as much elegance as one could muster in a limited structure, were an immediate success, and he decided to take a huge risk and develop a plot of land on the top of a hill nearby.

Harry’s goal was to lift the spirits of the local people who were languishing in the doldrums of the post WW1 1920s: a very different era for poor folk from the glamorous ‘Flapper world’ so popular with novelists of the time. But that was the key to what Harry did. He warmed the souls of his working-class customers; with theatre, classy props and excellent, inexpensive food.

Library image of the clock at the Harry Ramsden's restaurant in Guiseley. Picture: PA
Library image of the clock at the Harry Ramsden’s restaurant in Guiseley. Picture: PA

For a short time, they were somewhere else, in a world that understood them and their needs.

And cared…

His new large emporium would give the locals a taste of luxury and class as well as excellent and healthy food – with fish shipped fresh from the Yorkshire coast daily. And he supplied all this at a modest price.

The restaurant was built where the trams from Bradford and Leeds disgorged their passengers on the hilltop. To many, who knew only a back-breaking life in pits or the dire textile mills, it must have seemed like an exotic holiday.

Staff were dressed in black and white uniforms reminiscent of a London restaurant, and they were trained in how to make their guests feel special; nothing was too much trouble.

Harry Ramsden was at heart an entrepreneur and a showman who understood his customers’ needs and aspirations. They, in turn loved him and flocked by the charabanc-load to eat his fish and chips. The walk-in queues ‘seemed to snake from the door to the edge of Leeds…’

Harry Ramsden greeted his customers dressed in a wing collar, starched apron and straw boater. A trip to Harry Ramsden’s was an “experience”, something to boast about to your workmates in the mill or factory after a coach trip through the Dales. And back home via fish and chips.

Harry’s continued to prosper, widening its reputation and becoming one of the places to visit.

(Above: not a figure you might have been expecting! Margaret Thatcher paid a prominent visit to Harry’s in the late 1980s)

As a politician keen to display her populist credentials, Margaret Thatcher was keen to visit during a trip to West Yorkshire in the late 1980s. She joined the long list of celebrities who wanted to be associated with Harry Ramsden’s .

My time working with the IT team at the BWMB had ended way back in 1985. I often thought about them. I had loved the ‘do’ at Harry’s, and wondered how the old place was faring.

When passing through West Yorkshire, we had dropped in for supper from time to time over the years. The charm was still there, though I did detect a sense that it was getting ‘frayed at the edges’.

At the end of this last month – February, 2023 – we were due to travel to a motel next to Leeds Bradford airport for an early holiday departure the following morning. We wondered if the old place would be suitable for our evening meal?

Not knowing any of the recent history of Harry’s, I did a few searches online…

In 2019, Greg Wright, a journalist with The Yorkshire Post, had written:

When I moved to Menston in 1999, I was intrigued by Harry Ramsden and his legacy. Did his spirit still guide the chip shop that carried his name? A trip to Harry Ramsden’s at the turn of the new century was a colossal disappointment. After just one visit, I vowed to only return when all other gastronomic possibilities had been exhausted.The magic had gone. The interior was dowdy. The restaurant was almost empty. It was just a dreary fish and chip restaurant close to a big roundabout.

What had happened to this fine example of Yorkshire entrepreneurship?

It turned out that the modern owners had become embroiled in plans for national and even global expansion. The brand was there to be exploited, but in the rush to growth, they had neglected the original showcase restaurant – the ‘heart of Harry’s’

There were always two aspects to the ‘soul‘ of a Harry’s creation. The first was the ‘idea’ of serving fish and chips on such a scale. The second was the sheer presence of that ideal at its home in Guiseley.

In simple terms, the latter had been forgotten.

Nobody was surprised or dismayed when Harry Ramsden’s original emporium closed its Guiseley restaurant in 2011.

But… you might well remark, looking at the glittering images here, everything looks rather chipper, now?

And it does, as this is the fully restored Harry’s, now sporting its Weatherby Whaler logo, but nicely leaving a few choice mementoes to its past

The owners had taken their eyes off the ball as they plotted national and global expansion. Harry Ramsden’s had become a brand that was there to be exploited. But in their eagerness to secure growth, Harry’s successors had neglected the original restaurant.

(Above: Harry’s famous straw boater, in which he would greet his customers)

A visit to the same site today is a very different experience. Under its new owners, the Wetherby Whaler fish and chip group, the old restaurant has re-discovered its sparkle. In the night before our holiday, the service was superb and the tables were packed with diners.

In years to come, students may use the decline of Harry Ramsden’s as a textbook example of how to lose sight of the goodwill generated by such a socially respected brand.

I can’t help thinking that Harry, with his straw boater and cheery manner, would be very pleased with the reinvigorated future of his treasured emporium on the hill. I suspect that what we might call the ‘mind presence’ of what he created was still present in this area and strong enough to invest the new enterprise with its ‘spirit’.

We might say that a human undertaking can afford to lose or modify its ‘outer’, and still survive … as long as the spirit of its ‘inner’ is alive.

©Stephen Tanham 2023

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being. and

Lines against the Sun

I never used to like strong sun. The temperate summer of verdant and lush England always suited me fine.

The rain was the price of the incomparable greens of the Spring. Everything was balanced…

And then I became more involved with creative photography… and my trusty iPhone Pro has never been far from my questing fingers and eyes, since.

But then I noticed, while on holiday, that the power of the brighter sun lent creative potential to all kinds of scenes.

Some climates seem perfect for the amateur photographer, giving an abundance of light amidst inspiring semi-tropical foliage and structures designed to partner with sunshine rather than to repel it.

Herewith a selection of the best of my attempts from this week’s (hopefully) end of winter break in Gran Canaria. I hope they lift your zest levels as they did mine…

©Stephen Tanham 2023

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being. and

%d bloggers like this: