Feature Summer Days Out
Make the most of our summer with some great family-friendly outdoor activities in and around Leeds
Feature: Summer Days Out
For many of us, the default option for a summer’s day is to head straight to the nearest beer garden and spend those fleeting moments of sunshine soaking up rays and alcohol. However, it’s worth remembering that Leeds and West Yorkshire are blessed with some stunning scenery and great outdoor activities. Want proof? Try any of these for size…
YORKSHIRE SCULPTURE PARK
We’d happily take a trip out to the YSP if there was nothing there but the lakes, rolling hills, livestock and majestic unspoiled landscapes. As it is though, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park boasts some of the finest art in the region, using its 500 acres to host permanent works from the likes of Andy Goldsworthy, Antony Gormley, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, James Turrell, Peter Randall-Page and Sophie Ryder. These works – intelligently set in the landscapes – are complemented by indoor galleries and temporary outdoor exhibitions from some of the world’s most exciting visual artists.
The current major exhibition at the park is a collection of new and recent work by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa. Works include a 50-metre curtain of poetry made of suspended steel letters, large illuminated sculptures in the landscape, and engraved gongs that visitors can strike to fill the gallery with sound.
While residents of Leeds city centre might (justifiably) decry a lack of green space in the centre itself, a trip out of Leeds in almost any direction will bring you to some glorious park land. Trying to cover every lovely green spot would take up half the magazine, so allow us to take a few choice cuts for you to visit.
The most famous park in Leeds is surely Roundhay Park. At over 700 acres, it’s one of the largest city parks in Europe, and at one point it became a very popular gig venue, hosting huge shows from the likes of The Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, U2, Madonna and Robbie Williams. Facilities include tennis courts, skateboard ramps, sports pitches, bowling greens, a sports arena, a golf course, fishing and a lakeside cafe. The Park Arena is a natural amphitheatre and provides the venue for special events, (including the aforementioned pop concerts) and the spectacular fireworks display on Bonfire Night. More recently, the old Mansion on Roundhay Park has been converted into a great restaurant and cafe by the team behind Dine Catering, under the name Dine At The Mansion.
Out to the south of Leeds is Middleton Park Woods. These woods feature the earthworks and buried remains of colliery workings, including shaft mounds and waggonways. The woods have a permanent orienteering course, bridleways, and an education and visitors centre.
At the opposite side of the city, on the way towards the market town of Otley, there’s Golden Acre Park. This park was once a privately run amusement park – complete with miniature railway, swimming pool and boating lake. Unfortunately it was forced to close during WWII and was taken over by Leeds City Council. The park now boasts a wildfowl lake and is a National Plant Garden for Lilac, Deutzia, Hosta and Hemerocallis. There is plenty to see including an arboretum and beautifully-kept cottage garden.
Golden Acre Parks links to two more of Leeds’ parks – Meanwood Park and Woodhouse Moor through the Leeds city council maintained Meanwood Valley Trail. Leaving Golden Acre Park, you first pass through Scotland Woods and Adel Woods, where you can spot a now disused 1840 aqueduct Seven Arches, a mid-1800s carved water-spout called ‘The Slabbering Baby’, the remnanets of an old 1785 damn and mill, a bricked potato store and a flax mill.
Leaving Adel Woods, you enter the Hollies, a 22 hectare public park made into a plantsman’s garden, the home of four National Council collections: Philadelphus, Deutzia, Hosta and Hemerocallis. The land also benefits from flowering rhododendrons and azaleas from early spring. From there, you enter the 29 hectares of Meanwood Park, with basketball courts, a picnic area and children’s playground, plus a substantial wooded area. The Meanwood Beck flows through it over several small waterfalls and is crossed by many small footbridges. Following the trail takes you over Woodhouse Ridge – home to the Grade II listed stone Packhorse Bridge, which is now used as a footbridge across the Meanwood Beck. A fight between the Royalist and Parliamentarian forces took place in here during the English Civil War and it is said that the Beck ran red with the blood of the fallen, hence the place name Stainbeck.
From here, a quick trek through Victorian terraces takes you to Woodhouse Moor (also known as Hyde Park) which has a boules green and skate park and is very popular with the student population who live around the area.
Not so much a park as a vast forest area, Otley Chevin Forest Park is over 400 acres of nature reserves, which rises up to 280m above sea-level. The forest over-looks the quaint market town of Otley and offers amazing views of the surrounding Wharfe Valley. The incredible views aside, there’s plenty to do in and around the chvein including two orienteering courses, geo-caching and walks including two starting in Otley and working there way up the Chevin. Another option is to join Friends of Chevin Forest Park, who meet up monthly to take on a practical task to maintain the park and share some of its history.
MEANWOOD VALLEY URBAN FARM
Tucked away in a housing estate off Meanwood Road, you’d easily miss Meanwood Valley Urban Farm. Set up in 1980, this charity was created to provide services to inner city communities. The site has grown to take up 24 acres and has all kinds of wildlife to explore and learn about, from huge pigs to guinea pigs, with plenty of allotments and wooded areas to stroll around. An entertaining visit for adults, there are also plenty of educational facilities for children to enjoy and learn from. Plus, pop down to the cafe and shop to buy eggs and vegetables fresh from the farm.
LEEDS STATELY HOMES
Leeds can boast being surrounded by a number of impressive stately homes. And yes, while wandering around posh houses looking at art and impressive relics isn’t really a summer activity, we’re suggesting these places for their magnificent grounds.
We’ll start with Harewood House on the road out towards Harrogate. This impressive home has over 100 acres of gardens, tended by an award-winning head gardener. Strolling round them might be fun, but they also have a sculptures in the gardens, an adventure playground for kids and a famous bird gardens with everything from ostriches to flamingos and penguins!
Also at the northern end of the city we have Bramham Park – perhaps best known as the current home of Leeds Festival. When the grounds aren’t full of unwashed rock fans, they’re a wonderful place to spend a sunny afternoon, with plenty of landscape gardens and interesting architectural pieces.
Out to the east we have Lotherton Hall, a large estate with grounds that act as home for red deer, as well as a bird garden and formal landscape gardens. To help you make the most of the grounds, there are nature trails and walks to enjoy.
Still eastwards, but closer to Leeds city centre, Temple Newsam which has the connecting home farm – with a mix of recreated workshops, exhibitions and rare breeds of livestock, all housed in the original buildings. You’ve then also got 1,500 acres of parkland, farmland, woodland, and gardens.
One of UK’s most complete Cistercian abbeys, Kirkstall Abbey can trace its history back to 1152, when it was founded by a party of Cistercian monks from Fountains Abbey. The site is now ruined, but still boasts imposing walls and halls – especially the great arches of the church. The site makes for a great place for wandering around in the sunshine, with well kept grounds, plenty of history to soak in and the Leeds-Liverpool canal flowing nearby. Should you get a bit peckish, the Gatehouse cafe across the way offers a nice outdoor area with views to the Abbey.
The Leeds-Liverpool Canal is over 200km long and (unsurprisingly) connects our city to Liverpool – crossing the Pennines and 91 locks in the process. The canal took over 40 years to complete, and while the it’s now seldom used for its original industrial intention of importing and exporting goods, it’s a great spot for walking, cycling, or hiring your own narrow boat. A list of walks along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal can be found here: www.waterscape.com/canals-and-rivers/leeds-and-liverpool-canal/walking and you can find places to hire a narrowboat from here: www.canaljunction.com/narrowboat/
Posted on Wednesday 10th August 2011
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