Headingley Street Art

Our walks around Headingley during lockdown have allowed me to appreciate the work of local artists which add more colour and fun to the urban landscape.

This huge billboard of thanks to NHS staff and other frontline workers appeared overnight at Hyde Park corner.

Some are far more professional others. But they all add interest to the area. Some seem to follow a theme while others are completely random. Almost all have an element of fun.

Adding cartoon features to trees and street furniture seems to be a universal, basic artistic expression.

Although sometimes the trees try to fight back….this street sign has been all but totally enveloped by the tree!!

Not entirely art….but this impromptu brick flower bed at a bus stop on Headingley Lane certainly adds a spot of joy!

Other spots of joy scattered through the local streets of Headingley and Meanwood are provided by the Little Free Libraries. These were the brainchild of our friend Carrie Franklin and were lovingly decorated by local artists. Here are a couple of fabulous examples.

Perhaps not the usual idea of art…but this amusingly depicts complex lockdown moods…..social isolation alongside a longing for freedom.

The Bat House

And finally we come to The Bat House. The Bat House, nestling in an ordinary residential street of semi detached houses, has a special place in our family history.

Most Saturday evenings, when our children were small and Gary still actually played 11 aside football, we would give a lift home to one of the other Old Mods players. This was the ineffable Jem Dobbs. Jem would always insist that we take a small diversion past a house known locally as The Bat House.

This house was dedicated to the original Batman programme and was decorated inside and out with Batman paraphernalia. Every week Jem insisted on driving past to show the house to our young son, Jamie….forgetting that we had done exactly the self same thing the previous Saturday.

Sadly, The Bat House is no longer painted a lurid black and purple but the entrance to its cellar still has the bat emblem over the doorway.

So many things in Headingley have changed during our 30 year tenure but the area remains as lively, bright, informative and entertaining as ever. Thank Goodness!

It has certainly brightened our lockdown exercise!

Walking around Headingley ……under Lockdown

Woodhouse Ridge at the bottom by  the beck

We always felt lucky in that although we live close to the busy city centre of Leeds there were green spaces close at hand to walk through.

One of the open spaces on The Ridge

Indeed Gary’s dad had always insisted that Leeds was one of if not the greenest cities in Europe. I am not sure how accurate that claim is but if you look at a map of Leeds it certainly does have lots of green spaces.

Hard to believe that this view of Meanwood Beck is in the heart of the city!

Just a 2 minutes walk from our house takes us to the wonderful wooded area of Woodhouse Ridge, known locally as simply The Ridge.

This forms a part of the Meanwood Valley Trail and joins up with The Dale’s Way long distance footpath. A variety of trails meander through this native woodland which follows the path of Meanwood Beck and offers enticing views of Meanwood Valley below and Sugar Hill opposite.

At the bottom of our street with the view over Meanwood Valley . The  start of The Ridge path is just to the right.
Socially isolated folk on the Ridge looking out over Meanwood Valley

For over 30 years we have wandered through this tiny woodland. Usually heading for The Chemic Tavern in Woodhouse. A firm family tradition is to walk through the wood and then back through the ginnels every Christmas Day before our late afternoon Christmas dinner.

Sadly, and of course, The Chemic has been shut throughout the lockdown but Arkwrights …the fish and chip shop next door has remained open for take aways and we hope to stop off there one day for a treat!

The longest of the ginnels we walk through as we return from The Ridge through the back streets of Hyde Park

Although The Ridge has always been a popular place as it is so accessible and offers a more pleasant walk to the University and the city centre than the main road, there has been a noticable increase in the numbers of people resorting there for their daily exercise. Although, having said that most of my photos are empty of folk!

A view of one of the many exits off The Ridge via a ginnel leading to Cumberland Road.

The three main pathways are wide and firm enough for prams and pushchairs and so it is popular with families. Cyclists use this route too and we are often carefully overtaken both by fully lycra’d up and helmeted experts and also more casual….often aged plodders.

Spring flowers and wild garlic.

We feel so lucky to have this beautiful area so close to home and have become more aware of its special attractions each time we walk through.

The base of the old Victorian bandstand…is a much used meeting place for local folk.

Just off The Ridge by The City of Leeds high school a wonderful and very innovative permaculture garden has been developed on waste land by volunteers.

View of the roof turfed permaculture pavilion
Inside the permaculture garden with a view from the pavilion.

Sometimes on our circular walk home we call in at another hidden gem which is stowed away amongst the back streets of Hyde Park…Dagmar Wood.

The stage at Dagmar

This outdoor garden, a former sandstone quarry, has more recently been custom adapted for outdoor theatre and hosts Shakespearean plays at the height of midsummer .

It is a wonderful oasis of calm close to one of the busiest and most polluted roads in Britain.

Dagmar Wood

Spring is always a very special time on The Ridge, especially once the bluebells are flowering.

And of course there is always the wildlife. Wild pigeons coo lovingly, blackbirds, robins and even little Jenny Wrens can be heard strutting their stuff. Ducks with their ducklings can be espied on the tumbling waters of the Beck.

And finally, there are always the horses…which are usually pleading for a carrot or two as we pass by.

Yes we are very lucky and my heart goes out to all those other townies and city dwellers not so fortunate. Especially those families trapped in high rise flats with no outdoor spaces close by.

How about you, where do you take your daily lockdown dose of exercise and escape?