Woodhouse Ridge The Northern Edge

First draft... only a few words to go with these images... I will return in the next few days to add quite a few more...

The Meanwood Valley Trail is green (and sometimes quite wild) pathway 7 or 8 miles long from just outside the city centre of Leeds, West Yorkshire to the grand Golden Acre Park which sits among farmland beyond the city's suburbs. Woodhouse Ridge is about a mile long, and part of that trail. It is heavily wooded with well-kept paths criss-crossing the slopes. These photos were taken at the northern edge of the ridge where it joins the houses of Headingley and Meanwood.

Meanwood Beck down at the right. Sugarwell Hill on the horizon (which has its own paths and splendid views).

A view like the photo above can make this whole area look neat, well-kept - almost like a huge country park. One of my aims is to show how, when one enters a landscape like this, it reveals another side which I am tempted to call 'wilder' - as each leaf bids for its drop of sunshine, each root takes hold of its scrap of earth.

One of several excellent pieces of signage helping passers-by to 'read' the landscape.

At the height of the industrial period small mills stood on this spot on the banks of that small river, the Meanwood Beck. The board above shows photos and maps from the archive. And industry is not entirely gone from the area. During my visit yesterday two stonecutters where noisily cutting and shaping stone, probably for gravestones.

The stonecutters down by the Beck

Surely the photo below could have come from the Yorkshire Dales or my beloved Lake District. This stream meanders through a lush valley with a wonderful diversity of mature trees, some of them enormously tall. Many of them clinging to the steep side of the valley. Yet look just between or over the trees and you can glimpse the surrounding suburbs.

Meanwood Beck

This photo was taken from a good path along the western bank of the stream. But this is almost as far as it goes at this point. To the right of the picture the steep bank reaches right down to the water making it almost impossible to progress further. The Meanwood Trail itself is via the well-kept paths way up atop the steep slope of the valley.

A photo that shows how steep the slope is... but somehow not how tall those trees are.

I took the photo above in order to give some idea of how tall those trees are that cling to the steep slope of the hill. But paradoxically the photo seems to reduce the majesty of those trees.

It is the same up-rooted tree in all three of these photos.
When I returned two days later the tree had been decorated
I would guess that tyre was once - and may be again - part of a swing constructed by kids to swing out over the stream

The photo above and the one below were taken within a few feet of one another, I had simply done a turn through 180 degrees.

The same up-rooted tree as in the grid above. Looking away from the river, back at the path, with a wooden bench away in the distance

The fallen tree trunk in the picture above can just be made out in the bottom left of the photo below. The photo shows a lone woman and her dog going up the long, steep path.

A lone woman and her dog take the steep path up from the stream to the paths that form part of the Meanwood Trail

The picture above shows the path from below. And it does give some sense of how very tall are the trees that cling to the hillside. The photo below shows the same path from the top, looking down into that part of the valley. I jumped to take the photo below as a break in the clouds lit up a field on the hill opposite where I had been exploring a week ago. The large block just below the horizon is a care home build a few years ago. I did a small project on the waste ground on which it was built, just before construction started and as the plot 're-wilded'. [It was featured in the On Landscape magazine. To see the photos click on the link below.]

At this point in Spring foliage and grass looks improbably green.

The photo above and the one below show more or less the same view. I have moved only slightly in order to take account of that splendid sign explaining something about the industrial history of this part of the valley.

Leeds City Council is doing a great job adding signs to many of its green areas to encourage their use.

One of the walls alongside the path at the top has attracted some splendid graffiti. It would be great if there were more walls to attract would-be artists to the walls, so that they leave the signage (and similar) alone. (And I am not actually suggesting that the graffiti artists responsible for those walls have defaced anything at all.)

The first two photos of this wall were taken facing north; the last in the sequence, facing south.

The many, many hours I have spent wandering the many parks and wilder places scattered through the suburbs of Leeds recently have made me reflect on the experience of women, especially the many young women students, walking about the suburbs.

In the photo below a young woman is disappearing at the end of a rather fairy-tale looking tunnel. If I had run after her I might have given her a bit of a fright. But a slightly older woman coming the other way did stop to answer my questions. She said she felt quite safe using these paths because they were so well-used that although you often could see no one else about, there were always others coming and going. This was certainly born out by my experience yesterday (April, 06 2017)

A natural tunnel along the backyards of the houses bordering the wilder part of the valley

The whole area is very popular with dog walkers. So much so that the rubbish bin was full ... mainly with plastic shopping bags wrapped around dog droppings neatly collected by the walkers. Highly commendable, given how wild much of the area is.

The well-kept paths are popular with dog walkers.

The huge building in the photo below was once a very up-market hotel. It is now used as apartments. It belongs to a different era to the industrial mills. At the beginning of the 20th century there was an attempt to tame these hills and turn them into terraced gardens. The bandstand dating from that time is still there... somewhat south along the Meanwood Valley Trail. I will explore that area on another page...

Near the top of the path.

That's all for now, folks. I always try to take a picture to sew together the story I have told... at least topographically. So in the photo above behind the lad on the bicycle you can see the graffiti on the wall that I featured earlier. That lad is on the top part of the path which you can see in the photo below; the wall is on the left. I waited for a few mins to take this photo, with people on two of the paths, to show that these paths are in constant use.

Three paths lead north from this point.

The photo below was taken looking south on the top path along the ridge. It divides Batty's Wood from the houses of Headingley. The 'ginnel' on the right leads through to Cumberland Road, which leads down towards the Hyde Park area of Leeds.

After taking this I chatted to the young man, explained that red is always going to attract photographers and that, from a distance, it looked like he was wearing the hijab.

On Tues April 10th, the lawn-mower arrived to mow the large field near the top of the ridge and also to mow a few quite specific paths through the long grass near the stream at the bottom. I am very impressed by the way the area is maintained.

The lawn-mower is going down to mow a few paths through the long grass.
The path mown (left hand of the photo bottom left and bottom right of the photo bottom right) will be trampled by passers-by and become a rough path going closer to the stream.
A view through the oak trees to the new-ish housing development below

About me

I have lived in Leeds since 1987, most of the time in Far Headingley, about a mile further upstream along the same Meanwood Beck that runs at the bottom of this valley. Because Leeds is so rich in parks and green spaces I discovered this particular spot only comparatively recently.

Recently I have been exploring the nooks and crannies just out of sight of my familiar routes through the suburbs of Leeds. Woodhouse Ridge holds many attractions for me. From the top the view across the valley allows me to pick out two of the spots associated with two of my other recent projects. The area is rich in natural diversity, challenging perspectives and historical interest.

The photos collected on this page were taken during five visits to the ridge over the course of ten days at the start of April 2017. I look forward to many more visits this year but they will have to be covered in new pages.

Although I love to travel further afield with my camera, most of my long-term photographic projects (and there have been, and are, many) have been devoted to the study of Leeds.

For a bit more information about me and my background you might want to read my statement for a previous exhibition...

Created By
Lloyd Spencer
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Credits:

Copyright Lloyd Spencer

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