Middleton Park – A Park for People
"As I walked through the park, down a leafy woodland track to catch a steam train on the worlds oldest working railway, I waved hello to the occupants of a horse driven carriage ambling from the nearby equestrian centre.
Up until that point I had been lost in the sound of birds - woodpeckers drumming, nuthatches calling and jays cawing. Their voices seemed to blend with the woodland colours – the green of the oak leaves, the deep violet-blue bluebells and the yellow archangels. These flowers are indicators of woodland at least 500 years old! I know this because my grandson’s class visited last week and learnt all about the wildlife that can be found in Miggy Wood – the toads that teem towards the pond in spring, the warblers that visit in summer and the fungi that bursts out in autumn.
My grandson also told me about the history of the park – all those pudding bowls in the woods, not bomb craters as I’d been telling him (well, I still think some of them are) but the remains of coal mining activity from hundreds of years ago. This place fired not only the industrial revolution and technological advances in Yorkshire but the whole of Britain, even the world! Imagine that, on my very doorstep! I know he must be right because I read the same things on one of those information boards they’ve put up next to interesting places in the park.
Mind you, its not only school children who are benefiting from the changes. The young lass down the road has been learning new skills by volunteering in the park. She’s used saws and other hand tools to undertake woodland management, bridge repair and had a go at gardening as well. I know she’s looking for work so that experience will look good on her C.V.
After I’ve been on the train, I’ll wander back through the park and grab a cup of tea at the new centre. Ever since Hazel’s café closed the park’s been missing something (not least of all toilets, my wife can’t nip behind a tree like me!). So now we’ve got toilets back in the park and ones for disabled people too – that’s got to be a good thing. I always like looking at the displays in the centre, pictures of people young and old, from many backgrounds and cultures, learning new things, having fun at the Friends of Middleton Park events – its grand the way this park is at the centre of things. Not only for this community ‘n all – I heard they had a group of volunteers from a solicitors firm based in the north of Leeds the other day, painting some fences as a team building exercise.
And the centre’s living roof! Fantastic! It holds the rain water so that it doesn’t just run off to cause flooding elsewhere. Sustainable they call it. I just think it looks nice.
Well, all these new things have changed how folks look upon the park. And to think how some people used to talk before the work got going – ‘it’s a waste of time … the kids round here will trash it’. It took a lot of imagination to believe that by taking down fences people would actually value something more. Its really become something this park, it really has."
The Parks for People project aims to make this vision a reality and Middleton Park truly the green jewel of south Leeds.
In November 2011 work began on a major investment into Middleton Park as part of the £2.2 million project. Improvements include;
A new Lakeside Centre that will have space for a café, public toilets, educational facilities and parks staff (and a green roof!). Building work is due for completion at the end of August 2012.
- A new band stand
- Entrance improvements
- Better signage and information boards
- Redevelopment of the Rose Garden
- Heritage trails and new seating
- More litter bins
- Installation of sculptures and other public art
As well as the physical improvements, the project is very much about engaging and involving all the people of Leeds in the park through events, training and volunteering opportunities.
For more information please contact the Estate Officer, Graeme Ashton, on 0113 3957400.
Getting to Middleton Park: Buses 2, 12 & 13A all go from Leeds City Centre to Middleton, within 5 minutes walk to the park and number 13 stops outside the main entrance on Town Street. For more information see www.wymetro.com.
The free car park can be accessed from Town Street, Middleton.
The Parks for People project is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Big Lottery Fund. Other financial support comes from Leeds City Council and Wades Charity.