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Nothing wrong with nostalgia!



Most areas of the country have their own ‘nostalgic magazines’ and Down Your Way has featured many of my articles over the last few years.

Woodhouse Moor Revisited was inspired by memories of the part of the great northern city in which I grew up. My family moved house several times but we were never far away from the former common once known as ‘the lungs of Leeds’. It was, you might say, our local park. Childhood picnics and games of ‘catch’ gave way to roller skating round the already disused bandstand, the occasional game of tennis – I was never any good at that – and watching the boyfriend of the day playing football with his friends. Across Woodhouse Lane (formerly the Leeds-Otley Turnpike) from the landscaped section lay the ‘Cinder Moor’, empty and desolate for most of the year but coming to life when Billy Smart’s Circus paid its annual visit and again at Easter and particularly in September when the ‘Feast’ moved in for a few days. As I wrote in the article, ‘the smell of diesel fumes mingled with fried onions always served to heighten the excitement’ and ‘it was all about whizzing round to the latest hit records and flirting with the tough looking young men in charge of the Waltzers’. Well, I did attend a rather sedate single sex grammar school!

In those days, I never gave a thought to the long history of Woodhouse Moor, but a few hours spent in Leeds Local Studies Library gave me plenty of facts to choose from. Famous visitors included Thomas Fairfax, whose troops assembled there in 1643 to capture Leeds from the Royalists, Queen Victoria and Emmeline Pankhurst. The Chartists met there in 1837 to form Leeds Working Men’s Association and both World Wars saw large parts of the Moor turned over to military use and allotments. During WW2, air raid shelters were also added, but morale was kept up by regular concerts on the bandstand and dances in a large marquee on the tennis courts.

It was on a grey and drizzly Sunday in March that I set off with a friend and her dog to take photographs for my article. I was saddened at first to find that some features I remembered had either disappeared or been vandalised. The paths were in sad need of repair, some of the signs were covered in graffiti and paint had been daubed onto the statue of Robert Peel at one entrance. On the other hand, the flower beds and bowling green were still carefully tended, the children’s playground was much more colourful, better equipped and certainly safer than in my day and cheerful youngsters of all shades were showing off their moves in the skate park. The crocuses were in full bloom on the grass verges on both sides of Woodhouse Lane and the Moscow State Circus was preparing to move on from the Cinder Moor to its next venue.

Resolving to return in the summer, when the Moor will have been taken over by picnicking families and students ‘relaxing from their studies’, we equipped ourselves with takeaway coffees and baklava from a little café on Hyde Park corner and hurried back to the warmth of our car.



23 August, 2013 - Make the first comment on this story

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