In William Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’ he talks of “England’s mountains green….and pleasant pastures seen” and he informs us
“I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.”
Now ask anyone from Yorkshire and proud (that’s anyone from Yorkshire in case your curious) they will waste no time in reminding you that Leeds is god’s country, perhaps Blake had this in mind when he wrote Jerusalem. The Pennines which separate Lancashire and Yorkshire certainly truly represent these pleasant pastures and mountains green, though both side of the Pennines in the old war of the roses have great acclaim and appreciation for those beautiful rolling hills.
One thing Leeds does have is plenty of green space. Having spent nearly 5 years in Leeds I’ve lived in a good few houses in all areas of Leeds and one of the things I’ve appreciated the most is the short distance I’ve always had to travel to get to a green space. Anyone living or working in a city will truly understand the appreciation of green space and fresh air- the two of which work symbiotically and are so rare in most city centres
To get out on the Yorkshire moors is an easy drive or bus ride or even a bike ride if you’re feeling the let’s be super green vibe. However there’s so many walks, parks, nature reserves, green gateways and of course the Peninne trail in very easy access if you want easy access nature and space it is for sure all the doorstep, not to forget the city centre parks.
Now if it’s a break from the air-con or you’ve just arrived in Leeds and fancy a spot of lunch in the sunshine ( it is sunny here more than people would have you believe, it’s really not grim up north) then there’s a selection of central stop and take breath spots
Hidden away in the heart of Leeds Financial and Legal quarter, Park Square is a beautifully landscaped garden with plenty of green space to relax. Colourfully vibrant with flowers in bloom, the space offers sufficient facilities to sit in the shade with a book or munch on your packed lunch; or simply lie back and catch the sun. First laid out in 1788, the traditional Georgian garden was originally bordered by high quality homes long replaced by office buildings, factories and warehouses around the mid-19th Century.
Getting there: Walk past Leeds Art Gallery, the Central Library on the Headrow. Turn left just as you pass the Town Hall on the Westgate and Park Square is on to your right after a two-minute walk.
Merrion Street Gardens
Set adjacent to St John’s Church and sitting snugly at one of the busiest areas in the city, the Merrion Street Garden, also known as the Garden of Rest, is a neat space to take a break especially if you’re doing a bit of shopping in the vicinity or merely work nearby. Bordered by rows of large trees that offer plenty of shade, the green space is also frequented by flocks of pigeons. St John’s Church built in 1632-34 is the oldest church in Leeds and the surroundings certainly have the quality to transport you closer to serenity.
Getting there: Take the Merrion Street between the Merrion Centre and St John’s Centre on Woodhouse Lane and the garden is to your right as you pass the entrance to the St John’s Centre Car Park.
Situated further north of the Merrion St Gardens in the Northern Quarter of the Leeds city centre, Lovell Park is an expansive green space in a tranquil corner offering sufficient shade and greenery. An ideal place for a picnic or a little exercise, there is a decent row of cafes and restaurants on the North Street Border If you feel like a bite to eat while you’re lounging.
Getting there: Across from Leeds Arena, it sits between Lovell Park Road and North Street, or if you walk a few minutes’ north from the Grand Theatre and Opera House along North Street you will spot it on your left.
Huddled right in the heart of the Millennium Square area, this spectacular little green space has been dedicated to the late Nelson Mandela, the first President of South Africa, in recognition of his struggle against apartheid. Remarkably laid out on a small space, the Mandela Garden includes a water feature that symbolically reflects Mandela’s prison cell bars and some beautiful African blooms.
Getting there: Located right next to the Electric Press (Carriage Works), this is right in the hub of the city and hard to miss.
Penny Pocket Park
If you’ve just stepped into Leeds from a coach and need some quiet space to catch your breath, or simply work in the area, Penny Pocket Park is an ideal place to find a bit of tranquillity within the city.
Getting there: Sits right between the Leeds Bus and Coach Station and Leeds Minster in the corner where York Street meets Duke Street.
Right in the middle of the city’s bustling shopping precinct this quiet spot is so well hidden that you may not have realised it existed. Surrounded by elegant terraced houses that now belong to the Leeds Beckett University this is a great spot for a touch of peace and quiet on a busy day.
Getting there: Across the road from Leeds Beckett University’s Rose Bowl, behind where Woodhouse Lane meets Clay Pit Lane.
This little nook of a garden is quiet and shaded, ideal to catch some fresh air. Laid out in the 1830s Woodhouse Square was then surrounded by classy houses belonging to rich merchants and now replaced by office suites. There are also plenty of little cafes and restaurants around the area for a cup of tea or coffee or a spot of lunch.
Getting there: Just across from Leeds General Infirmary Just a two-minute stroll across from the Park Lane College on Clarendon Road and very hard to miss!
There is a quaint little footpath along the River Aire that runs behind the Whitehall Quay, right past Novotel Hotel, No 1 Whitehall Riverside and stretching further, offering you the perfect retreat away from all the bustle of the city. The breezy and panoramic stretch is hidden away, running parallel to the Whitehall Road, so that you may not have known it existed. Whether you want to sit on a bench and watch the silent waters, or rest your eyes on the verdant landscape that is beyond the river, or just experience a breath of fresh air and a bit of exercise, this is a perfect place, especially if you work around the area.
Getting there: Minutes away from the Leeds Station on Aire Street and then on Whitehall Road. You can get through to the footpath from Whitehall Quay entrance area.
Now take a step out the city centre and your options increase again vastly. Leeds is rather well known for its back to back terraces, though a fair share of these have been torn down and rebuilt there’s still a vast amount which leaves a lot of residences with little or no garden space, which although something you come to terms with living in a city centre apartment definitely is missed when you’re living in a house. This is one of the reasons that Leeds boasts so many parks and green spaces, happy and healthy residents make a happy and healthy community. Green community in Leeds is definitely something that is prominent with lots of local groups set yup to encourage green education and getting people growing and knowing. Lots of little veg gardens and community green groups always having events on keep the green ball rolling. Some of these green groups are responsible for making the local bin yards a more pleasant space working with residents back in the late 90’s early 00’s. Hydepark Source enabled local residents to beautify rather than gentrify your local surroundings and if you happen to be walking round bear Burley park or Woodhouse Moor this is something you will get to witness. The bin yards having beautiful mosaic and arranged so people can have their own bit of green space and grow plants and flowers close to home almost having a secret garden feel. Talking of growing Leeds also boasts a large amount of allotment sites and although these aren’t open for the general public to walk through as you stroll past it does get you somewhat inspired. Having had an allotment for 2 years myself in Leeds I can’t begin to explain the difference this space makes. Homegrown food always tastes so much better and the strong sense of community and the knowledge you gain from your fellow allotmenteers is a lifelong valuable experience and if you have an allotment near you then get signed up but be prepared for the graft.
If it’s a stroll and to soak up nature rather than dig it, then Leeds selection of walks including these 3 recommended ones by Leeds List
Leeds Waterfront Heritage Trail
The Leeds Waterfront Heritage Trail is by no means an arduous ramble across the city, but it is one that is overflowing with a sense of history as it tackles some of the most important landmarks of Leeds’ past along a four mile stretch.
Kicking off at the iconic Kirkstall Abbey, you’ll make your way slowly into Leeds, encountering Wellington Place, Holbeck Urban Village, Granary Wharf, Leeds Bridge, The Calls, Brewery Wharf and Leeds Dock. That’s all before making your way back into the city where you’ll be able to toast everything you’ve seen with a drink at one of the many riverside bars.
Meanwood Valley Trail
The H.R. Marsden statue at the very south corner of Woodhouse Moor is where the famous Meanwood Valley Trail kicks off, taking you from the edge of the city centre to the heart of suburban Leeds.
On the seven mile route, you’ll get to discover a green side to the city you probably didn’t know was there. From Woodhouse Ridge, The Hollies and Scotland Mill’s Dam to the Seven Arches Aqueduct, Slabbering Baby Well and Golden Acre Park. It’ll be worth the aching legs in the morning, we promise.
The Leeds Country Way
This one definitely lives up to the word epic. The Leeds Country Way is a sixty two mile path around Leeds, never going beyond seven miles away from Leeds City Square, and thankfully, it’s split up into four parts.
Each of those parts – from Golden Acre Park to Barwick-in-Elmet, Barwick-in-Elmet to Carlton, Carlton to Cockersdale and Cockersdale back to Golden Acre Park – are split into three themselves. So you can make a weekend of it and tick off one of the routes, never doing more than 6 miles in a day, while seeing some of the most scenic parts of Leeds while you’re at it.
With Leeds boasting over 62 community parks everyone has a green space as you can see from the extensive list below
- Allerton Bywater Sports Ground
- Armley Park
- Banstead Park
- Barley Hill Park
- Becketts Park
- Blenheim Square
- Bramley Falls Wood Park
- Bramley Park
- Burley Park
- Calverley Park (Victoria Park)
- Chapel Allerton Park
- Chevin Forest Park
- Churwell Park
- Cranmore Recreation Ground
- Cross Flatts Park
- Dartmouth Park
- Drighlington Moor Park
- East End Park
- Farnley Hall Park
- Glebelands Rec, Ninelands Lane
- Golden Acre Park
- Gotts Park
- Grove Hill Park, Otley
- Grove Road Recreation Ground
- Guiseley Nethermoor Park
- Hainsworth Park
- Halton Dene – Primrose Valley
- Harehills Park
- Hartley Avenue Park
- Holbeck Moor
- Holt Park
- Horsforth Hall Park
- Hunslet Lake
- Hunslet Moor
- Kirk Lane Park
- Lewisham Park
- Ley Lane
- Lovell Park
- Manston Park
- Meanwood Park
- Micklefield Park, Rawdon
- Middleton Park
- New Farnley Park
- New Wortley Recreation Ground
- Nowell Mount
- Nunroyd Park, Guiseley
- Penny Pocket Park
- Potternewton Park
- Pudsey Park
- Rodley Park Recreation Ground
- Rothwell Country Park
- Roundhay park – if you’re here Tropical World is a must visit
- Scarth Gardens
- Scatcherd Park
- Springhead Park
- Stanningley Park
- Tarnfield Park, Yeadon
- Tennant Hall POS
- The Hollies
- The Rein
- Tyersal Park
- Western Flatts Cliff Park
- Westroyd Park
- Wharfemeadows Park, Otley
- Whinmoor Park, Coal Road
- Woodhouse Moor Park
There’s also 7 nature reserves to experience and enjoy
It’s so easy when you visit or live in a city never to appreciate the beauty of the nature it has to share, getting lost in activities and architecture. The hecticness of living is so easy to get lost in and taking that step back breathing and enjoying space does wonders for body and mind. So I implore to you when you do visit Leeds please do come and appreciate the beauty we have central and surrounding us. Even as a Lancashire lass I can say of Leeds and all it has to offer I am proud.