By Emily Horner
Garforth is a popular commuter town of East Leeds for those wanting a bit of countryside and city life, without residents having to commit to either.
The main street may not be that much to look at architecture-wise, but there is more than meets the eye.
Grace Beesting, a resident of Garforth says: “A good thing about Garforth is the recent increase of pubs and bars, like Wetherspoons and Jigger and Jar.”
The nightlife in Garforth is expanding, with the new Wetherspoon’s pub and bars Gin Shack, Blake’s Bar, and The Yard, to name a few, adding to the 10 long-standing pubs. Their names reveal the village’s history, such as The Gascoigne, The Podger, and The Miners.
Throughout the day-time, Garforth Main street is always busy with an abundance of both independent and traditional village shops. True to its village roots, it has an independent greengrocer, butcher, baker, and a cobbler.
Lavinia Littlewood, a shopper of Garforth says: “It’s a nice little town- the cafes are cute and for the size of the town there’s lots of shops, salons and cafes and a good variety of shops, and the big long walks are lovely.”
For Millie Connolly, a resident of Garforth, the town has the perfect mix. “I think Garforth is a lovely place to live with a good mix of nice cafes and restaurants such as La Bella Vita [an independent Italian restaurant], Costa Coffee alongside multiple nature walks around the outskirts of town,” she says.
Grace adds: “Garforth is surrounded by pleasant country walks to get to other villages like Kippax and Allerton Bywater.”
The popularity of the old railway lines, which have now been turned into country walks, has increased with Garforth’s walkers, runners and cyclists during the current pandemic.
Garforth is nine miles away from Leeds City Centre, only a 10 -minute train journey for those on their commute to work, and 16 miles away from York, with a 20-minute train journey.
Grace Beesting, said: “Garforth has good transport links with regular buses, two train stations and by the M1 and A1 motorway links.
“But for a town with good motorway links, there is limited parking on Main Street even though it’s always so busy.”
The secondary school, Garforth Academy and Sixth Form College received an OFSTED ‘Outstanding’ rating at their last inspection. Despite this, the youth culture can be a cause of social problems around Garforth.
Grace adds: “There are various Garforth gossip pages on Facebook where residents often complain about the youth culture, with youths sometimes exhibiting antisocial behaviour like drinking, drugs and vandalism.”
A 10-minute drive away from Garforth Main Street is the much-loved Edwardian stately home and bird garden, Lotherton Hall. It is a place where history- buffs, animal- lovers and families alike can enjoy a day out- particularly in the Summer when the gardens light up with colourful flowers.
The Hall was first owned by Richard Neville Earl of Warwick (known as Warwick the Kingmaker) and has a chapel dating back to the 12th Century. The lands were later bought by John Gascoigne of Lasingcroft in 1540, and then the family (Richard Oliver Gascoigne) bought the house in 1825. It was passed down through the family till 1968 and Leeds City Council transformed it into a museum.
A bird garden was added, displaying rare and tropical birds from various corners of the globe, such as snowy owls, Tucans and Andean Condors. There are also wild deer roaming freely around the fields.
Millie Connolly said: “Lotherton Hall is a great place for a family day out to walk dogs on the large open fields or have a picnic by the playground.
“When I go to Lotherton Hall I always make a point to visit the bird garden which is a fun yet educational part of the park enjoyed by my whole family.”
Lavinia adds: “I’ve loved Lotherton Hall since I was a kid and I can’t wait to go again when this [Covid-19] is over.”
The Hall was used as a military hospital during World War One, yet its medical history did not begin there.
Lotherton’s Florence Nightingale exhibit, ‘Bicentuary: Inspiration to Genius’, opened March 1, 2020, displaying newfound objects of her family connections to the Gascoignes such as jewellery and paintings, and her letters to Leeds’ surgeons, and the development of Leeds General Infirmary’s maternity ward.
Louisa Hadidi who was on University work experience at Lotherton Hall in December 2016, said:
“[The hall] did World Wars One and Two History workshops for school children where they pretended to be evacuees and museum studies workshops for University students, as well as monthly educational drop-in sessions for the under 5’s to learn about the light and the dark.”
Thankfully, Florence’s exhibit is running until October 18, 2020 – so hopefully it will still be there after Covid-19.