By Zoe Peck
The leafy West Yorkshire suburb of Alwoodley, a stone’s throw from the countryside, offers everything anyone could possibly need – unless you’re aged 13-30 or hate the outdoors.
Alwoodley (derived from Old English for “woodland clearing”) is situated at the northernmost point of built-up Leeds before residential streets suddenly give way to the sprawling Yorkshire Dales. A 15-minute walk at most would grant you access to Eccup Reservoir and views over Wharfedale and the White Horse of Kilburn.
Between its reference in the 1086 Domesday Book and the start of the 20th century, Alwoodley remained an isolated agricultural community before housing and leisure developments following WW1 led to its expansion into an affluent suburban area. Here, houses range from “nice” to “bonkers.”
Whilst present-day Alwoodley may not have retained the sort of community spirit of togetherness and neighbour-connectivity whereby one might exchange sugar or expletives over the garden wall (residents might even struggle to tell you exactly what their next-door neighbour does for a living), it does have an active community association as well as strong Jewish and Christian communities.
Another post-war development, the Alwoodley Community Hall was built in 1949, largely voluntarily by residents and funded by donations. It is the setting for regular community events and the meeting place of The Alwoodley Parish Council, which was formed in 2008.
Teenage, life-long residents – privileged though the gripe may be – might view the area as a comfortable prison due to the lack of meeting spaces that are both private and don’t lead to them being considered a nuisance. Add to this the preoccupation with “respectability” that exists in many middle-class areas clashing with natural adolescent rebelliousness, it’s understandable that younger residents might feel somewhat alienated.
Though Alwoodley does offer many opportunities to compete in sports, including Moortown Rugby Club, Old Leodiensian “Leo’s” Cricket Club and a public access tennis court – so hardly Aleppo to grow up in, is it?
Notably, the 1929 Ryder Cup was held at Moortown Golf Club – one of Alwoodley’s three golf-courses.
A major selling point of Alwoodley is its proximity to Adel woods, appreciated by bird-watchers, botanists, rope-swingers and BMX riders, who rebuild a treacherous-looking unofficial track as often as it is flattened by the local authority.
Perhaps the most mysterious feature of Adel woods is what is known as “The Abandoned Village” – the grounds of the old Eastmoor Reformatory, a Victorian correctional facility which aimed to reform children that had fallen into crime. A row of houses, a chapel and a swimming pool remain, all completely empty – save for the occasional art student.
Here ends my homage to the place I was lucky enough to grow up.
But if peace and quiet make you itch, or if staying in a Tory stronghold ward doesn’t appeal to you, then robust public transport links mean Leeds city centre is only a 30-minute bus ride away!