Here and There with Peter Haughton

“Enjoy the little things in life – because one day you’ll look back and realise they were the big things.”

Kurt Vonnegut

Yes, I’m a Leeds Loiner who can slip into broad Yorkshire – but not always. Once I was supply teaching in Allerton Bywater, only a few miles from Wakefield when a pupil said, “Thas not from round ‘ere, ista?” In standard English this means, ‘You’re not from round here, are you?’ When I said I wasn’t he asked, ”Ista from Wakefield?”

It can make for a funny story but… I’ve worked in South Leeds schools where seaside trips confirm that many children had never seen the sea before. And Janine, my wife, tells me that some of the Year 1 pupils she supervised on such trips, before she retired, were visibly frightened by it. We’re lucky that we can holiday by the sea (It wasn’t just luck though. It did involve a lot of hard graft.)

One retirement project I did was a campervan conversion. We’d drive hundreds of miles to enjoy parts of the UK. But since the travel restrictions we’ve holidayed closer to home. We noticed though that these holidays were as enjoyable as those we’d previously gone further away for. Right now, we’re not using the van because son Ry and his wife Shell are in the process of moving gear with it to a narrowboat they’ve just bought.

The important thing is to have a break and there may be residents in South Leeds who can’t afford to have any holiday, what with Covid, the rising cost of living, the need to keep working. But because I’ve been taking short train rides to get out and about I’ve been reminded just how much there is to enjoy close to home.

The Apperley Bridge Station to Rodley canal walk (3.5 miles)

A single, full price adult train ticket to Apperley Bridge from Leeds City Station costs £4.80, concessionary £2.35. For children to age 15 it’s half the full price, £2.40. It’s important to make sure you have the right ticket for your journey: it’s checked on the train, and you could be fined if it isn’t. The train ride from Leeds to Apperley Bridge rail station takes about 15 minutes.

The first thing that strikes me as I leave the station is just how green and spacious everything is. It’s a walk to the A658 Apperley Lane/Harrogate Road and I use the pelican crossing because traffic’s moving fast. I’m now walking down past the Woodhouse Grove School grounds. The second, smaller bridge is the canal bridge.

Once down the steps I turn left to follow what would take me, on the towpath, all the way to Leeds. But not today. Sun’s out, and it’s so quiet and peaceful. There’s a bench I use to watch horses and two foals grazing. Further on there’s a grey heron.

A pair of swans with two cygnets glide towards me to take a closer look and I remember that swans can be dangerous with wings powerful enough to break an arm. Cyclists share the towpath, but some like to speed despite signs saying they should give way to pedestrians. So keep an eye out. And on no account, if there’s a heatwave, use the canal or canal locks to swim in. There are weeds you can get trapped in, and the locks are deep with water cold enough to paralyse. People have drowned.

Once at Rodley, you have a café, pubs, an ice cream van. You can catch the 86 bus from there, bringing you all the way back to The Middleton Centre in South Leeds.

“John” (name changed)

At Rodley I’m privileged to meet John. He’s on a bench, alongside his bike, enjoying his packed lunch, a sudden shower forcing him to join me sheltering under a bridge.

He must be 90 if he’s a day, retired now for 20+ years and out for a day’s cycling. He’d worked as an engineer at a tank factory, supervising two production lines. Already, this year, he and his wife have cycled 1,500 miles – on a tandem. He still has a workshop where he modifies mobility scooters to meet specific needs, for a charity.

I tell him that, given a day, I could clean up his bike, how he’d see the difference once all the grime was removed from chain and crankset. He laughs when I say I’m trying to lose weight but still like my beer, the laugh of someone master to the perils of liking alcohol a tad too much. An example to us all.

I’ll pass this canal story, when printed, on to my friend Chernor living opposite. He and his wife are from Sierra Leone. He’s an HGV driver, so is probably too busy to be aware of such local attractions. Perhaps you know of someone in similar circumstances in our community, and may want to do likewise.


This post was written by Peter Haughton

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