Could Middleton ‘Go Ape’? Locals push for treetop adventure course

South Leeds residents look set to launch a campaign to bring a ‘Go Ape‘ treetop adventure course to Middleton Park, after a proposal to establish one in Roundhay Park was blocked by local opposition there.

Last October saw the idea first floated for Roundhay, followed by an extensive community consultation running until mid January. However, a petition against the scheme, led by Friends of Roundhay Park, gathered over 3,000 supporters – concerned about issues including risk to wildlife, parking and congestion, and a section of the park being leased to a private company. Leeds City Council and Go Ape have now this week announced that they no longer intend to progress the site at Roundhay, but remain keen to seek another location in the city.

A knife-edge local debate? (Image courtesy of Kelly Last, via Creative Commons.)

Meanwhile, a number of south Leeds residents are pushing for a local campaign for Middleton Park to be considered for the development – with some lively debate on social media and in the community, which suggested a majority of local people (although not all) are behind the scheme.

Craig Sweaton, local resident and business owner – who launched one of the debates in the Middleton Facebook group – commented:

“This is just the kind of thing south Leeds needs. We often get overlooked, but this would bring people in, provide something positive for kids and families, and potentially boost local business. It’d be especially interesting if it linked with other amenities like Middleton Railway and the Bike Hub. Providing it’s done sympathetically, it would be a great addition to the park and the area.”

Other positive comments online included the following: “This kind of tourist attraction can only be a good thing; get Middleton on the map for the right reason” (Christine Venus). “So much woodland is wasted in LS10, especially after the closing of the golf club. This would be great” (Sarah Carney). And “It would generate jobs and money for the area; I personally would love a job doing something like that” (Mark Holroyd).

But some were against the idea, with comments including the following: “No no no no. Leave our beautiful park alone. We have already lost so much of our heritage and Middleton history. North Leeds are welcome to it” (Michelle Travis). “I’m not sure we could cope with more traffic in area; our council love building things without looking at the impact on the roads, and add no infrastructure to deal with potential problems” (Wayne Dixon). And “I think Miggy woods should be left as it is: it’s not a cheap day out at Go Ape, a walk through the woods is free” (Demi Hickinson). Read the full debates on Facebook here, here, and here.

South Leeds Life have spoken with both representatives for Friends of Middleton Park, and the Middleton Park councillors, and all have expressed interest in finding out more – especially the thoughts and wishes of local people – and seeing how the proposal develops. But they also stressed that there are many barriers and challenges, and that they cannot take a position until they know more.

Go Ape is a national outdoor adventure company which runs 30 tree-top courses in woodland around the UK, featuring rope ladders, zip-wires, rope bridges, swings, and more. They are a multi award winning company, including for sustainability – but it comes at a cost, with tickets costing up to £33 per head. Their proposed Leeds scheme would cost an estimated £300,000, and create 35 jobs.


7 Replies to “Could Middleton ‘Go Ape’? Locals push for treetop adventure course”

  1. This would be a disaster for Middleton, and it’s indigenous wildlife to see our jewel desecrated with this is a step too far, hopefully the Wades trust would never allow this to get out of the traps, I feel another petition coming.
    Ps I see some of the comments in favour and those championing this are not from Middleton at all (like your own Mr Carlisle) you would do well to remember this.

    1. Thanks Gary, you make some valid points and on balance I think I agree with you. However you must remember that Middleton Park doesn’t just belong to the Middleton community. Many of us who live in Beeston (including Mr Carlisle) use the park regularly, as do people in Belle Isle and Hunslet.

  2. Hi Gary, thanks for your comments.
    As to the content of the idea, time will tell – but I do have a sense that many Middleton people are genuinely interested and open to the scheme. It’s quite possible that as more info becomes available, people who are currently enthusiastic will become less so (or maybe vice versa). But I’d be keen to see an open process to explore it, rather than rushing to conclusions either way.
    As to your query about who gets to have their voice heard in debates like this, it genuinely got me thinking. Further to what Jeremy says above (my family and I do indeed use the park and woods year round), I live 0.8 miles from the edge of the park/woods – which is the same distance as someone living in the Throstles in Middleton. Or if you live in New Forest Village, you’re probably 1 mile+ away. How do we weight the views of people based on where they live? I think we should absolutely give weight in these matters based on where someone lives – but how exactly?
    Also, what if there was someone who lived across the road from the park (eg Town Street), but only went in there once a year, or hadn’t been in for several years – how would we balance their views against someone from Robin Wood or Tingley, who (for example) came to the park every week? I’m not proposing any solutions, but am honestly wondering…

  3. Your headline is a bit misleading and may I say mischief making. I have lived in Middleton almost all of my life 50yrs+ I have played in those woods as a kid I have taken my children in there I have now recently taken my first grandchild in there,I walk those woods on a daily basis so I do have an honest feel for it’s nature it’s history which clearly a lot of people do not. It is a green lung in a predominantly residential area which is free for all to enjoy no matter what their age. Do people seriously want a vast area of it ‘fenced off’ for commercial use because that is what would happen. Do people want their right of way in a public park denied because they haven’t got £30 a pop to use it? Do people want to see vast areas of natural habitat cleared of undergrowth to accommodate this scheme? Do people want to see trees ‘altered’ to make them fit for purpose for this scheme? Do people want to see the history of the park corrupted? These are not assumptions, these are ‘facts’. If I am being ‘selfish’ it is not for me, it is for wildlife that live there. The wildlife that was there long before we were, the fauna the many special plants and trees which make our ancient woodland so unique. Hopefully, as I say, the Wades Trust would on balance of probability never let this happen.

  4. Hi Gary.
    About the title, I’m afraid I disagree! Some locals are pushing for it, and Middleton could (without a massive stretch of the imagination) ‘go ape’. Whether or not that’s a good idea or not is another matter!
    As I said above, I’d love to see a really open local debate unfold, with a wide range of people exploring all the options, then coming to a decision – there is much none of us don’t yet know, so we might have our positions, but I sense it’d be good to suspend judgment for now. I’m not convinced Middleton should ‘go ape’, but I’d like to find out more.
    Some quick responses for now (based on my limited knowledge of having done Go Ape elsewhere)…
    – Go Ape wouldn’t stop Miggy Park being a green lung: no trees would be felled, now I suspect especially altered. I saw very very little evidence of Go Ape negatively impacting the environment in other places – eg plenty of undergrowth, and trees all intact.
    – RE fencing off the park, I’d be interested to see how much of the park it’d take. Again, when I’ve done it before, the parks/courses were not especially big – perhaps 150m x 150m. There are chunks of Miggy Park that are always quiet, every time I’ve ever been – could they not be spared? RE high prices: yes, it’s unlikely to be something people do every week, but it’s a positive local amenity for the odd day, no?
    – RE corrupted the history of the park, what does that mean? Does the (noisy) Miggy Railway not corrupt the purity of the park? (I think not: I like the railway.) Or did it when it was first installed? Are the bike trails going to corrupt the history of the park? Did the mines corrupt the history of the park when they were there? Times change, stories and histories evolve, and I wonder if Go Ape could be part of that – maybe.
    – Finally, I’m all for wildlife, but there’s always a tension between development and the environment. We should take utterly radical steps as a society if we really cared about wildlife (eg stop using fossil fuels immediately) – whereas Go Ape is pretty low-impact, in my view.
    So, let’s all research and debate more, and see where we get to…

  5. It’s usually the quieter areas of the park that wildlife thrives the most. I suppose you could say its their bit of the park whilst we cycle, walk dogs etc in the rest.
    I understand the admission fees are very expensive so it will be unaffordable for many in the local community and will only ever be a rare treat for others. Perhaps the council should invest in their own version of go ape with cheaper entry. If it is popular they will still make a profit. I’m not sure I would still want it in our park though.

  6. From what I read one of the objections to Roundhay Park was that it was an ancient woodland, which also applies to Middleton Park.

    I live in Beeston and walk up there regularly. I meet friends up there – friends from Rothwell and Wakefield who love walking through the woods. My niece brings her dog over. We have attended many of the events but generally walk up as parking can be an issue.

    I walk different routes each time and love the wildlife and the variety – and all the oak trees.

    As much as I can see the attraction, I can also see the damage to such a historical site. This site dates back hundreds of years – I believe the ancient woodland status is that the woods have been there for over 500 years.

    And it isn’t just a Middleton thing – doesn’t the bottom part of the woodlands still belong to Beeston?

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