South of the River – Walking through Cottingley


Compass-SouthA couple of weeks ago I visited the island of Cottingley to attend the excellent Cottingley Summer Fair.

My Other Half had the car so I a walked – it’s not far from Beeston. I don’t know Cottingley well, I’ve been a few times in the last couple of years and my eldest went to the nursery when it first opened in the early nineties. But of course you see so much more when you walk – that’s why I describe it as an island.

I first made the steep descent down Crow Nest Lane, then overcame the obstacle of the dual carriageway Ring Road – luckily there’s a pedestrian crossing. I then climbed the hill on the other side of the valley up Cottingley Drive.

This section of the walk reminded me that the Ring Road here follows the line of Millshaw Beck, which I believe is mostly culverted. I understand Millshaw Beck feeds into Wortley Beck, which in turn becomes the Hol Beck – yes, as in Holbeck. You can see the end of this on Water Lane (how do they think of these names?), just before it flows into the River Aire.

Having reached the windy plateau of Cottingley I was faced with the problem of finding my way through the labyrinth of paths to get to the primary school.

By the way, I keep referring to the estate as Cottingley, it is more properly the Cottingley Hall estate. It was built on the site of Cottingley Hall, one of four medieval halls (large houses) in the area along with Beeston Hall, Cad Beeston and Stank Hall. But I digress.

If you haven’t been to Cottingley let me explain that the road layout is very simple, but not necessarily very helpful. There is a circular road, Cottingley Drive which runs around edge of the estate and then half a dozen roads that poke in towards the centre, but don’t join up.

Cottingley, you see, was built on the Radburn principle, separating people and cars.

Radburn, New Jersey was laid out as the “Town for the motor age” in 1929. British planners adopted this approach as British cities were rebuilt after the second world war and particularly in the sixties and seventies.

I don’t know if the plans worked in Radburn, but they don’t work in Cottingley today. I suspect the system works quite well where you have an affluent, confident community with good infrastructure – shops, etc – and consequent low levels of crime.

You might have thought Radburn would be right up my street (geddit?). I’ve mentioned before that I like planning and shiny new ideas. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to work. People want to park their car outside their house, where they can see them. People aren’t intrigued by passageways and “private” squares, they are frightened by the dark corners. They want their own defensible space, not communal lawns. I think the answer might be to plan new people who will like these things, which are clearly more rational.

The problems on Cottingley are that cars are not parked outside houses, leading to car crime. Vehicles cannot get right up to house doors making it harder for the less mobile to get out and about.

There is also a long running problem with refuse collection. I gather people are expected to move their bins along the paths to a road. Clearly some people do and others don’t, leading to a backlog of uncollected rubbish and the unsightly and unhealthy consequences. Surely refuse collection, as one of the council’s core services, should be tailored to the location. Allocate more time and get the staff to move the bins to the lorries, or use smaller lorries. Beeston Hill suffers a similar problem with narrow terraced streets and many more parked cars than in days gone by.

So back to the Summer Fair and the labyrinth. I had a rough idea of the direction of the school (west) and having asked a couple of helpful souls for directions I found my way quite easily.

What struck me as I walked through the estate, apart from the wind, was how green it is. There’s a lot of grass and mature trees. I suspect much of it is seen as a problem rather than an asset – uncut grass, dog poo and children playing out of sight of their houses.

Jeremy MortonI was therefore very pleased to hear about a project called Back To Front. They were at the Fair selling salad plants, but they told me that they are working with the school to promote the use and understanding of the green space on Cottingley. With half the country glued to their televisions watching Springwatch it would be a crime for people in Cottingley to miss the wildlife that’s right outside their door.

I’ll be back next week with more of my views from South of the River. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow me: @BeestonJeremy.

4 Replies to “South of the River – Walking through Cottingley”

  1. Ahh, Cottingley Hall. Its an absolute maze to deliver post around, there are dogs everywhere and you’re right, refuse collection is a pain. But all that greenery make it all worth while, especially in summer.

    1. Especially when compared to the mass of brick, tarmac, dog poo and cobble of Beeston Hill…

  2. Ah Radburn layouts, almost a guarantee of a “difficult to manage” estate. While working with the Priority Estate Project I saw loads. Interestingly it has started to make a bit of a comeback using the moniker “Homezones” to create play space by separating cars from houses!

  3. Thought you might like to know Jeremy, that your article on the Island of Cottingley’ has inspired me to poetry (well doggerel!) which was read out on Radio Leeds yesterday! Johnathan I’Anson in his early morning show was talking about the poet Ian MacMillan and asked listeners to send in a couple of lines of verse to say what they were doing or describe their surroundings at the time.
    My contribution was

    ‘Gazing from my window
    By the shores of Cottingley Island
    The Ring Road flows as a rippling sea of constant traffic’

    Well to call it poetry is probably a bit strong and where it came from at about 7.00 am in the morning is truly baffling but I had just read your article the night before! I might actually get round to finishing my masterpiece one day!
    Kevin Wilson

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