A group of us on the Community Reporters course went to Middleton Woods to practice our photographic skills. The fact that it was the 13th of the month didn’t matter as I’m not too superstitious. It went reasonably well.
It was obvious that some restoration work was going on. Work was being done on the entrance gates, more being done near the lake. Quite a bit of work going on where the old cottages used to be. There is a new community building which is almost completed.
We all went our various ways, taking pictures of what we found interesting. I took some pictures of the lake, which I thought looked smaller than I remembered. There were still the ring-bolts that tethered the rowing-boats, which were no longer around.
A quick look at the children’s play area, then into the woods. As a youngster, growing up in Beeston, Middleton Woods were a reasonable walk away. This was before cars were in general use. Until I was old enough I would be taken by my Father at the weekend. As both of my parents worked, I tended to spend time with my Grandparents during school holidays.
My grandfather would sometimes take me to the Middleton Railway as my grandparents lived in Hunslet. We would walk by the railway line, from near Hunslet Lake, up to the woods. Sometimes we’d see the trains working, servicing what was left of the mining industry. The mines really created the need for railways, which were originally pulled by horses. They started in the1750’s on crude rails. This developed into what would be the first successful steam engines.
The mines started in the Middle Ages as hollows in the ground, developing into Bell Pits. Then going deeper, into what developed into tunnels. The tunnels needed shoring up, to stop cave ins. The wood for this caused what we now call “the Clearings”.
It has been suggested that Middleton Woods were once part of a forest that extended for many miles. Possibly as far as Sherwood Forest, as in Robin Hood. He is allegedly buried in Kirklees. When he lay dying in the Priory, he fired his last arrow and asked to be buried where the arrow fell. It is on private ground, and as far as I know there is no public access.
This article was written by Martyn White using our Community Reporters website at www.communityreporters.sllife.leeds11.com