In this article for the World Travel Blogger series, Darren Cronian encourages us to visit the great outdoors in and around his home town, the Yorkshire city of Leeds..
There are a great many pleasant green parks and open spaces in Leeds and nearby, where you, your family and friends can get active, roam around the gardens, discover wildlife and nature or simply relax. I think Leeds has some of the best parks in Europe, and I love to explore them. Here are six of my favourites and come highly recommended when visiting the city.
One of the most popular parks in Leeds has to be Roundhay Park with its superb expanses of parkland, gardens, lakes, and woodlands, as well as the stimulating Tropical World, which includes a vast collection of tropical plants, its stunning profusion of colourful butterflies, and its magnificent aquariums. While you are walking around Roundhay Park make sure you visit the award winning Chelsea Flower show gardens, including the impressive Alhambra Garden, which is was inspired by one of the world’s most famous gardens, the 13th century garden at Alhambra, Spain. Add to this, bowling greens, a canoe club, tennis courts, football and cricket pitches and a grass cycling track, and you have one fantastic day out.
Golden Acre Park
Six miles from the centre of Leeds is Golden Acre Park at Bramhope, with gardens and woodland around a beautiful lake. Golden Acre Park is home to lots of wildlife including wild birds, deer, fox, rabbits and squirrels. Next to the park is Breary Marsh, a local nature reserve, and an important conservation site.
Meanwood Valley Trail
Meanwood Valley Trail runs seven miles from Golden Acre Park to Woodhouse Moor near the University of Leeds, taking in Meanwood Park and Adel Woods on the way. Adel Woods are totally fascinating in themselves, with old aqueducts, and an old bunker the purpose of which seems to have been lost in the mists of time. The path is well-signposted, so no need to worry about getting lost.
Rodley Nature Reserve
Not a park as such but a hidden gem of a place that the kids will love. Situated outside of the city centre, but accessible by car, and public transport is Rodley Nature Reserve. Located next to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, it is a great place to find wildlife with species such as dragonfly and woodpecker often found here. Have a picnic, or walk around the reserve. Kids can hire nets and visit the ponds to discover local wildlife.
Otley Chevin Forest Park
About ten miles from Leeds is Otley Chevin Forest Park. Explore the slopes and paths of this huge park which is dominated by rock formations that rise to a height of 280m above sea level. Climb to Surprise View and admire the breathtaking scenery of the market town of Otley and the Wharfe Valley. The park is a great place to participate in activities like orienteering, geocaching and mountain biking.
Hollies Botanical Gardens
The Hollies Botanical gardens consists of twenty-two hectares of land and is home to four National Council collections for the conservation of plants and gardens. The site also benefits from flowering rhododendrons and azaleas, herbaceous borders, mature plants and large woodland walks.
Finally, back in the city centre is one of the best place in Leeds for relaxing. Park Square is quiet and seldom crowded; there are plenty of sandwich shops just around the corner where you can lay on the grass in the sunshine or sit on a bench and read a book. The remarkable St Paul’s House on the south side of the park was built in 1878 by Thomas Ambler, its parapets and minarets were inspired by drawings of the Alhambra, the Moorish palace in Granada.
The city is literally on the doorstep of the Yorkshire Dales, a beautiful, scenic part of the country and well worth a visit, especially, Bolton Abbey which is only a short car journey from the city centre.
I hope this guide has given you an idea on some of the parks and open spaces, which makes Leeds a great place to visit if you want to let the kids run off some steam. I am biased being Leeds born and bred, but I seriously believe that the city has some of the best open spaces and parks in Europe.
Darren Cronian is the editor of an online guide called My Life in Leeds. The guide is written by local people who love sharing their experiences and recommendations on things to do in Leeds. You can also find Darren on Face Book and Twitter