Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Could This Be Summer ?

Well what a lovely surprise. I woke up this morning to find blue skies and warm sunshine. How quaint.

Yes I'd obviously been sleep walking and ended up outside !

No but seriously, it was to be a sunny day so after my mug of tea and a bowl of cereal, I headed out to explore pastures new. I've got a bit of a thing about pastures you see. All those cow pats I guess. I didn't have many toys growing up so as I lived in the country.............

Anyway, Clio, my car, took me to Roundhay Park, the biggest park called Roundhay Park in the whole of the world. If it was laid end to end, it would strethch to....well pretty much where it is now I guess. But it's big and over 1 million people visit it every year.

After parking, I noticed a private bowling club (Roundhay Bohemians) across the road so I nipped in for a look see. There was a match going on and the members graciously allowed me to watch. It was all a bit different from the bocce ball I was used to in Buttonwood Bay. Balls were flying across the immaculate lawn from corner to corner and somehow missing each other. It reminded me of those police formation motorcyclists I used to watch on the telle at The Edinburgh Tattoo when I was a yute.

I always hoped they'd smash into each other too !

After 5 minutes I was falling asleep so my next port of call was to The Specialist Gardens, or in my case, The Secret Gardens as, despite being only 5 minutes drive from my house, I never knew they existed till Daphne told me about them a few days ago.

And what a joy they were. Just a few hundred yards from a busy N. Leeds street, the gardens were a haven of peace and tranquility with many benches spread around to encourage sitting and letting life's pressures melt away.

I almost had the gardens to myself and I really do believe they are a secret treasure, mostly hidden from view and simply not known about by most people making their way to the much larger park and gardens nearby. Their loss.

At this point the battery ran out on my Nikon - the trip out had been a spur of the moment thing so I hadn't prepared. I still had my HTC phone camera and so the rest of the photos were taken using that device.

I left the gardens and went on into the main park. Being late Spring, the flower beds were mostly just soil but there was plenty of colour all around. I'll certainly be back in a few weeks to see what a period of good weather and some tasteful planting has done to the park flower beds but for now, I had to make do.

As it was a weekday, the park was relatively empty. Actually, given its size, it can look empty at most times. In this next photo, you see the natural bowl where huge music concerts have been held over the years. Hidden over on the right is Hill 60 which has grass ridges providing 'seating' for many thousands of fans who can look down on the stage which would be set up in front of the line of trees on the horizon.

My favourite concerts were by Madonna, Michael Jackson and Genesis when 90,000 paying fans (and many thousands more who got in over the fences) enjoyed nights they'd never forget - or remember in a few cases ! There have also been concerts by The Rolling Stones, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Level 42, Simple Minds and more recently, Robbie Williams.

The subsequent panorama shot shows the bowl better with Hill 60 over on the right again beyond that tree.

I walked on up to the Mansion House which dominates the area and paths lead from it to all parts of the park.

Just before getting to Waterloo Lake, I went up the hill to see Barrans Fountain. Sir John Barran, a local clothing manufacturer and MP, presented this slightly over-the-top drinking fountain to the park in 1882 as a personal gift. It has been recently restored to its former glory but perhaps due to health and safety or more likely a lack of funds, the fountain no longer provides drinking water.

But standing as it does on a hill looking down on the lake, it's a fitting memorial to the man who played a large part in the purchase and development of Roundhay Park so it could be freely enjoyed by the people of Leeds.

The park has had several owners over the centuries and one of them had a folly built to give the appearance of a castle gate. I'd never even seen this folly despite hundreds of visits to the park and I'd have missed it again today if I'd not asked a passerby the way to the Upper Lake and he pointed up beyond the folly. If, on one of my many walks around Waterloo Lake, I'd looked up to my left instead of my right at that point, I'd have seen the 'castle.'

D'oh !!

A few minutes and a steep climb later, I was at the much smaller but more photogenic Upper Lake with its fountains, numerous swans and other water dwelling critters. This lake is only 3 to 4 feet deep, not that I've even seen anyone walking across it. Maybe no one knows this fact and long may it remain so. The last thing we want to see is this beautiful lake full of idiots splashing around in it.

At this point both my energy levels and those of my phone gave up at the same time and I headed back up another steep hill to the car and the 5 minute drive home.

I love having Roundhay Park and the surrounding pleasures of The Specialist Gardens and Tropical World so close. I probably don't appreciate what's on my own doorstep most of the time but this summer I plan on many walks around the park and you can be sure that on these walks, I will have a fully charged camera with me.

To be continued.........


Daphne said...

My father grew up in the Leeds slums in the 1920s and his childhood dream was to live in a house near Roundhay Park - they used to go there on day trips and he thought it was paradise. He had achieved his dream by his early thirties (the house where we live now) and loved visiting Roundhay Park for the rest of his life. It IS a beautiful - and huge - park and your photos show this! I visit it very often too, often walking there from our house - so I'm grateful to my Dad for choosing this place to live!

rhymeswithplague said...

What a beautiful post, Ian! I believe the pink flowers are either rhododendrons or possibly mountain laurel.

In view of the fact that you have just returned from another six months in Florida, this quote from T.S. Eliot applies:

"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."

--T.S. Eliot in "Little Gidding" (the last of his Four Quartets)

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