'Really buzzy and Boho': Why Chapel Allerton was named Sunday Times Best Place to Live - according to its residents
Life may have been different over the past year, but that hasn’t stopped Chapel Allerton from being recognised as a place bursting with community spirit, as it was named as The Sunday Times Best Places to Live 2021 guide.
The popular neighbourhood secured a spot as one of the top ten places to live in the north of England in the prestigious guide, though missed out on the winning prize to Ilkley.
Judges praised the north Leeds suburb's independent high street and businesses as well as the natural beauty of the nearby Gledhow Valley Woods.
In particular, the judges highlighted the “inspiring” work of local community group CA Spaces, a group of volunteers who create street art, plant trees and undergo other work to make the area attractive.
The Sunday Times judges said: "A well supported independent high street - with a fishmonger, bookshop, cheese shop and much more - and an inspiring and imaginative community group, CA Spaces, make this urban village our favourite corner of Leeds.”
Sarah Priestly, 39, is the chair and founder of CA Spaces, which she started in 2017 after spending a lot of time exploring the area with her then toddler and newborn.
It was during these walks she spotted the opportunity to transform some unloved patches in the neighbourhood into more attractive and interactive spaces for the community.
The group has since commissioned local artists to create public artwork, planted an edible food bank vegetable garden in the park and created a ‘mud kitchen’ complete with tree swings for children to enjoy.
Sarah, who is mum to Sylvie, now seven, and Reuben, four, said: “We started by planting a dozen cherry trees on a grass verge, and it was lots of little gestures like that, reclaiming bits of space that were wasted and turning them into something people could enjoy.
“It grew from there and now there’s seven of us on a committee and lots of volunteers in the community that just want to join the journey and create spaces that brighten up people’s day.
“It is all about celebrating Chapel Allerton and showcasing our pride and identity in a very visual way.
“We also work with the local businesses in the area because our independent shops are at the heart of our community here.
“We all shop locally where we can and even the restaurants use produce supplied from the local butcher, fishmonger and The Fruit Stall.
“It is a nice circular economy and it is much more eco-friendly.
“I think it is one of the reasons Chapel Allerton stands out.”
Sarah, who has lived in the suburb since 2004, added: “I have a car but I hardly ever use it because Chapel Allerton has everything you need - shops, cafes, places for children.
“It deserves to be in the top ten places to live because at the heart of the community is that everyone cares about each other and has each other's back.
“It is a very ethical and supportive neighbourhood.”
The latest figures by Rightmove show that in 2020, the average house price in Chapel Allerton was £262,839, significantly higher than the Leeds average of £216,392.
Key figures in the Leeds real estate market believe this price reflects the demand for the area, as people want to become a part of the close-knit community.
Mark Whincup, Territory Operator for Leeds at Purplebricks, said: “Chapel Allerton has a long list of desirable features.
“Its bustling centre boasts several boutique bars and restaurants, it is within commuting distance of Leeds and has good transport links too.
“It is family-friendly with excellent schools and is close to great local parks.
"But I think what truly sets Chapel Allerton apart is that it has a real community feel.”
Mark Manning, of Manning Stainton estate agents, agrees that the attraction of Chapel Allerton is as strong as ever - and has prices to match.
Mark said: “It’s a real buzzy, almost bohemian kind of place.
“There're a lot of great independent places like the fishmonger’s, fancy little shops, galleries and lots of types of clubs and societies.
“If you go on a weekend, people are queuing up the street to buy fresh food, even though they could go to a supermarket for the same thing.
“It's lovely to see because even though it has those big shops like Aldi, it manages to maintain the smaller shops too, which can be quite rare.
“Alongside this, you’ve got great sports facilities like the Tennis and Squash Club, which sits at the back of a fantastic pub called The Mustard Pot, one of many great bars and restaurants in the area.
“If you go to the other side you have the lovely walks of Gledhow Woods and it isn't too far to get to Roundhay Park.
Mark added: “Behind the high street, you've got some nice, period terraced properties which are well suited to wealthier young professionals and first-time buyers.
“If you go further back you get into what is known as the ‘Canada’s’ where there’s some really nice family housing.
“It's one of those areas that can cater to a range of people because everything is very close by but all this means, it is quite expensive.
“So the average house price in Chapel Allerton will be significantly greater than somewhere else in Leeds, meaning it does tend to attract a slightly wealthier demographic.
"However, it is just a nice part of the world.
“You have everything that you need right there, but with easy access to the city centre.”