Voices of the Future: Why Roundhay Park is the lockdown remedy we all need

In our latest column from young writers across the city, student David Alexander pens a love letter to his favourite place in Leeds - Roundhay Park.

Whenever I am visited by a friend from outside Leeds, I always take them to Roundhay Park.

I’ve been going there as far back as I can remember, and I think it is the best place in the city. (Sorry-not-sorry, Elland Road).

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Roundhay, if you haven’t been, is vast, green and undulating.

Now is a wonderful time to visit Roundhay Park with its array of autumn colours on display. Picture: JAMES HARDISTYNow is a wonderful time to visit Roundhay Park with its array of autumn colours on display. Picture: JAMES HARDISTY
Now is a wonderful time to visit Roundhay Park with its array of autumn colours on display. Picture: JAMES HARDISTY

There’s a major central lake, in which people row and swim.

Trees there hang over its edges and their reflection gives the water a deep green border.

Behind the lake is the ‘gorge’, which is a great sunken cradle of mud and foliage, through which a stream runs.

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This area was great once for those angsty teenage walks, with eyes stuck moodily forwards: “Leave me alone, dog-walkers, can’t you see I’m brooding here.”

In a weird paradox, you also could not find anywhere more romantic, or so my spotty adolescent self used to think.

Only now do I realise that trekking through hundreds of metres of sludge isn’t exactly, for most people, a perfect date.

Up a steep hill, going away from the lake towards Roundhay itself, is a very big field.

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It’s called ‘Soldiers’ Field’ because troops used to be gathered there during the First World War.

Nowadays it hosts a huge fireworks show every year, involving three to four hours waiting and, very occasionally, a firework. I love this too.

Soldier’s Field is at the top of the hill, and a cricket pitch is at the bottom.

I have played cricket there, once, in the evening, when ever-so-slightly drunk.

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I hate cricket, but that cricket pitch is in Roundhay Park, so I love it.

During the past year I’ve had to spend a lot more time in Leeds than I had expected; normally I would have been down at university more of the time.

Doing all my university work in my childhood bedroom, from which I also co-edited the student newspaper, was quite stressful.

For the first time in my life, I realised that parks are not just places for a cheap family day out.

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They are living monuments to civic pride, and a vital way of staying sane.

This county is blessed with some of the best parks in the country.

We have no idea what will happen in the next few months, but whatever does, we should remember that our parks will still be there; so we should use them, and look after them.

Some people forget that last one, and presume that because anyone can use them, it is no one’s responsibility to keep them tidy.

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Well, it’s true that armies of volunteers work tirelessly picking up litter and cleaning up mess.

But give them a hand and collect your own rubbish.

It is a little thing, sure.

But it is by doing little things for each other that we stand the first chance of getting through what has been an awful, awful year.

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