The secret to why people in the Leeds suburb of Harewood live longer

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A summer Tuesday afternoon and the activity on the main road through Harewood consists of a middle-aged couple walking down the street.

Asking if I am heading in the right direction for the local village cafe I am told they don’t know as they are not local.

Properties are rare to the housing market in Harewood and when they are for sale - the average price is almost half a million.

Properties are rare to the housing market in Harewood and when they are for sale - the average price is almost half a million.

There are probably more red kites in the area than people to chat to in what is considered to be one of the most sought after areas of Leeds to live in.

On this second day of a special Yorkshire Evening Post report on the depths of social inequality in Leeds, I spend an afternoon in the village of Harewood - well known as the place where hit TV soap Emmerdale is filmed and home to grade I listed Harewood House.

Read more on the gulf of life in Leeds

Property prices

A glorious and peaceful summer afternoon in Harewood.

A glorious and peaceful summer afternoon in Harewood.

A quick check of property website, Rightmove, shows there are currently no houses available for rent and four properties for sale - the cheapest being a two bedroomed mid-terrace for £295,000 and the most expensive, a four-bedroomed semi-detached at a cool £525,000.

Apparently, even the council houses have to be built in a particular stone to match the properties that belong to the sprawling Harewood House estate.

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Upon arriving at the cafe, there is a gleaming red Porsche parked outside and more people inside the cafe, that belongs to the Harewood estate, than I saw on the way. Meat and produce grown or reared on the estate form the cafe menu and the customers are predominantly middle-aged or retired.

This series looks at how there are two lifestyles dramatically different yet a few miles apart.

This series looks at how there are two lifestyles dramatically different yet a few miles apart.

It was retirement from a job in the prison service, and a desire to be close to her family which brought Pat Sandom, who is in her 70s, from London to Leeds - but she was on the council house waiting list for five years before being offered her bungalow at Bondgate in the village.

Pat, who works part-time in Muddy Boots Cafe, said: “I like the peace and quiet.
“There is a group for the over 60s that meets once a month and there is a community spirit - more here than there ever was in London. It is probably not as good as it was 30 or 40 years ago but that is what other people have said to me.
“I would never go back to London, I don’t even go back for a visit.”

Health

She has worked in the cafe for the last five years and noticed several health benefits since moving to Harewood.

Other than cancer rates, which are higher in Harewood than the average for Leeds - other health issues such as asthma, obesity, smoking and diabetes fall below the city average. Pat adds: “I had extremely high blood pressure before I retired and now it is normal. I was on a high dose of beta blockers but now I take the lowest dose as the doctor won’t let me come off them completely.
“The amount of times I can sit at home in the back garden, have a cup of tea and hear nothing apart from the odd red kite.”

She was not precious about wanting a property in Harewood but there are issues that put the future of the community into question.

Lack of amenities

Other than the pub, school, cafe and surgery there is little in the way of additional amenities in comparison with other wards in Leeds. There are fears that young people will move away to the draw of the city centre. She added: “There is very little in this village and it is certainly not for young people.
“We have got nothing other than a pub and a cafe. There is no shop, there was one when I first moved here. There was a village shop with a post office - but that is long gone.”

Years ago there was also a garage and a petrol station and a host of community events which were attached to estate life.

Eric White, 76, has lived in the village since he was three years old and has been in the same house for the last 46 years. He recalls: “I used to know everybody in the village and now I don’t know anybody. People just don’t seem to mix now like they used to. There used to be a dance in the village hall every night and a whist drive. There was a WI and all things like that at one time and I don’t think that is running anymore, it is defunct.”

There are 102 pupils recorded on the school register, according to Leeds City Council documents, it is one of the few schools in the city which is under capacity and has not been subject to Ofsted inspection for the last ten years due to continued ‘outstanding’ verdicts.

And Josh Whitehead, regarded as one of the most promising chefs in the city centre’s thriving food and drink scene, has just moved to the village as he is the head chef at the Harewood Food and Drink project which is based on the estate.

Neighbours

Mr Whitehead says for him and his girlfriend it is a better quality of life than they had in the city.

Bus routes into the city take the same time as when he was living on Street Lane, Roundhay and there are services until 3am and the estate cottage he moved into
a few weeks ago is a nice, old building.

He added: “The couple of houses I lived in with my mum at Swarcliffe, the house I have just moved out of - I lived there eight years and only knew one neighbour, I hardly knew anyone on the street.
“Here I know everyone. It was the same for my girlfriend, she lived in flats and didn’t know anyone. I am a lot happier since I moved here and I can see why the life expectancy would be better, the environment, the peace and quiet - it is just more relaxed. I walk to work now and I walk down the drive to Harewood House and can see down to Ilkley Cragg - that is my commute to work and I will never get sick of that.”