Monday, February 12, 2007

The Great Fire of Roundhay

It’s a great park, Roundhay Park in Leeds, in essence: two lakes, woodland, flower beds and huge lawns. Landscaped parts and wild parts. Great walks. Wildlife. .

But they’re not very good at some things. By “they” I mean the people who decide what amenities there should be in the park.

When I was little there was a small fairground – nothing fancy, just some swing boats and a helter skelter and a little train and a few dodgems. I loved it. There were also donkey rides. There were boats on the lake, of the Come In Number Three Your Time Is Up kind. Hurrah! A couple of times a year a huge fair came, and I loved that too.

No children’s playground though, of the ordinary, free, slides-and-swings kind, which I always thought was a shame. But there was a maze, for a very short while, and that was great fun.

Several decades passed and finally they built a playground of a non-traditional, but very enjoyable kind, with bridges to walk across and ropes to swing on. It was excellent and Emily spent many hours playing there as a small child.

However, then they decided – I think – that the park should be Gentrified. Brought back to its Victorian glory, or summat.

They chopped a lot of trees down in a truly pointless move to restore the Victorian views. They got rid of the wild playground up on the hill and built a small, sedate one for much younger children, scenically placed next to the car park. Boo. They did away with the fairground – “out of character with the Victorian park” – oh, what rubbish these planners speak! The park is enormous and one little corner of it with a fairground in did no harm at all, and brought a lot of pleasure.

And they built a new café.

Actually, it wasn’t THAT long since the previous café had been built. The earlier incarnation was a bit McNuggets and always seemed to have sold out of everything (it was there I once had the memorable exchange, “Oh, I see, you weren’t expecting anyone to want to eat at lunchtime,” “Yes, that’s right, we weren’t.”)

Anyway, they stripped it out and made it posher and it took ages and ages so there was no café in the park for what seemed like years and years, and probably was years and years. Then they reopened it and it was all duck-with-chocolate-and-a jus-of-blackcurrants kind of food. Very Bay Windows Very Cut Glass, as my friend Connie (85) would say.

And we all got used to there being, finally, a café, posh but nevertheless popular, and with a great view across the lake.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, it set itself on fire in the middle of the night and – because it’s not very near any houses – it was very extensively damaged. Here are some of the holes in the roof.

So now it’s closed "for the foreseeable future". They seem to think that the fire was caused by an electrical fault – in which case, WHY? It had only been open for about a year, so it seems distinctly possible that they didn’t do the electrics right in the first place.

Oh well, I expect they’ll replace it in a few years’ time.


Blogger AmyTree said...

Hi Daphne,

I haven't left you a comment before, but I love your writing... I lived in Leeds until recently and I love that you write about it - I hadn't heard about the fire, but now I know!

Keep up the great work!!
xx Amy

3:57 pm  

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