You wouldn’t think that the location in the first picture is anywhere near the others, would you?
That’s cities for you! Turn a corner and you’re in another world.
I took these photos this morning on a trip down memory lane. We’ve returned to Leeds for a couple of days to catch up with folk, do a few cool things and remind our son of where it all began.
We bought our back-to-back in 2006 when I was 24. It was perfect for our 20s. Recently renovated. Close to the bus stop for getting into the city centre. Space for us and room for guests across its four floors. No outside space meant no gardening and we focused on getting out in the city, going to gigs and attending cultural events.
But, once I turned 30 and I was pregnant with my son, my priorities changed. I wanted to be at home more yet I’d feel claustrophobic with no outside space and neighbours joined on to our house on three sides (hence back-to-back terrace, in case you aren’t familiar with these — a relic of an industrial past razed from many northern cities, but LOADS remain in Leeds)
That’s where Farnley Hall Park came into its own. That’s the location in the green and pleasant photographs I’ve added to this post. It is just up the hill from Cobden Terrace. A bit of a pull up but only a 20-minute walk or so. This was my haven. I must have been here hundreds of times in the first three and a half years of my son’s life, before we moved. It’s a grade II listed hall which is home to the council’s parks department and 16 hectares of land. I went up there in all weathers to ground myself and probably practice a bit of mindfulness before I even knew what that was.
We moved from the white rose county to the red rose county five years ago. We were in the rat race there, both with full-time jobs, trying hard to make a dent in the mortgage. We joke that we’ve bought our retirement bungalow by the sea. Still in our 30s — just! — but, it is a bungalow and it is not far from the sea.
And the idea of changing our lives, of becoming self-employed (Jon as an indie author, me as an editor) germinated in walks around those woods. The action of putting one foot in front of the other seems to do to ideas what yeast does to dough. You’re moving forward literally so you have the impetus to move forward on your more abstract plans, too.
I still do so much of my thinking, planning and strategizing out in nature. These days, it’s by the sea, walking up Morecambe prom and seeing the ever shifting tides. I feel confident in my ideas when I’m walking. Everything feels do-able, and problems find solutions.
Wherever you are, within the busiest city or the smallest hamlet, I hope you have somewhere that gives you headspace. It can make all the difference.