Ten reasons to love Horsforth
Ten big reasons to visit this small West Yorkshire town. Compiled by Jo Haywood. Photographs by Joan Russell
Because it’s a town (sort of)... You can get yourself into a bit of a brouhaha if you question whether Horsforth is a town, a village or simply a suburb (but since when has a brouhaha harmed anyone?). In the 19th century, it achieved note as the village with the largest population in England, continuing to grow through the decades thanks to the railways, turnpike roads, tramways and the nearby canal. But it steadfastly remained a village until it was brought under the umbrella authority of City of Leeds metropolitan district in 1974. In 1999, however, a parish council was created and almost immediately exercised its right to declare Horsforth a town.
Because it’s an education... Horsforth is home to numerous well-regarded schools, including Horsforth School, St Margaret’s, Newlaithes, Westbrook, St Mary’s, Featherbank and Froebelian. It’s also home to the residential campus of Leeds Trinity University College (formerly Leeds Trinity & All Saints College) off Brownberrie Lane. Millions have been invested in the campus to create award-winning student accommodation, a state-of-the-art fitness suite (open to the public as well as staff and students), a contemporary cafe bar and a fully-interactive learning centre, which offers access to 400,000 electronic books, 25,000 electronic journals, an extensive range of print and multimedia resources, flexible study spaces, four IT rooms and a 24-hour IT lab.
It takes a pride in its park... Horsforth Hall Park is a large community park, open 365 days a year for leisurely strolls, bowls, cricket and live entertainment.It’s also home to a beautiful Japanese Garden, a trim trail aimed at more active visitors looking to drop a few pounds, a specially designed outdoor play area allowing disabled and able-bodied children to play together (the first of its kind in Leeds), a skate park, an adventure playground for older children that includes a ‘spider’s web’ climbing feature and a network of footpaths through picturesque woodland.
It’s a place to pick up the pace... Horsforth Harriers, a running group formed in 1985, now has around 120 members and is continuing to grow at quite a pace. It’s primarily a road running club, with members taking part in races from 5km to marathons and beyond, but it also caters for people into cross country, fell running and trail races. The Harriers arrange and host the annual Horsforth 10k and the Apperley Bridge Canter, take part in cross country leagues and usually send runners to regional and national championships. But if you just want to run without racing, that’s fine too.
The locals are generous hosts... The town hosts a popular Beer & Cider Festival every March, in St Margaret’s Hall in Church Road. Entrance is just £5, which bags you a souvenir glass, a festival programme, a token for your first drink and the chance to taste 80 or so beers and ciders (probably best not to try all of them in one sitting) while enjoying live entertainment.
It has a local museum that’s not just for local people... Horsforth Village Museum (note it’s village rather than town) aims to reflect the heritage of the area with interesting exhibits drawn from all aspects of life with particular emphasis on education and nostalgia. Volunteers from Horsforth Village Historical Society helped to set up the museum in 1998 at The Green which sits, perhaps not surprisingly, at the heart of the old village. Among its many interesting artefacts is a letter from the then US president Bill Clinton sent to local MP Paul Truswell in 2000 acknowledging Horsforth’s contribution to the war effort. This refers to the £241,000 the town raised in the Second World War to build the corvette HMS Aubretia.
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You can have a ball (albeit a small one)... Horsforth has been home to a traditional Yorkshire golf course since 1906. But this is traditional in the warm, welcoming way, not the members-only, keep off the grass way. The McKenzie-influenced, 18-hole parkland course sits amid mature woodland, natural contours and strategically-placed bunkers, providing a welcome challenge for golfers of all abilities. The club also offers an 18-hole putting green, two professional golfers willing to share their expertise and, perhaps most importantly of all, a well-stocked bar with room for more than 100 members and visitors in need of either a celebratory or consoling drink.
Because it’s note perfect... Horsforth Music Centre at Horsforth School provides opportunities for people of all ages to enjoy making and listening to music. It hosts more than 100 classes, including toddler dance sessions, full concert orchestras, singing lessons, jazz riffs and flamenco struts. It also offers an instrument surgery for small repairs, a shop stocking a host of music-related bit and bobs, a relaxed coffee bar (the toasties are great apparently), instrument hire, musical tours and a useful crèche for children aged two to six.
Its style is set in stone... Horsforth has a very distinct architectural style, mainly due to the sheer number of buildings created using sandstone from local quarries (more than in any other part of Leeds). The town has a long and celebrated history of producing high quality stone. Not only did it supply the building materials for Kirkstall Abbey, but it also provided stone for Scarborough seafront and sent its prized sandstone from Golden Bank Quarry as far afield as Egypt.
You’ll be in good company Horsforth boasts more than its fair share of famous sons. Actors Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom in the long-running Harry Potter series), former Emmerdale stalwart Frazer Hines and Malcolm McDowell, who found fame in A Clockwork Orange, all hail from this neck of the West Yorkshire woods. International footballer James Milner attended Horsforth School, while Tainted Love crooner Marc Almond was educated at Featherbank. Olympic and Paralympic medallists Jonny Clay and David Stone started their careers in Horsforth. And the Miliband brothers attended separate primary schools in the town in the 1970s when their father, Ralph, was a professor at Leeds University.
Getting there: Horsforth is an easily accessible town on the north-west edge of Leeds. It has its own railway station on the Harrogate-Leeds line, a good range of local buses (see wymetro.com for details) and is just minutes from Leeds-Bradford Airport.
Parking: There’s a fair bit of free parking available in Horsforth. Top of your list to check for space should be Fink Hill, New Street and Station Road.
What to do: Horsforth Hall Park is an absolute must as it offers something for all ages (and fitness levels). But don’t forget to flex your shopping muscles too on Town Street, where you’ll find a good selection of stores and a tasty array of restaurants, bars and pubs.