Neighbourly Love in Guiseley and Menston
PUBLISHED: 15:09 16 March 2011 | UPDATED: 11:02 09 October 2012
Two thriving communities found half way between city and countryside are worth exploring says Chris Titley Photographs by Joan Russell
Guiseley and Menston sit on either side of the A65 north of Leeds. Guiseley is a busy town, Menston a quieter village, but they have much in common, including unbeatable access to city and countryside plus a friendly approach which makes incomers feel at home in double quick time.
Guiseley has a long and varied history, but is probably best known as birthplace to the Harry Ramsden fish and chip empire. Mr Ramsden started the business from a hut in 1928, before creating something altogether more luxurious, the vast temple to battered cod still serving today, officially the largest fish and chip restaurant in the world.
When Sooty was but a twinkle in his eye, Harry Corbett could be found playing piano here Mr Ramsden was his uncle.
Yet theres a lot more to Guiseley than one of each. Its always been a place where entrepreneurs have thrived. For many years the Silver Cross pram factory was based in Guiseley and the electrical manufacturer Crompton Parkinson only closed in 2004. Only its clock was saved from demolition.
Unfortunately the closure of both reflects a pattern which has seen the demise of many factories in recent years, and many of its residents now work out of town in Leeds or Bradford. But theres still a buzz and a pride about the place.
Some of that pride stems from Guiseleys impressive past. One of its finest historic buildings is St Oswalds Church, parts of which date back to the 13th century. We can thank St Oswalds for Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre: Patrick Bront married Maria Branwell here. Their children included Charlotte and Emily Bront.
Today Guiseley has two retail parks, a leisure centre and the popular football team Guiseley AFC, which recently won promotion to Blue Square North, only a couple of divisions down from the Football League.
It also has a well-developed sense of civic responsibility. That can be seen in groups like Guiseley in Bloom, whose active members have made a significant contribution to the towns appearance since it was established in 1999.
Complementing its work is the Litter Free Guiseley Campaign. The chairman is Jeff Yates. A Lancastrian by birth he lived in Leeds until he discovered Guiseley 11 years ago.
Id never been to Guiseley before. I had a look at the area and I thought this has got many things going for it, he said. It has good rail links to Leeds, Ilkley and Bradford. And I thought it had some terrific countryside right on its doorstep. Im a keen walker; I like to get out and about on a weekend. Guiseleys a great place to live.
The people make the town, Jeff said. Its an expanding community. For those people who have lived here for many years there is a strong sense of Guiseley community spirit. The street I live on is a really lovely mix of long-term residents and more recent incomers.
His involvement in Litter Free Guiseley began seven years ago. Jeff, a teacher, is one of a seven-strong team who regularly clean up the town.
Our group has collected over 1,200 bags. That takes a lot of doing its a tough job and not a pleasant job. When Im out on a Sunday morning I often get people asking me why are you doing this? But more often than not they say thank you very much, keep up the good work.
Jeff says Guiseley has plenty to do and cites Guiseley Factory Workers Club and the Coopers Bar on Otley Road as places to go for refreshment and entertainment.
I find Guiseley a real down to earth place. A study many years ago concluded it was the most average town in England. But I tend to think its well above average.
Alan Elsegood was a Guiseley resident for many years before moving up the road to Menston, where he now chairs the community association. So hes a good guide to both communities. He says Guiseley has changed as local industry suffered and housing developments increased. But some open areas have been retained.
Fortunately, Guiseley Schools playing fields provide some green space protected, one must assume, for some time to come. Netherfield Park where Guiseley AFC and Guiseley Cricket Club have their pitches provides some public open space, as do the grounds of the leisure centre.
Menston, too, is under pressure from new housing. This has galvanized the local community to form a Menston Action Group to oppose development on its green fields. As things stand it remains a rural community, and one with wonderful hillside views to Ilkley Moor.
Some retailers have been hit by commuters shopping close to where they work but the village has more shops than many other places of its size. There is no longer a family butchers, but a family-operated greengrocers survives, Alan said. The Post Office remains a hub of the village. A chemist, newsagent and bakery are also to be found in Menston.
Like Guiseley, he says, Menston still has a number of vibrant community organisations, such as its Parish Council, Menston Community Association and Menston in Bloom which regularly wins Silver or Silver Gilt Awards in the Yorkshire in Bloom competition.
It is still very likely that, walking along Main Street, you will receive a friendly greeting, even from those you dont know.
Theres still a true community atmosphere, nowhere more evident than in the local pubs, the Deli, or Crossroads Caf at the Methodist Church.
Thats a view endorsed by Sarah Sanderson, who moved here from London 14 years ago.
I didnt know a soul, and was just starting my family, she said. The whole support system of the village meant I managed to settle in and settle down in Yorkshire. It was due to this great sense of community.
Sarah became a parish councillor to give something back and finds it very rewarding work. She has three children, Dan, 14, Ella, 11 and three-year-old Alfie, and is especially fond of the mixing of the generations in Menston.
You want to be able to live somewhere where you can walk to local amenities and never feel excluded whatever your age. Ive
got three children.
I love the fact that there are people over the age of 80 who know them and stop to talk to them.
Getting there: Guiseley and Menston are close to one another and found off the A65 north of Leeds and Bradford. They each have a railway station
Where to park: Guiseley has a 145-space car park on Netherfield Road. There is on-street parking in Menston and spaces at the railway station.
What to do: Go for a walk there is a circular guided walk around Guiseley on www.guiseley.co.uk and walks around Menston at www.menston.org.