North Leeds nostalgia

As I’ve said before, this blog isn’t just about flyfishing and as time goes by I seem to post ever more random stuff on here. This is one such example.

I Had a stroll around Adel Woods in North Leeds over the weekend to revisit some childhood haunts. These places held much fascination during my youth and in many respects still do! I parked in Stairfoot Lane car park and wandered down through the Meanwood Valley Nature Reserve/Meanwood Valley trail which to us was simply Adel Woods. The first location is the old mill pond, now totally overgrown but in my childhood proved a dramatic location to set fire to and sink my Airfix Bismark.

Mill Pond

Over the way is the Babbling Baby. I don’t think I ever drank from it but I know some did and instantly filled their pants and/or vomited.

Babbling Baby

Next, we have the cafe which closed long before i was born. Internet research seems to suggest it was called Verity’s Cafe??

Inside Cafe

Inside Cafe


After taking a few snaps I dropped down to the Seven Arches aquaduct which built in 1842 and used to carry water from Eccup Reservoir into Leeds. I distinctly remember as a child walking over it whilst out on a supervised primary school outing. It’s fenced off now, but back in those days you could freely wander across. There is not a chance in hell that children of any age would be allowed to do such a thing on a school trip  now!!

More 7 arches

I sauntered back to the car then decided to cross over Stairfoot Lane and revisit what was commonly known as the ‘Air Raid Shelter’, a legendary North Leeds venue for boyhood mischief. It consisted of a small ‘pillbox’ above ground and a larger construction built into the side of an old quarry.


“Air Raid Shelter”

Nearly 25 years ago (ouch) myself and mates would squeeze through a tiny hole that had been hacked out of the concrete and explore inside the ‘bunker’ with torches and barely suppressed fear! Care had to be taken when entering through this hole as there was a ‘lift shaft’ just inside which you really didn’t want to fall down. You were then free to explore the first level but there wasn’t a lot to see, just metal racks on the wall which made a hellish racket when you whacked them. Crumbling steps took you down to the 2nd level which, IIRC, contained the Happy Birthday room (accessed by crawling over a pile of rubble). There was a 3rd floor which could only be accessed by rope – I never went down that far!

This wartime relic has been the subject of urban legend since the war ended but subsequent research has revealed it to be nothing more than a document storage facility built in 1939 to house Leeds’ important deeds etc. Or so they would have us believe. I very much like to believe there was more to it than that 😉

22 thoughts on “North Leeds nostalgia

  1. Allen Wynne Hughes

    Hello there i was born in 1951 on the moortown estate very posh then. Adel woods were our playground we knew the woods very well the picture you show of the cafe is a toilet block all that remains of the old cafe we were in there one day larking about and somebody crept up and locked us in!! We too used to creep into the old pillbox it was very spooky. We used to play on the seven arches a small walk from there took you to the seven ponds now built on there were thousands of frogs and newts . In adel beck we used to catch catfish bullheads and crayfish the odd minnow and stickleback . at christmas we used to collect holly and sell it for pocket money much to the annoyance of the local greengrocer . kids today don’t know what they are missing.

    1. Jude Singleton

      Hi Allen, I was born in 1950 and lived in Alwoodley. I too used to play in all the areas you mentioned. Do you remember “devils rock”, we set up a swing from a tree next to it and you had to climb up the rock to use it. I suffered my first broken arm when I fell off it. Happy times.

  2. John Stanier

    I am so pleased that I happened on this site because it brought back so many memories of my childhood in Alwoodley, and the many hours spent in Adel woods.

    Your photograph shows the ‘babbling baby’. I remember this locally as the ‘slobbering man’! It was certainly the face of a man (though an odd one!) as I remember it.

    I also remember the cafe very well.

    Thanks for the memories!

  3. melvyn

    does anyone know what that oval shaped hole is at the ring road end.theres an oval shaped hole in the ground which runs deep with water in the bottom.its a steep slope down that if you slid down it would be difficult to get back up.i when i was little with my friend shined a torch down there n saw a steel door at the bottom it looked scary as hell.what is it?

  4. Jude Singleton

    Bob, thank you for bringing back so many happy childhood memories, it’s 50 years since I used to play in the woods. Loved playing at Todd’s farm and climbing “devils rock”.

  5. Michael Jolly

    I was brought up on Long Causeway at Oaklea cottage and all the “Hollies” were my playground right down to the beck and seven Arches and round to Stairefoot Lane. Round to Adel Church and along the fields that are called “bedquilts” for some reason. I used to attend Adel Church school back in 1962 and left there to go to Ireland Wood primary.

    Yes they were the good old days when we made our own fun and games. My parents never saw me from dawn to dusk as I was just out during the summer time playing either in the woods or old houses that used to line Adel Lane and Long Causeway.

  6. Janet Costello (was Pearce)

    Thank you so much for all those wonderful childhood memories – they took me right back there!
    From 1951, I grew up in Deanswood Green on the Moortown Estate, right next to the entrance to Adel Woods. The summers were filled with playing in what we called the Horses Field with the big rock and little rock, and of course the Devils Rock with the deadly swing (fell off twice!) frogspawning in the ponds after riding our bikes over the seven arches! Family picnics down next to the stream and cafe with the babbling baby!
    Can you imagine doing that now! It’s amazing any of us made it out of our childhoods alive!!
    We would pack jam sandwiches and be gone the whole day and no one worried as long as we were back before dark! Again, wouldn’t happen these days. We were so lucky to have such a wonderful childhood.
    I went to Alwoodley Primary and then Allerton Grange.
    Lived in Australia since my late 20’s, so reading all these comments is making me feel very nostalgic. Time for a visit I think and a stroll through the woods

  7. Harry

    Hi Bob,

    For a small mapping project I am working, I was wondering if you could describe the route you take from the car park to the bunker/air raid shelter, it can be a vague as you like I’m just trying to get a general perspective of the route.

    Cheers for any help.

    1. Ian Higgs

      I remember the bunker being about here: 53.859362, -1.573581
      The car park is at 53.857810, -1.574651
      Walk up Stairfoot Lane and there is a path on the second sharp corner.

    2. David North

      Hi Harry.

      If you are still interested in the location an easy way to get to the old bunker/storage site is as follows:-

      Coming down Stairfoot Lane from King Lane there is a track off on the right just before crossing the bridge over Adel Beck. Keeping on that rough track (it steepens a bit to the end) you will come to the site in about 5 minutes (less if you are fitter than me!).

  8. Ian Higgs

    I am looking for anybody who knew the Adel Towers.
    This was demolished some time in the 1960s and was where Adel Towers Close is these days.
    I have a (rather bad) photograph of a rather bad drawing, but I would really like an actual photograph.

  9. Nick

    These woods and quarries were my playground in the late 70s and 80s. With friends in tow we explored and on a few occassions managed to squeeze inside the old bunkers which were created to house many important documents/archives during the war. Living on Buckstone Avenue, myself and my brother headed out and explored for hours and hours back in the day. It was fantastic. On once occassion in a particularly white winter, we managed to sled all the way down Stairfoot Lane.
    I came back to visit Leeds from Australia in 2014 and took my children on a walk covering the very same places and explaining my childhood haunts. Whilst it was great to see everything again, albeit from a very much taller viewpoint, it was also very poignant.

  10. Bob Post author

    Hi Nick

    Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment, surprising how many people have ended up on my site because of this particular post! Going down the ‘air raid’ as we called it was the epitome of daring-do!

  11. Sally New

    My family and I lived in Buckstone avenue from the late 50s. I was born in 1961 and spent many days playing on the “ big rock” and “ Little Rock”. I remember the horses field, sledding down the hill and the most amazing bonfire and mischief nights spent in this area.
    I now live in the Dordogne and am visiting whilst looking after my elderly Mum.
    This was an amazing place to grow up and it is a joy to walk through the woods today ( which are all cleared and tidy)listening to family’s playing and having the same fun we did so many years ago.

  12. Chris Hughes

    Man, your description of entering the “bunker” was spot on. My friends and I discovered it in the early 90s, and it was pretty scary creeping inside with our bike lamps.

    Spent a whole summer fooling around in there. We started trying to dig down through the concrete to get to that 3rd floor. Managed about 1ft but it was hard going.

    The building on the surface had a small elevator or something that went down into the bunker. Too small for a person.

    One day we arrived there and there was formwork and a just-poured concrete block over the entrance hole blocking our access to the bunker and the building on top. We tore it down and re-opened it before the concrete cured. But the following day, there was a new block, freshly poured, and an angry council worker guarding it who chased us away. We tried to remove it the next day, but it was too much for us.

    Those blocks are in your photos so I guess nobody else got through them since.

    We were told it was an ammunition store for an Anti Aircraft battery in the open meadow above that protected the approaches to an aircraft factory at Yeadon. Inside were 2 floors of racks that were made of horizontal poles set in concrete. Document Storage sounds much less fun 🙂

    Those woods seemed so ancient at the time, but it was all open farm land and industry not so long ago, before the woods took it back.

    Thanks for posting. You brought back some memories. I live in South Australia now, but it’s funny how you can be instantly taken back 30y by something like this.

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