This text-only website describes proposals to establish a new public park in the Kirkstall Valley in central Leeds. It would be the largest public recreational project in Leeds for over seventy years, comparable in size with Roundhay Park, Middleton Park or Hyde Park in central London. This website includes a short history of the area. An alternative multimedia website is available.

Detailed contents table

This table uses access keys to aid navigation by people who do not use a mouse. If you prefer to use the keyboard, press Alt + key then RETURN to follow the link, Alt + 3 then RETURN for the contents table itself. Mac users should press the Ctrl key instead of Alt.

Contact details

Kirkstall Valley Park (KVP) is a not-for-profit company number 5097588, limited by guarantee.

KVP is an umbrella body that brings together various interest groups. New or existing organisations are welcome to join KVP, providing that their objectives are compatible with our constitution which you can download by clicking the link.

The registered office for KVP is:

Hawksworth Wood Community Association
6 Broadway
Leeds LS5 3PR

The Company Chair for KVP is:

Stephen Rennie
16 Morris Lane
Leeds LS5 3JD

voice (0113) 275 2441

The Company Secretary for KVP is:

Councillor John Illingworth
37 Kirkwood Way
Leeds LS16 7EU

home (0113) 267 3735; work (0113) 343 3135; mobile 07946 301132

The KVP Directors are:

Mrs Ann Chadwick Wades Charity
Mr Robert Collins Leeds Civic Trust
Mr Adrian Curtis Groundwork Leeds - treasurer
Mr David Hall SUSTRANS
Councillor Janet Harper Leeds City Council (Armley Ward)
Councillor John Illingworth Leeds City Council (Kirkstall Ward) - secretary
Mr Greg Parsons Leeds Canoe Club
Mr John Preston British Trust for Conservation Volunteers
Mr Stephen Rennie Hawksworth Wood Community Association - chair
Mr Chris Royffe Leeds Metropolitan University
Mr Ken Straford Kirkstall Village Community Association
Councillor Neil Taggart Leeds City Council (Bramley Ward)
Mr Don Vine Yorkshire Wildlife Trust

About Kirkstall Valley Park


Kirkstall Valley Park is located along the valley of the River Aire in North West Leeds, between the communities of Armley, Bramley and Kirkstall.


The Kirkstall Valley is one of Leeds’ best kept secrets. Very few people are aware of this substantial area of open space immediately adjacent to the city centre. The valley is sandwiched between Armley, Burley and Kirkstall, but physical barriers created by the Leeds - Skipton railway, the River Aire and the Leeds – Liverpool canal make it difficult to explore this part of our city. People either imagine that there is nothing there, or assume that the land was irretrievably damaged by its previous industrial heritage. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Return to the top of the page

Social issues

The Kirkstall Valley is very close to Leeds city centre. Some neighbouring areas suffer from significant traffic problems, economic disadvantage and a serious shortage of recreational open space. These handicaps are reflected by a wide range of socio-economic indicators. For example, the image below shows the frequency of child road accidents in Leeds City Council wards on a spectral scale, where red represents the highest accident frequencies per head of population and blue the lowest. School children in central Leeds face ten times the risk of a serious road accident when compared with their counterparts in the outer suburbs. Inner city children need safer places to play.

Return to the top of the page


Prior to the industrial revolution the River Aire was a famous salmon fishery, but industrial pollution from Bradford Beck, and inadequately treated effluent from Esholt sewage works eliminated much of the aquatic wildlife. Water quality is now substantially improved with the decline of the textile industry, control of moth-proofing residues and the introduction of tertiary treatment at the Esholt plant. Salmonid fish and otters have re-colonised the river, although a full salmon migration is impeded by the remaining weirs. The valley is a favourite spot for bird watching. It is a few degrees warmer than the surrounding open countryside, and it forms a natural migration route for birds, so it attracts a wide variety of avian species.

Katy Hockridge and Val Crompton write:

Birds to watch out for arriving on migration from the South in March, April and May are Sedge warblers, Willow warblers, Chiffchaffs and Whitethroats. All year round near the big pond look out for reed buntings. In the Autumn listen out for the 'chuckling' of the Fieldfares and the high pitched calls of the Redwings at they migrate in from the East. Often at night you can hear these high pitched calls as Redwings migrate over Leeds. Look out for blackbirds taking berries off the Hawthorns. Other common birds resident all they year round are Kingfishers, Treecreepers, Sparrows, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Wrens, Robins and Dunnocks. Sparrowhawks, Kestrels and Herons are seen regularly flying above the reserve. Very occasionally Curlews fly over and, rarely, Woodcocks. On the river look out for Mallards and Tufted ducks. Also Goosanders are regular in the winter. A Waterail has been recorded from the bridge over Redcote Lane. The lake on the island attracts Moorhens.

Happy birding!

Records of additional sightings will be gratefully received. See the contacts section for more information.

Return to the top of the page

History of the Kirkstall Valley

Local history can be traced from the foundation of Kirkstall Abbey in 1152. The abbey prospered and the monks developed agriculture, leather working and a bloom-smithy ironworks at Weetwood. There is little evidence to support the local belief that the monks worked iron at Kirkstall Forge, which remained a fulling mill until the 17th century. Water power has long been used for a variety of industrial purposes including fulling, scribbling, oil and corn mills. The weirs at Armley Mills and Kirkstall Abbey date from medieval times, but during the 18th and 19th centuries the valley became a major centre for the woollen industry, and a complex network of weirs and goits was constructed to supply additional energy. Many of these works survive to the present day.

Abbey Mills is clearly marked on a 1711 map of the Earl of Cardigan's estate. Savins Mills and St Ann's mills were constructed later on the same stream, and both are shown on Jeffery's map surveyed in 1771.

Return to the top of the page

James Graham and Benjamin Gott

James Graham was a wealthy lawyer who married Ann Moore in 1781, and thereby acquired a 500 year lease on parts of the Earl of Cardigan's estate in the Kirkstall Valley. Graham either built or re-built several mills along the network of weirs and goits in the Kirkstall valley.

Benjamin Gott was a major Leeds industrialist who re-built Armley Mills in 1806 after a fire. He also occupied Burley Mills (1798) and St Ann's Mills (ca. 1824) in the valley floor. Gott became Mayor of Leeds in 1799 and was a millionaire by the time he died. His house (1820) and grounds (designed by Humphrey Repton) overlooked the valley from the Armley side. In 1928 both properties were leased by Leeds City Council to create a municipal golf course and public park.

Water power was superseded by steam around 1820 and the water mill that was planned to match the big weir was never built. Woollen manufacture remained profitable for much of the 19th century, and most of the mills in the Kirkstall valley were considerably enlarged by the addition of single storey weaving sheds. Hardly any of these buildings survive to the present day, and the Leeds City Council Industry and Estates department has been responsible for much of this needless destruction.

Return to the top of the page

Kirkstall Power Station

After 1931 the area was dominated by the Kirkstall power station, an early municipal enterprise that was nationalised after 1945. This extremely dirty coal-fired unit covered the surrounding streets in fly ash. The station was converted to burn oil just in time for the Middle East war, and the resulting price rise resulted in its closure in 1976. The former fly ash lagoons were filled with rubble, mostly from the Leeds inner ring road, but the valley remains a major switching centre for the National Grid. The restricted access, in combination with overhead and underground high-voltage cables, subterranean voids and contaminated, unstable land make the power station site unsuitable for residential development.

Return to the top of the page

Flooding issues

The River Aire floods at irregular intervals, and as a result the valley floor has remained largely free from built development. The same flooding has left rich deposits of alluvial soil, and the Burley Mills allotments are mostly classified as Grade One agricultural land after a survey by the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries & Food (MAFF) in 1989. They are the best farmland in the Leeds Metropolitan District. Significant built development is precluded by the flood plain and agricultural land designations.

Return to the top of the page

The Leeds – Liverpool canal

The canal was completed in 1816. In contrast to the River Aire, it has largely unpolluted water drawn from various Pennine catchments. This large body of clean, slow moving water is the home to various rare species of freshwater mollusc that resulted in its designation as a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1984. The canal was once used to supply the power station with coal, and the former coal basin and loading bay have been converted into a narrow boat marina.

Return to the top of the page

Planning History

Leeds City Council recognised the potential of the Kirkstall riverside during the 1950s, and embarked on a systematic program of land acquisitions that included Stansfield Row (1959), 649 Kirkstall Road (1963), St Ann's Mills (1970) and Burley Mills and Burley Mills Allotments (1975). This last site had been leased by the Council since 1954. Although Kirkstall power station was still zoned as industrial land, the entire area between the River Aire and Kirkstall Road was allocated as playing fields and public open space in the 1972 Development Plan Review. Proposals for a Kirkstall Valley Park were included in the 1980 Local Plan, and in 1983 the Museums section of the LCC Leisure Services Department published "The Kirkstall Valley Guide". This envisaged a park extending all the way from the city centre out to Rodley and Horsforth, that also included Bramley Fall and Beckett Park.

Work started on a variety of low-cost projects, many of them under community control. The Kirkstall Village Community Association managed a Community Programme scheme which constructed a "Goitside Walk" along Abbey Mill Goit below Bridge Road, and subsequently a Goitside Walk Extension towards Burley Mills. Planning approval 87/26/401 was obtained for a Nature Garden alongside Kirkstall Road and footpaths were constructed on the site. The intention was to join all these paths together to form a continuous waterside route, but this work was not completed for the reasons explained below. Another imaginative scheme for a Kirkstall Nature Reserve won first prize during the European Year of the Environment in 1987 - 88. This resulted in the foundation of EYE on the Aire, an organisation which until recently campaigned on water quality and wildlife issues, achieving some major improvements to the river.

Unfortunately, while all this work was in progress, officers within the Council's Industry and Estates Department decided that they had a better idea. Working almost entirely in secret, and without the knowledge or approval of most elected members (or the public) they devised an enormous commercial development scheme and shortlisted six companies to tender for the development rights. The park proposals fell victim to these political manoeuvrings and in 1988 the valley came under the control of the Leeds Development Corporation (LDC), a non-elected "quango" created by Mrs Thatcher’s government. After a failed attempt to create a major retail and office development, LDC bowed to popular pressure and partially implemented the proposed Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve in 1992. Other LDC planning decisions were less benign and caused enduring damage to the surrounding area.

Although LDC made it more difficult to implement the original 1980 vision for a Kirkstall Valley Park, much of value still remains. The area is permanently in danger from incremental, piecemeal development. The present proposals are an attempt to stabilise the situation, and to dedicate the remaining land as public open space, to serve the surrounding, densely populated areas.

Return to the top of the page

Implementation of the Kirkstall Valley Park

About half of the additional land is already in Council ownership while the remainder is in a variety private hands. Some has already been developed, and some is still required as operational land by the railways and the electricity distribution companies. For the excellent reasons explained above very little of the remaining land is likely to be a candidate for major built development in the foreseeable future. The present scheme would formalise that position, and effectively dedicate all of the remaining vacant land as recreational open space.

Although the new park would become a recreational area, significant surveying, design and construction work are needed to improve public access and bring it into beneficial use. This would include footpaths, cycleways, bridges, administrative offices, toilets and educational facilities. It might eventually include some fairly ambitious civil engineering and rebuilding works, as explained in the projects section of this website. At present the railway, river and canal divide the land into parallel strips and make it quite difficult to get from one part to the other. Many of these development operations have enormous potential as educational and training exercises, and would be free from the strict time constraints that often make it difficult for trainees to work on fully commercial schemes.

The essence of these proposals is to bring together a large pool of "free" labour and underused land with money from the charitable sector and from central government grants. The scheme requires a partnership between Leeds City Council, the Probation Service, educational institutions, private companies, voluntary organisations and local community groups. The democratic input from the general public will be achieved indirectly via Leeds City Council and the participating voluntary organisations. We do not consider that it is practicable to organise direct elections to the management committee.

Return to the top of the page


We have established a not-for-profit company called Kirkstall Valley Park (KVP) which is limited by guarantee, to promote and eventually manage the Kirkstall Valley Park. This type of limited company can provide a broadly-based governing body, seek charitable status, form partnerships and attract external funding. It is a stable, formal structure that can sign contracts and handle substantial amounts of money. In the unlikely event of winding-up the assets would either revert to Leeds City Council and the other participating landowners, or be distributed to other charities with similar objectives. This scheme closely accords with current government policies, and therefore stands an excellent chance of obtaining political and financial support.

It is not easy to draft an efficient constitution that will simultaneously serve the needs of the general public, government departments, an elected local authority, two universities, six further education colleges and a plethora of voluntary organisations and community groups. At present the participating organisations (rather than individuals) elect the KVP Directors who are the management committee. A separate organisation (such as Wades Charity) might ultimately hold land and other resources on trust, on behalf of the park, and lease them to the management committee. [This ingenious legal device is currently used in several Leeds parks to frustrate asset-stripping by cash-strapped politicians!] The KVP Directors meet about 8 times each year to set strategic objectives, but most of the detailed work will be done by specialist sub-groups, or by contractors, who are focused on a particular task.

Download the Memorandum and Articles of Association for Kirkstall Valley Park.

Current Projects

Planning for Real ®

We frequently consult the public, and try to involve children (and their parents and teachers) from local schools that are close to the proposed park.

We have organised “Planning for Real” ® exercises, which involve several public meetings in each locality where people can comment on the scheme and suggest alternatives. Local residents have organised similar events in the Kirkstall Valley for over twenty years. An important part of Planning for Real is a huge three dimensional model of the site, big enough for crowds of visitors to walk around and discuss alternatives. School pupils helped us to construct this model, and to suggest things that might be included.

On 1 September 2004 councillors representing Armley, Bramley and Kirkstall wards wrote to Head Teachers and Chairs of Governors inviting local schools to take part. They enclosed maps and aerial photographs of the area illustrating the current proposals, which include new foot bridges and off-road bicycle tracks, canoe course, children’s play, horse riding and wildlife areas. The letter emphasises that these are still proposals, which are subject to endorsement and modification by the people who live and work in the area, and also mentions the possibility of a substantial extension along the valley to connect up with Bramley Fall, Kirkstall Forge and the nature reserve at Newlay.

We raised funds to pay for the materials, so that they didn't eat into school capitation allowances! The work was closely aligned to the National Curriculum, and we supplied detailed large scale maps and aerial photographs, lightweight board, paints and modelling materials. The basic idea was to cut and stack the boards along the contour lines to make the three-dimensional outline, then fill and paint the surface to show footpaths, roads, rivers, canals, railway lines and so forth. On this very large scale it is possible to see individual trees and houses, so pupils in every school could contribute their own tiny piece to the finished model.

We divided the work between different schools, so that each school could work on their own locality, but all the models would fit together to make the completed assembly. We provided an overall colour scheme and helped with the joins so that we didn’t end up with a patchwork quilt. In addition to the collective effort to build the model, KVP will offered small but appropriate prizes for individual or group excellence within each school and within each age group in areas such as creative writing, painting, history, dance, geography and science related to the Kirkstall Valley Park.

Having done this once before, we know fairly well what needs to happen. Public meetings start on a small scale in each locality, involving schools, churches, pubs, clubs and community groups and eventually culminate in one or more larger meetings when hopefully a consensus will emerge. There is no rush and the process will be spread over several months, finishing in the summer term. Careful preparation is the key, so that people come to the discussions knowing the issues and the practicalities. The involvement of individual pupils and their families is really helpful for this.

We worked closely with the University of Leeds Access Academy and with Education Leeds. Future exercises will be supported by new curricular materials, historical and geographical notes that schools can adapt to suit their own pupils. All our volunteer and professional helpers are cleared for work with children and vulnerable adults and have recent CRB checks. Although our project is most closely related to local Geography and History, it includes elements of Citizenship, Science, Mathematics and the Creative Arts. We will produce a variety of new teaching and learning materials that will be suitable for students of different ages and spanning the whole ability range. We can provide speakers, videos and practical materials. We hope that many schools will contribute to this, and share their creativity with their neighbours. All our materials will be available electronically via the Leeds Learning Network, on CD/DVD and also via the Internet.

Please discuss this proposal with your Chair of Governors / Head Teacher and respond to us if you would like to be involved, or if you need more information about the plans.

Return to the top of the page

Possible Projects

We hope to incorporate many of the elements listed below, starting with the easy ones, and including others over a five to fifteen year period. This should not be seen as an exhaustive list, nor would the loss or failure of several elements prejudice the entire project. Some components could be based on public - private sector partnerships, for example golf, horse riding and canal activities. We would use a mixture of volunteer labour, students, specialist contractors and community service orders administered by the Probation Service. We hope to use design services provided by local Higher Education (HE) and Further Education (FE) Institutions, for example the Leeds University Engineering Schools, Leeds Metropolitan University Landscape Design and Planning courses and Leeds FE College courses. The works would incorporate a training element in partnership with the Leeds FE colleges, directed particularly towards alternatives to prison and the resettlement of offenders.

  1. Restored site office at 649 Kirkstall Road
  2. Flower, fruit and vegetable production on Burley Mills allotments
  3. Supervised adventure playground at "Dobbie Row"
  4. Enhanced Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve
  5. Stables and horse riding between the railway and the canal
  6. White water canoe training course
  7. Riverside walks and cycle tracks
  8. Armley - Kirkstall footbridge
  9. Completion of missing links in the footpath network
  10. Benjamin Gott's suspension bridge near Burley Mills
  11. Industrial archaeology at St Ann's Mills
  12. Natural history museum and visitor centre at St Ann’s Mills
  13. Narrow gauge tourist rail link along the valley

Park boundary

The proposed park extends across the Kirkstall Valley from Stanningley Road to Kirkstall Road, and includes both the River Aire and the Leeds – Liverpool Canal. The boundaries might be extended up the valley to the North West in order to link to Bramley Fall Park, Kirkstall Forge and the Nature Reserve at Newlay. The area of interest includes all the existing Gott’s and Armley Parks in West Leeds, with proposed additions on the North East side of the Leeds Liverpool Canal that would more than double the area of land accessible to the public. The entire scheme would cover about 150 hectares below Bridge Road, and would have added importance because of its close proximity to Leeds city centre. It would represent the most significant addition to our parks and public open spaces for more than 80 years.

Return to the top of the page

1) Community Punishment Scheme

Construction of the new park will form part of an Unpaid Work Scheme in partnership with the West Yorkshire Probation Service. (This was previously known as "Enhanced Community Punishment" but the essence of the proposal remains the same.) Minor criminals will spend part of their punishment constructing the new park, but this will also include a training element to impart work skills and raise self-esteem, which will be designed to reduce their likelihood of reoffending.

At present it costs about £27,500 per year to keep one offender in prison, but a high proportion of those imprisoned reoffend soon after their release. There is no consensus about which treatments are most successful, although community punishment is clearly more cost-effective for those committing less serious crimes. Overcrowded prisons make it almost impossible to provide effective treatment for criminals who receive a custodial sentence.

St Ann's Mills would provide a builder's yard and garage for deliveries and construction work, toilets, washing and eating facilties, and indoor training space for offenders taking part in the program. It would include a small office space for administrative work. The accommodation is basic, but fit for the intended purpose. The building would be completely refurbished as part of the community punishment scheme, and would eventually be available for community use as a visitor / interpretation centre, and / or use by the canoe club in conjunction with the white water training course.

Return to the top of the page

2) Flower, fruit and vegetable production

Trainees undergoing Enhanced Community Punishment would be supervised by the probation service, working on the grade one agricultural land at the Burley Mills Allotments. The outputs from this scheme would be directed towards elderly care and disabled services, and also other voluntary sector schemes for homeless people. They could also be sold to generate income for the new park, or used by the proposed organic restaurant at St Ann's mills. The various other existing agricultural uses would continue for the time being, but would be reviewed when the existing tenants retire. It is important to protect this valuable natural resource from irreversible damage or built development. It is the best agricultural land in the Leeds Metropolitan District.

Return to the top of the page

3) Supervised adventure playground

This would be constructed alongside Kirkstall Road, using naturally regenerated land with limited ecological and agricultural value. This use already has a valid planning consent 87/26/401 granted to Leeds City Council Leisure Services, which was started in 1988 but not progressed. We anticipate that “Playwork” staff and students from Leeds Metropolitan University would be closely involved in this initiative.

This land apparently has a "high value" frontage onto Kirkstall Road, but it has remained undeveloped because of site abnormals. It formerly comprised a row of 18th century cottages, which were later converted into piggeries and eventually into a municipal waste tip. Although the tip was sealed and topsoiled in the 1960s, the ground underneath is potentially contaminated and it would not support foundation loads. There is also a weak Victorian brick sewer deep beneath the site, which would require expensive diversion into the main Kirkstall Road sewer before any major built development took place. The whole site is now covered in mature trees, with safe, controlled waters in Burley Mill Goit to the rear.

Return to the top of the page

4) Enhanced Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve

The reserve would be extended to span the River Aire, incorporating additional land on the Kirkstall side. Ultimately a visitor / interpretation centre would be added at St Ann's Mills. Not many people are aware that we have deer and kingfishers only a mile from Leeds City Centre, or appreciate the rich fauna and flora developing along our recently cleaned river. There is a balance to be struck between public access and protecting biodiversity, and the reserve will need an effective local management committee.

The Nature Reserve currently belongs to National Grid Transco, but it is managed under licence by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust (YWT). The original 1993 endowment from the Leeds Development Corporation has been exhausted, so there are no paid staff on site and YWT can only afford to carry out basic maintenance. Work with local schools has ceased, and its resumption will be a priority for the new park management committee. Nevertheless the reserve is still in fairly good condition, without significant vandal damage.

Return to the top of the page

5) Horse riding

A training centre with stables would be established on land between the railway and the canal, in partnership with Park Lane College and a network of new bridle paths and cycleways developed up the river valley towards Kirkstall Forge and the Rodley Nature Reserve. There is an opportunity here to open these pursuits to children (and adults) from the inner-city area.

One reason to prefer this site for horses is that it is possible to reach open country via the canal towpath without crossing any major roads. It would be relatively easy to achieve pedestrian access to the youth facilities in the Armley "Lazer Centre" by rebuilding an earlier canal footbridge, that is marked on the footpath proposals map below.

Return to the top of the page

6) Canoeing

Many canoeists already use this area, and Leeds Canoe Club are based in Kirkstall. We aim to considerably expand the sporting and recreational activities on the River Aire, and to provide opportunities for disadvantaged and socially excluded young people. Improved canoe facilities could be developed from the existing network of mill goits and weirs, although there are some significant practical issues to overcome. Several weirs are grade 2 listed, and the water courses are not always in the most convenient place. Nevertheless it should be possible to develop a "white water" training facility in the Kirkstall Valley.

Documents to download: 4.7MB A Detailed and Critical Analysis of the Kirkstall Valley Park White-Water Canoe Course Proposals by Emma Waterhouse May 2004. A report to Leeds City Council. (Microsoft Word)

Return to the top of the page

7) Riverside walks and cycle tracks

New routes suitable for pedestrians, cyclists and (occasionally) horses would be constructed both along and across the valley, in conjunction with SUSTRANS. These would be integrated into a much larger sustainable transport system along the Aire Valley extending from the open country to the new commercial development under construction in the city centre.

The land in Gott's Park and Armley Park is already open to the public, but its value would be greatly enhanced by improved access to the river and the canal, which is limited to a single route along Redcote Lane at present. A series of footbridges would be required to bring this network to fruition, and the individual elements are described in greater detail below.

Return to the top of the page

8) Armley - Kirkstall footbridge

During the winter of 2003 final year students from the Leeds University Civil Engineering School produced some initial designs for this footbridge as part of their degree scheme. The winning team received a small prize from National Grid Transco. These projects included an Environmental Assessment and consultation with local residents via the Leeds City Council Community Involvement Teams.

It is estimated that a footbridge would cost about £250,000. It would greatly improve public access to the Nature Reserve, and was included in the orignal 1987 designs.

Return to the top of the page

9) Missing links

Numerous other footpath and access improvements are envisaged throughout the valley. In 2005 we hope that a new cohort of Leeds University Civil Engineering students will integrate the proposed canoe course with the footpath and cycle route along the steeply sloping river bank between St Ann's Mills and 649 Kirkstall Road.

The footpath element in this proposal previously received planning consent 91/24/538/99 granted to Haiste Ltd by the Leeds Development Corporation. This would have completed the network of goitside walks started by the Kirkstall Village Community Association in the 1980s. The corporation ran out of money and the footpath scheme was never constructed. A "green transport" link along the river valley has taken on a new significance with the proposed redevelopment of the Kirkstall Forge site, and the expanding riverside offices and commercial developments at the west end of the city centre.

Return to the top of the page

10) Gott's suspension bridge

Future projects might include the restoration of Benjamin Gott's footbridge, near to Burley Mills. This cast iron, wood and steel suspension bridge was constructed in the early years of the 19th century to allow workers from Armley to cross the river to reach their employment at Burley Mills. It stood until 1954, but now only the massive cast iron pillars remain. Fortunately, detailed photographs survive, sufficient to permit its restoration. This would complete the off-road cycle track from Kirkstall Forge through Kirkstall Abbey to Armley Mills.

Return to the top of the page

11) Industrial archaeology

In addition to the varied wildlife, there is a rich industrial archaeology along the mills, weirs and mill goits. This should be made accessible to the public and to local schools. The hydraulic engineering near St Ann's Mills is particularly ingenious, with multiple input and output channels. It served an earlier 18th century mill, much of which is still visible, which was replaced by Benjamin Gott's 1824 building that dominates the site today.

Return to the top of the page

12) Visitor centre at St Ann’s Mills

This semi-derelict industrial site has enormous potential, providing that the current occupants can be sensitively re-located. The original eighteenth century water mill buildings have largely collapsed, although the ground plan is still evident, and the hydraulic works are largely intact. The principal four-storey mill building was designed as a steam mill and was built around 1824 using the same "fireproof brick arch" construction employed at Armley Mills. It was purchased by Leeds City Council in 1970 but lost its roof and upper storey in a fire in 1975. [The Council claimed the insurance, but spent the money elsewhere.] The Council's original intention was to clear the entire site to create public open space. The historical value of the main building is increasingly recognised although most of the outbuildings and weaving sheds have been demolished. The interior of the mill has stone-flagged floors supported by Victorian cast-iron pillars and low brick arches with iron hoops. It has been occupied for many years by Arteco metalcraft, a light engineering company. There are photographs of the original building which could be restored as a visitor centre and 'organic' riverside restaurant, using crops grown locally on Burley Mills allotments. It also has potential as an art gallery or a natural history museum, or for sporting uses in connection with the white water canoe course. Voluntary Action Leeds have suggested that it could provide office accommodation for voluntary groups centred in the Headingley, Kirkstall and Weetwood areas that have been displaced by inflated rents near the universities. Like many other inner city industrial locations, the buildings are sometimes unoccupied at night and have consequently suffered from petty thefts, arson and vandalism. Some very limited housing development would give a permanent human presence and could help to fund restoration work, but it must be remembered that the site is in the designated flood plain of the River Aire and there are high voltage overhead cables nearby.

Gott's mansion, in Gott’s Park, was completed in 1820 and is currently occupied by a golf club. Repairs are urgently needed to this building, which is owned by Wades Charity, but leased to Leeds City Council for 999 years as part of a public park. The surrounding landscape garden is by Humphrey Repton (1752-1818).

Return to the top of the page

13) Narrow gauge tourist rail link

This would run from Armley Mills Industrial Museum to Kirkstall Abbey and Abbey House museum via the Nature Reserve, sometimes using historic Leeds railway engines. (It is difficult to provide a regular service using older engines because of reliability problems!) Parts of this route are already in existence, while others already have the required railway consents. Leeds University Engineering School has offered to do some design work. Narrow boats on the canal would permit circular trips in both directions, working from the existing canal marina: travelling by rail one way, by water the other. Amateur engineers in Kirkstall have already constructed a fully licensed, inspected and insurable railway bridge over the Abbey Mill Goit that is currently used for passenger services. These proposals would help to address the relatively low footfall at the Industrial Museum and Abbey House Museum, and make for a much more integrated tourist experience.

Return to the top of the page

Help needed

The full project will require significant capital investment and maintenance. Assistance is needed with fund raising, and in preparing a reasoned case for financial support. Student projects are particularly welcome. Academic and practical help is urgently required in the following areas:

Return to the top of the page

Member Organisations

Kirkstall Valley Park (KVP) is an umbrella organisation, where the members represent particular interest groups. New groups are always welcome and in due course there will be an election to determine the composition of a new KVP board. Individuals are encouraged to join one or more of the constituent organisations in order to maintain a reasonable balance between the various interest groups.

Recent Developments

October 2010 Planning application 10/04893 submitted for the BMX cycle facilities at Dobbie Row.

May 2010 Kirkstall Valley Park figures prominently in the final "Vision for Kirkstall" report from local community groups.

October 2009 Kirkstall Valley Park is included in the Leeds City Council "Core Strategy" for the Local Development Framework.

September 2009 Kirkstall Valley Park is included in the draft "Vision for Kirkstall" document published for public consultation.