Chapel Allerton is the suburb of Leeds where my wife, daughter and I now live. It’s also where I spent much of my childhood, living here with my mum and sister from the ages of 10 to 18. Growing up it seemed a fairly nondescript place, pleasant enough, pretty safe compared to some areas of the city, but undistinguished. Over the years, however, it began to change. I disappeared off to University in 1998, but each time I returned home (which was often as I was only 50 miles away in Manchester) it seemed different. New cafes and bars opened, traditional shops were replaced by more alternative ones (an example is when the shops selling model vehicles was replaced by an organic health food shop).
The picture above shows a fairly typical row of shops in the area. There’s a Mexican restaurant (Pinche Pinche – delicious churros), an independent kid’s footwear store, a small cafe/bakery, an independent kid’s toy store. Even the charity shop is a for a local rather than national charity. Admittedly there is a also a Ladbrokes to spoil an otherwise cosy picture. Chapel Allerton became trendy, and a destination for nights out, which I’m fairly sure it never was when I was 18.
When we moved back up to Leeds 18 months ago, to be nearer family with a baby on the way, and to escape the ridiculous house prices of South East England, my first thought was anywhere except Chapel Allerton. I thought it would be too strange being so close to my childhood home, a step back. But after looking at many houses to rent the one we liked the most happened to be here, and you know what, I’m glad we made that choice.
It’s a lovely place to bring up a kid, especially for a couple without a car, which we currently are. Pretty much on our doorstep are shops, cafes, a school and a library. There are loads of groups and classes for young kids, Tiny Tempo being a favourite. We have a couple of parks within walking distance (below is my daughter on the same swings I swang on as a child). As a music fan it’s also great as one of the local cafes is attached to a 100 capacity arts venue with acoustic nights, jazz, comedy, films and more. There are not too many places outside a city centre where you can have live music so close to hand.
It is strange at times, being back home. Memories lurk round every corner, and I often bump into folks vaguely remembered from my schooldays, or long lost relatives from my dad’s side of the family. I’m getting used to it now though and it starts to feel like home again. The downside is that, by the standards of Leeds, it’s now quite a pricey area. So when we are finally able to buy a house it is unlikely to be here. It’s going to be tough to drag ourselves away from a neighbourhood which would be perfect for bringing up our daugher (and also has Boss Burgers, the finest in Leeds about to open). Alas, I fear we may have no choice.