Archive for June, 2018

Historical and Romantic Messages in the Trees

June 1, 2018

Historical and Romantic Messages in the Trees.
Hidden away in a woodland walk within earshot of a busy East Leeds suburb can be found an intriguing record of historical events and romantic encounters carved in silver birch. Here to be seen is a treasure house of dates and messages – some of amazing antiquity – for anyone prepared to search ‘the graffiti of the trees.’ Remember to ‘click’ on picture3s to enlarge.


Until I chanced upon this magical grove I, like many others no doubt, had imagined tree carving to be a form of vandalism but on consideration after experiencing this magical place, I believe that perhaps we might consider tree carving rather more as a tablet of local history or an even more romantically, as a memorial to the carver made in their own hand, rather than one carved later on a tomb stone by the hand of another.

Since stumbling on this enchanted grove of silver birch I’m sold on the latter idea. My attention was first arrested by a date seen out of the corner of my eye as I wandered through the trees ‘1936’, I thought WOW! That carving was made even before I was born and I looked closer with more respect. All around were carved hearts, arrows and initials some contemporary, some of the 1950s, 60s.70s 80’s. ‘Legge 74’ had been particularly busy his name was carved on lots of trees. In between these I found the odd ‘gem’ such as one for 1922 I thought of the Charleston era in which that had been carved. Then one for 1926, I thought at that time folk were probably in the throes of the national strike. One for 1918, the Great War for Civilisation was ongoing. I became enchanted by the place, I should have been home by now but I couldn’t pull myself away.
On the same tree was carved ‘Teddy Boys’ and ‘Queen’ a sobering thought, these cults are now almost a generation apart. ‘Fat June’ must be an angry modern girl for her portrayal is in aerosol spray. Are they the genuine? Well I’m convinced they are. For a start the older ones are at prime carving height later ones are higher or lower, evidently the bark stays art a constant height it does not move up the tree as it grows later and carvers had to carve in any spaces that were left. The older letters have spread slightly as the circumference of the tree has increased and better seen from a distance and anyway who would want to fake a date on a tree?

What of the lovers who carved their names here like Billy, Jed, Liz and the rest in 1921? If one considers the optimum age for tree carving as say fifteen or sixteen then those carving in 1921 would be long gone by now but at that date they were probable young and beautiful. This spurred me on; I resolved to find the oldest date I could. Surprisingly carvings sixty years old didn’t seem much fainter than those carved ten years ago.
I found one for 1912 and marvelled that the wind and the rain had failed to erase the makings I wondered if those carvers knew that the war that would turn the world upside down was just around the corner, perhaps they were just happy in blissful ignorance? On one tree is carved ‘Miner’s Strike 1902’, ‘Master’s Mines Lockout 1926’ and on another tree ‘Miner’s Strike 1912’, ‘Hull Harbour War 17th April 193- The last figure unfortunately obliterated anyone recall this historical event?
carving –MM 1891


The tranquil spell is cast as the decades merge and one’s own problems can be seen for what they are worth, just another entry on a tree. Some of the dates seem incredible old but indistinct or over carved so I discount them in my search. Finally one is found as clear as crystal ‘1893’ The naughty nineties’ and then with only the nine carved the wrong way round’1879’ carved by the long dead hand of a Victorian lover, two world wars a depression and a recession ago.

I thought of how a primary teacher could take her charges for a nature ramble and unwind a history lesson at the same time.

I have no doubt that older carvings are there to find of those who lived and loved and passed this way.

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Just an update on the remaining pubs in our old East Leeds for the good old boozers among you: well there ain’t none left! They pulled the Cavalier down earlier this month and that was the last.
The Bridgefield, Black Dog, Yew Tree, Prospect, Waterloo, Dog and Gun’ and The Shaftsbury are history, The Spring Close is a derelict hulk, The Cross Green is a kid’s play house. The Hampton, and The Shepherd are nice blocks of flats and it looks like The ‘Fish Hut’ is going to be flats too, The ‘Slip’ is a supermarket, The White Horse seems to be sometimes open sometimes closed.
The Edmund House Club, East End Park Club and the Easy Road club (under a different guise) are still up and running but the nearest pub is probably the Hope Inn.
Some good news The East Leeds Cricket Club is still alive and well and they have put the clock back up outside York Road baths/library.

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