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20th Century Footpaths Geography

Picnics in Methley

You won’t see many people enjoying/taking picnics in the village these days – with the exception of those taking in the whole afternoon at one of the cricket matches.   Go back to the post war years and it was possible to see any number of villagers picking out suitable sites for an outdoor fiesta.

My earliest memory of dining al fresco was during the war, when most of the street (Bondfield Terrace) would pack up and take their beetroot sandwiches and home baking to the big valley alongside a section of Fleet Beck.     Not many with thermos flasks in those days, so it would be cold tea in bottles, but fresh piping hot tea for the few who brought billy cans. The war certainly brought out the best of community spirit.

During those post war summers the family Thackray often walked along Oulton Lane to the meadow attached to Knowles’ farm, again alongside the beck. Here the grass was cropped short by grazing cattle (mind, you had to avoid the pats) which was an absolutely absorbing place for seven and four year olds to practice pooh sticks on the then rickety wooden footbridge.

Taking the same long walk in those days we also took picnics to Oulton cricket field – they were one of the first clubs to play matches on a Sunday – along with other families enjoying the weather and the sport.    I have this feeling that the outing was also to keep Tommy out of the ale house, if so, it worked.
Another one was when me and Mike Shillito as twelve year olds were packed off (I think they were glad to see the back of us) with wrapped sandwiches and hard boiled eggs. We can’t have been landed two minutes in Primrose Valley when we got stuck into the food, one hour later we arrived back home, ‘nowt to do’ was the reply when asked ‘why’.  (you can be a pain at that age)

When it came to our turn in the 1960’s. Our kids always enjoyed catching the bus from Castleford (upstairs front seat) to hike out to the various places in Methley where we could lay out the blanket and set out the buns.

One to be avoided, we learned from experience, was near a hedgerow off the parting of the manor walk which now overlooks the deafening M62 motorway.   Here, we were introduced to and driven away by midges that appeared to be engaged in an aerial dog fight who seemed to be waiting to join forces on the wing to attack approaching humans.

Another mistake was during the early 1970’s, a picnic in the field between the Lawn Pond and Park Lane looked to be idyllic.   It was here I issued the words now famous in our family ‘its only a herd of cows, they are harmless’.   The blanket and food had all been laid out, nothing had been spared, and after settling down, twice the kids had said ‘the cows keep coming dad’. ‘Don’t worry’ was the reply until I looked up from the newspaper and saw a group of about thirty cows heading our way and had now broken into a trot and we were directly in their path.   The command to the kids was ‘RUN FOR THE FENCE’ as Mary and I grabbed the corners of the picnic blanket and made for the fence in the nick of time. All to the consternation and some amusement of passers by – they were just being inquisitive someone said!
I noticed some years ago that picnic tables had been set out at the new bridge at the bottom of Pit Lane and I, for one, looked forward to them being used. Sadly they became victims of the lesser vandal – a creature that travels at night time and cries for its mam when challenged on its own.

So, if you want to enjoy a picnic in Methley these days, go to the cricket field avoiding midges and cow pats, or even eat al fresco in your own garden, where you will certainly be assured of a decent cup of tea..