The Old Co-op Stables


Richard Bell's Wild West Yorkshire nature diary, Tuesday, 16th October, 2007

Richard in the early 1960sstable‘The more I thought about it I think I have a memory of you as having blonde curly hair’ says, Pat, a reader who recently ordered some of my booklets about my home town, Horbury. As this photograph from the early 1960s shows my hair was rather wavy (and brown, whatever happened?).

She attended the same junior school and grammar school as I did, a few years ahead of me, and had some of the same teachers. She was head girl at the grammar school the year before my sister.

'My Grandma,' Pat recalls, 'used to live in an old cottage, long since pulled down, on Jenkin Road next to the Coop yard where the horse that pulled the milk wagon was stabled.'

cartRobert Douglas BellYes, I remember the old stables, drawn from memory in my sketch (right), which were diagonally opposite our house. They were already standing empty in the mid-1950s when we moved to Horbury from Wrenthorpe near Wakefield. I remember going into the field on one occasion with local children. Two old carts had been left there. In my memory, which probably isn't reliable, they had flaking red and green paint. One of them made me think of a rather cramped stage when we climbed up onto it. My attraction to things theatrical must have started early. It might have had sliding shutters, or doors of some kind. The other cart might have been an open cart.

Barbara's mum, who worked, at one time or another, in several of the branches of Horbury Co-op, remembers when they used to send the wagon around the village.

In the 1960s a haulage firm took the stables over. By then there were new houses right opposite, so lorries turning in the narrow road weren't popular with local families. My father (right) was Chairman of Horbury Urban District Council at the time. When retrospective planning permission was requested for the change of use from stables to haulage firm, a road safety report was commissioned. My father was furious when consent was given before the report had been completed and he resigned from the council over the way this had been handled.

Last Little Meadow

Clydesdale horsesI've inherited my father's fury about the way planning issues are handled - for instance, this week at Horbury Bridge, at the lower end of Coxley Beck, planning notices have appeared. Bellway Homes are applying to extend their Calder Heights/Coxley Dell development by putting 18 houses and a public access area in the paddock where, some years ago, I sketched a pair of Clydesdale horses called Blossom and Beauty.

I've no doubt that there will be an ecology report, just as there was for the Coxley Dell phase of the development, but I'm resigned to the reality that once approval is given the report will be ignored; at that time, the ecologist emphasised that the semi-natural vegetation - including wild garlic and purple loosestrife - on BOTH sides of the beck should be retained but, on the contrary, when work commenced, every wild flower and shrub on the developer's side of the beck was grubbed out and dozens of trees have been felled on the adjoining Gypsy Lane footpath.

Following the damage to decking and fencing caused by the summer floods, Leylandii cypress has been planted alongside the beck, which is about as far from natural vegetation as you can get.

With their poor track record, Bellway shouldn't be trusted with this last meadow.

It could be my old dad talking! I've just e-mailed a copy of that to the letters page of the local paper, although I can't summon up the enthusiasm to write an objection to the planning department, since that proved such a worthless experience last time. One of our local MPs is now Minister of Housing and in a stirring speech to the Labour Party conference she passionately affirmed that she wants to build . . . build . . . build.