How Hard Can it be to Buy a Pint of Milk?


On my way to visit mum yesterday she rang and asked if I could pick her up a pint of milk.

She lives in a small village called Thorpe, on the Leeds/Wakefield border. There’s one single lane road through and large residential developments have recently been built, and are still in the process of construction, on both sides of the village. How hard could it be to buy a pint of milk here given that it’s an established community and a rapidly expanding population?

Currently there is one shop in the village. A chemist.

In this part of town it is easier to purchase antidepressants than dairy products.

The nearest convenience store is almost a mile away. The Google map says it’s an 18 minute walk. I defy anyone to try it. The hill is very steep, the path narrow to non-existent, and the traffic intense. Twenty-plus unpleasant, panting, petrol-fume filled minutes would be more like it.

Stanhope Gardens to Premier

In any case mum lives in sheltered accommodation. I can throw a pint of milk further than anyone in her part of the village could walk in twenty minutes.

There is a bus through Thorpe every hour. I was on the Number 85, travelling past the second nearest shop to mum so I decided to get off at the Asda and walk rather than waiting for the next bus.


The Google map says 33 mins walk, but I knew a short cut that shaved about 5 minutes off the journey time.

Stanhope Gardens to Asda  Holme Well Road

The route takes you through one of the biggest new housing developments in Leeds. And a housing development is exactly what it is. Between the almighty Asda and Thorpe there is housing, more housing, and then some housing with more housing planned


Not one shop. Not a single pub. No schools. Not anything that could be classed as a single social amenity in sight.

There’s housing. There are roads to take you to the housing. And there are places to park the inevitable car that you need to live in a commuter compound such as this.


And a car is a necessity. The buses round here stop very early in the evening. If you want to do anything other than gaze at the large screen TV after returning from work to your housing development then what are you going to do? Walk? (The nearest pub is a good 15 minutes hike. Town an hour away. Capital of Culture, anyone?)


I have waited here for the 87 bus several times in the previous few weeks. It has never come. I suspect the service has been rerouted (it goes past the Asda still) as it never got used here.

The development is called The Oaks. The streets all have pleasantly pastoral names…






though my favourite has to be…


I’m not quite sure this is what Baron Haussmann had in mind. And I’m not sure what there is for the flaneur to enjoy strolling along this boulevard


Would you even call these higgledy-piggledy, incongruous arrangements of individual housing plots a street? Surely a street has to have a sense of identity, some kind of soul running through it, a thread of life? Not just a length of random housing connected by a strip of bare tarmac?


Most of the shared space is tarmac. The bits of green you see dotted about are safely behind fences. Not to be messed with. Not to be played on. Often behind fences behind bigger, blanker fences.



There is a nature reserve, granted, at the edge of the estate. Behind a barbed wire fence


Blank walls are everywhere, turning their backs on the public street



Windows too. Housing built with windows bricked up… I’m sure there’s a reason, but it can’t be a human reason



Most creepily, in the 15 minutes it took to get to the other side of the development, I didn’t see a single person out walking. And only two cyclists. During half term. On an estate which is mostly family housing




A couple of hours later I was on a bus through Belle Isle, and there were plenty of people in the streets, mainly kids, so it isn’t as if people don’t get out any more.

The last ten minutes to Thorpe is a dash across this


instead of a detour through the remnants of an incredible council estate


(I’ve only just discovered this place, it’s beautiful, kids playing in the streets, people mending cars and clipping hedges, gassing with neighbours… but that’s for another post.)

and through here



which I wouldn’t recommend to anyone, but there’s no other way to get across this


Anyway, time taken to get a pint of milk in Thorpe; 29 minutes. Places of interest passed; none. People encountered; nil. Experiences I’d want to try again or share; zero. Spanking new housing development traversed; one.

It’s not quite as bad going the other way. There is a pub, which has seen better days. A half-decent takeaway. And a very pleasant council owned wood, East Ardsley Fall. But these are legacy amenities – the new development sprawling at the bottom of the hill is just random residential plots and more tarmac, adding nothing to the local community but increasing traffic congestion. They developers aren’t providing anywhere to buy a pint of milk, though the locals were promised “amenities” when planning permission was given, apparently.

No wonder the pharmacy is doing a roaring trade. No car? No shops? Little in the way of public transport?. Trycyclics instead!


  1. I have visited this strange area of edgeland a couple of times and this detailed exploration captures its Ballardian atmosphere.

  2. Its been a while since I mapped the area for OpenStreetMap, but I do remember there was a corner shop on the end of Elwell St. Has that now closed?

    1. Sadly the shop closed some time ago (locals blame problems with youths on the rob, I’m not sure.)

      The empty building across the street from that shop used to be a Coop, I think. Great space, a terrible waste.

  3. Hi Phil, we have lived on the estate for nearly 2 years now and it is interesting to see it from an external view. I think it’s a case of maturity, as people move to places like this to start families and get better space, there are certainly more kids playing out on an eve now. It’s also to a degree I think a symptom of house prices = both parents working which then makes the areas seem a bit quiet 9 to 5. PS we were around half term so shame we missed you (my OH was out making noise in the garden paint in the fence!)

    We have a thriving online community which has certainly helped us feel very welcome and also helped us out finding trades etc to help us do the house up. There are also community events in the central green space in summer and Santa events at christmas for those with kids. I agree it’s all a bit hidden now, but I think things change over time. We also talk to our neighbours quite a bit, take it in turns to cut communal grass areas, take bins back for each other – all community stuff.

    On the subject of pubs there is Leeds Corinthians which has opened its doors to the estate with welcome arms; and the nature reserve (SuDS ponds really) is well used on a weekend! The fences there I understand were to keep native bunnies from eating young trees when they were planted.

    Some of the house designs I agree are a bit shonky and crammed in a little, but in terms of improving the mix South of the river it’s not bad I think. Parking is a challenge which I think is why the railings everywhere – to stop people parking closest on street to their front door and force them to use designated parking areas.

    1. Hi Hannah,

      thanks for replying (and sorry if I sounded rude in my post!)

      I travel through the estate a couple of times a week, mostly on the bus but occasionally on foot. It’s always struck me as a strange place and hard to navigate (the other week I decided to wander from the Sharp Lane end, near The Omnibus pub, and got completely lost.)

      I always wondered, what is there to do around here? How does it relate to the rest of Leeds? Does it feel connected?

      As a non-driver it does feel quite cut off, especially down the Thorpe Lane end. I’ve often waited for the bus down there and ended up walking to Middleton Circus – you’re never more than ten minutes wait for a bus in Miggy.

      And compared to Middleton or Belle Isle – both places built as social housing, with all the amenities – it does seem barren and clinical… but perhaps because that’s the kind of place I’m most familiar with?

      Anyhow, we’ll be arranging another urban walk down there soon. Fancy joining us and showing us around? You can give us the insiders viewpoint.

  4. I don’t have too many problems with the content of this blog as a description of this south Leeds “urban extension” but I’m just trying to sort out some of the underlying arguments.

    Seemingly the critique is based around three things – amenity, accessibility, and sociability.

    The first seems to imply some problem with Leeds City Council’s master plan for the area. There was insufficient provision for neighbourhood shops or if there were these were either uneconomic from the start or closed due to anti-social behaviour.

    With the building design and street layout you are talking about the inevitable outcome of developer led construction. It is self- evident to say these properties will be built to a price in a “popular style” designed to meet the expectations of the target market. Looking at your photo’s some of the properties look like apartments rather than individual houses.

    Developers have indulged various ideas about “good urban design” over the years –try Colton Village for the eighties fashionable shared space cul de sac. Excellent for playing out but nowhere to leave your car but then these homes were for families with kids.

    Here we are looking at the starter homes of young “upwardly mobile” couples, “getting their foot on the property ladder”. They don’t need doctors – too healthy, schools – no kids yet, pubs – they socialise with friends at home. They work long hours – “building their careers”. The idea of “community” or shared amenity is irrelevant. The weekly super store shop is all you need or have time for otherwise convenience shop in the city centre coming home from work.

    As far as access is concerned you missed the key point that the area is deliberately cut off by a cordon sanitaire of green space – the nature reserve (excellent use of section 106 money there) – from Middleton proper. This area with ideology of aspiration and privatisation must be physically separated from anything other like a social housing estate.

    The paucity of buses is unsurprising since apart from a few key routes these are generally poor anyway given the limited leverage politicians have over the private providers. Buses anyway go against the duty the area has to perform.

    The rest of the stuff on sociability: the “incredible council estate” with its vibrant outdoor culture as opposed to the dead landscape where no people walk is more dubious.

    Since I got caught out by the health police and told to walk more I have found on my wanderings that there are rarely people on the streets and this applies both in my cosy suburban residential neighbourhood and the neighbouring council estate. Of course this may well be because people see me coming and run inside.

    The only sign I see of kids playing out in either area is a notice warning that on a few days of the year a street will be closed to traffic as a “Play out day” – all fairly ludicrous as they street is a dead end anyway. There is something a little disturbing about this idea of getting council permission to close the street and play out on certain days of the year only when presumably everyone is then expected “join in”.

    Overall then I get the feeling the blog is a bit nostalgic for a romantised lost world.

    Phil you just need to stay in more.



    1. Ha, perhaps I ought to stay in more John.

      There were plenty of kids out in Belle Isle. Mainly young shirtless guys hanging around the off licenses and women with toddlers at the bus stops. Still, life!

      And the council estate remnant is fascinating. It’s genuinely like something out of my childhood, even down to the flags hanging from every window – there are more St George’s crosses along this crescent than there were on St Crispin’s day. It’s well worth a look around if you fancy a wander sometime?

  5. I have lived on the New Forest Village for over 5 years now and I think it just keeps getting better and better.

    What is there to do you ask?
    There is a lovely playground in the middle which is where all the children would have been the day you were there as it is always busy.

    There is a library in the St George’s centre.

    There is asda, a massive amenity and somewhere very local to the hundreds of people living on the estate who may want to buy milk!

    The plantation does not have a barbed wire around it, it is around the water bit only, I assume ensuring safety! It’s a lovely walk / run and you will always find dog walkers, runners or pram pushers on there at all times of day!

    I personally love walking round and seeing all the different house types and styles, it makes for interesting viewing!

    1. Agree about the Asda. I was there on the day it opened and it was buzzing. The car park is always full.

      But would you walk there from the other end of the estate? It’s 15 minutes by foot.

      The library is great too. It always looks well used when I go by. There are plenty of buses coming from Leeds – not so many from the other direction, as far as I can tell (my mum lives in Thorpe, there’s a bus every hour, unless it’s a Sunday, or bank Holiday, then you are on your own.)

      Middleton Park has a lake that never had a fence around it. I suppose it’s an amenity for council estate kids; there may be different health and safety rules?

      Next time I walk through the estate I’ll look out for the playground. And if you see me wandering around, do say hello! It’s always good to get a local’s viewpoint.

  6. Phil,

    The buses aren’t bad, a quick 5 mins wander into the middle of the estate timed to catch a half hourly service to town, or otherwise on St George’s Road half hourly. I get that the Thorpe road side might be a bit isolated, we are very Central to the estate and I guess we take advantage of the facilities in Miggy as we need to.

    Maybe a question here is about the changes in perception as to what is a community. As a big social media user, engaging online is good for me and the various home shopping vans which pass my house are testament to my neighbours being the same ilk. Does that relate well to an established communitu- I guess time will tell. Maybe it feels that way as it’s basically a dormitory for commuters, as someone who works in LS9 it’s just down the road for me but I know a lot of people find it handy for the city centre.

    I still owe you an email – happy to show you round the bits I know (forgive me I don’t know half the road names!!) and maybe share a cuppa at my bland and soulless new build (didn’t take offence really – people either like or hate new builds!)

    1. Actually I don’t think I said the houses were “bland and soulless.” I was more interested in how they were arranged and how they related to the rest of the city (and I did wonder about the ghost windows… I still haven’t got an answer about that.) Other people commented on the architecture.

      I think your point about changing perceptions of what makes community is spot on, and it’s something we really need to think about. When I say “we” I mean “I” need to think more before spouting my mouth off.

      A cuppa would be great. I’m often passing though, so give me a shout.

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