The Lilacs of Golden Acre

It’s a well kept secret, but it’s finally out. One of our intrepid reporters sneaked into Golden Acre Park yesterday and took the above photos, and we can reveal that an amazing spectacle is unfolding there over the next two weeks. Golden Acre, (just past Bramhope on the road to Otley) is home to a national lilac collection, about 60 different types, and this is their moment. For 50 weeks of the year lilac trees are a bit anonymous, but when they blossom they do it in style – they look great and smell gorgeous.

They’re very late this year. It’s a good job T.S.Eliot didn’t write The Waste Land in 2013, as  his famous lines ‘April is the cruellest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire’, wouldn’t work so well if you substitute ‘June’.

Lilac has gone out of fashion a bit, but apparently in Victorian times it was as popular as the rose in the national imagination. Hence such songs as Ivor Novello’s ‘We’ll Gather Lilacs In The Spring’ . I always think of Walt Whitman’s poem ‘When Lilacs Last By The Dooryard Bloom’d’ with it’s lovely lines that describe the lilac well:

the lilac-bush tall-growing with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,

With many a pointed blossom rising delicate, with the perfume strong I love,

With every leaf a miracle

The rest of the poem is pretty good too – a lament for the death of Abraham Lincoln which ends up being a celebration of how great death is (that’s Walt for you).

I don’t know why lilacs should be associated with sad things, but that seems to be the case. One of the all time great weepy ballads is of course Lilac Wine, especially as performed by the wonderful Nina Simone or Jeff Buckley. It’s not all gloomy though. In my research I found a lovely piece by Rachmaninov called Lilacs

One way and another lilacs are pretty powerful. , so if you have a spare hour in the next couple of weeks get on an X84 from the bus station and get to Golden Acre. The lilacs are just behind the cafe to the left as you come under the Otley Road tunnel into the park. The best free show in town.

4 thoughts on “The Lilacs of Golden Acre

  1. Thank you Sue. It’s true that if you don’t have a bus pass it will cost you to get out there. A day rider ticket is probably the best way. It is worth it though. There’s a nice lake with lots of ducks, geese and swans, a fine collection of rhododendrons and azaleas which are still blooming too at the moment on the walk around the lake, and a national lily collection. You can go on a woodland walk through a nature reserve and it’s generally a nice place to hang out. Any yes, by that tell tale slip into 60s jargon in the last sentence you’ve guessed it was me, the old tree hugger, Terry.


  2. Hi Terry, what a nice video and write up about Lilacs!
    Leeds is definitely in bloom this time of year, although spring took it’s time.
    I went for a walk in the Hollies which have the most beautiful flowers of all different colours.


  3. Yes the Hollies is nice too, and you can get from there into Meanwood Park and walk pretty well up to Golden Acre through lovely woods and hardly see any roads. I only know about 4 of the Leeds parks well – it would be great if people wrote about their local one and shared it on here.


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