‘Moving to the area was the best decision I ever made’

The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Coun Ann Castle, in the red jacket, with the Queen and Prince Philip at an event in Leeds earlier this year to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee.
The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Coun Ann Castle, in the red jacket, with the Queen and Prince Philip at an event in Leeds earlier this year to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee.

My husband and I both grew up in North West Leeds and we spent the first 30 years of our married life there.

Ten years ago, we made the decision to move to Thorner as our family had fled the nest and we wanted to live in a more manageable house with a small garden. We also thought it would be pleasant to live in a more rural location.

When we lived in Leeds, I was able to walk to work over Woodhouse Moor, but in Thorner I had lots of lovely paths to explore from my front door and there was the added bonus the ford nearby so that I could wash my walking boots at the end of a particularly muddy walk.

We started going into one of the pubs in Thorner for a drink after work on a Friday and soon began to meet other residents of the village who encouraged us to join some of the groups and activities in the village.

Before long, we found we had made more friends in Thorner than we had made in a quarter of a century whilst living at our former home.

I hate shopping but I found that it was actually pleasant to visit Wetherby, with its small independent shops, with a variety of goods, where the shopkeepers had the time to talk to me.

It was nice to have a choice of places to eat in the area, all on the 770 bus route.

I welcomed the fact that I could still get into the centre of Leeds in a very short time if I wanted to go to a concert, the theatre or see an art exhibition.

When we moved to Thorner, I was a city councillor representing the Roundhay ward of the city. However, when ward boundary changes came in, in 2004, the northern part of the Roundhay ward moved into the new ward of Harewood.

Thorner is right in the middle of Harewood ward so I applied to stand as a candidate for my party for the 
new ward, was selected and was subsequently elected to serve as one of the ward members for the Harewood ward.

It has been a huge privilege to be a Harewood ward member for the past eight years. The people I serve have a tremendous amount of community spirit which is shown by the way in which they work hard to make their villages look attractive, they organise community events at the slightest excuse and they keep an eye out for their neighbours.

I’ve enjoyed attending events in my ward and listening to people, to find out what they think is good about the area and what they think could be improved. I haven’t always been able to wave a magic wand and give people what they’ve wanted but I’ve always tried my best.

In May of this year, having served as a Leeds city councillor for 20 years, it was a huge honour to be elected to be Lord Mayor of Leeds. My husband, Graham, kindly agreed to be Lord Mayor’s Consort.

I’m extremely lucky to be Lord Mayor in this year of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

I was privileged to meet the Queen when she came to Leeds in July and was delighted to be able to send off all the Olympic and Paralympic athletes who either live in Leeds or have trained here and then welcome them back, several of them clutching medals, at the end of the Games.

However, what I’m enjoying most is visiting small groups who are doing a tremendous amount of good work in the community for no financial reward and whose work I fear isn’t always given the recognition it deserves.

A couple of weeks ago, I was delighted to attend a party to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of Scholes Community Care, which does a tremendous amount of work to help older residents of Scholes to live independent lives.

I’ll shortly be attending an event in Shadwell to celebrate the fact that Shadwell has been part of Leeds for 100 years and these two events are especially important to me as they are happening in two of the villages that I represent.

I’d say that the move to Thorner was one of the best decisions I have made in my life and I’m so glad I came to live here.