I have a big decision coming up. My current housing contract is about 6 months gone, which means in another 6 months, I’ll have to once again pack up my things and move on. The last two times I’ve house hunted it’s been an easy thing – I knew I wanted to live in Headingley, and made my search based on that certainty. But this time I’m conflicted. All my housemates and I are going our own ways, which means I can live wherever I want, and as I find myself travelling in and out of city centre to go to work, see my boyfriend, have nights out with friends, I find myself thinking, “is this where I should be living?”
I’ve never considered living in Leeds city centre before. In fact, the thought gave me a shudder. It was right in the middle of the noise and rush of the city, too close to my office. I like having a 30-minute walk and a park between me and where I work; it makes the 2 lives feel more separate. But as I get older, the students seem to get younger and the journeys into town become more frequent and tedious, I’m having to consider if it’s actually worth it. I love Headingley but it definitely has its faults, and it seems it might be time to weigh them up.
Nice distance from city centre
As someone who likes to have some physical distance between home and work, Headingley has always suited me down to the ground. It’s quick and easy to get into city centre when you’re in a hurry – 10 minutes by taxi or 15-20 by bus – but also feels far enough away to be practically suburban. When the weather’s nice I tend to walk into town and back, and it’s a manageable 35-minute walk along Otley Road and over the lush green space of Hyde Park. If you’re going into work/university it’s a much more positive start to the day than sitting on a packed, smelly bus.
Great places to eat
Leeds city centre isn’t the only place with good eats – Headingley has some of my favourite cafes, often with more seating room and cheaper prices than their city centre counterparts. Whites Deli and Love Rouge Bakery are two of my favourites for brunch or a coffee date, and there’s also Cafe Lento, Mint Cafe and The Bowery. It also has some of Leeds’ best Thai restaurants – Sukhothai, Jino’s and Thai Sabai – and old stalwarts like Salvo’s and Dare Cafe.
More space for your rent
Most people I know who live in city centre flats have to choose between space and affordability – with space in the city priced at a premium it’s hard to get both, especially if you’re living alone or flat sharing as opposed to living with a significant other. In Headingley you’re likely to get a 4-bed semi-detached with a huge kitchen and a garden for the same price as a 2-bed city centre flat with a kitchen/living room combo and a balcony.
All inclusive contracts
Due to the large number of student letting agencies, it’s really easy to negotiate a contract in Headingley that includes gas, electricity and water up to a very generous limit. Granted it’s not the most frugal route as you’d probably get it cheaper dealing directly with the utility companies, but when you live in a houseshare like I do it’s worth the little bit extra to know that no poor individual has to go chasing everyone for bill money every month. Plus you can rank the heating up in winter without having to count every minute.
Dodging vomit on the street
This is definitely one of the biggest bugbears of Headingley for me. Like it or not, Headingley is a student suburb, and this means that any night can be a party night, and the weekends in particular often end with broken glass and splashes of sick decorating the pavements. It’s by no means an unbearable flaw, but when you step out of the house in the morning feeling like a strong, successful working woman, there’s nothing that takes you down a peg or two like dodging semi-solidified pools of vomit in your shiny new pumps.
The student bars
There are several questionable establishments where the students spend their evenings before piling out to deposit aforementioned vomit on the pavements, and at 25 I consider myself way too old for 90% of them. The Original Oak is and will always be one of Leeds’ best old pubs, Arcadia has a strong beer and wine choice and I have a strange fondness for the divebar feel of Headingley Taps, but Arc, The Box and Skyrack are the absolute pits and there’s no escaping the Otley Runners. There’s a reason why I spend most of my nights out in city centre…
I’ve previously mentioned how close to town Headingley is and how quick the buses can be, but we do need to talk about the evening traffic. If you work in city centre, live in Headingley and don’t want to walk it, your only way home (other than a train and a lengthy walk) is a bus down Otley Road, along with at least half of the commuters heading out to north Leeds. Between 5 and 7pm the traffic is regularly at a standstill from Hyde Park Corner all the way through Headingley – believe me when I say the journey is often quicker on foot so if you’re not willing/able to walk you can get used to some enraging commutes home from work.
Who else has experiences of living in Headingley, good or bad? What do you think – should I stay put or find a new area to call home?