I suppose the people of Methley have used Fleet Beck for all manner of reasons over the years. Its not difficult to remember the wartime trips with the whole of the street (Bondfield Terrace) walking down Fleet Lane to Primrose Valley, picnics with bottled tea on the bank and paddling in a sanded section of the beck for children.
The beck was always an attraction with jam jar fishing for sticklebacks and redbreasts, however the real attraction during the 50’s was the widened section at the side of a fallen willow tree which formed both a bridge across and a diving board into the beck.
To make it deeper we would tear out the grass sods from the side of the beck and construct a dam about 15 yards downstream – still not deep enough! wait while about one o’ clock, the day shift at nearby Water Haigh pit were in the pit baths and all the hot soapy (mucky) water came as a torrent along a concrete gulley under the road, through the field and discharged into the beck. Deep enough now, and warm enough, and it didn’t cost a penny. It was a great place for learning to swim before being introduced to the canal. The water rats were always pleased when we went home. Good thing was, you didn’t necessarily need trunks, or if it was really sunny you didn’t need a towel. (Les Austin, Barry Ingham, Terry Barrett, Pete Masterman and many others).
The next stage of development was the canal (Aire) and the two favoured places to swim were the bank at the bridge to the Fleet oil terminal. Most could jump off the bridge, I only remember Neil Seage daring to dive, although lots boasted to have done it.
Also popular was swimming from the bank at the donkey bridge which was over the cut into the Savile pit basin. A marvellous wooden bridge where the draught horses towing the barges would cross the cut. Swimming from this point gave access to the old river and then the floodlake and island between Methley and Astley.
The Island was a paradise for water bird egg collectors, as we could be in those days.
However the recovery rate was very poor after swimming/wading the lake with its black velvet mud as much as 3 feet deep, then the precarious crossings over the bank with nettles and briars to the river and then the canal in bare feet. You’d be lucky if 4 eggs out of 20 survived the journey……….can’t do it these days boys…….they won’t let you!