For some reason, around five years ago, I accidentally started photographing all of the blue plaques in Leeds.
I remember having my interest ignited after spotting my first bright blue disc against the red walls of the Quebec Hotel in the city centre. It marked the building's original use as the Leeds and County Liberal Club. Once I'd captured a few, my slight tendency towards obsession informed me that I had no option but to complete the task I had unwittingly started.
I was of course aware of the concept of the blue plaque scheme, but previously had no idea that there were so many in Leeds. A little research quickly found more than sixty-five, and over the years this has increased to a little short of one hundred and fifty official Leeds Civic Trust, Wetherby Civic Society and Ilkley Civic Society blue plaques, plus a handful of others that fit the bill of being plaques that are blue. Or black. Or even red; to be honest, so long as they mark a building, person or even an event, they are round and they have an LS postcode, they are in my collection.
Or at least they are added to my list; a few are currently inaccessible. A mop-up trip was long overdue, and a week off work afforded the ideal opportunity to get out and bag some of the plaques missing from my collection.
A route was identified to allow me to get about town using only a FirstBus DayRider ticket (Gemma was at work so I was without the car). And in fact most of the day went to plan. Here are the results:
A walk into town the previous weekend allowed me to snap the new plaque at the Irish Centre, so my trip started on a bus. I hopped off at the BBC Studios at St Peter's Square, then headed to Commercial Street before going down to Holy Trinity Church. That was the first disappointment of the day - it was closed (as it had been on Sunday)*.
Never mind; onwards to Park Square. But where was the plaque? Upon checking my itinerary I realised that I'd made an inexplicable mistake - the Odd Fellows plaque was in fact in Queen's Square. What a fool! Never mind; I was able to quickly plan to swing by the correct location later in the day.
I boarded a bus to Pepper Road in Hunslet to pick up the accessible-daytime-only Yorkshire Patent Steam Wagon Company plaque, which is tucked away down an industrial side-street that I've had a look down before. But the plaque is further hidden by being behind some big gates that are normally locked on an evening and at weekends.
A possible lengthy detour on foot to the John Charles Sports Centre (buses go there in the evenings only) was avoided by a trip there in my car earlier in the week. Instead, my iPhone told me my bus to Bramley would arrive in two minutes. I thought if funny, then, when it immediately appeared. Only when I had boarded did I twig that this was the 86, not the 85. But a quick check of the WY Metro area map reassured me that in fact this service might even be quicker as it avoided the city centre.
At Bramley, I took my picture and straight away caught my connection towards Headingley. But as we pulled out of the bus station, I happened to glance to my left. I was shocked to see a blue plaque that had totally kept itself under my radar. What to do? Could I come back in my car one evening. I thought it a shame to have to do so given I was so close now. Back to the iPhone; the Next Bus app told me that I could meet with the bus back to Bramley at Kirkstall. So I did.
Back on the next 91, I had only lost half-an-hour. I had a little trouble finding the William Astbury plaque in Headingley, but that was again my fault for writing down the wrong house number. Then I walked to my location in Burley before having my longest wait for a bus - frustratingly this was for the 56, which supposedly has an eight-minute frequency.
I alighted at the old BBC Studios on Woodhouse Lane, where there were two plaques to be had, before picking up the Queen's Square plaque I missed in the morning. Finally, a quick journey to Roundhay Park to snap the blue plaque on The Mansion, before heading home.
Phew, what a long but successful day.
*Update - since drafting this post I chanced upon Holy Trinity Church being open, and seized the opportunity.