A familiar track: Meet 80-year-old Castleford local John Laverick

John Laverick has lived near the Castleford Greenway his whole life, witnessing its transformation from a working railway to a safe and inviting off-road cycling and walking route. A route he now cycles every day.

The West Yorkshire Combined Authority, through it’s CityConnect programme, has been working with Wakefield Council, Leeds City Council and Sustrans, the walking and cycling charity, to extend the existing Castleford Greenway, which when complete will create a 16km off-road route stretching from Castleford to Wakefield.

The latest section completed in 2020 was a missing link between Castleford and Green Row at Methley Junction. Work is currently underway on a 1.3km section linking the Trans Pennine Trail at Methley to existing routes connecting Wakefield, Leeds and Castleford. 

Overseeing the Greenway’s evolution from derelict ex-railway line to bustling cycling and walking route is 80 year-old John Laverick, a local man and keen cyclist who has lived near the Greenway his whole life, and now uses the route every day…

“I’ve lived in Castleford all my life and I’ve always been interested in the railway. In the 1950s I was an apprentice bricklayer and I went to the technical college which was near the rail line. I can remember the steam trains flogging up to the summit of the hill where I live now.

Castleford Central was a busy station with many trains to York. I often travelled on it, to Leeds mostly, often to watch Leeds United, and sometimes on holiday to York or Scarborough.

End of the track

I moved to this house in August 1974. The railway is at the side and at the back of the house. There weren’t as many trees as now. They were cut down. The line was quieter by then and it closed a few years later.

After they took the lines up people would walk down, but it was waterlogged as it was in a cutting. There was a lot of vandalism. It was very overgrown. The trees had gone wild.

The railway remained derelict for over 30 years.

Disused railway line and station house

 Disused railway line and signal box

Back on the bike

Since the route has been made into a cycleway I use it every day on my bike. I had a new knee joint put in but it came loose so I can’t walk far at all as it hurts to put my full weight on it. But it doesn’t affect me as much when I cycle.

I got my bike in 1956 when I was 16. It’s a Claud Butler racing cycle. It cost me £32, which was a lot back then. When I was younger I’d cycle quite far, over to Bridlington or the Yorkshire Dales.

These days I stick closer to home as I don’t want to get stranded. The new Greenway is great. There’s a good surface and lots more people use it, particularly dog walkers.

Nature and a natter

I cycle around five miles to the river, through the boat yard to Methley bridge. I like to go up to where the Aire and Calder canal joins into the Aire river. I stop a couple of times and sit down and eat some fruit. I often see a kingfisher, most days I see a heron.

I use the route for exercise and I often talk to the fishermen on the river as they recognise me. Living on my own I need to get out and talk to people.

I enjoy the National Cycle Network and I try and do as much as I can off road.

During Covid it’s been great to get out on the bike. The Greenway has been really busy. On Sunday I’m ringing my bell every two minutes!

When the Greenway is complete, I’d like to cycle the whole thing.”

Man riding along off road cycling trackMan cycling along off road cycling track

This interview first appeared on Sustrans website - From train line to cycle route: Enjoying 70 years of Yorkshire’s Castleford Greenway - Sustrans.org.uk

Photo credits: Steve Tipton/Sustrans and John Laverick