Work being done to get tallest Maypole in Europe up in Otley again

Otley Folk Festival:
The Raving Maes perform by the maypole in Otley.
Photo: Lucy Ray (9264419)

Otley Folk Festival: The Raving Maes perform by the maypole in Otley. Photo: Lucy Ray (9264419)

First published in News Ilkley Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

Otley is set to get a new maypole to replace the one which was taken down just days before the Tour de France.

People in the town were outraged when the iconic landmark - the tallest maypole in Europe - was cut down because of safety fears.

But now Leeds City Council is attempting to source a new pole, and it is believed the scheme has been put out to tender.

Otley Town Council leader John Eveleigh said he had been told Leeds City Council was working to replace the maypole as quickly as they could.

"We are liaising with Leeds City Council fairly regularly and we understand that they have put it out to tender - so we hope that it will be restored in the not too distant future," he said.

Coun Eveleigh said he had been told Leeds was trying to source a new pole, and he added: "I would like to see it in place before the folk festival."

The action, carried out by Leeds City Council officers in June following an inspection of the Tour's route, sparked outrage in the town.

The historic landmark on Manchester Square, which had been in place for more than half a century, would have been passed directly by the race's riders. It was hastily removed after a check confirmed it was rotten and posed an "immediate danger to the public."

This week Keith Rawling, former Head Forester at Chevin Forest Park, who was responsible for finding a suitable maypole in 1962, has given the area's MP Greg Mulholland, an insight into its history.

Keith described how he and his colleague Eric Walton widened their search to Hull when nothing could be found locally.

He said: “We looked at the stock on site and chose a pine tree from Norway over eighty feet in length. This then had the bark removed and an industrial lathe smoothed the surface of the pole. It was them chemically treated to prevent the timber from rotting. The pole was then cut into two sections as it was too long to be transported in a single length.”

Eric Wood, the Otley Blacksmith, made the metal work to fasten the two section of the pole together, plus the top rim. Setting it in place on Manchester Square was a big job - it needed a large mobile crane to lift the pole and a hole excavated to 10 feet deep.

Greg Mulholland said: "People in Otley were dismayed at the sudden felling of the Maypole without the city councillors, me as the MP, or local businesses being informed - and so unable to tell people what had happened.

“Keith has given a fascinating insight into the history of the iconic Otley Maypole, including the work him and others put to finding the right wood, preparing it and erecting the pole on Manchester Square back in 1962.

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