Pontefract is a town in Yorkshire famous for it’s racecourse and of course Pontefract cakes. There’s much more to Ponte (as locals call it) than this though. The town was important in medieval times for it’s castle which was one of the greatest in Yorkshire, although these days there are always many appeals running to pay for the upkeep if it, as it is tending to wrack and ruin at the moment. It was a royal stronghold, as Richard II was imprisoned and died there. ~~~~~ Pontefract racecourse, which sits on the outskirts of the town, is know for having the longest, flattest, circular course in Europe - nice. Although on race days, the town does become a little congested and as I have to go directly past the course to get to where I live it can be a little frustrating sometimes. The best thing is to find out when the races are on and stay away those days. A little further up the same road (which I also have to pass to get home) is Pontefract golf course, an 18-hole course where visitors, as well as experts, are welcome. I believe it is around £25 to play weekdays and £32 at weekends. ~~~~~ The town, as I said in my introduction, is also well known for it’s liquorice sweets, Pontefract cakes, or Pomfret cakes as they are sometimes known. Go into town and you can always smell the aroma of the liquorice in the air, although sometimes it smells more like liquorice allsorts, sometimes it smells like jellies. There are two (or it could be three) sweet factories in the town, so it’s not surprising. ~~~~~ The town centre is a mix of old and new, with the modern shops and precincts vying with narrow streets (some cobbled) the names of which reflect Pontefract’s history. For example, Ropergate or The Shoe Market. The 18th century town hall and the timber-framed buildings down the market place provide, along with the Buttercross monument, an attractive backdrop for the twice-weekly open
market, (Wednesday and Saturday) which also often stretches along many of the streets surrounding the market place. You would be surprised at where they sometimes stick the stalls! There is also an indoor market that is open Monday to Saturday (half-day Thursday). On Wednesdays in the Town Hall you might like to visit the craft and flea market too. ~~~~~ Although you wouldn’t call Pontefract a large town, there are plenty of shops and services; around half a dozen banks, approx 5 estate agents, numerous pubs and cafes, plenty of charity shops, building societies, high street shops such as Marks and Spencer, Boots, Claire’s Earrings, Argos, Wilkinsons, McDonalds, Currys, Netto, Aldi, Wicks, I could go on. There are also plenty of dentists, vets, solicitor’s etc. ~~~~~ About half a mile out of town is the Freeport Designer Village, a large discount retail outlet with 150 + shops, that gets *packed* at weekends. Here you can buy all your 'labels' at discounted prices. With fountains, large screen displays, music, clowns etc, Freeport is more of a day out experience really. You can also eat here, as there is another McDonalds, a burger king and an American style coffeehouse. ~~~~~ There are a number of pubs in and around town that serve food and / or cater to families. In Pontefract itself there are also a couple of Indian restaurants and a Chinese one, The Oriental, which although a little pricey, always serves up good grub in pleasant surroundings. You can eat here overlooking the Valley Gardens. Very nice. ~~~~~ Particular eateries I would mention are the Blue Bell at Wentbridge, a tiny and beautiful village about 3 miles outside of the town, where you can eat and drink of very picturesque and secluded surroundings. The Parkside Hotel, slightly further down the road from the racecourse, where they have an excellent carvery and regular theme nights and other events su
ch as craft fairs. The Singing Chocker, a large family pub / restaurant which is about mid way between Pontefract and Castleford. Other good eating venues are farther afield and would come under Wakefield rather than Pontefract so I won’t mention these. ~~~~~ Places to visit. Well, there is the castle ruins, also the museum. I haven’t been to the museum for some time, but I do know that they have a nice historical display there, which is very interesting for the children because there’s lots about sweets in it! Also, upstairs they have frequent showings or art from one of the local artists club’s. There is also Nostell Priory, which is between Pontefract, Wakefield and Ryhill. It’s near enough to be counted as Pontefract though. Nostell is a stately home that has recently undergone extensive renovation. Occasionally they hold car boot sales in the grounds too. ~~~~~ Pontefract is not very well known for sport really, apart from the racecourse, although in very close proximity are Featherstone Rovers and Castleford Tigers, well-known rugby league teams. ~~~~~ I briefly mentioned the Valley Gardens, which are lovely in the summer to stroll around and there is also ‘Ponte Park’, which is attached to the racecourse and has a playground for the children, tennis courts and a lake. I am not 100% certain whether you can boat on the lake these days, but you definitely could a few years ago. That might be worth checking out, as I’m sure my granddaughter would love to go boating! Also, they used to have a frequent car boot sale in the park, but they didn’t have any last year nor this. Pity really, because they were very big and there were loads of bargains to be had. ~~~~~ All in all, there is really everything you would need in Pontefract. Also, Castleford and Wakefield are just stone-throws away. On the outskirts, there are some delightful villag
es with wonderful examples of very desirable property. As you get to the centre of course, there are one or two estates that have a poor reputation, but to be honest, you don’t hear of much crime in the area really. Recently, there have also been around half a dozen brand new housing estates built and there seems to be ones just getting into progress now too. Ponte’s getting very desirable! I sometimes wonder how the local schools are going to be able to cater for such large influxes of people (with children) though! Oh well. ~~~~~ I have lived in this area more or less all my life and I have no great desire to live anywhere else. My village is just close enough to be extremely convenient for town but far enough away too be out of the hustle and bustle. Pontefract is not the sort of place you would come to visit I don’t suppose, to an excellent place to live.