AT FIRST glance it is simply a park - although a very pleasant one at that - complete with formal gardens, woodland, and a large lake.

Footpaths for easy walking cross the 137 acre site, passing alongside wild areas brimming with birdlife, flower beds and picnic areas where parents watch youngsters racing around.

There are bog gardens, a stream and a lake where ducks and geese chatter.

There’s also a light, airy café and it is in here that the former life of Golden Acre Park in north Leeds is revealed.

Golden Acre Park opened in 1932 as a privately run, American-styled amusement park. With a range of facilities, it was hoped that the attraction would match Blackpool Pleasure Beach. Features included a water chute, zoo, mini car circuit and large boating lake that was also the site for a music tower which broadcast music and announcements.

A miniature railway circled the whole lake. Travelling just over a mile, two engines worked the line pulling open top carriages and in 1935 a dining carriage was added.

The park was an immediate hit and brought the addition of new features including a huge dance hall complex and Blue Lagoon open air swimming pool.

But despite its initial popularity, with the prospect of war fast becoming a reality, the park closed at end of the 1938 season. It lay derelict and overgrown and after the war, in 1946, was bought by Leeds City Council.

Over the coming years the original intentions were to restore some of the attractions and re-open the pleasure park in a modified form, but later decisions favoured the development of a botanical garden.

It is this attraction that the visitor enjoys today, with a variety of fascinating plants to observe.

But back to the Bakery Coffee House, which contains probably the single most important artefact referring to Golden Acre’s past, a huge aerial picture of the original park, whose development was spearheaded by local entrepreneur Frank Thompson. The picture is a hand tinted original which was found under a tarpaulin under a pile of wood in the early 1980s.

It is fascinating, and sets the visitor on a mission: to spot any remnants of the original park. We found a section of railway, with a platform and buffers and various areas of brick wall where, we imagined, the swimming pool once stood. Some of the original buildings can be seen.

It was a rainy day when we visited, but atmospheric nonetheless.

The plants are many and varied.

In 1982 Leeds Parks and Countryside department accepted an invitation from the newly formed National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens to take part in the preservation and protection of our garden plants. Leeds’ parks hold 11 nationally recognised collections, three of which are held in Golden Acre Park.

Since the late 1990s the whole area has been transformed. Existing features have been upgraded, beds and borders re-organised and new areas added, including rock gardens, waterfalls and bog gardens.

Bog and moisture borders developed during 2014 are still evolving. They will contain a range of plants which require moist to bog-like conditions to flourish. Key plants include gunnera, ligularia, and primula.

We loved the American yellow skunk or swamp cabbage, native to the Pacific Northwest of the USA, where it is found in swampland. You can smell it before you see its striking bright yellow blooms and large, glossy leaves. It is clear from where it gets its name. From March 2016 the EU regulation on invasive alien species prohibited the sale and exchange of this plant. Those who already have it must ensure it does not spread further.

There’s an arboretum, with mature trees, bushes and feathery ferns and a heather garden.

Overlooking the park, the cafe provides snacks, drinks and light meals. There is no play area, but children can run about, play ball games and have fun.

If you like a taste of history, it is well worth a visit.

*Golden Acre Park, off Arthington Road, Bramhope, Leeds LS16 8BQ. It is situated six miles from Leeds city centre on the A660 Leeds Road in between Adel and Bramhope. Tel: 0113 261 0374.

There is a car park with disabled spaces, from which the park is safely accessed by a tunnel under the main road. The café is open every day.