Harrogate children to help design new community-owned woodland

Harrogate youngsters are being given the chance to be at the forefront of designing the town's first community-owned woodland called Long Lands Common - including the creation of a children’s wood, tree cathedral and native arboretum.

By Graham Chalmers
Thursday, 7th May 2020, 3:14 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th May 2020, 3:20 pm
An illustration from the Long Lands Common Vision showing part of the the childrens wood. (Picture by James McKay, Knaresborough illustrator and board member of Long Lands Common)
An illustration from the Long Lands Common Vision showing part of the the childrens wood. (Picture by James McKay, Knaresborough illustrator and board member of Long Lands Common)

Jo Smalley, Long Lands Common's membership secretary, said: “Long Lands Common is a groundbreaking venture that will benefit the whole community.

"It will unite all ages at every stage from the design phase and beyond, opening up a wealth of shared experiences for each of us as we work together to grow, nurture and care for the 30 acre site.

"Long Lands Common would connect us on so many levels to nature and also to each other, including the many volunteer and educational opportunities that will present themselves during the lifetime of the legacy project.

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"The involvement of the children of Harrogate and Knaresborough from the very beginning of the project will be absolutely vital to the future of Long Lands Common.

"This is why Nidd Gorge Community Action, which is spearheading the community owned woodland project, is dedicated to engaging with local young people from the start."

The woodland, to be known as Long Lands Common, will border the Nidderdale Greenway, close to its starting point at The Avenue, Starbeck and the Bilton Triangle.

If Nidd Gorge Community Action is successful in its efforts to raise £300,000 by November with the selling of community shares, Long Lands Common will contribute to the new Northern Forest project to plant 50 million trees across the North of England.

What Starbeck Primary Academy says about the Long Lands Common appeal

As headteacher of Starbeck Primary Academy, Garry de Castro Morland, is committed to the local community and ensuring that projects around Starbeck and Knaresborough are in the best interests of local children and their well-being.

He said: “The common will potentially be a focal point for the future in terms of ecology and environmental learning for our young people. A guaranteed safe part of our countryside which could become a focal point both locally and nationally.

“This is a unique opportunity to involve children and adults from across our community in working together to provide what will ultimately be a fabulous outdoor classroom, sanctuary and a place to enjoy nature.

"Our Vision at Starbeck Primary Academy includes the right for all children (not only those in the Early Years) to take part in stimulating outdoor learning on a regular basis.

"We would like our involvement in Long Lands Common to be ongoing and run simultaneously alongside projects at Starbeck Primary, contributing towards our academies trust aim to become a ‘Green Trust.’

"It would be wonderful to see local children being ambassadors for their community-owned woodland, and playing an active role in the way it is run.”

James McKay, Knaresborough illustrator and board member for Long Lands Common, said: “Our young peoples’ ideas matter and so do their hopes and dreams for their community woodland.

"It is so important that they grow up loving Long Lands Common by becoming as involved with its development as early as possible.

"That is why local youngsters will be given opportunities to contribute in a positive way like the design of the children’s wood and other elements of the site, to help ensure their relationship with the land blossoms.

“We want local children to associate Long Lands Common with adventure and fun, well-being and lifelong learning so a strong bond is forged meaning they will take care of it and want to take it on the next part of its journey, without having to fight for its protection, and teach their children and grandchildren to cherish it just the same as they did.

"Learning to love the community woodland on their doorstep and being part of it always, will mean them extending that care and respect shown to Long Lands Common to the wider global environment. ”

Trees will be planted over large areas of the 30 acre site including the children’s wood, but the vision is not to end up with a dense, dark, closed wood.

Instead, Long Lands Common will have open areas of grassland, wildflower meadows, verges and thickets of thorny scrub and marshy areas and ponds, and as a result will provide a much richer home for a wide range of animal and plant life.

This might also be closer to the ancient landscape of the great Knaresborough ‘Forest’, which this area is historically part of.

The word ‘forest’ originally meant a hunting area with open and diverse habitats.

It is envisaged that an area of trees could be planted to educate people about the native flora in the area, with small information boards and identification charts accompanied by educational resources to download from the Long Lands Common website.

This native arboretum and adjoining areas could be laid out to form a ‘tree cathedral’, a beautiful pathway through the woods for an uplifting and magical experience for all. An interesting addition would be including trees that are expected to do better under a changing climate, so people can begin to understand how a dynamic landscape might evolve.

How to support the Long Lands Common appeal

The initial response to the project has been very encouraging and in order to make Long Lands Common a reality for the people of Harrogate and Knaresborough, including the next generation, residents are asked to register their interest in becoming shareholders, which includes planting trees, at www.longlandscommon.org

No money is being taken at this time and those residents who do not use the internet can ask a friend or relative to register on their behalf.

People can also buy shares as gifts to celebrate occasions such as birthdays or remembering a loved one.

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