Harrogate conservationist's plea for 'incredible' woodland project for greener future

Harrogate conservationist Keith Wilkinson MBE has shared his hopes for the future of Long Lands Common, the groundbreaking community owned woodland project for Harrogate and Knaresborough.
How the pond will look at Long Lands Common in Harrogate. (Illustration by James McKay)How the pond will look at Long Lands Common in Harrogate. (Illustration by James McKay)
How the pond will look at Long Lands Common in Harrogate. (Illustration by James McKay)

Throughout its campaign to ‘Save Nidd Gorge and The Nidderdale Greenway’ from the threat of a ‘relief’ road, and when taking a lead in the Harrogate and Knaresborough Alliance for Less Traffic, Nidd Gorge Community Action has drawn energy and inspiration from Bilton Conservation Group, led by Keith Wilkinson MBE since 1982.

The team is delighted to be tapping into Keith’s conservation knowledge once again to help shape plans to transform 30 acres of farmland bordering the Nidderdale Greenway, close to its starting point at The Avenue in Starbeck and the Bilton Triangle, into a conservation legacy project for local residents to enjoy in perpetuity.

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Keith, the honorary secretary of Bilton Conservation Group, said: “Long Lands Common promises to be an amazing natural resource available to all.

Leading Harrogate conservationist Keith Wilkinson MBE.Leading Harrogate conservationist Keith Wilkinson MBE.
Leading Harrogate conservationist Keith Wilkinson MBE.

"It could hardly be closer to the residents of Starbeck and Bilton who at present enjoy limited open green space.

"Just imagine how Long Lands Common will look in ten, 15, 20 years’ time as its planned trees grow and wildlife moves in.

"What fun it will be for all those people, including our local children, planting trees and making wetland areas and creating new wildlife habitats.

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“My first experiences of pledging to secure the future of our natural heritage were in 1985 and again in 1992, when I championed the Woodland Trust in acquiring so much of the woodlands of the Nidd Gorge.

"Looking back to those early days it is incredible to think how the 35 years of active conservation since then have produced such a wildlife haven.

"We live in a shrinking natural world where every acre of wild space for nature to thrive is so very precious.

"That is why I appeal to my local community to help make a difference to our environment and pledge to buy shares in this wonderful project for all ages to benefit from together.”

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As well as being planted up with thousands of native trees, 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.

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.

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.

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

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