East Wood, Otley: Residents crowdfund to buy £100,000 Yorkshire woodland to stop it being used for timber production

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A campaign has been launched to buy a £100,000 area of Yorkshire woodland for the community to ensure that public access can continue.

East Wood in Weston, near Otley, is being marketed for sale by Dacre, Son and Hartley, who have suggested it has potential as a productive timber plantation as well as for private recreational use.

Yet local residents fear they would lose full access to the woods if a buyer enclosed the area, though a public footpath does run through the site, known for its bluebell displays and wild garlic in spring.

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£18,000 has already been raised by the Crowdfunding campaign, which has a February 14 deadline to meet the full £100,000 purchase price.

East Wood, OtleyEast Wood, Otley
East Wood, Otley

The fundraising efforts have been organised by a number of local nature groups, including Menston Area Nature Trust, Otley 2030, Wharfedale Naturalists Society, Wildlife Friendly Otley, Climate Action Menston, Climate Action Ilkley, Addingham Environmental Group and the Yorkshire Rewilding Network.

They would, if successful in their bid, create a woodland management plan for East Wood and monitor biodiversity, soil health and water quality.

The 20-acre mixed woodland, which was planted after 1600 so is not considered ‘ancient’, is home to deer, owls, woodpeckers and many other species.

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The group said: “East Wood is a precious resource for people, wildlife, and the climate, but its future is incredibly uncertain. We want East Wood to become a community asset, improving access, putting land back into the ownership of the community, and maximising the potential for birds, insects, plants, fungi - bringing back a rich understory to make this woodland a fully functioning ecosystem.

“However, if a single landowner purchases it privately it could be felled for timber or used for pheasant shooting, or we could see large areas, including important heritage features essentially fenced off (other than the footpath). We want East Wood to live on in community ownership for generations to come, increasing our connection with nature and encouraging its recovery.”

Wharfedale Naturalists vice-president Ian Brand added: “We all realised during ‘lockdown’ how important the countryside and natural world is for our mental and physical wellbeing. None more so when it is easily accessible and close to home. This is truly a wonderful opportunity to buy and manage a beautiful local woodland, for not just now, but for future generations. Local community ownership and control will allow us to maintain access for everyone, while managing East Wood in a way to increase its biodiversity and richness. I urge everyone to contribute in any way they can.”

Dacre, Son & Hartley agricultural team director Ian Cox said: “Woodland in this area isn’t for sale often, so this is a rare opportunity to buy a manageable block of amenity woodland in a beautiful village that’s surrounded by countryside.

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“It also has the added benefit of access directly from the road and it will appeal to a wide range of buyers, from those who want their own piece of countryside or anyone keen to explore the site’s timber production capabilities.”

To donate to the Crowdfunder, click here.

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