Friday, 21 May 2021

If you go down to the woods today.........

 When people think of, or talk about, the Newsome Ward they usually refer to the communities that make it up such as Lowerhouses, Ashenhurst and Newsome itself, but at the heart of the ward is the natural jewel in the crown that is Longley Woods. 

Longley Woods is a sprawling area of 63 acres of mixed woodland and is a quiet haven surrounded by housing. It is a great place to walk, collect your thoughts, to appreciate nature and maybe gather a bit of wild garlic. There's lots of exploring to do along the woodland trails and part of it arches round Longley Park golf course. I first became aware of the woods about 20 years ago through the work of Stephen Preest, who is sadly no longer  with us. He was one of the founders of the Friends of Longley Woods that represented the community interest in the woods and acts as its eyes and ears coordinating volunteer activity there. Stephen is sadly no longer with us but in recent years Louise Galvin and now Julia Clark have taken up his mantle as the community custodian of the woods, providing the focus for the Friends group and coordinating clean ups. Each of them showed/show a real passion for this area and care what happens there. 

In recent years the main issues have been noisy trail bikes illegally using the woods, heavy littering especially on the boundaries and just a general impression that the woods has no institution that cared what happened there. Many would have no way of knowing that Kirklees Council actually owns it. So using our small ward budgets Newsome Councillors have been doing what we can to invest in the woods. Councillor Karen Allison has lead on a project to make it as awkward as possible for trail bikes to access the woods with new stiles and fencing placed strategically at

possible access points. This has enabled me to write such great headlines as 'Karen causes a fence' on our newsletters. I lead on a project to put new signage at the access points telling people what the expectations are for people using the woods. Karen, Sue Lee-Richards and I have all helped out with community clean ups which is an ongoing task unfortunately but it makes a real difference when it's done.

For the future I'd like to see more activity in the woods helping the community to appreciate this natural beauty and learn more about the ecology of our local area. As Green Councillors showing we and the wider community care for this valued woodland is the best way to secure its long term future.