25 YRS. OF URBAN WILDLIFE IN THE METROPOLITAN
In 2012 BUWG celebrated its 25th year.
Les Barnett, founder
member and honorary President took the opportunity to review the Group’s work
and progress over the past quarter of a century.
“The Bradford Urban
Wildlife Group was started by Howard Cleveland as Secretary and by me as Group
Chairman, at an Inaugural Meeting held in Bradford Central Library. The meeting
followed an announcement letter placed by Howard in the local press.
people were crammed in as Howard read out our proposals. I, in my usual outspoken
way, tried to support him, which led to someone suggesting
that I would make a suitable Chairperson.
The main thrust
of Howard's idea was that we should work towards the recognition, enhancement and protection of all wildlife, flora or fauna, within
the whole of the Metropolitan District of Bradford.
Aims of course
included identification and conservation of wildlife sites and habitats themselves.
were to form the basis for the printed and published mission statement, declaration
of intent and code of conduct.
Throughout its existence BUWG has
liaised closely with other groups such as Bradford Ornithology Group (BOG), the
Aire Valley Conservation Group, Bradford Naturalists,
Keighley Naturalists, and of course our slightly older Sister (or Brother?), Bradford Botany Group (BBG)
Another long-term partner has been Bradford
Environmental Education Service (BEES) initially through Peter Boyd and the Cathedral 'CALICO' Group which encouraged disadvantaged people to
undertake practical conservation work, headed then by Richard Topham and more
recently, after a name-change, by Peter Boyd, himself always a regular supporter of our own activities.
were made with Wharfedale Naturalists at Ilkley, and a little later with Leeds
Urban Wildlife Group, and the Eye on the Aire, which focused particularly on
the river jtself.
the Outset we began to work with the West Yorkshire Ecological Records Unit,
and of course with the Council itself, through both mutual co-operation and,
from time to time, a little lobbying on our part.
Through established contact with the Countryside Officer Anne Heeley,and the
Outside Staff, Peter Britton and Danny Jackson, we were able to suggest and influence
the creation or enhancement of wildlife sites such as the Boars Well Urban
Wildlife Reserve just off Canal Road in the very centre of the City.
A major undertaking was the protection of
wetlands, Bingley South and North Bogs, both at
the time (1989/90) being threatened by a new road through Bingley, with the South
Bog being rescheduled as Bradford's First Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) by the then Nature Conservancy Council. ( later renamed English Nature and
later still to become Natural England.)
This was closely
followed by a Second SSSI in the form of Trench Meadows below Shipley Glen, where Susan Stead, had
alerted the site to both Geoffrey Wilmore of the original West Yorkshire
Ecology Unit and Jeff Lunn of English Nature.
Our presence was further felt when we were able to prevent the closure
of the Brackenhall Countryside Centre, and Susan had a hey-day by being
photographed with Professor David Bellamy as he opened her Butterfly Meadow at Shipley Station, complete with a broken leg! (Susan that is,
not Professor Bellamy).
Susan became our
new Secretary and secured a move to Shipley Library for our Winter Meetings
arranging a varied programme, as indeed she still does!
In more recent years we have been instrumental in the creation of
Bradford's first Local
Nature Reserve (LNR) at Railway Terrace, Low Moor. This
site, originally known as Raw Nook, was scheduled for industrial development,
having been a railway marshalling yard connected with the nearby Low Moor Iron
Works. All rails having been removed, the
site had been completely taken over by nature, reverting back to the Lowland
Heath that it had once been, long
known by ornithologists and botanists as a significant site.
A meeting was arranged one summer evening between, if I remember
correctly, Councillor King, Councillor
Womersley, our Member Martyn Priestly, who lived close
by and had recorded the site in detail, and me. We were able to point out all
the Important factors of the site, not least of which was it was already
recognised by the Ecology Unit as being the only site of lowland heath in whole
of the Bradford Metropolitan District.
Martyn and I had
obviously been successful as within a week or so the site was rescheduled to recreation,
leisure and conservation, and when it was publicly opened as a LNR, it was
Martyn and me who cut the
A further 'First' was the discovery at Woodall Quarry near Calverley by our
member, Michael Wilcox, of a small group of Early Marsh Orchids, stated in the
West Yorkshire Plant Atlas as 'Extinct in the County',
The site was owned by Bradford Met. but actually
lay just within the Leeds Boundary and was already
under threat by plans to extend a nearby golf course. Our
objections were immediately registered and a relocation scheme was drawn-up by Geoffrey Wilmore, now acting as a Consultant Ecologist. Even
as I write a satisfactory outcome has yet to be achieved.
A very similar story presented itself concerning Bee Orchids at
Manywells Quarry, Cullingworth, and proposals to extend development and building.
It was championed by Jane Breen but as, sadly, Jane is no longer with us, her cause is now being carried on by BUWG.
Numerous visits beyond Bradford have been made on
behalf of the Group, particularly by Susan Stead, Val Shepherd, Lorna Leeming,
and in the early days by Howard Cleveland and me.
I particularly remember visiting, with Susan and Peter Boyd, an English
Nature launch in the St, William College's, wonderful half-timbered Hall, where
they had invited us to hear their plans for Yorkshire and Humberside.
Very early on in the BUWG story, both Howard and I attended an Urban
Wildlife Conference at Manchester Town-Hall, and much more recently we had our own Urban Wildlife Conference at Bradford University, organised
through me and Susan by Dr. Margaret Atherden of PLACE.
During our existence we have supported the creation and development of what
are called 'Friends Groups' of which I believe the Friends of Northcliffe were first.
We now have
'Friends' of Judy Woods, Buck Wood, and St. Ives, to name a few, and we have
always been keen to work with them.
Mentioning St. Ives however, reminds me that it was BUWG that was first contact of the Council Recreation and Leisure Dept., particularly their officer Barry Tinker, sadly no longer with us, and their Woodland Officer
Richard Dunton. The published plans for St. Ives were first examined by Susan Stead and me
on special invitation to their Bradford Office.
Lorna Leeming deserves special mention for her on-going Work in
monitoring the Great Northern Trail and her success in obtaining funding from
the National Lottery.
Joy Smith is to be thanked for her diligence in monitoring proposed development
plans and also for her work with Val and Susan in creating and setting up the recent
highly successful displays at the Brackenhall Countryside Centre.
I also wish to
mention others such as Dave Smith, Dave Melling, Hugh Firman and Matthew Barker
without whose collective efforts the Group would be so much the poorer, and last
but not least all the members, without whom the Bradford Urban Wildlife Group
would not exist.”