Bradford Urban Wildlife Group

recording, observing and protecting Bradford wildlife & habitats


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.

Nearly 100 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.

These ideals 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.

Further contacts 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.

From 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 ribbon.

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.”