A CROWDFUNDING campaign to buy woodland in Otley has just a week to raise £100,000.

East Wood, known locally as Weston Woods, is popular with locals and home to a rich and diverse source of wildlife.

It is currently for sale with a guide price of £100,000.

The wood is popular with locals, with a public footpath running through it, but campaigners are concerned that in private hands this resource might be lost – the rest of the wood could be kept private or new owners could choose to fell the trees for timber.

So Wharfedale nature and community groups have come together in a bid to raise the funds to buy the woodland, with their crowdfunded campaign, currently on just over £8,000, needing to hit the £100,000 target by February 14.

Last Friday night members of environmental and community groups from Menston, Otley, Ilkley, Addingham and the wider Wharfedale area met to decide a way forward towards securing this land for the community in perpetuity.

This consortium of groups wants to protect East Wood as a community woodland with a focus on nature recovery - accessible to all, with an aim to benefit both people and wildlife.

Ilkley Gazette: Weston Woods

The groups involved in the proposed community buy out are: Menston Area Nature Trust, Otley 2030, Wharfedale Naturalists Society, Wildlife Friendly Otley, Climate Action Ilkley, Climate Action Menston, Addingham Environment Group, Yorkshire Rewilding Network, Woodland Savers, and Protect Earth.

A spokesperson from Otley 2030 and Wildlife Friendly Otley said: “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to secure a beautiful woodland and to manage it for nature recovery, for the community and for future generations. Weston Woods is not only a fantastic home for wildlife, it’s also an important area of accessible greenspace for the people of Otley, particularly those who live north of the river and in the Weston area. We hope the whole town comes together to raise the funds we need!”

A spokesperson from Menston Area Nature Trust (MANT) said: “With biodiversity and wildlife in crisis and a major climate emergency upon us, it is essential we protect and enhance wonderful habitats like East Wood for future generations.

“We know that mature trees such as those in this wood support hundreds of species of wildlife, as well as soaking up hundreds of times the amount of carbon sequestered in a young tree.

“In addition, this magical place is vital for the wellbeing of local people, as well as a place that all comers can enjoy. MANT and our partners will be able to save this wood for perpetuity.”

Ilkley Gazette: East Wood (known locally as Weston Woods) at Weston near Otley which is for sale

The 20-acre site of mixed deciduous woodland is rich in wildlife, including tawny owls, woodpeckers, red kites, goldcrests, tree creepers, warblers and deer. Oak, birch and sycamore are underlain by bluebells, wild garlic, brambles and other woodland flowers.

Ian Brand, Vice-President Wharfedale Naturalists said: “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.”

Phil Sturgeon from charity Protect Earth said: “All over the country our woodlands are in decline, encroached upon by road building, housing, swamped with invasive species, or treated purely as a portfolio investment. This is an opportunity for a community to secure a woodland they hold dear, and secure it for generations to come.”

Christoph Warrack from social enterprise, Woodland Savers said: “It’s impossible to imagine the story of East Wood without its community. This historic relationship now has an opportunity to secure a flourishing future for nature, in partnership with generations of local people.

“This is an outstanding community movement which truly deserves the prize of stewardship in perpetuity for the benefit of wildlife, people, and planet.”

* A crowdfunder has been set up to urgently raise funds: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/otley-east-wood-community-buyout