“The work we’ve carried out has made Owl Wood and Pit Plantation much safer, more inviting and more enjoyable places to visit”

A Yorkshire conservation organisation has praised the impact of a £9,276 grant from the Banks Community Fund in helping to reduce anti-social behaviour in a popular local woodland.

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust manages the eight-hectare Owl Wood and Pit Plantation nature reserve that sits between the communities of Kippax, Allerton Bywater and Great Preston and is well used by local residents for relaxation, exercise and enjoying nature.

In common with many similar green spaces, Owl Wood has faced a range of ongoing issues with anti-social behaviour such as fly tipping and unpermitted access by off-road vehicles including quad bikes and motor bikes.

As well as damaging woodland ground plants and greenery, the vehicles’ tyres create muddy ruts which regularly fill with water and often make the paths completely impassable.

Earlier this year, the Trust used the grant awarded by renewable energy, property and infrastructure firm The Banks Group to install 270m of post and rail fencing around Owl Wood as a way of limiting illegal vehicular access, creating a richer habitat and providing a safer environment for both visitors and wildlife and the project is already bearing fruit, with instances of fly tipping and off-road vehicle substantially reduced.

Both sides of the woodland are now protected along the road that runs through it, with room allowed for visitor parking, while the corner of Pit Plantation, which was previously a hotspot for illegal off-roading access, has now been fully closed off to vehicles.

Access for pedestrians is provided by three A-frames which allow pushchairs, wheelchairs and mobility scooters to enter the nature reserve and use pathways which are now in a much more navigable condition than they were previously.

Owl Wood is one of ten reserves around the area that are managed by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust in partnership with Leeds City Council to provide local people and visitors to the area with easy access to outdoor green space.

It is close to the Lines Way, a popular off-road walking and cycling route that connects many of the surrounding urban areas with local amenity green spaces.

The Trust also runs regular volunteer sessions and practical conservation task days across its nature reserves in this area, to provide residents with great opportunities to meet new people, develop skills and improve their mental health.

Volunteers spent a day at the beginning of the year clearing small trees and bramble to make way for the new Owl Wood fence line, and the Trust is hoping to encourage more volunteers to get involved with its work across the county.

Jo White, corporate partnerships officer at Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, says: “We’ve seen more people spending time in our nature reserves in the past couple of years than ever before and want to provide them with the best possible visitor experience.

“Tackling anti-social behaviour is very much part of this process and it’s sadly a common problem faced by many reserves like Owl Wood.

“Fly tipping means that light can’t get to the ground, which impacts on what can grow there, while the noise of off-road vehicles, the damage they cause and the physical dangers they can pose to visitors and especially young children can be very significant.

“The work we’ve carried out has made Owl Wood and Pit Plantation much safer, more inviting and more enjoyable places to visit, while using pedestrian A-frames for access means people with limited mobility and families with pushchairs can still easily gain access.

“We couldn’t have taken this project forward without the Banks Community Fund’s generous support.  The feedback we’ve had from visitors about it has been very positive and it will make a real long-term difference to everyone’s enjoyment of this fantastic green space.”

Banks Renewables, part of the Banks Group, owns and operates the nearby Hook Moor wind farm, which generated enough renewable electricity in the company’s last financial year to meet the annual energy requirements of around 8,200 homes, and by doing so, displaced over 6,400 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the electricity supply network.

Earlier this year, Banks Renewables received planning permission for the forthcoming Barnsdale Solar Energy Park scheme, which will sit between Kippax and Allerton Bywater and will be able to produce enough electricity to meet the annual requirements of up to 12,000 family homes. Construction of the project is now expected to commence early next year.

Lewis Stokes, senior community relations manager at The Banks Group, adds: “It’s brilliant to see how much of a difference this project is already making to every aspect of the environment at Owl Wood.

“Grants from the Banks Community Fund are designed to enhance the facilities available to people living in the areas where we work and we’re very pleased to be supporting an exemplary Yorkshire Wildlife Trust project that is doing just that.”

Anyone from a community close to a Banks Group project who is interested in applying for funding from the Banks Community Fund should first contact the fund manager via fundmanager@bankscommunityfund.org.uk or on 0191 378 6342 before applying for a grant to check if their group or project is eligible.