The key aims of the West Leeds Country Park and Green Gateways Initiative are to ensure;
• Suitable and sustainable greenspace availability
• Quality recreational areas
• Diverse wildlife habitats
• Strong community involvement
An integral part of the initiative is the West Leeds Country Park and Green Gateways trail. The 32km circular trail runs from the city centre, through the green corridor of the Aire Valley and into the countryside around Calverley. From there the trail follows the green corridor between Leeds and Bradford, moving through the countryside south of Pudsey before finally entering the urban areas of Armley and Wortley.
To achieve the above aims and consolidate the importance of the trail it is important to protect the existing greenspace and this will be pursued through the Local Development Framework for West Leeds. Secondly it is essential to communicate to the communities of West Leeds and surrounding areas where the various greenspaces and the trail are and how to access them. Part of this communication entails consultation exercises with various organisations and community groups within and around the area of the West Leeds Country Park and Green Gateways to explain the benefits and aspirations of the initiative.
To ensure the initiative meets the needs of the various groups a list of objectives have been drawn up for consultative purposes: -
Short term objectives: -
Examine the feasibility of extending the Country Park and Green Gateways area to include greenspace around the south of New Farnley and in towards Beeston Royds - Completed
Explore potential routes from Beeston Royd, Post Hill and/or Silver Royd Hill to Armley and the City Centre to create a complete circular route. Route to use existing green corridors and/or greenspaces as “stepping stones” - Completed
Once the route is affirmed produce a standard interpretation board for the Country Park and Gateways scheme. Suggest compartmentalise the Park due to its size so the interpretation boards within each compartment contain a simple generic map of the Park along with a more detailed map for the compartment in question - Completed
Produce a general leaflet about the Country Park and the Green Gateways. Supplement this with specific leaflets for each compartment within the Park - Completed
Establish a framework with Bradford so cross-border issues can be discussed and acted upon. This will have particular relevance to the various Public Rights of Way that cross the boundary and in the development of mini circular trails - In progress
Way mark key routes through the site and spur paths to sites of interest and ensure these are included in the leaflets - In progress
Set up a consultative forum that will include key stakeholders to discuss issues relating to the development of the Country Park and Green Gateways - Completed
Organise a number of guided walks through the proposed area using the Countryside Rangers and volunteers - On-going
Medium Term Objectives: -
Organise a number of bigger events with the emphasis on promoting health in all its guises. Orienteering, horse riding, cross-country running, walking, mountain bike rides and conservation work - On-going
Improve key Public Rights of Way within the site and develop a West Leeds Country Park and Green Gateways Trail for walkers, horse riders and mountain bike riders - On-going
Select sites within the Country Park and Green Gateways that would benefit from conservation works e.g. pond construction, wild flower meadow establishment or restoration, hedge planting, tree plantations, fencing and dry stone walling - On-going
Formal framework with the various stakeholders to implement improvements in the greenspace areas - On-going
Seek grants to improve or provide facilities to the various greenspaces. For example the installation of seats, picnic tables, steps, ramps and directional signage. Also to include removal of fly-tipped waste and general litter besides installing appropriate barriers to prevent unauthorised access - On-going
Look at creating mini circular trails within the Country Park & Green Gateways area - In progress
Develop a management plan for the initiative that encompasses the various sites, links, consultation and objectives - Completed
Long Term Objectives: -
Resolve outstanding ownership of various greenspaces that lie within the area of the proposed Country Park and Green Gateways - On-going
Develop and expand access to new areas of greenspace within the urban and countryside areas that will positively contribute to the initiative - On-going
Where appropriate open up new public rights of way or permissive ways to provide links between various existing public rights of way and thereby develop continuity in routes through the proposed Country Park and Green Gateways - On-going
The Parks & Countryside Service has already come along way on this ambitious scheme. Extensive consultation has seen 31 organisations and 35 community groups approached.
Thanks to a £50,000 Green Leeds Ltd grant, publicising the initiative and in particular the trail is well underway with interpretation boards and way marking signs for the trail and those spur routes that lead to interesting places already located in 4 of the 5 compartments. Only compartment 5 is left to do, which is the section from Roker Lane to the City Centre. Already the trail is supported by a general leaflet and five detailed specific leaflets providing information on the route besides local history and wildlife to be seen on the way.
Another successful objective has been the formation of the West Leeds Country Park & Green Gateways consultative forum which comprises participants from the various community groups and organisations in West Leeds. The forum has already met on a number of occasions and is actively exploring issues relating to the project’s further development.
Partnership working is a key feature of the initiative. Thus close work involving the Friends of Post Hill and Parks & Countryside enabled £7,000 of Big Lottery fund to be obtained for seating, signage and a nature trail leaflet.
Likewise consultation between the horse riding fraternity and the Public Rights of Way Service has led to £15,000 of bridleway improvements in Nan Whin Woods thereby safeguarding the unique vegetation of this designated Leeds Nature Area and enhancing the recreational potential of the site.
Two wild flower meadows have been restored and improved at the Farnley Balancing Reservoir green space site and the Kirkstall Wild Flower Garden in Kirkstall.
A £4,000 Green Leeds Grant with contributions from local councillors is at present funding the chainsaw carving of a guardian angel out of a pollarded beech tree in the St. Wilfrid’s churchyard. The grant also includes improvements to their wild flower meadow and the production of a churchyard leaflet.
Future developments in the pipeline include path and step improvements in Armley and Gotts Park using a woodland access grant scheme besides a woodland thinning and picnic area refurbishment at Dunkirk Hill which overlooks the Aire Valley and the Leeds Industrial Museum.
Provision for physical activity is a key element of the initiative. Whether the activity involves walking, running or cycling it will help to reduce by 5000 the risks of developing major chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancers. Furthermore these diseases often result from being overweight. Certainly on a national scale 63% of men and 53% of women are either overweight or obese, a situation that applies equally to West Leeds.
Accessing greenspaces around the West Leeds conurbation will also enable community members of all ages to improve their well-being. The latter aspect covers spiritual, psychological, cultural, optimism, self-expression, quality of life, realising one’s potential and personal satisfaction with life. Research has shown that stress arising from work and urban living can be eased by contact with and visual appreciation of natural scenes.
Preserving the countryside around West Leeds for wildlife is also an important element of the initiative and will be instigated through the Parks & Countryside Service in conjunction with local community groups and organisations. Projects will aim to maintain and improve the habitats and wildlife that are part of the Coal Measures Natural Area of West Leeds and also support key aspects of the Biodiversity Action Plan for Leeds.
The West Leeds Country Park is also geared up to educate local people and visitors from further afield about the flora and fauna present in and around West Leeds. This work is done through the West Leeds Country Park Visitor Centre in Pudsey Park which keeps captive indigenous species ranging from birds, mammals and fish. In addition the various habitats in the Country Park comprising woodlands, wetland (Streams and river Aire), garden & doorstep countryside along with field-edge and hedgerow are explained in terms of how they benefit wildlife.
Another key function of the Visitor Centre is to assist in the conservation of endangered indigenous species and programmes are already under way to help the Harvest Mouse, Tansy Beetle, Barberry Carpet Moth and White Clawed Crayfish.
Contact details: -
If you require further details about the West Leeds Country Park & Green Gateways initiative please contact
Douglas Louis, Country Park and Green Gateways Officer on tel: 0113 3957400