Rotary Bird HideHaw Park Wood

It was in July 2004 that new club president Andrew Cole announced that plans were in hand for a major heritage project spearheaded by Wakefield Rotarians to mark the centenary of the founding of the Rotary movement in Chicago in 1905.

The proposals centre on the restoration of the last remaining stone hide built by world-famous Walton naturalist Squire Charles Waterton in the 19th century. His hides were the first to be built for observing wildlife.

Andrew said: "We are also aiming to build new pathways so that the public can view the hide. An archaeological and biodiversity survey of Haw Park Forest is planned, helping to ensure the maintenance of a significant part of the area's historical heritage and providing a greater opportunity for the people of Wakefield to enjoy it."

On 21st April 2005 Rotary national president, Gordon McInally visited Wakefield and described this heritage project, spearheaded by Wakefield Rotary Club, as a bold example of co-operation in the local community. He had joined club members and guests on a walk through Walton's Haw Park Wood to see the work which had been done. See photograph.

Hide with roofThe photograph alongside shows how the hide would look with its new roof, but for structural reasons the roof actually sits on the ground alongside the hide

LOTTERY GRANT

The hide has been restored by Rotary and other agencies with the help of a 25,000 lottery grant under the Local Heritage Initiative. "But the scheme is far more than that," said club president Andrew Cole when the walkers gathered for dinner at Waterton Park Golf Club afterwards. "We are helping to create a woodland that will remain an amenity for Wakefield and its people far into the future."

Organisations already involved in the project include Wakefield Countryside Service and the Pagan Federation. An information board to be mounted close to the hide will be designed by Walton schoolchildren, who will also produce a special booklet for young readers about Charles Waterton and his achievements. "These children will never forget this item of their local history," said Mr Cole.

At a later stage in the management plan for the ancient woodland, they will also collect seeds from indigenous species of trees, germinate them at school and then plant them to replace some of the foreign imports, such as Corsican pine. "If you're involved in restoring your local woodland, you're less likely to vandalise it," added Mr Cole.

The scheme also includes a nature trail, conservation days, guided walks, biodiversity workshops, local history events and an archaeological survey, helping to ensure the maintenance of a significant part of the area's historical heritage and providing a greater opportunity for the people of Wakefield to enjoy it.

The scheme was initiated by the Rotary club's environment officer Bill Forrest as a result of his interest in the Waterton story. Guests on the evening's walk included Cynthia Dickinson, secretary of Crofton Historical Group and local co-ordinator of the Pagan Federation, which has helped with the restoration of the hide. Also joining the walkers was local artist Richard Bell, an authority on Charles Waterton, Sandal councillor Monica Graham, Rotary district governor Robert Jackson and assistant district governor Brian Skidmore.

On 5th July 2005 the project was the subject of a talk by Wakefield archivist John Goodchild. The venue was the appropriately named Waterton Room at the squire's former home at Walton Hall. He was introduced by Cynthia Dickinson, of Crofton History Society. Also present were members of Wakefield Countryside Service, who played a crucial role in the scheme.

In an hour Mr Goodchild painted a picture of the Waterton family, their trials and tribulations, the history of Walton Hall, Squire Waterton's success as a writer and his significance as a naturalist of both national and international renown. He brought with him numbers of documents illustrating the story of a remarkable Victorian personality who created the world's first nature reserve on the outskirts of Wakefield.

Mr Goodchild was thanked by Rotarian Andrew Cole who described the centenary project, which he said involved not only the bird hide but also Haw Park Wood in which it stands.

 CIVIC TRUST AWARD

By 2007 a Civic Trust Green Flag award had been received for the scheme . Wakefield Council's countryside and conservation manager, Andy Nicholls, told Rotarians on the 16th August 2007of his delight at earning the prestigious award.

Wakefield Rotary Club treasurer William Smith, a member of the committee, gave a presentation to members describing the scheme from start to finish. It led to the formation of the Friends of Haw Park Wood, a series of lectures by local historian John Goodchild, a number of surveys by West Yorkshire Archaeological Service and a biodiversity survey which explored the flora and fauna of the wood.

There was one final project that could take place - a series of trial trenches in the wood, a survey that would be conducted by professional archaeologists. This would require further lottery funding of 20,000. "I personally think it would be a shame not to go forward with this, having got this far," said William.

For a link to the Green Flag Award website click below:- http://www.greenflagaward.org.uk/winners/GSP001596

Presentation to Gene ForrestEarlier in the month the Rotary Club's Haw Park Wood Project sub-committee held its final meeting marked with a presentation of flowers to Gene Forrest, who has hosted meetings of the committee for nearly three years, providing generous supplies of tea, coffee and biscuits. The sub-committee, headed by Gene's husband Bill, the club's environment officer, was the driving force for the completion of the Haw Park project. The group met regularly at Gene and Bill's home at Walton where club vice-president Sue Parkin presented Gene, the current (2007/08) Wakefield Inner Wheel president, with a bouquet, watched by other committee members. See photograph.