Sheffield is famous for its stunning ancient forests and green spaces but now a new fundraising campaign is being launched to boost the profile of one of the city’s lesser known woodlands and increase wildlife and visitor numbers. Polly Rippon reports.
A GENTLE breeze blows through the trees and the blades of grass sway in the bright spring sunshine.
As the abundant wildlife quietly wakes from its winter slumbers the woodland floor starts to come to life.
Welcome to one of Sheffield’s hidden gems - the tranquil and unspoilt Grenoside Woods in the north of the city.
The forest - affectionately known by locals as Greno Woods - is one of the largest and most wildlife-rich woodlands in Yorkshire.
But compared with rivals such as Ecclesall, Woolley and Wheata Woods, the leafy haven that is Greno Woods is much lesser known.
Two years ago the future of Greno Woods became uncertain when it was put on the open market by a private owner.
For some years the woods had been neglected due to lack of investment, meaning wildlife had failed to thrive and footpaths had fallen into disrepair.
Trees had fallen down and there had been some drainage problems on the site.
But in 2010, the Wildlife Trust for Sheffield and Rotherham - a wildlife conservation charity based in Norfolk Park - secured a deal which would help it buy the 178 hectare forest.
Now the charity needs to raise £1 million to buy the woods so they can be managed properly.
The aim is to increase visitor numbers and boost the abundant wildlife which lives in the ancient woodland near Grenoside, Ecclesfield and Chapeltown, as well as supporting a local business, Silvapower, by selling off conifer woodchip as an eco-friendly fuel.
Roy Mosley, head of operations at the trust, said: “Our long-term plans and aspirations are to ensure the biodiversity, forestry and recreational needs of the site are balanced and to keep Greno Woods as a site of regional importance for all these things.
“Through sustainable management, we plan to improve wildlife, manage forestry operations sustainably and develop and promote the site for walking, biking, horse-riding, wildlife watching, jogging, dog-walking and education.
“A comprehensive plan is in place to protect sensitive wildlife areas and to ensure reinstatement of trails and paths.
“If maintained properly, the neglected areas will soon recover and spring will bring new plant growth encouraged by the extra light.”
The first job is to thin out the trees at the site.
Mr Mosley said: “Tree thinning is a vital part of sustainable woodland management because it enables more light to reach the woodland floor, thus encouraging wildlife. The timber from the wood will be stacked in a newly-created compound area next to Woodhead Road before being sold on to provide woodchip for bio-fuel.”
As far as wildlife is concerned, Greno is home to dozens of important species including the Shining Guest Ant - a UK priority species.
There are also 20 recorded species of bird on the site which are listed as UK biodiversity action plan priority species including the lesser spotted woodpecker.
Other rare and important species which have been found at the woods include beetles, moths, insects, frogs, hares, badgers and bats.
Sheffield Wildlife Trust has secured £400,000 in funding towards the project - £350,000 was donated by Viridor Credits Environmental Company, through the Landfill Communities Fund - but it needs the support of the Sheffield public to reach its £1million target.
This weekend it is launching a public appeal to help secure the future of the woods which has been backed by comedian, actor, writer and television presenter Michael Palin.
Palin, best known for his role in Monty Python, grew up in Sheffield and is a big fan of all things outdoors.
He said: “I’m happy to be able to help the Wildlife Trust secure the future of this ancient woodland.”
Also supporting the appeal is World Champion Downhill mountain bike champion Steve Peat, who has spent many years honing his skills in Greno Woods.
The campaign is also being backed by Stocksbridge and Penistone MP Angela Smith, whose constituency includes the site.
She said: “Greno Woods is a beautiful woodland and is of great value to both local people and wildlife.
“I think this is an excellent initiative by Sheffield Wildlife Trust, which as well as delivering benefits for nature and the wider community, will also help the local economy, as wood from the plantation will be sold as bio-fuel and used to heat local schools and organisations.”
The trust is seeking donations from members of the public.
A donation of £10 will enable it to buy 10 square metres of Greno Woods and help secure its future for generations to come.
The Wildlife Trust and Grenoside Conservation Society are holding a Spring Fun Day this Saturday, April 16, to kick off the Greno Woods public fundraising appeal.
The event takes place from 11am until 4pm at the woods off Woodhead Road, Grenoside and activities will include crafts for children, a woodland Easter egg hunt and a display of birds of prey and other animals.
There will also be the opportunity to sample locally-produced refreshments from PJ Taste and Our Cow Molly.
Alan Law, Lord Mayor of Sheffield, and MP Angela Smith will also be attending to show their support for the trust’s plans.
Visit www.grenowoods.com, or www.wildsheffield.com for more information about the Greno Woods Appeal.