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Half a million pound project to unearth cultural heritage of Yorkshire woodland

A £496,000 scheme has been launched to survey and celebrate the cultural heritage of Yorkshire’s woodland in the South Pennines.

The project is being led by Pennine Prospects with support from Yorkshire Water, as we are a major landowner in the South Pennines with 300 hectares of woodland dotted around our reservoirs in Kirklees and Calderdale.

Woodland covers just four per cent of the South Pennines area and much of its centuries long history has been lost or is unknown.

As a result, the project aims to recruit volunteers to help undertake archaeological and ecological surveys of the woodland to improve the cultural, as well as environmental, understanding of it. The project also intends to inspire the public to visit their local woodland and learn how its heritage has helped shape local communities people live in today.

Geoff Lomas, Recreation Manager at Yorkshire Water, said: “We have over 300 hectares of woodlands in the South Pennines area some of which is ancient woodland. Within these woodlands we want to identify, record and celebrate the archaeology, heritage and cultural past so we can protect it. We then want to help inspire people to visit a woodland near them and learn more about its history and cultural significance. The part woodlands have played in people’s lives, and economic development of the area is under recorded and we want to unearth, celebrate and put on record this forgotten part of the regions heritage.”

Pennine Prospects has hired a Woodland Heritage Officer to lead on the culture  project, securing financial support from Yorkshire Water to fund the newly created role.

Chris Atkinson, the newly appointed Woodland Heritage Officer for Pennine Prospects, explained: “We’re hoping that by surveying the woodlands people will gain a greater understanding of their importance and they’ll have a greater respect for it. This is vital if we are to protect woodland for future generations.”

In addition to surveying the woodlands the project will also use new techniques and skills to tell the story of the South Pennines’ woodlands.

For example, the project will be working with Forest Schools and training a new generation of woodland heritage champions. And the project will involve working closely with the University of Bradford’s School of Archaeological Sciences.  As a researcher based at the university, Hywel Lewis, will be looking at the interaction between human industry and woodland ecology in the South Pennines.

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