CAMPAIGNERS are facing a race against time to secure the long-term future of some of Sheffield’s most important ancient woodland.
The Wildlife Trust for Sheffield and Rotherham needs to raise £130,000 by the end of March to complete the purchase of Greno Woods and restore the area to its former glory.
The trust first announced plans to buy 420 acres of Greno Woods - between Grenoside, Ecclesfield and Chapeltown - late in 2010 and launched a public appeal in April last year.
A large area of the wood was bought by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation on behalf of the trust and needs to be paid back before April. The amount to be repaid is £720,000 and, to date, £590,000 has been raised, including £350,000 from Viridor Credits.
Julie Gough from the trust said: “The fact is, we have not reached our target yet but need to purchase the largest section of the woods by the end of March 2012.
“The reason for this is that some of the charitable bids which we’re counting on were agreed in 2010-2011 and need to be spent within this financial year. The money will only be released to us when we have the rest of the financial package in place. So if we don’t access it before April 1, we’ll lose it altogether.’’
The original appeal figure was £1million because the trust are hoping to buy another stretch of the woods as well as the Esmee Fairbairn section. Fortunately, the anonymous donor who bought the smaller section is prepared to wait for another year before the trust has to repay him .
Greno Woods is one of the largest and most wildlife-rich ancient woodlands in Yorkshire, but described as “tired”, and the trust wants to introduce a management programme to restore the site to its former glory, .
One of the spin-offs will be the production of woodchip fuel for heating boilers in homes in South Yorkshire.
If the appeal is successful, it will be the first time the local trust has bought land, and its ambitions include promoting traditional skills such as coppicing and charcoal making, improving the forest for mountain bikers, horse riders and orienteering groups, encouraging projects with schools and other groups and improving wildlife habitats.
Already horse riders, dog walkers, joggers and wildlife lovers visit the woods, but not as much as the trust would like.
Mountain bikers have commandeered the old quarry sites, and the Trans Pennine Trail runs through the middle of the woodland.
Management will extend to thinning some trees – with work already under way – and restoring paths, walls and heathland.
The trust is working in partnership with Silvapower Ltd, which will buy timber from the conifer plantation to be turned into woodchip fuel for heating boilers in homes and schools owned by local authorities in South Yorkshire.
Greno Woods has supplied Silvapower with timber in the past but it had to be transported to a farm in Barnsley, stored, chipped and then returned to Sheffield.
Other donations are now being sought, with the message that £10 will enable the trust to purchase 10 square metres of the woodland. Companies can contribute as a way of offsetting their carbon footprint.
Donations by cheque should be made payable to Sheffield Wildlife Trust and sent to Greno Woods Appeal, Sheffield Wildlife Trust, Victoria Hall, 37 Stafford Road, Sheffield, S2 2SF
For other ways to donate, or for more information on the appeal, visit www.grenowoods.com