The Nidderdale Greenway
Long Lands Common is situated just north of Henshaws College alongside the Starbeck-Bilton spur of the Nidderdale Greenway which follows the old Leeds and Thirsk railway line, closed in the 1960’s as a result of the infamous Beeching Axe.
The Greenway is the hugely popular traffic free cycle and footpath opened in 2013 as part of Route 67 of the National Cycle Network (NCN), with around 200,000 users each year according to estimates by Sustrans, the charity behind the NCN. It currently runs for six miles from ASDA car park, near the centre of Harrogate, through Bilton and past Ripley Castle to the hamlet of Clint in Lower Nidderdale. It links directly with the spur to Starbeck and another to Knaresborough on older footpaths recently resurfaced and improved to make them fit for year-round use by cyclists and walkers.
The section from Bilton to Knaresborough, Route 636 of the NCN, is known as The Beryl Burton Way, in memory of the extraordinary local cyclist who won 96 national championships and seven world titles. Her record of 277.25 miles for the 12-hour time trial beat all the men as well as the women. Yet her training largely consisted of working on a rhubarb farm!
Sustrans are working on a project to extend the Greenway to Pateley Bridge and Scar House reservoir at the top of Nidderdale, a total of 27 miles. This will complete the vision set out in their original feasibility study in 1998, and create a fantastic route providing a safe place for people of all ages and abilities to enjoy healthy outdoor exercise, as well as a haven for wildlife.
The woodland to be planted at Long Lands will be one of the most valuable resources for wildlife linked to the Greenway, along with those long established such as Viaduct Wood, near the fabulous Nidd Viaduct (featured in the film Paddington 2), Limekiln Wood on the Ripley estate rich with the scent of wild garlic in early spring, and Hollybank Woods on the western edge of the estate, with its glorious carpet of bluebells in April and May.
The ambition is to turn as much as possible of the Greenway into a wildlife corridor through the heart of Nidderdale, benefitting many species.
Tree and hedgerow planting between 1983 and 2013 has created a mosaic of habitats along this route, leading out from Bilton/Starbeck into the wider countryside. Summer brings migrant birds such as Chiff Chaff, Whitethroat and Blackcap, attracted by the hedgerows and ground flora along the Greenway.Toads already negotiate this convenient path in huge numbers each April as they come in from surrounding fields and make their way to spawning ponds off Bogs Lane.
Restored meadow grasses in the former agricultural fields sustain populations of butterflies, moths, grasshoppers, beetles and other invertebrates. Raptors such as Tawny Owl, Barn Owl, Buzzard and Kestrel have returned in numbers to take advantage of the populations of voles and mice.
The Longlands Common Project will complement the Nidderdale Greenway, Bilton Fields and Nidd Gorge and enhance the Conservation work of the last 40 years.
Artist's impression of entrance to Long Lands Common from Greenway