January – December 2015
It has been another successful year for Friends of Northcliffe (FoN). Our 25th Anniversary fell in November, and although we were unable to bring our intended celebratory event to fruition then, we are fully intending to do something with the Kirkgate Centre sometime early in 2016. Our membership continues to increase, and our programme of events and conservation activity is well-supported.
At our AGM in January, Melanie Bruzzese stood down from her position as Events Officer to concentrate on family commitments. This is a position which, like the vacant Promotions Officer post, we have as yet been unable to fill – please do get in touch if you, or anyone you know, would be interested in helping out. We’re extremely grateful for all that Melanie has done (and continues to do), and she leaves a legacy of successful and vibrant events that have a unique sense of community to them, as well as a number of successful partnerships. Other committee members remained unchanged, although we formalised FoN’s sponsorship of the Northcliffe Heritage Project (NHP) by electing Val Harris as a full committee member to represent NHP, after previously being co-opted.
As always, we would like to thank a number of people who help us achieve such great things in Northcliffe – our members, volunteers, event leaders, committee members, events committee and the general public who support our events and activities so readily. We also thank the groups we collaborated with and whose facilities and services we used this year, such as Bradford Model Engineering Society (BMES), Northcliffe Environmental Enterprises Team (NEET), Northcliffe Allotments Society (NAS), Shipley Club, St. Paul’s Church, Bradford Environmental Education Service (BEES), Kirkgate Centre, RSPB Bradford and Airedale Local Group and our local Councillors. Thanks are also due to Morrisons and Paul Kelly, the manager of their Idle Enterprise 5 store, for their generous support of our Santa Special. A special thanks also to Q20 Events, who not only lent us props for Santa’s grotto, but also brought street theatre from the Shipley Street Arts Festival to the Rae Gala. And a final thank you to Bradford Council for their continued support, particularly the Parks & Landscape Service and the Trees & Woodland Team.
In total we held 13 conservation activity sessions in 2015 in Northcliffe and Old Spring Woods, contributing to the management of the woodland.
We started the year at the end of January with a woodland management session to remove beech saplings. This was repeated in March and returned to in December. Through June, July and August we held 5 sessions to control Himalayan balsam, an essential task to promote biodiversity in the woods. In addition to the FoN sessions BMES removed balsam from the area around the miniature railway and a group of volunteers with Forest of Bradford did a short session on a very wet day in August.
In total we have held nine FoN led sessions, attracting 37 different people, totalling 73 ‘volunteer sessions’. Ten people were new to volunteering with Friends of Northcliffe.
We again commissioned the BEES conservation volunteer group to lead volunteer days, four in total. This enabled us to build two sets of steps to improve access, plant trees, wildflowers and shrubs and remove invasive snowberry in Old Spring Woods, at the top of Lynton Drive. Hugh and Lisa also led a wildflower planting day, which was attended by 9 adults (5 of whom were members) and 3 children. This work was partly in response to damage caused by a mains water burst in January, and was partly funded by a donation from Yorkshire Water. A further donation from Get Out More, a local Forest School enterprise, supported the conservation work.
The BEES team, in conjunction with Friends of Northcliffe volunteers, also carried out two pond management and path clearance days. The first was in September – the water levels were low enough to get into the pond, unlike October when the water at the dam wall was too high for waders but the focus was on the silt traps and inlet.
The BEES sessions attracted 25 individuals (5 of these also volunteer at the FoN led sessions), totalling 49 volunteer sessions.
In April we had a walk around the woods to identify priorities for future conservation work. In addition a small group of volunteers carried out botanical surveys in Northcliffe Woods, Old Spring Woods and the meadow. It is to be hoped that the results will help in the designation of Northcliffe as a Local Wildlife Site.
Dry stone wall repairs continued in 2015. During the past year repair work continued on three sections of walling at the top of Old Spring Woods totalling some 34 feet, with a further section currently under repair. A request for assistance with wall repairs came from NAS, resulting in three repairs totalling some 45 feet. It is gratifying that through this work we can contribute to maintaining a tangible feature of the heritage of Northcliffe.
The birds have been rather hungry this year, and we are grateful to the team of six who regularly fill the feeders in all weathers (as are the birds, who have been fed all year round). Ken Shipley manages the bulk food deliveries, Val Harris stores the fat balls, and Hugh coordinates the bird feeding rota. Thanks also to Liz Kidman, a member who owns Wilsden Animal Feeds and supplies bulk seed at a competitive rate.
As mentioned in the overview, Melanie Bruzzese stepped down as Events Officer at the January AGM. Fortunately for FoN, Melanie has maintained some involvement, and without her continuing help, events such as the Rae Gala and Santa Special simply would not happen any longer. It did mean that some other things we would have liked to have done were not possible, such as Kite Sunday, Northcliffe Olympics and the Arts Project events such as the butterfly sculptures. Please, please do get in touch if you or anyone you know could help out with this very important position.
Hugh and Lisa organised three wildlife events. In January, about 60 adults and children attended the Northcliffe Big Garden Birdwatch. 14 different bird species were seen, including a flock of five ring-necked parakeets. We are grateful to the RSPB Bradford and Airedale Local Group for providing bird food, sales goods and expert advice; and to Northcliffe Allotments Society for the loan of their clubhouse. A small and select group experienced a wonderful dawn chorus on a walk in May. Numbers for the Nocturnal Wildlife walk in June were swelled by publicity surrounding The One Show. 45 adults and children were treated to amazing displays of ghost moths and bats on a glorious summer evening.
In April, we ran our first joint event of the year with BMES, the Easter Bunny picnic. This popular event saw Easter Bunny again delighting the children as he rode the trains and distributed sweets. Melanie organised races for the children, and the sweet tombola proved as popular as ever, as did the lovely homemade treats supplied by our generous members.
The Big Lunch was also held in June, a simple and popular part of a national initiative to encourage communities to eat food together outdoors. It was another lovely day, with attendees enjoying train rides and children’s races alongside their picnics.
The Rae Gala took place at the end of June, and was another enormous success. This despite there being no acoustic stage or food stalls, which didn’t seem to affect peoples’ enjoyment of the event. A wonderful new partnership with Q20 Events brought a parade up from Shipley Town Centre, led by a stilt walker, and two puppeteers entertained the crowds all afternoon with their animated creations. Thanks are due to all our stallholders and performers, particularly our regulars such as the Stars Stage School, Indian Head Massage, Ferret Racing, Sweet Tombola, Hall Royd Brass Band, Archery and newcomers such as the toy car stall and Keighley Astronomical Society’s Rocket Man. Sean Gardner from the Council’s Parks & Landscape Service made yet another fantastic contribution, it would be so difficult for us to run the event without him, so our thanks once again for Sean’s valuable time. Many thanks also to BMES, volunteers from FoN and people who made donations of cakes and money on the day. Your generosity is what helps us to make such a difference in Northcliffe.
In September we returned to the NAS clubhouse where passers-by, members and friends enjoyed good company and homemade cakes at our cream teas event.
Though we did not organize a lantern walk for Halloween this year, several members attended one organized by St. Paul's church and we helped make the arrangements and provided access to firewood.
We completed the year with our second Santa Special, in conjunction with BMES. We had learnt so much from the running of last year’s event that this year’s ran much more smoothly. We ran trains to Santa’s Grotto between 11:00 and 3:00, leaving just enough time to avoid packing away in the dark. The event has had some lovely feedback from attendees, both on the day and afterwards. This year, members were able to take advantage of a two-week booking window, which was also open to BMES members. As a result, several of those who booked later when it opened to the public chose to join FoN to secure their tickets for next year. The event was another sell-out. Thanks to all the volunteers from FoN and BMES who helped in the run-up and on the day, particularly Rebekah, Ken, Jennie, Sheila and John (Santa). We’d also like to thank Morrisons Idle Enterprise 5 for their generous help with gifts and mince pies, and Q20 Events for the loan of props for Santa’s Grotto.
Thank you to all our volunteers on the events committee for helping with the organising of these events. We would also like to thank all our event leaders and generous members, who have donated their time, baking, produce and prizes over the year. You all do a fantastic job. Thank you also to the Parks & Landscape Service for giving us the continued use of the tennis pavilion, we are really grateful.
Northcliffe Heritage Project
We are now into the second year of this project. Throughout Spring and Summer we continued our walk over survey of the whole of Northcliffe, working initially in three teams and then all together. We know that we haven’t surveyed every possible mining site, but now have a much clearer picture of the extent of stone quarrying and coal and fireclay mining across the area.
In the spring we were involved in two sessions of geophysical investigations led by Hannah Brown with a group from the University of Bradford School of Archaeological Sciences. We focused on the top field (at the end of the park near to the golf clubhouse), an area known as Coal Pit Close in 1774. The geophysics results confirmed the likely existence of pits or shafts here, which seem to have accessed the 36 Yard Coal at perhaps 5 metres below the surface. Mining financial accounts from the late eighteenth century, however, suggest that the underground workings here were more extensive than the geophysics suggests, and we haven’t yet reconciled the two forms of evidence.
As well as looking for holes, we also surveyed some of the tracks in the woods, and the course of Northcliffe Dike itself. We have concluded that the S shaped trackway which climbs steeply from the valley bottom, close to the BMES track, may well have been created, along with the colliery and small sandstone quarry it served, in the 1820-1840s. The Tithe Award of 1849 names the track as Coal Pit Lane.
We have now followed the Dike to its apparent source on the far edge of Dungeon Wood and surveyed some of the shafts in the adjoining field. We are very grateful to the Northcliffe Golf Club and to the owner of the field for permissions and support. There seems to have been some human refashioning of the course of the Dike within the woods. The Dike bisects large heaps of colliery spoil in several places and old maps show that short sections which are now open were once culverted. Another exciting find was a huge beech tree growing out of a spoil heap on Golf Club land. The dimensions of the tree suggested an age of 250-300 years, and the colliery spoil must have been older than the tree!
Old maps and LiDAR laser images have continued to be central in attempting to match the archaeology to the history of mining in Northcliffe. While aerial photographs show some of the shafts in the park, aerial photography is of limited help in wooded areas. However LiDAR images can show the ground surface with the trees ‘removed’ so that the Dike and lumps and depressions in the woods are clearly shown. The LiDAR has been a very effective tool in guiding us to interesting sites on the ground and in making sense of them.
As well as the surveying groups, the history group has continued to meet every three months to share ideas. Some work has been done on the censuses for the area surrounding Northcliffe, and newspapers and other documents have been checked for references to Northcliffe. Because it was a private estate until 1920, there seem to be few public references to it before then. More work remains to be done on the eighteenth century mining accounts. A separate survey of stone walls was also conducted by two FoN members, resulting in an estimate of the amount of stone used in building them.
The geophysics sessions led to many conversations with local people about the history of Northcliffe, and Derek Barker has led further walks to share what we know. Ian Watson guided survey volunteers and history group members along the historic boundary between Shipley and Heaton. We have shared information with West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service who maintain the Historic Environment Record, and made short presentations about the ongoing work to four interested groups. We exhibited a small display at the Shipley Heritage Day and have planned a public meeting to provide an update on the first twelve months of the project. There will be three NHP display boards and two on other aspects of the history of Northcliffe as part of FoN’s 25th anniversary display.
In the coming year we plan to undertake small excavations at one of the small wood quarries and in the top field of Northcliffe Park, and to reconcile the historical and archaeological conclusions of the project.
In April, the Easter Bunny picnic was prominent in a two page spread in the Telegraph and Argus. One of their photographers turned up and captured some great moments, which we hope will encourage more attendees next time.
There was great excitement in June when, following our suggestion, the BBC came to Northcliffe to film our famous ghost moths. Lisa and Hugh provided advice and moth hunting services over two evenings and the result was an excellent, but short, film on the One Show.
We began work on a series of 13 exhibition panels charting FoN’s history and activities, as well as Northcliffe’s heritage, for our 25th year anniversary. We have tried to make them reasonably non-specific so they can be used many more times in the future. They will be available in the New Year, with their first outing at the Heritage Project update in January.
Social media continues to be our strongest promotional channel – in particular Twitter. We now have over 500 followers on Twitter, and we also have a member who has volunteered to look after the Facebook page, which we’ll be arranging in the New Year.
We still have a vacancy for a Promotions officer, and Joan and Keith are still doing a sterling job of keeping the boards up to date, but it is a struggle on top of their other responsibilities.
Please let us know if there is anyone out there who could help with any of the following (you don’t need to be a committee member):
Filling in and printing events posters for the noticeboards
Contacting the press about events
Sending information to other groups/venues that might be able to promote our activities
Source products (bags/badges/etc) that we could sell at FoN events
Attending events to promote FoN and Northcliffe
Producing materials that help people learn about Northcliffe.
Thank you to everyone who has contributed to the newsletter over the past year, however we would welcome contributions from more people, even if it is only photos with or without a caption. Please note that photos for the front cover need to be in portrait orientation and all photos should be as high a resolution as you can manage.
Copy dates for two of the newsletters were while Liz was on holiday, but luckily in June Liz had access to the internet and was able to get the newsletter out on time. In October Liz had very little access to the internet and unfortunately the newsletter had to be delayed until she got back home. Liz wonders if there is anybody who would be willing to undertake editing the newsletter if submission dates coincide with her holidays again in the future. If you think you can help please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have 185 memberships, which is an increase of 11 since this time last year. 14 members did not respond to several reminders, which is a shame as that would have had our membership standing at 199. A challenge - can we increase our membership to 200 by the end of 2016?
77 members have opted for email only newsletters, an increase of 9 since last year. If you would like to join them, please email Joan, as this helps reduce our costs. But if you would like to receive the newsletter as a hard copy as well - and it is a very well-produced publication these days due to Liz and Phil’s efforts - do get in touch. Someone might just pick up your copy and decide to join.
Overall, subscriptions with donations raised a total of £1524, slightly up on last year. Thank you so much for your continuing generosity. Payment by internet transfer was done by a small number of members. This can cause a problem identifying and correctly allocating payments, unless members e-mail their details with the amount paid as membership fees and donations.
Since our last annual report, we have been saddened to hear of the passing away of Donald Raine who contributed to Nature Notes for the newsletter under the name 'Romany Raine' for several years. He leaves his wife Barbara and 2 sons. We also pay our respects to Jim Vidler, husband of Irene, who passed away late in 2014.
We have continued to hold planning meetings at the Shipley Club, and we thank them for their continuing support. We are again holding our AGM at the Kirkgate Centre, to maintain our links with and support another important community facility. We have also used the Kirkgate Centre on occasions when Shipley Club have been unable to accommodate us.
Finances continue to be well managed and healthy as evidenced by the accompanying Annual Accounts. We intend to agree a budget at the AGM. The accounts show that we have invested a lot of money this year, particularly on the Heritage Project, hi-vis jackets, two event shelters, display banners, and preparation of our 25th anniversary display boards.
Report prepared by Steve Bruzzese on behalf of the Committee:
Steve Bruzzese (Chair), Hugh Firman (Deputy Chair), Sheila Parkin (Secretary), Joan Newman (Treasurer and Membership), Julia Pearson (Conservation), Keith Scott (Website), Liz Hansen (Newsletter), Val Harris (Northcliffe Heritage Project), John Bromley (General Committee Member), Guy Barford (General Committee Member), Joan Stevens (General Committee Member).
With contributions from Joan Newman, Hugh Firman, Val Harris, Derek Barker, Tony Robinson, Liz Hansen, Melanie Bruzzese, Steve Bruzzese and Julia Pearson.