The "Friends of Northcliffe" is a local community group originally formed in 1990 to help enhance Northcliffe Woods and Playing Fields, Shipley, West Yorkshire for the use of the public, to protect wildlife and preserve the character of this unique area for future generations. Northcliffe Woods and the Norman Rae Playing Fields together make up an area of countryside which, because of its variety, appeals to people with many different interests; whether birdwatching, working on an allotment, playing football or simply taking a stroll, there is something for everyone. Friends of Northcliffe celebrated its 20th birthday in November 2010 and we thought it would be interesting to look back at how Friends of Northcliffe came into being. Judith and Alan Marshall are founding members and, although they now live in the Lake District, are still members. Judith provided these recollections.
At the end of June 1990, it became public knowledge that Northcliffe Golf Club had submitted a planning application to extend their car park into Northcliffe Woods. Judith and Alan, with help from their neighbour the late John Tindale, sprang into action. In July they presented a petition with 440 signatures and Judith addressed the Committee. The application was turned down!
A number of concerned people felt that there should be some kind of watchdog to stop this sort of thing happening again. So it was that a meeting was held on 22nd August to discuss the formation of a 'Northcliffe Preservation Society'. A few days later Judith and Alan attended a meeting of the Heaton Woods Trust. They provided advice and we agreed to work closely with them in the future.
In those early days, Gladys Shuttleworth carried out research about Sir Norman Rae and discovered the background to him giving the land to the people of Shipley in perpetuity as a recreational area (and not a car park!). This led to increasing recognition of the importance of Sir Norman Rae as a local benefactor and the publication of a book (but that's another story!).
On Thursday 18th October, the first meeting of Friends of Northcliffe was held and was attended by three Council officers, establishing the close links that have continued to this day. It is interesting to note that of the ten people who attended that inaugural meeting, four are current members. In addition to Judith and Alan, Jean Kopasz and Marlene Benham (nee Boocock) attended. Now that is commitment! Subjects discussed included tree planting and thinning, steps maintenance, litter bins, benches, bird and bat boxes, a sensory garden, a public questionnaire, pesticide use and the possibility of a horse fair or sheep dog trials! From the outset the aims were to work closely with other bodies (including the Golf Club) to conserve and enhance the area for wildlife and encourage the public to use and appreciate Northcliffe.
So it was that Friends of Northcliffe was born. It has grown and flourished and it leaves it's teenage years as a friendly, respected guardian with over 150 members. Here's to the next 20 years!
Hugh Firman (with grateful thanks to Judith Marshall)