A MAJOR milestone is within reach for a past Yorkshire Post Environment Awards winner – and eco-conscious businesses, schools and community groups now have extra time to follow in its footsteps to scoop a prize.
The deadline for this year’s entries has been extended to give more of the region’s unsung green champions the chance to showcase the work they do to improve their local environment and reduce their carbon footprint.
The awards recognise everything from established environmental businesses and start-ups to grassroots schemes such as community woodland project Forest of Bradford, which won the Countryside Section of the third annual awards in 2011.
The project, run by Bradford Environmental Action Trust, is now gearing up towards a major celebration over the next six months, when it is on course to plant its 500,000th tree.
The project started in 1997 with volunteers planting trees at Bolton Woods, near Shipley.
Back then, the district had a level of woodland coverage totalling just 4.2 per cent – less than half the UK average.
Determined to change this, the charity set itself an ambitious target of planting a million trees and now expects to hit the halfway mark by winter.
Over the past 16 years it has planted an average of 30,000 each winter, working with individual volunteers, groups, schools and businesses to create more than 400 acres of new native woodland and many miles of hedgerows.
A huge array of sites have benefited, including city centre streets, the grounds of local schools and businesses, wild meadows and farmland around the district.
Not even last winter’s severe snowfall could halt its progress and despite several cancelled days, a further 24,000 trees were planted.
Project manager Ian Butterfield said: “Despite the bad weather volunteers continued to turn out and support the project in reaching its aims.
“The result is that we are now 35,000 trees away from reaching half a million trees planted.”
The group is now hunting for landowners in Bradford who are interested in establishing new woodland areas, for a programme of work from November 2013 to March 2014.
Forest of Bradford can help landowners to source the necessary funding and plant the trees on their behalf.
A series of community events are being held to celebrate the progress being made by the project towards its milestone, including a guided walk around Swartha Wood in Silsden on Monday, May 27.
The five-mile walk leaves Silsden car park at 10am and the route will also take in the surrounding landscape, including several Forest of Bradford planting schemes.
And on Friday, June 7, there will be a bat walk at Stoney Ridge Plantation, meeting in Hallmark Cards car park in Bingley Road, from 9am to 10am.
For more information about the events and to find out how else to support the project, including volunteering opportunities, visit www.beat.org.uk.