Closed Bracken Hall Countryside Centre can still draw a crowd

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Friends of Bracken Hall Richard Freeman, Joy Smith and John Dallas outside the centre which they want re-opening Friends of Bracken Hall Richard Freeman, Joy Smith and John Dallas outside the centre which they want re-opening

Packed play sessions on Shipley Glen prove that there is still a future for the closed Bracken Hall Countryside Centre, according to those who aim to get it re-opened.

Bradford Council withdrew £23,000 of funding to the museum, at the top of the beauty spot, in its last budget, effectively leading to its closure earlier this year.

Since then, a Friends of Bracken Hall group has been set up, and it is working with Baildon Town Council to take over and re-open the centre, which was popular with walkers and families visiting the surrounding moors, as well as school groups.

Talks between the two councils are ongoing, but to make sure children did not miss out over the summer holidays, the Friends group has been holding a number of “wild Wednesdays,” events formally held at the hall, but now held on the fields around it.

The weekly sessions, which involve nature-themed games and crafts, have attracted about 60 young people each session, and the group say this has made them even more determined to re-open the hall.

John Dallas, one of the Friends of Bracken Hall, said: “The museum closed, but we didn’t want to stop running activities. We wanted to hold events like this so people remember how good the museum was. It is important to remind people what went on here and what can continue if the hall re-opens.”

Town Councillor Joe Ashton, who is leading negotiations with Bradford Council, said he was hopeful the hall could soon pass to their control. He said: “At the moment the hall is just sitting there, closed to everyone.

“We are looking at different options and ways that we could apply for external funding for the centre to help bring it up to modern standards. We need to take the best of what was previously on offer and make it more enticing to people. There needs to be something at the top when you get the tramway up to the Glen. It is the ideal location for exploring the countryside, as it is right on the edge.”

Belinda Gaynor, Bradford Council’s operation estate manager, said: “Discussions between Bradford Council and Baildon Town Council are continuing over the future of the Bracken Hall Countryside Centre.”

A spokesman for Bradford Council added: “The Town Council has submitted an application for Bracken Hall to be listed as an asset of community value.

“The application is being assessed and will be decided by the Shipley Area Committee in due course.”

The Hall, which dates back to the 1890s, was turned into a museum in the 1980s, and features information on the surrounding landscape as well as local wildlife. It also had an archaeology room containing 5,000-year-old neolithic stones.

The wild Wednesdays run from 2pm to 4pm for the next two Wednesdays.

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