A COUNTRYSIDE centre forced to close last year will now reopen - thanks to a joint venture involving public and private cash.

Bracken Hall Countryside Centre and Museum on the edge of Baildon Moor closed its doors on March 31, 2013 after Bradford Council withdrew all funding as part of budget cuts.

Now, thanks to a partnership between Baildon Town Council and couple Stuart and Sally Illingworth, the Countryside Centre will reopen in late 2015 and offer a programme of events throughout the year.

The Illingworths, who are long-term Baildon residents with young children, have bought the centre from Bradford Council and hope to run a hospitality business from one half of the main building.

The rest of the building including a classroom to the rear and wildlife gardens they have agreed to lease to Baildon Town Council rent free for 20 years.

Mrs Illingworth, 39, said: “We are thrilled to have worked so productively with Baildon Town Council and the Friends of Bracken Hall to achieve this result.

"The Centre can now be restored as a resource for local people and in time brought back to its former glory without placing an ongoing financial burden on the Town Council or the residents of Baildon.

"Personally for Stuart and me it offers a great opportunity to put something back by restoring a neglected building within an area where we have such personal ties."

Mr Illingworth, 42, said the fine detail of how they would use their half of the hall, possibly as a B&B, was still being worked on and explained their affection for the building.

"My family used to farm the land around it and my mother still lives in the nearby farmhouse," he said.

"And I often came to the centre when I was a kid, as did Sally. This is a fantastic opportunity."

Baildon Town Council chairman Joe Ashton said: "I and all the Friends of Bracken Hall are really jubilant.

"I am delighted that the hard work and optimism of all concerned is now being rewarded. "There are many people who have given so much to make this happen”.

For the last 18 months Baildon Town Council has worked closely with the Illingworths to find solution to the museums funding problems which will reduce the costs of paid staffing.

Volunteers will work with the Town Council to offer a programme of events and activities throughout the year together with a paid supervisor with funding from a range of sources including a £14,000 contribution from the Town Council’s capital budget for the first year.

The Countryside Centre first opened in 1980 as a private enterprise run by keen naturalists Mari and John Friend. Later in that decade it became part of Bradford's Museums Service, dedicated to the natural history of the local area, with Shipley Glen and Baildon Moor providing the perfect setting.