A RE-OPENED attraction, nestled in one of the district’s most popular beauty spots, is ready to teach a new generation of young people about the Yorkshire countryside.

Bracken Hall Countryside Centre is now run by Baildon Town Council, who hope that local schools, visitors to the district and locals will use the centre to truly appreciate the surrounding nature.

Since the 1980s the centre, on the edge of Baildon and overlooking Shipley Glen, has welcomed visitors eager to learn more about Bradford’s great outdoors.

But austerity measures and council cutbacks led to the Bradford Council-run facility being closed in 2013.

However, a group of volunteers, the Friends of Bracken Hall, kept activities outside the centre going, with countryside walks and children’s activities on Shipley Glen, and Baildon Town Council had looked at ways of re-opening it.

The building was sold to Stuart and Sally Illingworth, who hoped to open a bed and breakfast, and when they were granted planning permission to covert the site they agreed that a section of the building would be set aside as a classroom and countryside centre.

Baildon Town Council was granted the lease of the educational area, and in April this year re-opened the centre for visitors.

Work on preparing the B&B for opening is now under way.

A new manager for the centre has been appointed, and the council and friends group are working together to improve the facility both as a place where schools and other groups can come to learn about countryside life, and as a visitor attraction for Baildon.

The town council currently budgets £14,000 a year for running the centre, and it is looking for other funding streams to help make it as popular as it was in the past, despite its smaller size.

Bracken Hall dates back to the 15th century, when there was a farmhouse on the site. In the 19th century there was a temperance coffee and tea house there, and the current building was constructed in 1900.

The countryside centre was opened by naturalists John and Maria Friend in 1981. Bradford Council took over in 1986.

So far several schools have carried out visits to the newly re-opened centre, and it was opened up to visitors at the Saltaire Heritage Weekend in April.

Each Wednesday over the summer the Friends of Bracken Hall hold Wild Wednesday events for children, and several events have been planned around the centre for next month’s Saltaire Festival.

The town council has approached every Bradford school about what Bracken Hall has to offer, and says it will be ideal for children from inner-city schools to experience nature.

Baildon town councillor Joe Ashton said: “We had shown an interest in running the centre, and luckily the family that bought the building wanted to see it protected.

“We’ve had about 10 primary schools visit so far, some of which had used the centre while Bradford Council ran it.

“We offer schools nature studies, arts and crafts and outdoor pursuits.

“We have been so impressed by the enthusiasm of the Friends group, who really kept the centre alive with activities, even when they had no access to the building.”

New manager Richard White said while many of the exhibits dated back to when the countryside centre first opened in the 1980s, children still had plenty of fun during their visits.

He said: “The centre is a place where you can put all the things you see in the countryside in context. It is a starting point for your visit to the area, or your walk on the moors. We help people interpret what they are seeing.

“I work 14 hours a week which isn’t a lot of time, so the volunteers in the Friends group are really essential.

“I’m amazed by the enthusiasm from the volunteers and the council.”

He said the centre had the potential to be a major part of the local tourist offer, complementing attractions such as Salts Mill and the Shipley Glen Tramway.

He added: “We’re looking to be part of that Saltaire experience. Although we’re in the countryside, we’re not far from Baildon or Saltaire station. It doesn’t take schools or visitors very long to get here.”

The centre opens on weekends from noon to 4pm, and during the week by appointment.

To book a trip, visit baildontowncouncil.gov.uk.