A beloved local woodland has come into community ownership.

The sale of Weston Woods, more formally known as East Wood, in the Otley area, has been completed.

The Friends of Weston Woods (FoWW) - the group which will manage the woods on behalf of the community - said it was delighted to announce it is now owned by the community, in perpetuity.

Claire Blindell, Communications & Engagement Lead for Otley 2030, said: “What an amazing Christmas present for everyone in and around Otley! It has taken a lot of time and work, but we are finally able to say that this special woodland can now be managed for nature and for the community, forever.

"Our success here proves that when people come together, we can achieve things we didn’t think were possible.”

East Wood, Weston, almost 20 acres of woodland between Otley and Weston, came up for sale in February 2023. The sale resulted in a huge community response and a successful crowdfunder. The money raised locally was supported by a loan from philanthropist, Julia Davies of We Have The Power and a hugely generous donation of £29,000 from the partners of HG Capital. Menston Area Nature Trust stood in to purchase the woodland on behalf of the community and put forward the winning bid.

The FoWW are still actively fundraising to pay off £29,000 outstanding from the original loan and have now launched an online auction and they are asking everyone to get involved. There are many exciting lots to bid on and a wide variety of items including: ‘Tea for Two’ at Betty’s, a Garden Wildlife survey, original artworks, signed books, weekends away, and even a private String Quartet performance, with more items being added all the time.

Supporters have until December 10, 2023 to head online at https://app.galabid.com/foww to bid for their chance to win and support this amazing venture.

Francesca Bridgewater, Chair of Menston Area Nature Trust, the charity which has legal ownership on behalf of Friends of Weston Woods and the community, said: “An online auction is a fun way for the entire community to be involved. People have donated a variety of brilliant ‘promises’ and also good quality items to bid for, so why not go green this Christmas and support your local woodland by bidding in our auction!”