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Open Country's Friday Conservation Group
Grant to boost conservation projects in Lower Wharfedale

Conservation projects in Lower Wharfedale have received a boost following a £4,000 grant from Sovereign Health Care’s Community Programme.

Local charity Open Country, which enables people with a disability to access and enjoy the countryside, will use the money towards conservation projects in Otley, Ilkley and Guiseley. Open Country’s conservation group members have a disability or mental health issue and are supported by staff and volunteers on projects to conserve natural habitats and improve access in the outdoors. In the last 12 months they have worked with Gallows Hill, Otley Chevin Country Park, Parkinson’s Park and Ben Rhydding Nature Reserve on projects from scrub bashing and tree planting to installing benches and pathway improvement.

Bradford-based Sovereign Health Care has a long history of supporting community initiatives which promote health and wellbeing. Chief Executive Russ Piper says: “We welcome the opportunity to support a project which has such a positive impact on both people and the environment. Working on conservation projects improves the health and wellbeing of the Open Country members, but the work they’re doing has the potential to impact the lives of so many others, whilst conserving our precious nature habitats at the same time.”

Alongside their conservation work, Open Country also organises a variety of countryside activities throughout the year including walking, cycling, nature study and outings. The charity also provides specialist information, training and advice to landowners, councils and outdoor organisations looking to improve disabled access.

David Shaftoe, Chief Officer at Open Country, says: “We believe that accessing the countryside should be a right not a privilege and therefore our conservation work is hugely important in opening up more outdoor sites to people of all abilities. However, we can only do it with the support of businesses like Sovereign Health Care who are committed to making a difference in their community.”

For more information about Open Country and how to become a volunteer, visit

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