Shelley Whins is an area of common land, which came into Kirklees Council ownership as part of a land swap when the Shelley Park estate was built. In June 1998 Shelley Community Association took an interest in the site as part of the Huddersfield Millennium Challenge. In 1999 a separate group, the Shelley Conservation Group, was formed to look after the site, in partnership with Kirklees Leisure Services. The Group aims to manage the site for the benefit of both wildlife and local people.
Shelley Bridle is owned by the Shelley Educational Foundation, which provides grants for Shelley students. The land was once let for grazing, but is now open space, a mixture of woodland and open grassland. Both the Whins and the Bridle are steeply sloping sites and offer wonderful views. From the benches on the Whins (installed by Group members) you can look across to Holme Moss, West Nab and the northern end of the Peak Park. From the newly installed bench above the path across the bridle there are pastoral views across the valley to Shepley and Cumberworth.
The area is well used for recreation by children, hikers and dog walkers. One of the first jobs the Shelley Conservation Group decided to tackle was a muddy and overgrown footpath that ran from Westerley Lane to Shelley First School. The Group raised money from Millenium Awards for All, Kirklees Environment Unit and Kirkburton Parish Council. BCTV volunteers were then able to put in a path of crushed stone, with a boardwalk across the boggy grassland at the bottom of the site.
Though used by local people the path wasn't a formal right of way, but as a safe route to school Kirklees has now adopted the path as Kirkburton footpath 250. There is now a circular route round the Whins, as BCTV put in a new section of boardwalk and a flight of steps up the eastern end of the slope.
Shelley Bridle is crossed by a footpath which is the final section of the circular Shelley Welly Walk. The path was improved as a joint project by Shelley Community Association and Kirklees Highways in 2001. It has since been surfaced by volunteers, with funding from Waste Recycling Environment Ltd.
We know quite a lot about wildlife on the Whins as local people have studied the site over recent years. Both the meadow and the gorse areas are of great value for wildlife. Group members have planted native wildflowers in the meadow, and Kirklees Leisure Services mow the site and remove the hay annually. This is important as it not only reduces the sites fertility thus encouraging flowers rather than grasses, but also stops the oak and gorse seedlings from getting a hold.
The gorse is a good breeding habitat for a number of bird species which are in decline nationally, including Song Thrush, Linnet and Bullfinch. It needs management on a regular basis to stop it getting leggy and thin at the same time. In nature gorse is managed by fire, but on a small site like the Whins where this isn't possible it will be cut in small patches over a number of years, at a time of year when breeding birds will not be disturbed.