On a very hot summer’s day last year I bumped into Eric Cowin in the car park of Morrison’s Supermarket in Wetherby.
We are both members of Wetherby U3A, and we got chatting about our various interests - mine in cycling and wild flower spotting and Eric’s in, among other things, the greenways in Leeds and the local Wetherby area.
After only a few minutes we realised that between us there was the germ of an idea for a project to survey, monitor and promote the Green Corridors in Wetherby.
To be fair, I went away after that initial chat and carried on with my cycling and recording wild flowers everywhere I went.
Then, later last year I found myself in charge of our son’s dog, which involved me in several walks a day, always along the old railway tracks, particularly the Wetherby Triangle.
I was able to observe the changing nature of the Green Corridors throughout the seasons and realised just how many people use the old disused railway tracks around the town.
There were Mums with children and pushchairs, people going shopping and to work, cyclists, walkers with and without dogs. I became a Volunteer for Sustrans and kept cycling.
Eric, however, did not go away and forget the meeting; he went away to plan! That’s what he had been in a previous life, before the U3A, a Planner. He is a member of the existing U3A Green Group and he knew that there was also some interest in our U3A setting up an Ecology or Wildlife Group.
The Draft Neighbourhood Plan Consultation Document which came out in January had focussed several minds on Green Corridors and in February Eric sent out a document about the importance of greenways in the suburban landscape, with a map to help identify the potential greenways in and around Wetherby.
Interest was starting to bubble. After much deliberation and diary checking (U3A members are so busy!) a meeting for interested members was arranged for March 15.
At this inaugural meeting there were potentially at least ten U3A members interested in forming a new project group to undertake a survey of the flora and fauna of our Green Corridors.
There were several recommendations: that a poster be designed (which it duly was) to advertise the fact that a new project was being set up; that Eric would invite Brian Wood from the Harrogate U3A Naturalists Group to share his expertise on survey work; and that schools who might be interested in taking part in any planned activities would be contacted. The project, to be undertaken by the members, was to focus on recording the biodiversity within the designated area of the Wetherby Triangle.
A piece was included in the Wetherby & District U3A April Monthly Memo and the meeting with Brian Wood was arranged for May 8. It was really interesting to hear from Brian about how we might move forward but while the group was becoming more ambitious, he kept coming back to the same phrases ‘Keep it simple’, and ‘Do what you can, when you can’.
Following this meeting we all felt that this ‘Green Corridors Project’ had legs! We planned a walk around the Harland Way with members from the Ainsty Conservation Society and with maps provided by Eric and in the rain, we plotted our zones, identifying trees, wildflowers and birds, all the while chatting and learning from each other.
By the time we reached the end of our walk of discovery, individuals had offered to design a survey sheet and over the summer months we will start to record what we find as opposed to just looking.
It’s now June 2017, almost exactly a year since Eric and I bumped into each other and yes, we have set up a new U3a project. What are the plans for the future? It will record the birds, wildflowers, trees, butterflies and wildlife over a designated period of time, in a designated and area, and then report the findings to a wider audience once completed.
Such chance meetings between individuals are often how ideas are generated and new activities and groups come into existence in the U3A. Find out more at: www.wetherbyu3a.org.uk;