Bilton News – 15th April 2021

BIlton news April 15

Prince Philip: a week that was expected to be one of joy as some lockdown restrictions were lifted quite rightly turned into one of sadness and reflection as the much respected life of the Duke of Edinburgh came to an end.  The announcement was not a surprise but it was sad nevertheless.  There was widespread hope that the Duke would have been able to celebrate his hundredth birthday in June but it was not to be. 

Happy reminder:  in the Advertiser last week was a picture of the Queen when she visited Harrogate in 1985.  I was in that picture.  You will not recognise me as I only recognised myself because I remembered when the original picture was published.  There I am on the front row behind the barriers in the happy crowd of mainly young people.  I had to take a days leave from work as my employers made it clear that no time would not be allowed off for staff to see the Queen even though we worked in the adjacent Copthall Tower House.  I wanted to be part of the occasion and it was wonderful.  At about the same time as the picture was being taken I looked up and was so pleased to see my colleagues at the windows cheering on the Queen.  Whether the employers relented or the staff just told them to stay in their offices if they wanted to I will never know because I never asked.  The Prince was not in the picture but he had accompanied the Queen.  I cannot recall whether he was at the other side of the road or whether he had gone on a local visit elsewhere.  He was a constant support to the Queen and he has been a constant presence in most, and in many cases all, of our lives.  He will be missed.

Short column this week:  there are items of news to pass on to you but nothing that cannot wait until next week.  It does not feel right to be talking about transport, elections, anti-social behaviour and the like even though these issues are not going away and will need to be addressed. For this week our thoughts can stay with the Royal Family but there is no harm in mentioning the magnificent magnolia trees that are coming into blossom throughout the area.  They are in many gardens and there is a fine specimen in the church yard of St John’s.  Their blooms vary from pure white to the deepest pinks and mauves.  Look out for them and enjoy them when you are out and about.

Bilton News – 8th April 2021

Bilton news  April 8

Long Lands Common:  The sale of land has now been completed and the community is now the owner and long term custodian of 30 acres of greenbelt.  The really exciting work of creating the nature reserve for the benefit of wildlife and people can now begin.  Long Lands Common is not yet ready to receive visitors.  Over the next few weeks essential access works will be prioritised to allow safe and controlled visitor access.  This will involve laying tracks, erecting fencing, repairing boundaries and mowing pathways.  Official opening to visitors is expected to be late spring or early summer.

Wildlife: whilst we waiting for acquisition of Long Lands Common to take effect there is plenty of wildlife closer to home.  Some butterflies have arisen from their winter hibernation, a peacock butterfly is easily recognised but there are lots of small brown butterflies flitting about that have not settled long enough for me to identify. There is a blackbird in the garden that is quite tame. It comes so close that care has to be taken not to step on it when working.  Of course it is not me the blackbird is interested in but all the grubs and worms being unearthed.  The bird usually nests in ivy but I have not seen it there this year, perhaps because the magpies are keeping a close watch on that area.  Starlings are a great help tidying up the garden as they remove lots of twiggy bits and take them for their nest, they are good at clearing moss from the lawn too. I have seen my first dandelion of the year.  Not quite so welcome in the garden but I do enjoy this beautiful plant in fields and hedgerows.

Bilton and Woodfield Community Library: unless the government has a last minute change of heart the Library will reopen on Monday, April 12, 1-4pm.  It will also be open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays 9.30am-12.30pm.  It is expected that people will be able to enter the library to browse and choose their own books but that face coverings will still have to be worn and hand sanitising and test and trace will still be in place.  The volunteers are looking forward to welcoming customers old and new back to the Library.  There will also be limited computer use, pre-booked only.  During lockdown lots of people have discovered, or rediscovered, the pleasure of reading.  There is no need to stop now restrictions are being eased.  Joining the library is an economical way of trying out new titles because membership is free and borrowing books is free.  What a bargain. The library is on Woodfield Road on the same site as the school and Children’s Centre.   Telephone 01423 564630 during opening hours or visit the website for further information.

Services at St John’s:  in church services recommenced on Easter Sunday.  To find out times of services and other information telephone the church office on 01423 565129 or visit the website

Another scam: it has been reported that scammers pretending to be from the Census are sending out text messages saying “there’s invalid information associated with your census account. To avoid a £200 fee please retake the survey here.”  Do not open the link or give any details.

Railway memories: my mention last week of the Harrogate, Ripon, Northallerton railway brought memories back to Mrs Young, a former resident of Ripon from where she travelled to many places near and abroad with her husband who served in the military.  The return by train to Ripon railway station was always eagerly anticipated until one day in the 1960s when the soldiers returned to Harrogate only to find the railway line had been closed.  The last bus had departed so the final leg of the journey had to be by taxi.  This was very upsetting for the soldiers.  There is no doubt the railway has been missed since the day it was closed

Bilton News – 1st April 2021

Bilton news – April 1

Out and about in Bilton: last year at this time we were entering the new world of the first lockdown, this year we are just taking our first tentative steps out of the third.  Last year we thought the pandemic would all be over by summer and this year we are still hoping the same, but we know in our hearts it will not be, though we are optimistic that a more normal lifestyle will have resumed. We can now see our friends and relatives, though still in restricted numbers and only outside but this is going to make Easter a happy time for many.   People are talking about how their group activities may be able to start again in May or June but are still not sure how and exactly when.  Some trees are showing early stages of new green leaves, forsythia and daffodils are giving the neighbourhood a golden glow and elsewhere are the more delicate shades of pink and white blossom on various shrubs in gardens.  All in all things seem to be looking up.  Let us hope this continues.

Bilton and Woodfield Community Library: signs are looking good that the library will be able to open for browsing from April 12 the same hours as before lockdown.  Final details are still awaited from the government before opening can be confirmed for certain and pre-lockdown measures of face coverings, hand sanitising and track and trace, etc. will still be in place.  There is lots of new stock waiting in the wings though it could be a couple of weeks before this reaches the shelves.  Hopefully, nest week I will be able to tell you that everything is in place.

Waste collections: just a reminder that refuse and recycling collections are a day later than normal next week whilst the crews catch up after the Easter holidays.  The normal collection pattern will resume on April 12.

Railway to Ripon: plans to reinstate the Harrogate, Ripon and Northallerton rail line are once again on the table.  It is one of 195 projects being considered by the government for a feasibility study.  I seem to recall that there was a feasibility study some years ago.  The conclusion was that reinstating this rail line would not just be a simple process of relaying rails on the original track bed but, if enough money is thrown at it a line could be reinstated.  If this latest study comes to fruition I can predict that the result will be exactly the same but even more complicated and expensive than last time.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing.  What a pity the rail line was closed in the first place.  In the meantime we can enjoy a walk or cycle ride along the part of it that is the Nidderdale Greenway, but be warned, it will be very busy this weekend.

A floating bus stop: I know it is April 1 but this is no joke.  The latest round of public consultations by North Yorkshire County Council into sustainable transport proposals for Oatlands, Victoria Avenue and the A59 towards Knaresborough is now underway.  There is a suggestion that there could be a floating bus stop on Victoria Avenue.  Does this mean that there will be floating buses?  If we can have floating buses it should not be too long before we can have floating cars.  Is this the first innovative flight towards the eventual  destination of a low traffic town?  Time to come back down to earth and take a look at the consultation.  It explains that a floating bus stop is a bus stop on an island with a cycle lane passing between the bus stop and the footway.  One of the questions asked is whether or not we think this is a good idea.

Bilton News – 25th March 2021

Bilton news March 25

One of those no news weeks: now that the euphoria of having a roadmap out of lockdown has subsided things have settled down and most of us are counting the days until things reopen and we can visit friends and family again. It is great to hear that the farmers markets are returning to town in April.  This week I have no firm news to share with you so it is one of those rambling columns again.  This does not mean that nothing positive is happening.  On the contrary, there is plenty of discussion taking place about when and how to open and hold events but having made plans before only to have them dashed at the last minute people are wary of planning too much too soon.  Getting back to normal is likely to be a gradual process as confidence and motivation builds.  This may not be a bad thing as many of us, including myself, have become accustomed to a no routine existence and it may not be easy getting out of it.

Congestion and emissions: is the hot topic in Harrogate at the moment.  Most of us would like a greener future but how to get there is an emotive issue.  I have noticed that the suggestion that Bilton becomes a Low Traffic Neighbourhood has not been mentioned for a few weeks.  Following the furore over the Oatlands proposals, which will now not go ahead, I wonder if the plan has been quietly dropped.  Maybe those in power now realise that what is good for one minority group has the potential to create huge problems for many others. The fear is that this could happen in Bilton.  If the idea is to be brought back to the table let us hope it is in the form of a properly thought out plan.

Fear for bus services: it may come as a surprise to some that those fearing the Low Traffic Neighbourhood most are those who do not have a car and are already walking and using public transport, or at least they were before Covid.  The fear is that any alteration to road layouts like creating a one way system or blocking roads to through traffic is highly likely to disrupt the bus service which so many depended on.  The 2a and 2b bus services are good when compared to many areas of the District but they are not good enough to persuade people to leave the car at home.  Harrogate District Travel has done its best to provide as many streets as possible with a service by devising intricate circular routes, but these are part of the problem; there is no space to explain why this week. Imperfect as the bus service is, public transport users do not wish to see it deteriorate and many are concerned that it may do.

Garden roundup:  now for something a little simpler to gets our heads round. Gardens are one of the pleasures in life not just for gardeners but also for those who enjoy looking at them.  This week the show stoppers are the daffodils.  Because there has not been much wind they are standing tall and stately; having said that the weather will now likely change.  When the sun is shining the star-like celandines shine brightly from areas that are less manicured.  There is a garden in Church Avenue with a lovely display of purple violets and bergenias are looking good in other places.  Although bergenias are supposed to thrive in most types of soil they do not thrive in my garden.  I will have to try again because they do look good.  Several lawns have received their first mowing, not mine, that is a pleasure to look forward to, or not.

Bilton News – 18th March 2021

Bilton news  March 18

Councillor Geoff Webber:  many people will be saddened to learn that Geoff Webber passed away on March 11.  He has had a long political involvement in local government and was one of the serving North Yorkshire County Councillors for the Bilton and Nidd Gorge ward.   He was often seen at big breakfasts, coffee mornings and the like and was a very accessible Councillor who would take up issues on behalf of individuals as well as groups.  He was a great supporter of local organisations and would often provide much needed funds from his Locality Budget. It is thanks to Geoff’s experience and local knowledge that Bilton still has a library as it was he who identified premises that the library could relocate to when NYCC sold the Old Vicarage.  He will be greatly missed as a Councillor and also for his company at the many events he attended together with his wife Pat.

Korner Kabin: things are looking a little different at the corner of King Edward’s Drive and Chestnut Grove.  This is because the Korner Kabin is now under the management of the Kataria brothers who have started to introduce new ideas.  All the familiar newspapers, magazines and stationery items are still available but now there are toiletry products, a much expanded food range and an off licence.  The opening hours have been greatly extended too.  Many people wish the brothers well and hope they will be happy and successful in their new venture.

Bilton PCSO: I am often asked who this is and how to get in touch.  The current PCSO is Jason Chapman. He can be contacted by telephoning 101, press option 2 and ask for Jason Chapman by his collar number 4591

Bring back the crowds: before Covid I tried to avoid the town centre when I thought it would be busy as crowds are not usually my thing but now the centre is always quiet I hate it.  It is such a sad place with all the darkened shops not only there but on the walk from Bilton to the town centre.  Some have closed permanently and there are sure to be others on the brink.  The latest local business to sound the warning that it is fighting for its survival is H Hour Boxing and Lao Loi on Skipton Road.  The crowds cannot come back soon enough but we know it will be some weeks yet so we have to stay patient, stick to the rules and do all we can to ensure the roadmap dates do not slip.  Of course relaxing of the rules is slowly happening.  We can now meet one other person outside the house and even sit on a bench with them, albeit two metres apart.  The trouble is the weather has taken a turn for the worse and hardly anyone is taking advantage.

Optimism is creeping back: several groups have been in touch this week outlining provisional plans for the summer.  Because they are provisional I am not going to raise your hopes by telling you about them now but rest assured, as soon as it is possible to be more certain all the details will be here.  Just writing the provisional dates in the diary made me feel excited.  A year ago this would have just been routine.  How times change.

Bilton News – 11th March 2021

Bilton news  March 11

£300 challenge:  Hayley Day of Bilton, who is visually impaired, is challenging herself to cycle 10 miles a day throughout March on her static bike and raise £300 for Harrogate Easier Living Project (HELP); approximately £1 for every mile cycled.   HELP has provided invaluable assistance to many people for several years, but never more so than throughout the Pandemic.  To sponsor Hayley visit  Hayley and her husband have recently purchased a tandem and are looking forward to enjoying the freedom of outdoor rides when restrictions are eased.

Daffodils in the hedge: anyone walking past Bilton Grange United Reformed Church, on the corner of Woodfield Road and Skipton Road, may have noticed daffodils growing in the hedge.  These have been lovingly made by the ladies of the Church who would like you to pick one and take it home.  The daffodils are free and the ladies trust that they will bring you hope and God’s blessing as we look forward to spring.  The daffodils will be refreshed daily up to March 18 so there is plenty of time to take a walk and pick one.  Whist there you will also see the smart new car park, which includes two disabled bays, waiting to be used when the church buildings can be reopened.

Longlands Common: the completion of the sale of land is taking longer than expected bit it is hoped to take possession later this month.  All being well it should be possible to welcome visitors this summer when access to the land from the Greenway and from the green railway bridge is in place.  No permanent paths will be laid this year as the committee would like people to become accustomed to the land and give their opinions before any change is implemented.  There are exciting times ahead.

Christmas Eve Jingle:  the Bilton family which started the campaign, which went global, has received a letter of thanks from the Prime Minister.  He said the heart-warming campaign gave us all a way to come together when we were unable to do so in person. Mary Beggs-Reid said it was very exciting to receive the letter.  She is already considering a repeat campaign this year.  Who knows, it could become an annual tradition.

Bilton Historical Society: although most activities are currently suspended the Society is still producing newsletters.  The latest to arrive in the inbox contained a fascinating article on Bilton’s early bus services 1899-1927and an obituary to member and well-known local man, George Thrower, whose special interest was the history of local shops. There is a request for information about John H. Pearce who worked for Coombes on West Grove Terrace around 1940; a selection of national and locally important dates from 1921 and an article on some of the heads displayed on Micklegate Bar, York after their owners had been executed.

On a more cheerful note:  and also included in the Historical Society newsletter was some gardening folklore.  This including the tip that planting celery amongst cabbages is believed to protect the cabbages from caterpillars.  I think I will give that a try as the annual battle with the caterpillars is not something allotment holders look forward to.

Remember them all: there is growing support for a national day of mourning and remembrance for those who have lost their lives through Covid 19.  Please let us not forget all the others who have also died since the start of the pandemic.  Their loved ones have also been denied the funeral they would have wished for and the support of family and friends at a time when they were most in need of it.  By all means let us have a day of remembrance and reflection but for all those who have died.

Bilton News – 4th March 2021

Bilton news March 4

Roadmaps: I wonder how many people still read real roadmaps now that GPS navigation is so widespread.  The roadmap that was so eagerly awaited was the one taking us out of lockdown.  The schools are back next week and that is welcomed by most households with children. Those with no children have to wait a few more weeks before any real difference will be felt, but at least there is something to look forward to now.

Another roadmap: I would really like to see is the one that shows the way out of the traffic congestion problem.  This map will cover Harrogate, Knaresborough, Killinghall and Pannal and detail all the proposed cycle lanes, bus lanes, safe pedestrian crossing places, low traffic neighbourhoods, changes to road layouts, improved and additional bus routes and possibly a railway station at Claro Road.  It would help us understand how the present small scale plans, like those proposed for Oatlands and Bilton for example, fit into the whole picture.   If we could see how, in the long term, any inconvenience caused by changes would be of benefit to all then perhaps those inconveniences could be easier to bear. I would really like to see this roadmap.  I am, of course, presuming that there is one.

Another scam: one doing the rounds at the moment is an email supposedly suggesting that recipients are in line for a council tax rebate or general tax refund.   The messages do look genuine but Harrogate Borough Council says they are not.  HBC will never ask for personal information such as account details, passwords, PINs, addresses or copies of driving licences or passports.  If you receive this email do not open any attachments or follow any links, delete it.

Road repairs: should currently be taking place in the Knox Lane/Knox Farm Estate area.  More roads will be affected over the next few days.  They are Bachelor Gardens, Bachelor Way, Bachelor Drive, Wainfleet Road, Bachelor Road, Knox Close, Knox Road and Knox Mill Lane. Temporary road closures are likely but signs should be in place.

Tree down: last week a huge tree fell on the Nidderdale Greenway near the Ripley end blocking the route for everyone except agile walkers able to scramble round.   The tree may have been cleared by now so there is likely no problem but please be aware when setting out to walk, cycle or ride a horse to Ripley that this has happened and there is a slight possibility that it may not have been fully cleared.

Bilton and Woodfield Community Library: should be able to open in some form on April 12 but details of the services that will be allowed are not yet available.  However, the return by date for any books out on loan has been extended to April 30 so there is no need to worry about accumulating fines.

Garden updates: the snowdrops have been brilliant but they are beginning to fade now.  Replacing them are the brightly coloured crocuses in the church yard, grass verges and in many gardens.  On a sunny corner of Pine Street and Rawson Street cheerful daffodils are nodding in the breeze. I think it was Wordsworth who first used that phrase.  I saw a single primrose in St John’s churchyard, a favourite of mine.  The allotments are ready for planting up but the soil is still too cold and wet for that so all the activity is in greenhouses which now contain seed trays full of what is hoped to be the plentiful crops of summer.  The big highlight of next week is that the first garden waste collection is to take place.  My bin is full already and there is a queue of buddleia  prunings waiting to fill the next one.  I did consider hurriedly filling the bin whilst the lorry was still in the street then running after it pretending the men had forgotten to empty it.  On reflection I do not think that is a very good idea.4

Bilton News – 25th February 2021

Bilton news – February 25

How long is a short journey: it would be interesting to hear from North Yorkshire County Council what its idea of a short journey is.  This is because its proposal to make Bilton a Low Traffic Neighbourhood is intended to reduce the number of short journeys made by car and encourage people to walk or cycle instead. For those who already walk because they have no car the question can be put another way. How short is a long walk?  The answer varies from person to person depending on their physical ability.  We gave up our car about ten years ago because we could walk anywhere in Harrogate where we wanted to go and, if ever we found ourselves in a position when we could not do this the bus, which stops near our home, could take us directly to the doctor, the dentist, the pharmacy and local essential food shops.  I am not going to pretend I never miss the car but mainly this was the right decision for us.  Time moves on and we now find ourselves using that bus service more frequently, or at least until Covid reared its head.   If our street is one that is chosen to be blocked off causing the short walk to the bus stop to become a much longer one it would mean we would have to make more short journeys by taxi.  The taxi firms provide an excellent service but a taxi is still a car.  If three people are persuaded to leave their car at home but four have to hire more taxis then the objective of reducing short car journeys would not have been reached.  This is why I am wary of the proposals and would like to have more details.

What a difference a day makes: one day we were all indoors, not only because of Covid but because it was too cold to go out.  The next day was warm and spring like and nearly everyone must have been on the streets which had a carnival atmosphere not felt since the demise of the Bilton Gala parade.  The pavements were littered with people standing two meters apart enjoying a chat yet constantly moving to allow those passing by to do so in a socially distanced manner.   If this could be seen from above it could make quite amusing viewing.  If the footage was to come to light many years from now it is easy to imagine the scientists puzzling over the strange behaviour and wondering what it was all about.

Highlight of the week:  was a blue tit in a bird bath.  Because I have already resorted to writing fiction and consider a blue tit in a bird bath to be the highlight of the week you will be thinking I am short of news again, and you would not be wrong.   The reason for the excitement about the blue tit it because it was the first visitor to my new bird bath which was purchased last autumn because I liked it.  The birds do not seem to share my enthusiasm. They still prefer their old watering place which they visit when they think no one is watching.  So I was really pleased when the blue tit dropped by and used the new bird bath.  He has not been back since and there have been no other visitors so this could turn out to be the highlight in the life of the bird bath, never mind the highlight of the week.  I still like the bird bath though.

The way forward:  by the time you read this we should have a better idea of how it is hoped to make our way out of lockdown.  So will I still be writing fiction next week?  We will have to wait and see, but if you do have any news  please get in touch.

Bilton News – 18th February 2021

Bilton news – February 18

The one to watch: is the NYCC proposal to make Bilton a “Low Traffic Neighbourhood” in the hope it will discourage short journeys by car.  It would achieved by blocking some roads to through traffic,  There is general support for efforts to improve traffic congestion and undoubtedly there are a substantial number of short journeys that do not need to be made by car but could these proposals cause more problems than they solve?  There is no way of knowing until the public is given sight of the detailed plans.  Some of the possible problems being identified are that some roads would become busier than they are now; there may be disruption to public transport services and school bus routes and more obstacles will be placed in the way of those who really do need to make short journeys by car in order to maintain their independence.  Most of Bilton is a low traffic area already except in some locations nearer to Skipton Road and at school run times. The real problem is congestion on Skipton Road, and it is not only the people of Bilton who contribute to that.  There is doubt as to whether the proposed low traffic measures would help the Skipton Road situation very much.   Let us hope that NYCC consults the local people about its detailed plans and does not only rely on input from pressure groups which often do a very good job but sometimes lack the detailed local knowledge possessed by the residents.   If we get the opportunity to have our say about this do take it and use it to state what you believe would be the right thing to do.

Peter the Peacock: thank you everyone who has been in touch about Peter.  It is good to know he is safe and well spending a lot of time in the Tennyson Avenue area enjoying good meals which include his favourite grapes and multiseed bread.  On one the coldest day of the winter he was seen sunbathing on a vestibule roof.  He has been around long enough to know where all the best sun traps are.  I have learned that he has his own Facebook page with about 500 followers.

In the garden:  I regret to have to tell you that the daffodil has succumbed to the mini beast from the east and is looking very unhappy indeed, along with most other plants in the garden.  However, this morning I was cheered up when I saw a wren hop under a tatty heather plant in a pot close to the house.  I did not see it leave so believe it may be using the plant pot and heather for shelter.  On reflection it is a better place than it might first seem.  The wren is a very small bird so the rim of the plant pot should provide good protection from the wind and the heather from the frost. Though for me the heather has outgrown its attractiveness it could appear completely opposite to the wren.  The heather is destined for the green waste bin but I will wait until the wren no longer needs it before despatching it there.

Bilton News – 11th February 2021

Bilton news February 11

Highlight of the week: it was that time in the morning just after waking up when it is still dark and you wonder what time it is.  Then I heard it.  The distant song of a blackbird.  Blackbirds have a beautiful song which is rarely heard in winter.  After a blissful few moments listening to its delights the central heating came on and the creaking pipes obliterated the sound of the distant blackbird.   It was time to get up.  The drawn curtains revealed grey skies and the remains of the snow which has fallen the previous day.  Spring?  Not just yet.  I now listen for the blackbird every day and he is there, his voice gaining strength all the while.  Soon he will be joined by others until the month of May when the glorious crescendo of the dawn chorus will be at its best.  Even in urban suburbia it is good to hear, unless you need to sleep in that is, because the dawn really is early in May.

Kites: however the weather may look and feel to us the birds certainly are sensing that the seasons are changing.  On one of those glorious blue sky days we are sometimes treated to between those of torrential rain and heavy snow were six red kites soaring and circling over the Hill Top estate.  Red kites are seen on most days but six at one time is a record for me.

Peter the peacock:  whilst on the subject of birds it occurred to me that we have not had an update on Peter for some time.  Has anyone seen him?

Breaking news:  There is a daffodil in bloom in the garden.  Just one.  Whether it will survive the mini beast from the east I will let you next week, unless I have something else to talk about.  You may have gathered from my efforts this week that news is in short supply.  If anyone has anything they would like to share with others please get in touch.  In the meantime keep safe, keep well and look forward to spring, and more singing blackbirds.