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A Stray for all Seasons

22nd February 2022

St Pauls' UR Church Hall

A capacity audience attended our second talk of 2022 held on 22 February at St Paul’s URC Hall.

Judy d’Arcy Thompson, Chair of the Stray Defence Association, our guest speaker for the evening, gave a very informative and lighthearted talk on the many benefits of our beautiful and unique Stray and how fundamental this large green area is to the people of Harrogate.

The Stray Defence Association came into being in May 1933 and nearly 90 years later its objective remains the same to safeguard Harrogate’s Stray against building and encroachment from all quarters. The Stray itself is much older and formally came into effect in 1778 when 200 acres of open common land were granted to the people of Harrogate. To this day the Stray is Crown Land with Harrogate Borough
Council responsible for its maintenance. The Harrogate Stray Act 1985 further protects our Stray and subject to certain provisions enshrines the right for free access at all times.

But what does the Stray actually mean to most people? In Judy’s words, ‘it is just there like a comforting old cardigan’. Well used and enjoyed by individuals and groups in all seasons. Some 7-8 million crocuses announce the arrival of Spring followed by the daffodils. Summer is heralded with 2000 beautiful trees and the sight of people enjoying the open space. Autumn is for the warm colours. Finally Winter on the Stray shows its beauty in white.

Judy also reminded us that Harrogate is privileged to have the Stray as a place to escape from modern life. With lifestyles taking a toll on our mental health and physical wellbeing it is a place of refuge and freedom – our very own ‘natural health service’. The green spaces of the Stray helped during lockdown with an endless supply of fresh air, space and the ability to relieve stress.

The environmental importance of the Stray is often overlooked. Harrogate has its own natural green lung
soaking up water, heat and pollution which is the envy of other urban areas.

Judy’s presentation enlightened us on many facts. There followed interesting questions covering topics such as the future of the Stray when the Unitary Authority comes to power, wilding, ongoing flooding issues, the problems of litter and the commercial use of the Stray. Hopefully this will make us really ‘think’ about the essential importance of our beautiful and unique Stray.

Barry Adams
HCS member who is also a member of the Stray Defence Association.