Reporter DAVID MACKIE heads to Cropton forest to check out the view from a new hide which has opened in the woodland giving visitors a front row seat on the wildlife on offer

A NEW wildlife hide has been created deep in Cropton forest in order to provide a front row seat to the private antics of British wildlife.

The hide, situated in an undisclosed part of the forest, will allow guests to discreetly watch animals, including foxes, deer, badgers and birds.

The design of the timber hide - in dense trees at the top of a slope - means disturbance will be minimal.

It is soundproof and the long, low windows are made of one-way glass, so while wildlife watchers can see out, the animals can’t see in.

Jane Payne, a badger expert who helped design the hide, said she had come to watch wildlife in the area since 2003, and used to give talks on badgers in Stape Village Hall.

“It’s wonderful,” she said of the new structure. “I’ve been designing it with the builders.”

She made sure it was accessible by wheelchair users, consulting with various disability groups as to what they wanted from the hide.

Alan Eves, forest manager for the Forestry Commission, said that the site of the hide was ideal, with the surrounding forest being the home of a full range of forest creatures. “There’s been a wildlife hide here for a while, but that was rundown and dilapidated,” he said.

A number of groups came together to put together funding for a new hide and, with Heritage Lottery Funding, the finances fell into place.

“The whole project is about trying to introduce people to wildlife,” he added. “We’ve been working with the National Park and Ryedale District Council who have been really good in supporting us.”

The hide is the product of partnerships. As well as the Forestry Commission, organisations such as the district council, the National Park, the Friends of Dalby Forest group, the building contractors and Hidden Horizons have been involved in the hide’s genesis.

Faye Snowden, community officer for the district council, said: “It’s nice to work with the Forestry Commission to make things like this happen. It’s such a lovely part of Ryedale and it’s fantastic, especially how it has wheelchair access. To have that so it’s accessible for everybody is amazing.”

Petra Young, funding manager for the Forestry Commission, said the old hide was rotten after decades of use, and it was time for a new one. “It’s really all Jane (Payne’s) efforts. She involved the Friends of Dalby and they were really keen.” Over several years different groups came together to make it happen.

The construction of the hide itself hasn’t all be plain sailing. Petra says a neighbour’s sheep spied itself in the glass of the hide and started ramming its own reflection. “That was interesting,” she said.

The hide was officially opened earlier this month by local artist, photographer and Gazette & Herald columnist Robert Fuller.

To celebrate the opening, the Forestry Commission ran a photography competition, judged by Mr Fuller, with first prize of a wildlife watching session in the hide and second prize of £25 gift vouchers.

In the end, first and second prize went to the same person: Iain Leadley, 53, of Thornton-le-Dale, whose images of invertebrates impressed the judge.

Mr Fuller said of the winning picture: “I like everything about this photograph, but best of all is the way the two bodies of these mating damselflies make a heart shape.

"The photograph itself is perfectly sharp throughout, which isn’t easy with macro work. The unfurling fern is beautiful in itself and a nice clean green background sets the whole picture off.”

Of the second place ladybird picture, he said: “I just love the colours in this photograph of a ladybird on a forget-me-not, the bright blue of the flower petals zing against the dazzling red of the ladybird.”

Mr Leadley said: “I was obviously very happy to win the competition, and to find I got second as well that was the icing on the cake.”

He said he’s been doing photography as a hobby for six or seven years. “It used to be casual, now every three days I’m out with my camera. It’s generally wildlife - I don’t have an eye for landscapes, I think you’ve got to be quite artistic to do them.”

The damselfly shot was taken by a pond in Dalby forest. The ladybird picture, meanwhile, was taken in the no-less glamorous location of behind the Thorton-le-Dale public toilets. “It’s actually really nice round there,” said Mr Leadley. “There’s loads of forget-me-nots.”

Third place went to Stephen Tomlinson’s photo of a kestrel coming in to land. Mr Fuller said: “Kestrels are one of my favourite birds of prey to photograph and this picture of a male landing on an old post with his wings out caught my eye.”

People will be able to hire the hide. Hidden Horizons, a Scarborough-based company which offers experiences including fossil hunting and star-gazing, has taken over management of the hide and will allow small groups to spend an evening looking for wildlife.

Will Watts from Hidden Horizons said: “I used to come here as a kid, aged 8 or 9, when there was just a shack, nothing else. To see this Rolls Royce hide now is great. We hope to make it as accessible to as many people as possible.”

Beyond the autumn there will be public events and school trips, as well as opportunities for photography groups or natural history groups to book the hide.

Look up Hidden Horizons online to check out future events at the hide.