A group of volunteers are researching new walking trails in Fishergate that aim to get people out and about and meeting each-other. STEPHEN LEWIS joined them

"Please pick up your dog poo," says the note scrawled in a child's wobbly handwriting that's pinned to a tree in Danesmead Wood. "We play here. Dog poo can cause blindness in children."

Quite right too. Dog walkers, you have been told.

If you don't live in the Fishergate area, you may not have heard of Danesmead Wood. It's an area of tangled scrub, silver birch and alder tucked away behind the Danesmead estate at the bottom of Broadway West.

"This whole area used to be a claypit," says Fishergate ward councillor Andy D'Agorne helpfully. "Then after the war it was used as a tip."

Don't worry, though. That was all a good long while ago. The area has long been capped off, and nature - as it does - has made a comeback, recolonising the area to create the scrubby woodland we have today.

In more recent years, groups like the Friends of Danesmead Wood have also been doing their bit to improve the area: planting new trees, clearing away litter, laying new gravel paths.

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A walk through Danesmead Wood. Photo: Stephen Lewis

It makes for a pleasant little oasis - Fishergate's version of St Nicks' Fields, if you like - just a few hundred yards from the banks of the River Ouse at the point where Fishergate becomes Fulford.

The wood is already well used by locals. A couple of dog walkers pass while we're there, and there are the signs of children everywhere: a makeshift camp made from logs laid end-to-end; a den built by local schoolchildren. "Quiet please!" says a note attached to the den. "Bird watching in progress."

If the group of people I'm walking with have their way, this hidden corner of York will soon be much better known, however.

Fishergate Footprints is a community project which aims to create up to 10 walking trails around Fishergate.

Easy to follow, and varying in length from 15 minutes to an hour (and including routes which are accessible to people in mobility scooters or pushing buggies) the trails will take in much-loved areas such as New Walk, York Cemetery and Walmgate Stray, but will also include less well-known corners, like Fenby Field, Low Moor Allotments - and Danesmead Wood.

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Love Lane in Danesmead Wood. Photo: Stephen Lewis

The aim will be to encourage people to get out and enjoy their area, says Sara Mair of York multicultural organisation YUMI, which is coordinating the project - but especially older people, or others who are isolated or lonely.

"It could be older people who have had a hip or knee replacement, young mums who are pushing a buggy, someone who has started a new job in York and doesn't know many people - or anyone who feels a bit lonely and wants to explore the area," Sara says.

The idea will be to organise guided walks along the trails, so walkers can meet other people - but also to produce printed and downloadable trail maps and apps so that people can follow the routes on their own if they'd prefer.

What will make the routes really special, however, is that the maps will include personal anecdotes and stories about the area from long-time Fishergate residents - bringing the local history of the area to life at the same time as you explore the wildlife and nature.

The project is being funded by a ward committee grant of about £4,000. Several local groups have come together to make it happen, including the Broadway Area Neighbourhood Friends (BANF); the Friends of Danesmead Wood; the Friends of New Walk; the Friends of York Cemetery - and YUMI, which is involved because it is based at Fulford Cross Allotments, but also because the organisation is all about bringing people together, says Sara.

Volunteers have already begun scoping out possible walks and trails. And very soon an oral history project will begin so as to start gathering stories, anecdotes and memories from local Fishergate people - including from older residents at care homes.

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Sara Mair in Danesmead Wood. Photo: Stephen Lewis

More volunteers are needed, however - which is why a call went out last week on social media.

"We need help, in researching walks, interviewing people and gathering stories, transcribing interviews, and helping to trial walks," said Sara. The project also needs amateur photographers willing to take photographs along the various trails as they are developed, which could then be used in printed and downloadable trail guides, and even incorporated on boards along the routes.

An initial meeting was held last week at Cycle Heaven in Hospital Fields Road. And afterwards, a small group set out to 'scope out' a walk through Danesmead Wood.

We started at the bottom of Hospital Fields Road, where it joins up to New Walk and the large green area beside the Ouse known as Millennium Fields or Millennium Meadows. Tucked against the brick wall that lines New Walk here are some young saplings, each protected by a metal mesh. Each tree was adopted by a different primary school, says Andy D'Agorne. Sure enough, the one I examine has a little notice pinned to it: "Silver birch, Betula pendula. Adopted by the children of Fishergate Primary School, March 2010'.

Further up New Walk towards the city centre there's a tree that has been adopted by dog walkers, says Andy. He calls it the 'dog tree'. It's near the old Pikeing Well. "And it has tags with the names of dogs that have passed away on it," he says.

We're not going that way today, however. Instead, we assemble at Millennium Bridge, then cut across Millennium Meadows and take the neat paved foot- and cycle path known as Minster Way that runs south along the edge of the meadow. It is fringed to the left as we walk by a thicket of scrub and young trees - the beginnings of Danesmead Wood.

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Minster Way, with the Millennium Bridge in the background. Photo: Stephen Lewis

At the end of Minster Way we turn left, then come to a small crossroads. Go straight ahead, and you'll get to Danesmead, Broadway West and then Fulford Road. Turn right, and it takes you further south to St Oswald's Road. To our left, meanwhile, a narrow, tree-fringed footpath leads off through the scrub.

"That's Love Lane," says someone. "There's always a Love Lane!" jokes someone else.

We go straight ahead, then turn left and follow neatly sanded paths through Danesmead Wood. There are new tree plantings; a burst of snowbells; and then a thicket of young trees interspersed with grassy clearings. You wouldn't believe you were in the heart of a city.

We pass the schoolchildren's den, then the tree with the child's notice warning dog walkers to clear up after their pets, before taking a left and emerging back out onto Minster Way and Millennium Meadows.

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Snowdrops in Danesmead Wood. Photo: Stephen Lewis

It has only been a short walk, 15 minutes at most. But there were even, level footpaths throughout, making it wonderfully accessible - and a great way to escape the pressures of modern city living.

If the other walking trails are going to be as good as this one, Fishergate Footprints is sure to be a winner.

  • If you would like to volunteer to help out on the Fishergate Footprints project, or if you have stories of the Fishergate area to tell, contact Sara Mair at YUMI at Sara@yumiyork.org or on 07944 911093.