LOCAL campaigners have until June to put together a community bid to buy a much-loved patch of wild nature in the heart of Holgate.

The Friends of Severus Hill say momentum for their bid to buy the tiny green oasis near the water tower just off Bouthwaite Drive is ‘building quickly’.

“But we have quite a sense of urgency as the landowners have asked us to submit a community bid by end of June,” said Friends spokesperson Jo Patton.

Locals describe the hill as a ‘hidden environmental gem’ which has been reclaimed by nature and is home to a wealth of wild plant and animal species.

York Press: Severus Hill in Holgate, YorkSeverus Hill in Holgate, York (Image: Friends of Severus Hill)

Plans to build 43 new homes on the land were rejected in 2017 because of the impact on people already living in the area – as well as on views of the Minster and on wildlife on the wooded hillside.

It was then due to be sold off by Auction House in October last year, with a guide price of £95,000.

But owners Keyland – a sister company of Yorkshire Water – agreed to pause the sale until June this year to give the Friends a chance to put together a community bid.

The Friends say the site, which has been fenced off for decades, has been ‘reclaimed by nature’.

York Press: Severus Hill has become a haven for wildlifeSeverus Hill has become a haven for wildlife (Image: Friends of Severus Hill)

"It’s an island oasis - a green lung in the heart of York, providing a sanctuary for wildlife and nature to thrive,” Jo said.

The Friends hope to buy the hill so they can protect as a nature reserve. They will be launching a fundraising campaign before Easter to raise 'more than £95,000', Jo said: they have already found a potential match-funder.

They fear that, if they do not buy the land, it could be used for development.

York Press: The old water tower at Severus HillThe old water tower at Severus Hill (Image: Friends of Severus Hill)

David Ryder, a leading member of the Friends who has lived in the area for 60 years, said: “It’s not just the people who are lucky enough to sit around the hill and appreciate that beautiful space and green every morning, it's wider than that.

“Birds travel. They rewilded the space over the last decades and they did it for their own good. Nature working with nature. We need to maintain that.”

The campaign to save the hill has been backed Holgate’s Labour ward councillors Kallum Taylor and Jenny Kent.

Cllr Kent said: “This small but much loved hill has a huge significance for Holgate, Acomb and beyond.

York Press: Cllr Jenny KentCllr Jenny Kent (Image: Supplied)

“It’s impact on our city’s biodiversity cannot be understated, as a green oasis amongst residential housing, and a stepping stone and nesting ground for many different types of birds and animals.

“It’s heritage and history are unique. We are excited to be working with the community and landowners to safeguard the future of the hill. This really is a unique opportunity to do something good this spring.”

Anyone interested in helping to save the hill is urged to visit the Friends website www.severushill.co.uk, follow the Friends group on social media @severushill or email FriendsOfSeverusHill@Outlook.com


The history of Severus Hill

York Press: Severus Hill from the airSeverus Hill from the air (Image: Sky Filming)

The Friends of Severus Hill say the hill has its roots in the last ice age. And it has an amazing history.

“It has connections to the Roman emperor Septimius Severus, the World War II blitz, and Victorian-era excursions,” the Friends say.

The hill is believed to have been named by the Victorians.  The legend goes that the Roman emperor Septimius Severus, who died in York in 211 AD, may have been cremated in huge funeral pyre there.

But it is the way it has been ‘rewilded’ by nature over the last few decades since it was fenced off that makes it so important as a nature space, the Friends say.

“Over the years of neglect, nature has wonderfully reclaimed the space, transforming it into a green oasis and earning it recognition as a 'Site of Interest for Nature Conservation' due to its rare calcareous grassland,” they say.

The Friends of Severus Hill is a ‘grassroots, not-for-profit organisation’ which ‘recognizes the importance of preserving this green lung within the heart of the city’ and ‘aims to secure the acquisition and protection of the site, safeguarding its environmental and historical significance’.

The organisation says its community-led effort has 'gained significant traction', with momentum growing behind the campaign.