Harrogate Stray (the Stray or Two Hundred Acre) is 200 acres of
grassland and verges that wraps around the south west and south east
of Harrogate town centre.
The Stray is popular with local people for walking, running,
picnicking, flying kites, and playing football and other games.
Harrogate Stray: history
In the 1760s, there was widespread enclosure of Crown lands, for
financial returns to the Crown, and to allow private development.
Harrogate's wells and springs were on land that was part of the
Royal Forest of Knaresborough, and the town depended on public
access to them for its visitors and thus its prosperity. It would
have been damaging if the land had been divided up and sold off.
The people of Harrogate made representations to Parliament, and
commissioners were appointed to survey the area. They designated 200
acres of land covering the springs, which would:
'...for ever hereafter remain open and unenclosed, and all persons
whomsoever shall and may have free access at all times to the said
springs, and be at liberty to use and drink the Waters there
arising, and take the benefit thereof, and shall and may have use,
and enjoy full and free ingress and regress in, upon, and over the
said two hundred acres of land...'
The right to the common land was contained in the commissioners'
award of 1778. Use of the Stray is now governed by the Stray
Act 1985 and bye-laws under it.
Harrogate Stray: the seasons
Daffodils flower on the Stray in April. They come a month after the
crocuses - of which there are 6 to 7 million on the Stray, according
Borough Council. As the daffodils begin to wither, there's an
explosion of pink cherry blossom.
The Stray is appreciated and used by local people more in summer
than in any other season. Rabbits emerge from the brambles by the
railway line in the early morning and evening, to assist the Borough
Council Parks and Gardens team in keeping the grass short.
In the autumn, the leaves of the trees turn to red and brown.
Even as the climate warms, winter occasionally grips Harrogate
Harrogate Stray: events and activities
There are two fairs on Oatlands Drive Stray every year, one over
Spring Bank Holiday and the other on August Bank Holiday. There's a
bonfire on the Saturday nearest 5th November, again on Oatlands
Drive Stray, organised by Harrogate & District Round Table.
Harrogate Stray: wildlife
There are plenty of birds on the Stray, including mistle thrushes, and rabbits that
live by the railway line.
The Stray Defence Association has existed since 1933, when it was
formed to fight a council plan to turn part of the Stray into
formal flower beds.
The Association's stated purpose is to safeguard the Stray
against building and encroachment, and to uphold the Stray Act
Unfortunately, the Committee members of the Stray Defence
Association come across as anti-cycling. In 2007, one of them made
against allowing cycling on the Stray: 'The Stray is now
under grave threat. Cycling on the Stray has been proposed.' In
the event, since people have been allowed to ride bikes along
Slingsby Walk, it hasn't changed the character of the Stray or
caused any problems.
Similarly, in consultations about creating a safe bike route
along Otley Road, the Association has used the fact that the grass
verges there are technically part of the Stray to raise
objections. It is difficult to fathom why an association which
should be focused on Harrogate Stray dislikes bicycles so much,
and wants to block much-need active travel routes, and prevent
children being able to ride to school in safety.
Everyone in Harrogate values the Stray and wants it protected;
unfortunately, the Stray Defence Association doesn't represent us.