For more than sixty years members of the Headley Public Utility Society have been caring for a substantial area of woodland on Headley Down, known as Openlands, as a nature reserve. Located behind Stonehill, Furze Vale and Furze Hill roads, the woodland is kept in such a way as to provide habitats suitable for a wide variety of animals, birds and insects, as well as providing pleasure for those walking their dogs or riding their horses.

The woodland was left in trust for the enjoyment of the people of Headley Down by Dr Elizabeth Wilks, who initially established the Society in 1933, under the provisions of the 1893 Industrial and Provident Societies Act, to provide housing for the deserving poor of the parish. The sixteen houses built by the Society close to Curtis Lane have long since been passed to the local authority, but the name of Dr Wilks is kept alive by the continuing efforts of the Society to maintain the nature reserve that she created. Indeed, it is gratifying that both the Society and Openlands continue to thrive without a single penny from the public purse. All we rely on is the enthusiastic support of our willing band of helpers.

The Society is a registered charity, life membership of which is available to any resident of the Parish of Headley. Anyone interested in helping to look after and care for Openlands, by taking part in one the Society's regular working parties, should contact Ian Frost on 01428 712011.

To learn more about the work of Dr Wilks, see an article by Betty White included in Volume 1 of the Headley Miscellany, December 1999, which is accessible via the Headley website (click here).