York's Emperors Hill, reserved for nature

by Friends of Severus Hill in York, , United Kingdom

Total raised £84,492

raised so far

+ est. £15283.00 Gift Aid



Friends of Severus Hill have till June to raise the funds to buy & conserve an environmental & historically significant green oasis in York.

by Friends of Severus Hill in York, , United Kingdom

 New stretch target

Every penny raised above our goal reduces the funding gap required by grant funders, please keep supporting, sharing and celebrating!


1715792256_logo.png  1715792346_sounds.jpg1715792391_the_press.jpg

1712169469_1.pngSeverus Hill in York is a 4 acre site of huge environmental, natural and historical significance. A mile outside of the city walls it stands 35 metres above sea level in the community of Holgate. Formed in the last ice age, with historical connections to Roman Emperors, the World War II blitz, and Victorian day trippers.


1712169717_save_severus_hill.pngMore recently the site has been locked up by current private landowners. Over the past decades nature has quietly reclaimed and re-wilded the space, forming an island oasis - a green lung in the heart of urban York. The site now provides a sanctuary for wildlife and nature to thrive. It serves as a lifeline for pollinators and impacts the biodiversity of the city. 

Alongside this, Severus Hill houses calcareous grass, rare in the North. This unique microhabitat is popular for attracting unique species of Butterflies and insects, all this has earnt Severus Hill the status of 'Site of Interest for Nature Conservation' (SINC).



1712169744_2.pngIn October 2023, after several blocked attempts over the last decade to develop a housing estate on the site, the landowners decided to auction the large wild green space of the site (not the water tower) to the highest bidder.

Working with concerned local residents the local Labour Councillors crucially approached the owners, Keyland Developments, a sister company of Yorkshire Water, to postpone the sale of the land. Keyland agreed to delay the sale until June 2024 giving time for the community to gather interest and formalise its approach. 1709844038_logo_v3.pngAfter several open community meetings, the 'Friends of Severus Hill' a community led not-for-profit company has formed. With the primary aim to work towards the acquisition and further conservation of Severus Hill, ensuring its environmental, natural and historical significance are protected and celebrated for future generations. 



1712169816_3.pngKeyland have indicated they would likely return to their initial intention to auction the site. Which would bring a period of uncertainty and potential risk to the natural wonders of the site. Another private owner purchasing the site could lead to more planning battles for the local community to protect the site.

Keyland have given what is likely unique, once in a generation opportunity for the community to acquire the site for the future environmental benefits of the city and preserve it for the wildlife who call it home. To also allow the sites historical significance to be celebrated and to examine its heritage sensitively and delicately.




If the amazing birds, insects, mammals and plants that call the hill 'home' isn't a good enough reason, then here's a few more:

Green spaces are always important, but in urban areas they provide vital environmental benefits: absorbing carbon dioxide, reducing air pollution from nearby roads, reducing the urban heat island effect, reducing flooding by reducing surface runoff, improving and fostering biodiversity. 

Through sensitive examination and use of modern non-destructive technologies the significance of the archaeological evidence on Severus Hill and our shared human heritage can be safeguarded for future generations, preserving ancient stories and unlocking valuable insights into our past. 1712174479_save_severus_hill3.png

Severus Hill sits perfectly within walking distance of 5 primary schools, who's observation of the site could provide hugely enriching and engaging learning opportunities. Examining links to 1900 years of local history, study of conservation in action and exploring geographical landmarks are all just a few of the areas schools could use Severus Hill to feed curiosity. 



Friends of Severus Hill are committed to a NATURE FIRST approach to acquiring and preserving the hill. The intention is for the site to remain a private sanctuary for nature, in that public access would not be granted. In a carefully supervised and managed nature community groups may be granted access to examine and celebrate the beauty of nature in this space. This may include: schools, colleges, universities, heritage and environmental groups. 


Strategic decision making around the hill would be made by committee and through democratic decision making processes. Public meetings, organised workgroups and celebration events to support the mysteries of the hill would become an important part of the ongoing stewardship of the hill. Giving the community a chance to regularly celebrate its amazing value to all our lives.

Please give generously in support of the campaign to Save Severus Hill and protect its wildlife, environmental and historical wonders.




  • Skiweb Limited
  • York Council Holgate Ward Funding

I have a business and would like to donate, send us an email - [email protected]


How else can I get involved?

Please tell everyone you know about this Crowdfunder and about the Severus Hill. Only by telling the story of the Hill will we achieve our shared goal. You could also visit our website or get in touch with Friends of Severus Hill to see how else you could support the campaign -  severushill.co.uk/friends


How much do you need to raise? -

The landowners, Keyland Development have given Friends of Severus Hill a price of just under £170,000 to acquire the site.

How will you raise the money?

This Crowdfunder is a fantastic way of allowing many people across our region to contribute to the funds required, however we realise that we will require further funding from other sources and we have a team of people working on this separately. If you have expertise in this field or suggestions do get in touch - [email protected]

What happens if the project doesn't reach its funding goal?

We will obviously be working incredibly hard to acquire Severus Hill. If however for some reason we're unable to complete the purchase of the site with the funds raised here and through grants, then your contribution will be returned directly to you.

Is the water tower for sale?

The smaller stretch of land including the water tower is not for sale and will remain in ownership of Keyland Developments. The land for sale is the 4 acre site which includes the limestone basin.

Will my donation be Match Funded?

We're currently in discussions with a potential match funder who shares our vision and mission for Severus Hill. We will communicate with all donors if this partnership is successful, as it will be a huge benefit to the campaign and could DOUBLE your DONATION.

By donating do I own a share or a piece of Severus Hill?

As part of the discussion with matchfunder above we are looking at a community share option. Currently however, any money you decide to give is being received as a donation. If the Friends of Severus Hill deem the community shares approach advantageous to the campaign we will communicate with each donor directly offering share options.

How secure is my payment and personal information? 

By using this Crowdfunder platform we can ensure your information is highly secure. They use industry-standard technology to safeguard all transactions.

Is there a minimum or maximum donation amount?

In short no, minimum donation on Crowdfunder is £1 and there is no Maximum. Please give generously as this will help us reach the goal sooner.

Can I donate anonymously?

Yes, Crowdfunder allow you as a donors to contribute anonymously if you prefer. You can choose whether to display your name publicly or keep it private.

What happens if the project exceeds its funding goal?

There is of course the ongoing management and safeguarding of Severus Hill that will cost the community beyond the purchase of the site and any money raised beyond the funding goal will go towards its ongoing conservation.

What if you only reach the goal and can't afford to run the site?

Once the site has been purchased we have several local environmental partners who have agreed to support the Friends of Severus Hill with the site and no or little cost. We will also be able to apply for grants to support us on ongoing costs such as public liability insurance.


[email protected]



Show your support

Payment and personal details are protected