£1.5m plan for Yorkshire Wartime Village at Ponderosa site in Heckmondwike

A wartime experience park featuring a Waco glider transporter plane, tanks, Jeeps and troop carriers is planned for the Ponderosa site in Heckmondwike.

Wednesday, 22nd September 2021, 5:00 pm
Howard Cook with some of the military vehicles

Businessman Howard Cook took over the 20-acre former Spenborough Water Treatment Works from Yorkshire Water and has spent several years decommissioning the 28 former filter beds.

Now Mr Cook has started work on £1.5 million plans to create the Yorkshire Wartime Village at Ponderosa, which will complement the neighbouring Ponderosa Zoo.

The attraction will have a re-creation of a French village at its heart complete with American army camp and field hospital.

The Ponderosa site in Heckmondwike

Mr Cook, who has held one-off wartime events at Ponderosa in the past, has teamed up with Brian Leathley, of the North West 101st Airborne re-enactment group, which organises wartime weekend events.

Mr Cook said: “There is nothing like this and it’s not about profit, it’s about the community and helping people. Everyone who has seen our plans have been amazed.”

Since 1991 when Mr Cook and wife Maureen started the Ponderosa Rural Therapeutic Centre, they have provided training and support for people with learning disabilities.

In the workshop right now is a re-creation of a Waco glider, a military transporter plane which dropped Jeeps and troops into France during the Second World War.

Made from steel and plywood the glider is 48ft long with a wingspan of 83ft.

Once completed the glider will be set to look like it has just landed in a French village – complete with church – and a US army camp will be built around it.

A Pegasus bridge, specially-built for when the Princess Royal visited Ponderosa in 2003, will be widened to become part of the new attraction.

Tank tracks will be built around the village to take visitors on rides in some of the army vehicles which include a Sultan tank, a GMC 353 troop carrier and an American M3 half-track personnel carrier.

The attraction will feature around £500,000-worth of authentic military vehicles.