Carbon Landscape: opening of new boardwalk to bring the community closer to nature

Led by Dr. Joanne Tippett, in Planning, the Carbon Landscape is a 5-year, £3.2 million project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the first project of the Great Manchester Wetlands Partnership.

 

This ambitious project will restore landscapes in Wigan, Warrington and Salford previously scarred by industry. By improving and re-connecting these green spaces the Carbon Landscape is not only creating a better future for wildlife but is also benefiting the local communities living alongside them.

The Carbon Landscape aims to restore more than 130 hectares of habitat, reducing fire risk whilst also creating opportunities for local people through training, volunteering, events and learning resources.

Risley Moss

Risley Moss is one of the last remaining fragments of the lowland raised peat bog that once covered large areas of South Lancashire and North Cheshire.

Restoration and a new boardwalk will improve the area for wildlife, and enable access up close to the Mini Moss bog education area for all ages and abilities.

 

July 17 marked the official opening of the first major restoration project of the Carbon Landscape to be completed. A new Boardwalk (see image to the right, above) at Risley Moss, Warrington now allows the public to get up close to nature. The boardwalk allows people to see how a peat bog is coming back to life with the restoration efforts made possible by the Heritage Lottery fund and hundreds of volunteers.

At this launch, after Dr. Amanda Wright from Natural England briefly introduced the Carbon Landscape project, Gorse Covert Primary school and Wigan disability advocacy group More Than Words received a guided tour of this ancient moss, joined by the Risley Moss friends group (RIMAG) and partners from across the Carbon Landscape. Ranger Mark Cozens of Warrington Borough Council and Dr. Paul Thomas of Natural England discussed the restoration work and the project’s future ambitions.

This is the first of 8 major restoration projects in the Carbon Landscape, which over five years will restore more than 130 hectares to nature. Upcoming projects include restoration works at Wigan Flashes, Hey Brook, Rixton Claypits, Woolston Eyes and Paddington Meadows.

Further projects include the Carbon Trail, a 20 km route linking up wild spaces in between urban areas; Carbon Volunteers, getting people involved in improving the landscape; and the Mossland Gateway to improve pedestrian and cyclist assess to Chat Moss. Other plans include an educational programme for schools, physical and online interpretation of the landscape and Citizen Science, with volunteers surveying species across the landscape and increasing our knowledge of how the landscape is changing.

So far, the project has successfully worked with 150 dedicated volunteers and provided 6 trainee placements, all of which leading to full-time employment in their desired careers.

Mike Longden, a former trainee said: “During my traineeship I gained a lot of new skills and knowledge and was able to tailor my experience to fill gaps in my C.V. It was great to work alongside the project officers helping them to deliver their part of the Carbon Landscape. I was also able to meet a lot of amazing people who shared my passion for wildlife. The skills I learnt varied from practical experience and leading groups, to survey skills and working with the local community.

The traineeship was a great experience, the work you do is very diverse and you gain valuable skills and knowledge for your future career. I am now working for the Lancashire Wildlife Trust as their Chat Moss Project Officer and I am having a great time!”

What is coming up?

The next few months will see a roll out of the Carbon Clever programme, which has been piloted in two schools so far and will reach 40 schools over the next few years. An exciting community project will document the transformation of the landscape using photography and work with archival photographs from local museums through the Carbon Creative programme.  The programme of community events will see a series of nature, history and family fun walks and a Jurassic Quest for families to celebrate national bog day. There are lots of volunteer days and training opportunities, such as mapping and GIS skills, coming up through the summer.

Why is this work so vital?

Our wildlife is being squeezed out, isolated and we have a real risk of losing species locally if we don’t create a safe and effective corridor for them to move through the landscape. By creating a network of safe spaces for wildlife to move between, and inspiring local people to experience these areas in new ways, we will re-imagine our landscape.

There are twenty-two different projects interwoven throughout the Carbon Landscape, ranging from habitat restoration works to community group empowerment.  These projects are delivered by the Carbon Landscape Project Team and the thirteen project partners. The Carbon Landscape offers access to amazing natural sites and rare habitats on the doorsteps of our major cities in the North West.

The restoration work has another important benefit, reducing fire risk.

Dr. Anna Hetterley, the Programme Manager of the Carbon Landscape says: “People have been digging-up the lowland peat bogs for fuel in Salford and Warrington for thousands of years. When large areas of peat between these major cities in the North West dry out, they become fire hazards. This project is restoring these rare habitats, allowing them to soak up and store rainwater. Re-wetting the bogs reduces the risks of fires, such as those that are currently ravaging Saddleworth Moors. The restoration work enabled by the Carbon Landscape has the extra benefit of helping to reduce flooding in times of extreme rain.”

Warrington Borough Council’s executive board member for leisure and community, Cllr Tony Higgins, says: “The mini Moss and boardwalk that has been created though the Carbon Landscape showcases the vital role nature can play in improving our lives, with vastly improved access and educational value. I am looking forward to taking hundreds of school children out onto the moss, and watching them learn about this amazing, rare habitat that is right on their doorstep, which up until now has been hard to access and see”.

Dr. Joanne Tippett, of the University of Manchester, says:

“This is the landscape that fuelled the Revolution. It is appropriate that through telling the story of this landscape and uncovering its hidden beauty, we are starting to think differently about the future. It is exciting to see this first project that not only restores a rare and important lowland bog habitat, it helps us all get closer to the natural processes at work. I am proud to be working with the people of the North West to learn from our industrial past so we can reimage a more sustainable future”.

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