New boardwalk brings community closer to nature

Mini Moss
Year 6 pupils from Gorse Covert Primary enjoy the new boardwalk at Risley Moss.
Published: Friday, 20th July 2018

Warrington people will be able to enjoy nature’s healing in progress, thanks to the completion of a major conservation project at Risley Moss.

A new boardwalk at the nature reserve near Birchwood has officially opened, allowing the public to get up close to nature, and to see how a peat bog is coming back to life.

The project has opened up the ‘Mini Moss’ education area, giving people of all ages and abilities the opportunity to enjoy the restoration efforts - made possible by Heritage Lottery funding and hundreds of volunteers - which have improved the area for wildlife.

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. It is home to a wide range of species – including some endangered ones – such as adders (the country’s only venomous snake), grass snakes, water voles and 16 species of dragonfly.

The Risley Moss project is the first major restoration scheme of the Carbon Landscape - a £3.2 million programme to restore former industrial landscapes in the North West. Warrington Borough Council is a key partner in the project, which aims to open up and improve access to amazing natural sites and rare habitats on the doorsteps of our towns and cities.

Year 6 pupils from Gorse Covert Primary School in Birchwood were the first to try out the new boardwalk, embarking on a ‘Mini Moss trail’ which brought learning out of the classroom and into the natural environment of the unique species. 

Warrington Borough Council’s executive board member for leisure and community, Cllr Tony Higgins, said: “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 hundreds of school children exploring the moss, and learning about this amazing, rare habitat that is right on their doorstep, which up until now has been hard to access and see”. 

The Carbon landscape project has been designed with the help of Dr Joanne Tippett from The University of Manchester's School of Environment, Education and Development. She said: “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”.

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, including Warrington, Wigan and Salford Councils. The Carbon Landscape offers access to amazing natural sites and rare habitats on the doorsteps of our major cities in the North West. 

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.

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.”

About the Carbon Landscape

•    Wildlife is being squeezed out and isolated, and there is a real risk of losing species locally if safe and effective corridors are not created for them to travel through. 

•    By creating a network of safe spaces, and inspiring local people to experience these areas in new ways, the Carbon Landscape aims to create a better future for wildlife as well as benefiting the local communities living alongside them.

•    The Risley Moss project is the first of eight major restoration projects in the Carbon Landscape, which over five years will restore more than 130 hectares to nature. Upcoming projects include the Carbon Trail, a 20 km route linking up wild spaces in between urban areas and getting people involved in improving the landscape by becoming Carbon Volunteers.