A project to transform Birkenhead's Ilchester Park in the Wirral into a green, well-used community space is progressing well, with the completion of several new paths.
The network of new paths connecting communities and local facilities across the park have been laid to provide easy access and to enable everyone to enjoy the park, whatever the weather or time of year.
The paths are constructed to be fully accessible and free draining.
To complement the work, wildflower meadows and spring bulbs are being planted this autumn by local school children and community play groups. Small climbing boulders have also been positioned to act as stepping stones and occasional seating around the path network.
The project will see an overall investment of around £180,000 in the park by 2015. The work is being coordinated by The Mersey Forest.
The new paths and other parts of the project are being funded by The Veolia Environmental Trust, who have contributed £67,000 to the project through the Landfill Communities Fund. This vital source of funding lets waste companies hold back part of their Landfill Tax bill and use it to support community and environmental projects.
When it started planning the improvements, The Mersey Forest undertook a significant consultation to gauge views on the plans for the project. Local people and partner organisations, including the North Birkenhead Development Trust and Wirral Council, were consulted through meetings, celebration events, questionnaires, and displays.
There was overwhelming support for the project.
Ben Greenaway, Green Streets Coordinator at The Mersey Forest, says, "It's great news that the paths are complete. They'll mean everyone will be able to enjoy the revamped park, including people using mobility scooters and wheelchairs, children with scooters and bikes, as well as parents and carers with pushchairs."
The Executive Director of The Veolia Environmental Trust, Paul Taylor, adds, "I am very pleased that these improvements mean that full use of the park will be achieved, where before access was limited to a central play area. The whole community can soon enjoy a more environmentally diverse park, and engage in more incidental activities throughout the year"
A new website, www.floodready.co.uk, has been launched to raise awareness of flood risk in the North West.
Flooding is a serious problem in the UK with 1 in 6 properties at risk of flooding. The impacts of flooding on our communities can be devastating. Floods can keep people out of their homes for at least 6 months and it can cost around £20,000 to make a home habitable again.
The website has been funded by the North West Regional Flooding and Coastal Committee and developed by Sefton Council and the Southport Eco Centre, with support from the Environment Agency.
The online resource features interactive animations, case studies from all over the North West Region and a wealth of supporting activities and resources that will enable everyone in our community to "Be Flood Ready" and become more resilient to future flooding events. The case studies not only feature flooding events, but highlight good examples of community engagement and flood risk management schemes.
Councillor Derek Antrobus, Chair of the North West Regional Flooding and Coastal Committee says, ""Our climate is changing and the North West is likely to get wetter over the next few decades. It is important that we not only invest in managing future flood risk, but also make sure that communities and future generations have the knowledge and understanding to tackle the more severe threats of the future.
"This online tool means that everyone has at their fingertips a resource to develop a good understanding of how floods happen and how we can all protect ourselves from future flooding through insightful and engaging activities."
Green infrastructure, especially trees, can help to alleviate flooding. For example, trees can help rainwater seep into the ground, reducing the amount of water that ends up in sewers. Leaves can catch rain on its journey to the ground, slowing the progress of rainwater into the drains; and roots can soak up excess rainwater and return it to the atmosphere.
Over the next fifty years, winter precipitation in The Mersey Forest is set to increase by up to 30%, putting communities in Merseyside and North Cheshire at a higher risk of flooding. There are a number of organisations working to mitigate the effects of this projected rainfall; one such initiative is The Mersey Forest's Urban Catchment Forestry project. The project aims to bring together a wide range of partners to make the business case for the strategic use of urban trees and woodlands to reduce flooding, improve water quality, and bring wider economic, social and environmental benefits.
The Mersey Forest Plan has been "highly commended" in the national Planning Awards.
It was recognised in the Award for Planning for the Environment category, alongside winners NJL Consulting and Lymington Harbour Commissioners.
The commendation is the latest in a series of planning accolades that The Mersey Forest Plan has picked up this year.
The Plan, which sets out a blueprint for a greener, well-wooded Merseyside and North Cheshire, won the North West RTPI Planning Innovation Award earlier this year. It was also shortlisted for a national RTPI award, in the Natural and Built Heritage category.
Paul Nolan, Director of The Mersey Forest, said: "The Mersey Forest Plan is a great achievement for the team and wider partnership. We're delighted that its robust methodology has been recognised by the planning sector."
Read The Mersey Forest Plan here.
If you cast your mind back to 2012, you may remember ash dieback disease, which was identified as an unprecedented threat to the nation's ash trees.
Ash dieback disease - or chalara fraxinea - is a fungus which causes leaf loss and crown dieback in ash trees. Since the discovery of infected trees in South East England in 2012, cases have been identified across the country.
Forestry Commission has taken the lead in the fight against chalara. It is currently monitoring the progress of the disease in the UK, and is also conducting trials to identify whether certain ash trees could be resistant to chalara. The organisation has also produced an interactive map, which displays the location of known infection areas in the UK.
At the time of writing (18/11/2014), no evidence of the disease has been found in The Mersey Forest area, which covers Cheshire West and Chester, Halton, Liverpool, Knowsley, Sefton, St.Helens, and Warrington.
We'll continue to keep you updated as to the status of ash dieback in Merseyside and North Cheshire. Interested parties, such as landowners with ash trees in their woodlands, can attend the North West Forest Forum event on 10 December for further information. Additional information can be found on the Forestry Commission website.
A new range of grants will become available in 2015 to support businesses and land managers across Cheshire and Warrington. There will be opportunities to bid for funding for projects that may enhance productivity and create new jobs.
Whilst this type of funding has been available in the past, the woodland and forestry sector priorities have not always been well supported. The Mersey Forest would like to develop a clear case that would support investment in the woodland and forestry sector over the next five years.
If you're involved in the sector - for example, as the owner of a woodland, or as somebody who owns a forestry-related business - we'd love your input.
We've organised three discussion events in Cheshire and Warrington. The events will be short, provide you with background information, give the opportunity to discuss your ideas and, hopefully, develop some clear priorities with others at the meeting.
The events are free, but please ensure that you register by using the booking links above, as places are limited. An agenda is included on each booking page.