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Volunteers from TEP help to support community access project at Colliers Moss

08 December 2016

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DSC_0844 - Copy
Thanks to the staff from TEP's Warrington office, a huge leap forward was made last Friday at Collier's Moss, St.Helens. 18 members of staff swapped their desks for bow saws and loppers to clear nearly 250m of overgrown footpath.

Colliers Moss North is a 55 hectare former colliery spoil tip that forms part of the wider network of green space known as Bold Forest Park. The site has an extensive network of paths, but many of these have become overgrown and therefore uninviting for visitors to the site. Work has been ongoing to open up these paths to encourage greater use of the site by local people.

Carl Smethurst from The Mersey Forest who is project managing the site said:

"Most of the vegetation that had to be removed was small trees such as willow, birch and alder that have naturally colonised the tip. Clearing these was an ideal job for volunteers with hand tools and has made a real improvement to the footpath in just one day. We are really grateful for the generosity of TEP for their time and effort – without volunteer input we just couldn't achieve what we want to on the site".

Principal Landscape Architect Volunteer Leader, Tracy Snell explains

"As a company TEP have implemented a CSR policy which aims to promote volunteering by staff for local community benefit, both related to what we do and for the community in general. In the past we have worked very closely with The Mersey Forest on various projects and we were delighted to be able to contribute to this community project in our local area. We had a great day, it was nice to get out of the office and contribute to such a worthy community project."

Funding from the WREN FCC Biodiversity Action Fund was used to buy tools and equipment for volunteer work on Colliers Moss, as part of a programme of improvements for wildlife and people.

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First year of results demonstrate Nature4Health boosts health and wellbeing

05 December 2016

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The results are in, and we've found that the first year of our Nature4Health project has been a resounding success.

Results from the first year of the programme show that participants have seen a marked improvement in both their mental wellbeing and their daily levels of physical activity. On average, participants saw an 8 point increase on the widely-recognised 'WEMWBS*' mental wellbeing scale – that's a significant positive change. Levels of moderate physical activity – for example washing windows, or bicycling/swimming at a regular pace – increased by a whopping 164%, with walking up 48% and vigorous activity up 8%.




Nature4Health is a three year project funded by The Big Lottery's Reaching
Communities Programme to tackle health inequalities in targeted communities across The Mersey Forest. The programme provides five different evidence-based activities, from group walking to mindfulness, all taking place in a green, therapeutic environment. Sessions are targeted at both adults and children and designed to be welcoming to complete beginners.


We've worked with 13 local partners across six local authorities to support 286 participants in year one of Nature4Health.


Paul Nolan, Director, The Mersey Forest, said:


"The first year results from Nature4Health are fantastic and underline the huge role that activities in green spaces can play in boosting health and wellbeing. Behind these results are some inspirational stories of how people's lives have changed for the better. We're aiming to work with the health sector to ensure more people can get access to this kind of natural health service in the future."



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Mersey Forest Plan wins major award

25 October 2016

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Richard Scott presents the award to our Steering Group
Our plan for more trees and better local environment sets the standard for others to emulate, says panel of experts.

An influential publication from local environment partnership The Mersey Forest has been awarded the UNESCO UK Man and the Biosphere Urban Forum Award for Excellence.


The Mersey Forest Plan is our long term strategic vision for growing and developing local woodlands and green infrastructure, helping to make Merseyside and north Cheshire a beautiful place to live, work and play. Thanks to The Mersey Forest 9 million trees have been planted in the area since 1991, transforming many derelict industrial landscapes.


The award was given by a forum of specialists involved with the environment and nature conservation in urban areas. It praises the document for its design, for its emphasis on people and organisations working together, and for how it explains the benefits to the community.


Richard Scott, Chair of the UNESCO UK Man and the Biosphere Urban Forum, gave the award to the Mersey Forest Steering Group, made up of representatives of local authorities in the area.


Richard Scott commented:
"The plan is an excellent example of a regional document aimed at local communities. It's well put together, well designed and a pleasure to read and look at"


Paul Nolan, Director, The Mersey Forest, said:
"We're overjoyed to receive this unexpected accolade for The Mersey Forest Plan. Our plan sets out a clear vision for a greener Merseyside and north Cheshire, and it's one that's inspired many local people and organisations. We hope this award will inspire more people to get involved and help make the plan into reality."


The forum also praised the Plan for how it has been adopted as a material consideration in local planning and supports the development control process. It's also recognised as a good example of how local authorities can work together to improve the landscapes and environments that cross boundaries.


The Plan includes a section that explains where new trees and woodlands may be planted across Merseyside and north Cheshire and sets out targets for tree coverage.

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Body snatchers and dead men's fingers lurk in the Forest this Halloween...

24 October 2016

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Dead Mens Fingers by Lutz Koch
As Halloween approaches, our woodlands fill with strange, other worldly lifeforms. Neither plant nor animal, some appear almost supernatural. Tom Ferguson tells the tale of some of the scary fungi you may encounter in the woods of the Mersey Forest...

Fungi don't possess chlorophyll so unlike green plants they can't produce their own food. Instead they secrete enzymes which liquify their food source and in the process cause rot and decay. In woodlands they feed mainly on leaves and wood but that is not all. And some of what is going on is really unpleasant!


The body snatcher



It's not easy to find but occasionally you can come across a small orange club fungus with a pitted surface up to 5cm high (above). If you were to carefully dig down under the fungus you would find it is attached to the pupa or larva of a butterfly or moth.


The insect has been attacked by the fungus which mummifies it, keeping it alive long enough to feed on its body. Once the fungus has built up sufficient energy it bursts out of the insect's body to produce the club which will generate more spores. The Scarlet Caterpillar Fungus is like something out of science fiction except it's for real and living somewhere near you!


Dead men's fingers 



Around the base of old and rotting tree stumps you may come across groups of black and contorted small stumpy fungi (above and top). These are Dead Man's Fingers. It's as if rotting hands are trying to escape from the soil where they have been buried.


Weeping Widows



Perhaps nearby you'll find a collection of mournful Weeping Widows (above). These are toadstools with dark brown gills. Black watery droplets collect on the gills like tears. 


Jelly, butter or brains?




Dead wood and twigs are usually good hunting grounds for fungi. Some of these are jelly like with lots of folds and contortions bursting out of the wood. A bright yellow one is the Yellow Brain Fungus and a darker black species is Black Witches Butter (both above).


Ghostly lights

Sometimes people report strange pale green-blue glowing lights in the woods. A cold, supernatural fire - thought to be ghosts or faeries, and often called 'foxfire'. In reality it's down to a phenomenon where some fungi glow in the dark.


The most frequent reports of glowing wood relate to honey fungus. It seems that the fungal light results when a chemical rich in phosphorus combines with oxygen in the presence of an enzyme. 


The kingdom of the fungi contains all sorts of fascinating things. Take a wander through your local woodland and check them out - if you dare... 


Images: Thanks to Lutz Koch, Vik Nanda, gailhampshire, David Evans

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New plan for greener Northwich includes street trees, green walls and rain gardens

05 October 2016

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Pocket Park
Planting new trees and installing green walls could help attract investment, increase spending in shops and bring more visitors to the town, according to a new report. It also calls for raising the profile of Northwich woodlands through a better link to the town centre and celebratory events.

The Green Infrastructure Plan, created by The Mersey Forest on behalf of the Northwich Business Improvement District (BID), identifies locations around the town that could benefit from being greener. These include planting street trees along Chester Way, creating a 'boulevard effect' and installing green, living walls and roofs on buildings. The report makes the case that increasing 'green infrastructure' around the town centre can increase tourism, economic growth and land values while also reducing flooding and boosting health and wellbeing.


Research shows that the type of improvements outlined in the report can boost tourism and retail sales. One US study* found that consumers are willing to spend more (or pay a premium) on products, visit more frequently, or travel farther to shop in areas with attractive landscaping, good tree cover, or green streets.


One project proposed by the report – the pocket park opposite the Bull Ring in the town centre – has already been completed. The attractively landscaped space features crafted timber benches and planters and was created by Groundwork with funding secured by the BID and Chester West and Cheshire Council.


New 'rain gardens' (sustainable drainage systems) would use specially designed landscapes planted with trees to help improve water flow and reduce risk of flooding at key locations.


Northwich BID Manager, Jane Hough, is fully behind the plan and believes it would add a new dimension to the town.


"All of the elements outlined in the plan sound brilliant and would really transform the look and feel of Northwich for the better.

"As outlined by the Mersey Forest, increasing green infrastructure here in Northwich could potentially have so many positive impacts such as economic growth and an increase in tourism which would benefit the town's businesses and retailers."


Paul Nolan, Director, The Mersey Forest commented:

"A greener town centre really can help to give Northwich an edge over other retail destinations, as well as having other environmental benefits such as reducing flood risk. Green infrastructure is a vital element of every town and Northwich BID are to be congratulated for making it a priority."


The report also calls for new green routes to railway stations and to Northwich woodlands, and an information campaign that would promote the links between the town centre, local businesses and Northwich's green assets to help attract visitors.


Northwich BID will now aim to work with partners including Groundwork, The Mersey Forest and Chester West & Cheshire Council to secure funding for priority elements of the Plan.

* Wolf, K.L. 2013. The Urban Forest. Communities & Banking 24 (2): 25–27.

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