South St.Helens is a hive of activity this spring, with community engagement, planning policy work and on-the-ground action all taking place towards the vision of bringing prosperity and jobs to south St.Helens by developing the area's woodlands and businesses as a Forest Park.
The idea of Bold Forest Park as a visitor attraction and leisure opportunity has long been championed by The Mersey Forest as a way of harnessing the potential of the area's fast-developing young woodlands and building upon the transformation of sites such as the former colliery Sutton Manor, home of the Dream sculpture.
Now thanks to funding secured from the European PURE HUBS project and Access to Nature, a national scheme run by Natural England and funded by the Big Lottery Fund, local partners including St.Helens Council, The Mersey Forest, St.Helens Chamber, the Forestry Commission and Bold Parish Council are taking a range of steps to progress the Forest Park concept:
St.Helens Council is working with The Mersey Forest to prepare an Area Action Plan to provide a planning framework for the Forest Park. As part of this the Council has commissioned a community consultation including an online survey about how members of the public currently use the woodlands and what activities and facilities they would like to see developed. A series of consultation events are also being held during April. Students from the University of Liverpool have also been involved and have presented their ideas for the Forest Park.
A new Bold Forest Park website is being developed by The Mersey Forest and partners which when completed will provide a range of free resources for visitors, including downloadable maps and directions for walks and cycle rides. The website will also highlight nearby amenities such as places to eat and drink, helping support the local economy.
Meanwhile The Mersey Forest's Access to Nature project, launched in December 2010, continues to organise events and activities to help people re-discover their local green spaces, ranging from "green gym" sessions to designing on site artwork with the community. In the project's two target areas of south St.Helens and West Derby in Liverpool, Access to Nature has so far connected 562 people with nature on their doorstep, more than half of whom have been introduced to their local woodland for the first time, with more than 100 of these people now becoming regular users of the area's green spaces. Cory Environmental Trust has also been an important funder of this work.
The Mersey Forest is helping re-engage local children with their environment by creating mini-woodlands in the grounds of local schools, and helping teachers to become trained Forest School leaders, accredited to provide regular outdoor lessons to help children re-connect with nature. This aims to set families on the path of regularly enjoying their local woodlands, and forms part of the three-year PURE HUBS funding, with match funding from Access to Nature.
The area's residential streets are also benefiting thanks to The Mersey Forest's Green Streets project which will see more than 75 new street trees planted in the Sutton Manor area this spring through the Forestry Commission's Setting the Scene for Growth programme. This work provides greener walking routes to link the local neighbourhood to its community woodlands.
Please complete the short online survey to offer your views on how you currently use the sites within the Forest Park and how you would like to see the area develop over time. For more information you can also visit the Bold Forest Park website.