Led by Prof. Hirokazu Abe and Dr. Noriko Otsuka from the University of Osaka, the academics have been undertaking ground-breaking research on the work of the Mersey Forest for more than fifteen years. This year they made Northwich's heritage the main focus of their visit, exploring how the town's industrial heritage benefits local tourism and the economy. They also took part in a 'Healthy Soils' seminar and look set to return to the UK next February for a major conference.
The researchers aim to learn lessons from the experience of post-industrial areas in the north west to help in regenerating similar areas in Japan.
The team of academics visited Marbury Country Park, part of Northwich Woodlands, Anderton Boat Lift and the award-winning Lion Salt Works Museum at Marston, Northwich.
The academics were escorted around the museum by Kate Harland, Senior Learning and Operations Officer from Cheshire West and Chester Council who explained the history of the works – the country's last open-pan salt making site. Thanks to a £5m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and funding from Chester West and Chester Council, the Museum was restored and was re-opened in June 2015.
Dr. Noriko Otsuka said "It is wonderful to be visiting The Mersey Forest again, and continue our research collaboration with colleagues. The international significance of Cheshire's salt industry and how it has shaped the landscape, local people and economy is a story to be told across the world. Over the past three years we have seen how the Saltscape project has helped to tell that story."
The team also took part in a 'Healthy Soils' seminar with The Mersey Forest and Reaseheath College, presenting on the experience of regenerating post-coalmining cities in Japan.
Funding is being sought to hold a 'Seeds of Hope' conference in Cheshire next Spring to bring together Japanese and UK partners to explore how agricultural communities try to recover from major episodes, such as BSE and the catastrophe of Fukushima.
Clare Olver, from the Mersey Forest Team said "Over the years we've really benefited from this exchange of ideas around brownfield land between our team and our Japanese partners. This conference will take that work one step further. We will hear stories of hope where communities can rebuild businesses and learn lessons for the future."
The Mersey Forest has teamed up with MSP and OpenCacheUK to hide new 'caches' in local parks and green spaces. Geocaching is a great way to enjoy being outside, discovering somewhere new, getting fitter and enjoying the thrill of the hunt!
Danny Woodworth, Physical Activity and Sport Officer, MSP commented:
"MSP are delighted to be working in partnership with the Mersey Forest and local community groups to create this opportunity, which encourages people of all ages to explore their local green spaces and be more physically active in the process. We would encourage anyone to get involved and give it a go – no matter what your age or level of fitness."
Geocaching is an outdoor treasure-hunting game in which the participants (Geocachers) use a smartphone with GPS to hide and seek containers (called "geocaches" or "caches").
These containers have a log book for hunters to record their names and the dates on which they find the stash. The 'treasure' is in the form of all sorts of trinkets and souvenirs. The main rule is: if the finder decides to take anything away, they're required to leave something of equal or greater value for the next person to discover.
Local green spaces that feature new hidden treasure include Everton Park, Calderstones Park and Croxteth Country Park in Liverpool, and Colliers Moss in St Helens.
Suzanne Londra, Nature4Health Officer at the Mersey Forest said:
"Geocaching is great activity for the holidays because it doesn't break the bank. It's great fun, free, and gets you out being active in local green spaces. It turns a walk into a treasure hunt!"
Full instructions for how to join in the hunt can be found at www.merseyforest.org.uk/geocaching
The College awarded the Fellowship to Paul in recognition of his work over thirty years in helping to create woodlands, green spaces and planting millions of trees. Over a thirty year period Paul has been involved in projects that have planted in excess of 20 million new trees.
As Director of The Mersey Forest, Paul has presided over a growing network of woodlands and green spaces across Cheshire and Merseyside. Since the organisation began 25 years ago, five new trees have been planted for every person living within the Forest area.
After receiving the fellowship Paul spoke to students graduating at the college:
''I have been extraordinarily fortunate to have worked with some extremely gifted, hardworking and inspirational people. As you start on the next stage of your career, find these people. With others who share your vision you will achieve more than you can imagine. And, as you gain experience and knowledge, building on the foundation you have been given at Myerscough, be one of those inspiring people that gets things done.
''Thank you for this great honour. I've enjoyed working with the College for the last twenty years. It's a privilege to be awarded a Fellowship.
''Being here today is down to lots of people, who have helped to plant literally millions of trees and do the work that we do. Standing here is because of all of the kind words and helping hands I've had over the years.
''As you as students start out in the next phase of your life you'll find people who will support you and you should be open to that support and advice. Don't be an island. Myerscough has given you a great foundation to build your knowledge and skills to excel in your chosen sectors. Be generous in your support for others as you develop your careers – work together to do great things.''
The grant has enabled The Mersey Forest Team, on behalf of the Community Forest Trust, to create and clear more footpaths, deal with poor drainage and refurbish the amphitheatre area, bringing it back into use after years of neglect.
Paul Nolan, Director of The Mersey Forest, said:
"CETB's continued support for the project has allowed us to work with local people to breathe life back into the site. As well as improving access for everyone using the site, the revamped footpaths will form the route for a new Junior Parkrun event, allowing children aged between 4 and 14 to get involved in a free 2 km run every Sunday from 13th August. We are now looking at new ideas to use the restored amphitheatre area for music, performance and arts."
Angela Haymonds, of Cory Environmental Trust in Britain said:
"The Trustees are delighted to have been able to provide the Community Forest Trust with a grant. We love being able to support worthwhile community projects, and we hope that the improvements at Colliers Moss will go a long way to encouraging more people to get involved with sport and exercise, as well as enabling them to meet new people and make new friends."
CETB funding is available for a wide range of projects that bring benefit to local communities. This may include refurbishment of churches or buildings of architectural or historical significance, or general amenity projects, such as improving disabled access or improvements to parks and nature reserves.
Colliers Moss is part of Bold Forest Park, a network of woodlands and green spaces developed on derelict former coal mining and quarry workings on the edges of St. Helens. The area has been transformed from an industrial wasteland into an attractive asset for local people and visitors from further afield.
It's located 1.5 miles from Cory Environmental Limited's Lyme and Wood Landfill site in St Helens.
Lates updates about Colliers Moss and neighbouring green spaces can be found on the Bold Forest Park Facebook page.
The URBAN GreenUP project aims to contribute to the mitigation of climate change risks in cities, increase the resilience to climate change effects and improve air quality. The project will raise awareness about the benefits of re-naturing cities and making cities more sustainable places.
Partners will also focus on the green economy – exploring and promoting an innovative and dynamic economic concept that supports employment, generates new business models, attracts talent and provides goods and services. Activities will take place in three cities: Valladolid (Spain), Izmir (Turkey) and here in Liverpool. It's hoped that our successes will then be replicated across Europe, Latin America and Asia.
URBAN GreenUP is funded under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. Under the coordination of CARTIF Technology Centre, 25 partners from 9 countries are working together to develop a new strategy for re-naturing cities through Nature-Based Solutions.
"Liverpool is delighted to be part of the URBAN GreenUP project and welcomes the opportunity to develop a Renaturing Urban Plan that will see the introduction of pedestrian and cycle friendly routes together with trees and other new innovative areas of planting such as 'green' walls and 'green' roofs on buildings into its urban centre." said Councillor James Noakes, Mayoral Lead for Energy and Smart City, Liverpool City Council.
"The City Council will work closely with our local project partners of the Mersey Forest and the University of Liverpool to trial, monitor and evaluate a range of different 'greening' schemes in the city. The project provides a wonderful opportunity to work with other countries and organisations, to share learning and best practice, and to explore the multifunctional benefits to the environment and economy that can be harnessed by bringing nature and biodiversity back into urban areas or by including them in regeneration and development initiatives."
The activities to be planned and carried out in the three cities include innovative, technological elements which connect with citizens and improve awareness, in addition to well-being, educational, mentoring and support activities. Solutions generated by the URBAN GreenUP project will be readily transferable to other cities.
Project activities will be carried out in the three 'front-runner' cities of Valladolid (Spain), Liverpool (United Kingdom) and Izmir (Turkey). The five follower cities Mantova (Italy), Ludwigsburg (Germany), Medellin (Colombia), Chengdu (China) and Binh Dinh-Quy Nhon (Vietnam) will directly learn from these experiences and set up their own re-naturing urban plans. On a third level, cities from Europe and beyond are invited to exchange experiences and learn directly from the URBAN GreenUP findings and results by joining the URBAN GreenUP cities network.