The Forest Park for the area of nature reserves, green spaces and bird-watching locations that lie between Runcorn-Widnes bridge and Warrington has taken further strides forward with appointment of Artery of Life Officer Anthony Brandreth, who started work at the end of 2009.
This is the Natural England's Access to Nature funded post for the next four years working across both Halton and Warrington, particularly with secondary schools. Some of the work is to help deliver some physical improvements on the ground, starting with Gatewarth in Warrington, and then looking at a new wetland reserve for Manor Park in Runcorn. Anthony's main role is to put people in touch with local sites and nature and provide people with opportunities for getting involved in the environment and to foster ownership of local sites.
The principle aim is to use the Mersey Estuary to encourage more people to understand, appreciate and enjoy the outdoors. The funding will be particularly targeted at engaging secondary school pupils and the over-60s.
Work is continuing on the ground to improve the visitor offer. At Moore Nature Reserve, the car park has been installed is in use, and Forestry Commission funding has been applied for to access through improvements to footpaths and managing some of the woodland.
Other initiatives are also taking shape which will be complementary to the Forest Park. The Environment Agency is part of the partnership developing the Mersey Life project, as is Cheshire Wildlife Trust with their Living Landscapes. Consultants have been looking at the creation of a greenway along the Manchester Ship Canal and further work is ongoing regarding way marking, signage and interpretation.
It is expected that a decision will be made on the new second river crossing later this year, and as part of that a new charitable trust is being set up as a delivery vehicle for the Mersey Gateway essential mitigation works over the next 25-30 yrs. If the scheme is approved, the mitigation works will include a new 28 hectare salt marsh nature reserve either side of the new bridge with conservation management by cattle grazing.