South St.Helens has faced significant social, economic and environmental challenges since the demise of the local coal mining industry. However, the creation of a cluster of community woodlands spanning 220 hectares, including Sutton Manor, Clock Face Country Park and Griffin Wood, has dramatically improved the image of the area and offers a future source of economic development.
Landowners including The Forestry Commission and St.Helens Council are working together with the local community as part of The Mersey Forest to harness the collective potential of the maturing woodlands under the banner of Bold Forest Park.
The woodlands are already proving a popular local resource, attracting 200,000 visitors per year. In an area where health and wellbeing are important considerations, the Forest Park provides a valuable space for walkers, cyclists and families.
Local residents are also helping to manage their woodlands. For example, the Friends of Griffin Wood hold monthly task days which are open to all. The Forest Park also hosts events such as the Elf and Fairy Fair, a family festival organised as part of the Access to Nature project by The Mersey Forest Team and partners which attracted 1500 people to Sutton Manor.
Bold Forest Park is among the furthest advanced of the five Forest Parks within The Mersey Forest. The ambition is now to develop it to attract visitors from further afield – in turn helping to support local businesses. St.Helens Council is working with the local community to create an Area Action Plan for the Forest Park, and partners are exploring the potential of outdoor adventure activities on the sites as well as collaborating on standardised signage between the woodlands.
This vision has been reinforced by the creation of the Dream sculpture, which was the focus of a Channel 4 art project and has become a local landmark.
The Forest Park is already producing significant returns - according to the District Valuer, £15 million was added to property values in St.Helens thanks to the development of Sutton Manor Community Woodland on the former colliery site.
A shortened version of this case study appeared in our long-term strategic guide, The Mersey Forest Plan, in 2014. Read the Plan here.