The Greater Manchester Environment Fund (GMEF) has been successful with a bid to Green Recovery Challenge Fund (GRCF), which will support environmental NGOs to deliver key nature recovery projects. These projects will help to achieve key results against the Greater Manchester Local Nature Recovery Network Strategy.
This project, led by the Canal & River Trust, will work to manage this complex habitat for local wildlife and rejuvenate the canal’s water quality which has seen degradation in recent years.
The Rochdale Canal is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC), hosting rare plants and a combination of habitats for wildlife. Since this designation in the year 2000, the water and natural habitats of the area have reduced in quality and are now seen as being in an ‘Unfavourable Condition’ for people and wildlife.
Few in the local community are aware of the canal’s ecological significance and how important it is for birds, invertebrates and small mammals. As part of this successful GRCF bid, project workers will manage habitat to bring the SAC into ‘Favourable Condition’ while also engaging local people in the canal’s wildlife. Pocket parks will be created around the canal, acting as steppingstones for nature to connect habitats together. New habitat will also be created through planting, hedgerow planting, tree planting and wildflower meadow creation.
The site is one of three canal SACs on Canal & River Trust’s network. It is one of the Trust’s major wildlife sites, but the only one that is fully navigable and in a heavily deprived area. These issues impact the SAC directly, while also causing the community to underuse the blue space due to antisocial issues. The canal is also a major route across the Pennines and has seen increased footfall during the Covid-19 pandemic. This renewed interest in the area means that the project can make links with Rochdale and Oldham’s communities and give training and education on environmental matters, while providing a cleaner and better-managed space for wildlife.