A wildlife haven and community hub

Northern Roots

A wildlife haven and community hub

As part of the Greater Manchester Environment Fund, Northern Roots is creating the UK’s largest urban farm and eco-park on 160 acres of stunning greenspace in the heart of Oldham.

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

Northern Roots is a project being specially developed for and with local communities, creating a wide range of activities and businesses on the site. The project is designed to engage with the area’s diverse communities, school groups and youth organisations within the park’s immediate vicinity, while improving the park’s quality of greenspace and biodiversity.

In line with Greater Manchester’s Five-Year Environment Plan, the site will develop bigger and better woodlands, wetland and species rich meadows to deliver net gains for biodiversity. This includes:

  • Woodland: Managing seven compartments, totalling c.16 ha (Early safety thinning and ash dieback work will be undertaken in winter 2020-2021 and 2021/2022)
  • Wetland Habitat Creation in the form of two new ponds near the existing ponds in Bankfield Clough SBI
  • Grassland Habitat Creation – An area of grassland enrichment using a carbon grasslands approach of incorporating green waste compost and re-seeding with a robust wildflower mix. Estimate of 0.5ha for enrichment

This investment in wildlife will allow local people who are not typically engaged with Greater Manchester’s environment the chance to get in touch with the nature on their doorstep. The Northern Roots site lies between diverse communities, established white British residents, established south Asian immigrants and more recent eastern European migrants, all within a mile of Oldham’s commercial centre. Oldham ranks 19th worst of local authorities in the indices of deprivation, with 22% of children living in low income families. The site will create a hub for outdoor learning and exploration, as well as a space for:

  • Leisure activities such as cycling, walking, football, horse riding, pond dipping, swimming, camping, festivals and performances
  • Growing and farming initiatives – growing crops at scale, community growing hubs, forestry, animal husbandry and bee keeping
  • Nature-based education activities - conservation actions, biodiversity enhancements, tree-planting, and forest schools
  • Increased activity levels. 50% of residents surveyed in surrounding wards don’t exercise. Only 29% of Oldham’s young people are active daily for the recommended 60 minutes
  • Improved mental health. Oldham has the highest North West rate of children with a mental health concern (43.8%.) Mental health conditions in adults are also higher than national average prevalence
  • Improving access to the benefits of green infrastructure through structed volunteer programme and the resulted improved landscape

The Northern Roots project aims to transform the under-used landscape into a vibrant multipurpose destination, showing private and public sector organisations how to better value the natural environment to unlock growth in the green economy and reconnect people with nature.