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Building hedgehog houses and clearing the pond

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Securing our first site 

Finding sites for new wild habitats in the city is always going to be a challenge. In a densely populated city like Manchester there is little undeveloped land and most green space is already used for parks, allotments or sports grounds. But if you look hard enough there are small pockets of land unsuitable for development can make the perfect sites for new habitats. So we set out to find a site for our woodland.

After much pounding the pavement and pouring over Google Maps we found some candidate sites. One of these, an area of about 1.2 acres in Chorlton, looked perfect. It turned out the site is owned by Transport for Greater Manchester and United Utilities. With their support and encouragement, along with advice from Lancashire Wildlife Trust, we've developed a nature recovery plan for the site.

​In December 2021 a group of Urban Foresters met down on the site to start the planting. On a cold and bright Winter morning, watched by the local fox and a curious robin, we broke ground and planted our first saplings. We planted about 30 whips - the start of our new urban forest. We've got lots more plans over the next few month from putting up bird boxes and building log piles to developing areas of thicket made up of fruiting shrubs to support small mammals and birds.​

 

 

January 2022

 

Early in the New Year the Urban Foresters met up on the site to put up bird boxes. It's a great time of year to get them up as it gives the birds time to find and investigate the boxes before building nests in early spring. We put up five bird birdboxes altogether including the traditional type favored by tits and open fronted boxes preferred by robins. We also built some log piles to provide habitats for invertebrates, which in turn are a great food source for birds, small mammal and amphibians.

 

March 2022

 

In March we received a Kindness Fund award from MSV. Thank you, MSV. This has provided funds for saplings, tools and to upgrade an old stable block on the site into a volunteer hub. Using this award we've now sourced and planted out native tree and shrub saplings including quickthorn, crab apple and dog rose among others. We'll shortly be weatherproofing the old stable block to allow us to work on the site even in the worst of the Manchester weather! 

 

 

 

May 2022

 

It's been an interesting time at Urban Forest over the last couple of months. As spring has developed into early summer we've been learning about the different flora and fauna at the site. We've performed a tree survey (thanks Sarah) and found out that we're home to 14 different native tree species! Thanks to One Manchester's Little Sparks fund we've also been able to buy a wildlife camera and look forward to discovering more about which animals are using the site. All this information is going to help us to develop Urban Forest into a really nature-friendly place.

 

 

June/July 2022

 

We took part in Chrolton Open Gardens in June. We had over 250 people come and visit the site! Everyone was really interested and supportive of the project. We even got some new volunteers off the back of it.

 

We've also been busy creating and improving habitats on the site. With the help of a group of volunteers from TFGM we've started clearing out our pond, which had become overgrown with bogbean, to provide an area of open water for those creatures that need it. We've been working to create homes on the site for other types of animals too - building hedgehog houses to provide safe places for our spiky friends to hibernate.

 

Autumn 2022

 

We've had a great few months down at Urban Forest. We've been working hard to revamp the old stable block to create a tool shed and volunteer shelter on the site. We took down part of the structure that had become unstable and replaced and refelted the roof that was leaking and full or holes. It was a quite a job but we got there! big shout our to Phil, Martin and Paul for all their hard work, as well as MSV for providing a grant to buy materials. 
 

Tree planting in December

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Putting up bird boxes in January

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Spring 2023

Some areas of the site aren't suitable for planting trees so we're thinking of other ways to create new habitats. This spring we've been creating mini wildflower areas to provide a colourful, pollinator friendly space. To make it even more exciting we're running a little experiment. We're trying three different approaches in three area to see which works best -  each involving a different amount of effort and expense. We've either removed the top layer of turf and planted wildflower plug plants, dug over the area and scattered native wild flower seed or simply left the space to see what comes up naturally. We're really excited to see the results over the next few month and years.

Thanks to TCV for supporting the project with funding for our wild flower plug plants

Preparing our mini wildflower meadow and planting native wild flower plugs

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Summer 2023

 

This summer has been really satisfying down on the site. We’re starting to see the benefits of our hard work. Some of the native trees that we planted as seed only three years ago are establishing and growing fast. The alders in particularly have taken to the site and some are now getting on for three meters tall.
 

Anticipating another hot summer like 2022 and thinking we might need to water out saplings in dry conditions, we rigged up a rainwater collection system using run-off from our tool shed roof. Alas, this wasn’t needed as it’s been rain, rain and more rain, but it’ll be there for future dry periods.
 

We also took part in Chorlton Open Gardens again this year and had a fantastic day with over 200 people coming to visit us and find out about the project.

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