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Green recovery in Cheshire and Greater Manchester

Green Recovery Challenge Fund - volunteers working on a path
Green Recovery Challenge Fund - volunteers working on a path | © National Trust Images/David Watson

As the government implements its plans to alleviate the country from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, we're working towards a ‘green recovery’ – one that ensures everyone can enjoy nature. We have now completed our biggest ever nature recovery project in Cheshire and Greater Manchester, funded through the Government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund. We've been restoring green spaces, protecting places from the impact of flooding, capturing carbon and finding natural solutions to the problems of climate change.

What is the Green Recovery Challenge Fund?

The Defra Green Recovery Challenge Fund is a short-term, competitive fund to kickstart the process of nature recovery, start to address the climate crisis, and help create and retain thousands of green jobs. The £40 million fund has been developed by Defra and its arm’s-length bodies, including Natural England, Forestry Commission, Environment Agency and others. The National Lottery Heritage Fund is distributing and monitoring this government money, to support projects that are ready to deliver and focus on nature restoration, nature-based solutions and connecting people with nature.

Historic Landscapes programme

The 'Historic Landscapes' programme has been awarded £3.85 million by Defra as part of the Green Recovery Challenge Fund. The funding will help launch a programme of work, worth over £4.7 million, to enhance nature and start to combat the effects of climate change in five of the most significant historic landscapes in our care.

Programme overview

Our teams of rangers, volunteers and partners have planted more than 20,000 trees in Cheshire and Greater Manchester through this project. They’ve planted or improved around 4km of hedgerows too, creating green corridors for Cheshire wildlife, including yellowhammers, which are currently on the UK ‘red list’ for birds of conservation concern.

The teams have created or improved native grassland and meadow across Cheshire too, covering an area bigger than 50 football pitches. And over 4km of paths have been improved, making our places more accessible to everyone.

Nature projects at Quarry Bank and Lyme have been made possible with support from players of the People’s Postcode Lottery.

Yellowhammer perched in tree at Long Nanny, Northumberland
Quarry Bank's rangers are hoping the conservation project will see yellowhammers return to the site | © National Trust Images/Derek Hatton

Benefits for Cheshire’s native wildlife

By working at scale across Cheshire, the National Trust has been able to create bigger, better, and more joined-up habitats for wildlife.

At Quarry Bank, improvements to hedgerows will create much-needed wildlife corridors, providing nesting and foraging habitat for a huge range of wildlife including bats, stoats, polecats and farmland birds. Quarry Bank rangers are hopeful that the conservation project will see the return of brightly coloured yellowhammers to the site.

Egrets make a comeback

And at the newly created wetland areas at Dunham Massey and Alderley Edge, rangers are already seeing wildlife moving in, with egrets now being spotted in areas they’ve never been seen before in Cheshire.

In addition to creating new habitats for wildlife, these wetlands also play a key role in natural flood management, holding water on the land for longer and slowing the flow of flood waters during periods of heavy rain.

Alderley’s ‘ghost ponds’

At Alderley Edge, famous for its mythical tales of wizardry, rangers have been bringing ‘ghost ponds’ back to life and giving wildlife a helping hand too. Using historic maps of the Edge, the team has identified and restored a series of dried-up ponds, originally created by pre-Victorian miners digging for minerals. Now, conservation work is helping these once-wildlife-rich ponds spring back to life, allowing seeds that have laid dormant for over 100 years to grow once again and encouraging dragonflies, beetles and other water-borne invertebrates back to this beauty spot.

A dam of logs in a wooded area with a muddy pool in front and a slope to the left.
Leaky dams created in the watercourse as part of conservation work at Lyme Park, Cheshire | © National Trust Images/Annapurna Mellor

Protecting heritage and homes from flooding

At Lyme Park and Quarry Bank, rangers and volunteers have used natural flood management techniques to slow the flow of water across both National Trust estates, helping to mitigate the risk of future floods downstream and protect local communities.

Following a devastating summer flood in 2019 that saw over £250,000-worth of damage caused to Lyme’s estate and Grade II* listed gardens, Green Recovery funding has enabled the team to create a total of 166 ‘leaky dams’ across the site that naturally reduce the risk of flooding.

Natural barriers

Using material sourced on site, including coppiced wood from trees in Lyme’s parkland, dams have been laid across streams and gullies that can quickly fill with water during periods of heavy rain, creating natural barriers to slow fast-moving floods.

As well as improving water quality by filtering out sediment, the leaky dams are contributing to the creation of a wet woodland habitat at Lyme. One of the rarest woodland habitats found in the UK, rangers hope Lyme’s new wet woodlands will attract species like willow tits, frogs, and damselflies.

Planting trees

Green-fingered veterans group Green Task Force has been working alongside The Mersey Forest team and National Trust rangers to plant trees and restore hedges at Dunham Massey. The ex-forces team helped to plant about 5,750 trees and shrubs at Stamford Farm on the National Trust estate, creating woodlands and hedgerows that will help to capture carbon and create thriving, species-rich green corridors that better connect existing wildlife habitats.

‘This partnership is extremely exciting for our veteran community. With more than one in six serving and former service personnel who have seen combat suffering some form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, it is giving us the opportunity to both socialise and work together once again, in an environment we all feel familiar with. Working outdoors offers an additional sense of belonging and comfort to all, learning new skills to channel our focus and energy to complement our existing drive and strong work ethics along the way.’

- Mark West, Operations Manager at Green Taskforce

Two volunteers putting wire mesh around a newly planted tree.
Volunteers protecting a newly planted tree at Dunham Massey, Cheshire | © National Trust Images/Annapurna Mellor

Promoting greater accessibility

Alongside the benefits for nature and wildlife, this Defra-funded project has allowed the National Trust to make its places in Cheshire more accessible to people who want to enjoy time in the great outdoors.

Restoring and creating paths

Over 4km of paths have been created or restored at the Trust’s sites that are open to the public, including the historic estate at Quarry Bank in Styal. Once reserved as a place for the wealthy Greg family to enjoy, improvements to access at Quarry Bank will make it easier for everyone to immerse themselves in nature and see more of this 400-acre estate up close.

Dunham Massey’s new picnic space

At Dunham Massey, a new picnic area is giving ramblers a perfect spot to pause and enjoy the views across this much-loved estate on the edge of Greater Manchester and Cheshire. This previously un-used piece of land has been revitalised into a quiet space walkers can retreat to, with a natural bird blind offering views across the estate’s newly improved wetland areas, and native varieties of fruit trees planted for both visitors and wildlife to enjoy.

Elsewhere on the Dunham Massey estate, a new accessible path along the historic parkland’s Middle Avenue parkland will allow visitors to enjoy the outdoors and see the wildlife all year round, without having to dodge too many muddy puddles.

Visitors at the sunflower display at Rhosili and South Gower Coast, Wales

Donate to make a difference

Your support is essential to help us look after nature, beauty and history. Make a donation today, and together we can protect precious places for everyone, forever.

Our partners

Green Recovery Challenge Fund

This project is funded by the government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund. The fund is being delivered by The National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England and the Environment Agency.

Natural England

Natural England is the government’s adviser for the natural environment in England. They help to protect and restore our natural world.

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People's Postcode Lottery

Supported by the players of People's Postcode Lottery.

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Heritage Fund

Inspiring, leading and resourcing the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future.

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Environment Agency

Environmental Agency is a public body sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, working to create better places for people and wildlife, and support sustainable development.

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Postcode Earth Trust

Postcode Earth Trust has a mission to support appreciation of the natural, creative and built environment through activities that promote awareness and understanding.

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