I lived close to the Chat Moss area near Manchester in the 1970s and 80s as I grew from school age to my first jobs. Over 20 years living next to the mosslands I probably only visited three times. It was a no-go area, industrial and agricultural.
Now, as a regular visitor, I love telling people about the work that Chris Miller and his team have done on the mosslands and opportunities for restoring other areas, like Chat Moss. It’s tough-going as boggy mosses are not the easiest places to work, or the most attractive, but we are in the middle of an exciting five year project working to save this rare habitat and reconnect local communities with the nature on their doorstep.
This is real landscape-scale habitat improvement, boosting our land management of mosslands by more than 100%. Gone are the days when nature reserves were pockets of land hidden away. Little Woolden, Cadishead and Astley mosses, all under the Trust’s ownership, form a huge green oasis surrounded by millions of people in Salford, Wigan and Warrington.
The Trust has returned peat-extracted deserts to havens for more than 70 species of birds, nine species of dragonfly and damselfly, dozens of butterfly species and mammals, including roe deer, fox, water vole and brown hare. Peat extractors also uncovered ‘bog oaks’ preserved from forests, which stood here 10,000 years ago. It is incredible to see black areas of peat turning green with lush lawns of sphagnum moss.
Many of the people who live in nearby Irlam, Cadishead and Astley have no links to Chat Moss. Some have not crossed the boundary from urban sprawl to wildlife-rich wilderness. That is the challenge for our engagement team helped by a dedicated group of volunteers from the area who turn up in all weathers to lend a vital helping hand.
We have school parties visiting the moss and then creating crafts from their experiences. Bird walks have been popular despite uneven roads making it a problem to get here. It is worth the effort. This year, interpretation panels will help people to learn about THEIR mosslands.
We need to pull people over the threshold just to get an idea of the wonders of nature they have on their doorstep. This isn’t a wasteland, it is a landscape that can provide benefits to health and well-being of humans and animals alike.