Years ago this patch of woodland in Gorton was a landfill site, but now – after winning a £300,000 grant – Nutsford Vale has its sights set on becoming a visitor destination.
“Every Sunday was disturbed by the whine of trail bikes tearing around,” recalls local resident, Alan G. “It was becoming a playground for bikers and a favourite spot for illegal tipping.”
Fed up with their piece of countryside sinking into abandonment, Alan and some of his neighbours set up the Nutsford Vale Park Project more than 10 years ago to lobby for change. Now, after a decade of small grants and piecemeal improvements, the Vale has hit the jackpot: more than £300,000 will be spent in the next two years to create a valuable community resource.
The money comes from a £4.7 million initiative by the North West Development Agency to fund the remediation of 400 acres (equivalent to about 200 football pitches) of brownfield land in Merseyside and Greater Manchester. The ‘Setting the Scene for Growth’ programme aims to transform what were once municipal tips.
A generation ago the 40-acre Nutsford Vale was a known as Jackson’s Clay Pit, with lorries and heavy machinery working the relatively small patch between the densely populated housing. Once closed the pit was filled with council waste until 1978 when, presumably, it could hold no more.
Red Rose Forest, the partnership organisation charged with ‘greening’ Greater Manchester, submitted the successful bid after consultation with the residents’ group. “We’ve been working together for some years now,” says Hilary Wood from Red Rose. “We originally raised some funding through the Green Tips Project which meant we could fence off part of the site, and do a little planting.”
There’s a tarmac path that cuts across the thinnest part of the site, a convenient and popular shortcut with staggered barriers to deter the motorbikes. The entrances will be a priority once the work gets underway later this year and this path will have a hedgerow running alongside it.
“First, we’ll get rid of all the rubbish,” says Hilary, “then we’ll enhance the entry points and secure the boundaries by finishing off the fencing. We’ll consult with local people about what they’d like to see in the Vale. Maybe there could be a play facility, or a feature, some sort of attraction that would give people a reason to come.”
“Although we want to make it more accessible,” she continues, “we don’t want to lose the wilderness element. A wildflower area is a possibility and it certainly should still be a place where people can escape to.”
Tony Hall, another resident and member of the friends’ group, agrees: “In the summer, with all the foliage out, you can hardly see any of the surrounding houses. You feel as if you’re in the middle of nowhere.”
“It has the potential to follow in the successful footsteps of Clayton Vale,” says Julie Lawrence, New East Manchester’s Environment Programme Manager. “There’s a strong ‘friends’ group which is essential to the long term success of the Vale and with the right sort of maintenance programme and support after the initial investment, there’s no reason why Nutsford Vale shouldn’t continue to prosper.”
Consultations will take place locally with interested groups to discuss plans for the Vale.
Archive images courtesy of Manchester Local Image Collection.