A range of Nature Based Solutions have been implemented at Roch Valley in Rochdale by Groundwork Greater Manchester as part of the Natural Neighbourhoods programme.

The area of hedgerows and lowland meadows at Roch Valley is a Site of Biological Importance. The recent works, completed as part of the Natural Neighbourhoods programme improved the site to support the future management of the hay meadow and to improve plant and insect biodiversity. The meadows have been managed specifically to encourage the spread of meadow saxifrage.

Over a kilometre of stock-proof fencing and four access gates were installed around the site. Mature hedgerows were laid and these were later gapped up with native hedgerow species, including stakes and tree guards to prevent grazing. These new hedgerows have created a continual length around the boundaries of the meadows.

The meadow habitats were improved by introducing new methods of harvesting the grasses. A method of removing meadow grasses without the use of a tractor was introduced which aided the cutting of ‘wet’ areas without causing surface damage to the soil structure. The cutting, spinning and importantly the collection of hay ensures that the ‘thatch’ within the sward is disturbed and removed as much as possible during the process, allowing less dominant flora to colonise and increasing the biodiversity of the area.

We upgraded footpaths and installed wire fencing to guide users through the site and to discourage trampling, meaning that plants are able to thrive uninterrupted.

The Ranger team completed a series of events with young learners who were completing a low carbon careers course, explaining the benefits of the works completed to date, including flood management and the benefits of hedge laying.

A viewing area has been created to highlight the views along the river valley.

Ecological benefits
  • Restoring lowland meadow and habitats: the spread of meadow saxifrage species from the original cluster is developing year on year. The new fencing and restored footpaths will help ensure the plants are able to thrive uninterrupted. The management of the meadows to encourage the spread of meadow saxifrage has also led to other species not noted before on site becoming common, such as common spotted orchid.
  • Increasing the biodiversity and structure of the hedgerows present on site: 380m of hedgerow was managed and/or planted across the site. New planting consisted of species such as hawthorn, hazel, holly and blackthorn to aid biodiversity of the hedgerow and provide a wider selection of cover and food sources for birds in particular.

Natural Neighbourhoods is a targeted programme which helps young people into employment. The programme creates jobs and develops a programme of environmental traineeships to support the improvement and protection of local parks and the greenspaces that matter to the surrounding communities.

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.