The Smithills team is over the moon to announce that the entire Smithills landscape in North Bolton is now in the ownership and protection of the Woodland Trust. All 1,700 acres of open countryside, streams and woodland now make up the largest site the charity owns in England.
After a recent public appeal and confirmation of a £400,000 grant from Biffa Award (part of the Landfill Communities Fund) towards buying the final part of Smithills, we’re delighted to have been able to complete the purchase of Smithills.
The lower parts of the estate have been held by Esmée Fairbairn Foundation for the last two years, giving us valuable time to raise the much needed funds to secure the final portion of this urban fringe countryside.
The Smithills campaign has seen high support from local people in the Bolton and wider Greater Manchester area. Together with supporters from across the UK, over £250,000 was raised in the run-up to Christmas.
As well as public donations, other crucial supporters include Heritage Lottery Fund, Viridor Credits and Biffa Award, a multi-million pound fund that helps to build communities and transform lives through awarding grants to communities and environmental projects across the UK.
The purchase will guarantee Smithills’ future and protect the rights of people to explore the site free of charge year round. This moment also marks the establishment of the foundation stone for the new Northern Forest, announced as part of the Government’s 25 year plan for the environment earlier this month. With restoration and regeneration, this long over-looked gem will become a real asset to the North West for people and wildlife.
Social enterprise opportunities are ripe for the picking and the enthusiastic response from the local community is helping us drive forward our plans. A huge thank you to those who donated to the fundraising appeal and the many people who have offered practical support. There will be many more chances to get involved so please keep your eyes peeled. Tree planting begins in a matter of weeks.
Which part of Smithills has been acquired?
The new land includes Barrow Bridge, a woodland area of steep cloughs and streams. The trees here are part of an ancient woodland area. This is therefore not only locally important, but nationally crucial too. This is a vibrant habitat for local wildlife as well as containing several historical features, such as the 63 Miners’ Steps which are a well-known local feature. Local miners would use this flight of steps to climb up through Smithills from their cottages to work up on the moorland.
Following on from last year’s news that the Smithills project was successfully granted a £1.9 million Heritage Lottery Fund (the largest HLF donation the Trust has ever received), a five year long project of restoration and development can now begin and there’s a host of exciting plans afoot.
What will the Woodland Trust do now?
We aim to revitalise this landscape, including everything from the moorland fringe to the lowland woodland. Habitats will receive expert management to provide a better quality home for hundreds of animals, plants and fungi. New social enterprises will be encouraged to set up on-site, inspiring a renewed and sustainable economy and there’ll be a range of events and activities to get involved in too.
Over the project, we plan to plant 130,000 new trees. This will create connecting corridors for wildlife and a fantastic opportunity for local people to do something positive for the environment. Keep checking our events page to find out about our community tree planting days.
How important is Smithills?
Smithills is not only important to the local community, but is set to become the flagship site of the new Northern Forest. Spreading from Liverpool to Hull, 50 million trees will be planted over the next 25 years.
The story of Smithills revitalisation is only just beginning. Thank you to all those who’ve helped so far.