From community groups and charities to businesses and schools, we believe that everyone has a role to play in helping nature recovery across Greater Manchester. We’ll be shining a spotlight on the passionate individuals who are already leading the way – our Local Nature Champions.

Susan Faulkner is farmer and owner of Woodside Farm in Rochdale.

Tell us about your project.

2.8ha of grazing land has been allowed to rewild, forming an extension to Hopwood Woods Local Nature Reserve. Native woodland, hawthorn scrub and acid grassland have been created to form new habits.

An additional 3.6ha of intensive grassland has been converted to rough grassland, marshy wet grassland and hawthorn scrub, which we have achieved through reducing grazing intensity and avoiding the bird nesting season.

Two ponds have also been created through a District Level Licensing scheme – this has formed a pond scape spanning the Local Nature Reserve and adjacent land owned by Hopwood Hall College.

How did you first get into nature recovery?

I was born at Woodside Farm, the daughter of a dairy farmer and one of five siblings. As a child, I would lie in the long grass in the pasture and listen to the song of the skylark and look up and see this tiny bird hovering high up in the sky, wings beating, singing this most beautiful song.

I would sit by the side of the pond and hold a newt in my hand and watch the curlew fly across the water. Walking back to the homestead and sending up a brace of partridges as my dog ran ahead of me. Blue dragonflies dancing with the midges over the pond in the evening sunshine and swallows darting to and fro catching their last evening meal for their young nesting in the barns. Even as a child I was able to appreciate how important this exposure to nature was for me; it was good for the soul and filled me with peace.

Over the years I have seen the green fields and farmland swallowed up by housing developments, barns and barn owls erased, wildlife wiped out and the skylark silenced. My mother taught me that when nature is in trouble, so are we. That’s why I decided to create my own green oasis, my green legacy. Ultimately, we who make a living from the land should give something back to it – everything is on loan to us. Farmers should all be the greatest conservationists of nature.

What do you think nature offers Greater Manchester?

Health is the big one for me – nature can improve mental health, offering peace and reflection away from the busyness of modern life.

Why do you think it’s important more people get involved in nature?

The main message from me is that everybody can – and should – make a positive contribution to nature, even if it on a small scale. Many small interventions can lead to a larger outcome.

What do you think is the single greatest priority for nature recovery in Greater Manchester?

More greenery, particularly in very urban areas. It will be so beneficial for health, physical and mental as well as bringing nature back to areas where it is most depleted.

Getting more people interested and engaged with nature is also vital, to promote wildlife and the benefits it gives back to us. A big part of this should be promoting nature in schools and grow your own schemes to re-connect people with where their food comes, perhaps something that positions nature as a core part of the curriculum.

Photo credit: Bill Boaden

How can people get involved in the project?

Rochdale’s Green Volunteers have worked alongside the project to make ground ready for pond works and to create habitat piles for amphibians and invertebrates.

I also think that more farmers can look for opportunities to give something back to nature.

We will always need more people to be around and involved in caring for animals – including schools. Make some green space wherever you can – everything makes a difference!

Find out more about our plan for nature recovery

Greater Manchester is currently developing its Local Nature Recovery Strategy, which will set out a blueprint for a more liveable city-region, with fairer access to green space for all.

Find out more including ways to get involved on our nature recovery webpage.
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