Take a look at Ordnance Survey Explorer 277: Manchester & Salford, and you can’t help but be struck by the size and greyness of the urban sprawl. It is not for nothing that historian Asa Briggs has called Manchester “the shock city of the times”. In some ways, the people of the region are still recovering from the shock.
A large, carefully managed green space, encompassing suburbs, towns, villages, hamlets, and farms might be just the treatment they need – and deserve.
I know the area well. Before even coming to live near Pendle Hill, just beyond the perimeter of South Pennines Park, I had ridden around the Mary Towneley Loop and climbed Winter Hill and Haworth Moor several times. I lived in the Calder Valley for six months, crossing the Pennines every day to get to work. I spent many moments of meditation at Stoodley Pike and other landmarks along the Pennine Way – which runs through the area, as does the lesser known West Pennine Way.
Self-declaration is fine and I have no reason not to trust the organizations involved in the park project to be successful in creating a superb public service and natural treasure. But the government must back up Gove’s earlier promises and back the project – with money as well as kind words.
This week, the Ramblers issued an open letter to Boris Johnson demanding that the government adhere to its own 25-year environmental plan, released in 2018, which promised to democratize access to nature; that it invests in trails and green spaces, and rethinks its environmental, agricultural and planning policies to reflect the universal recognition that nature is beneficial for our physical and mental health.
“One of the few good things about the COVID-19 pandemic was that there were more people walking and enjoying nature. But a lack of investment in our network of trails and green spaces has left it under pressure, ”the letter read.
“We need urgent action, not warm words. Now is the time for the government to keep its promises and ensure that everyone, wherever they live, has access to nature.
The letter was co-signed by leaders of the British Mountaineering Council, Disabled Ramblers, Friends of the Earth, Woodland Trust and others.
Research by the Ramblers found that only 57% of UK adults surveyed said they lived within a five-minute walk of a green space, whether it’s a local park, a nearby field or a channel. This figure fell to just 39% for people of black, Asian or ethnic minority origin (BAME) and to 46% among all adults with household income below £ 15,000 – compared to 63% of those with a household income of less than £ 15,000. household income is over £ 35,000 and 70% over £ 70,000.
South Pennines Park offers an ideal opportunity to ‘take it to the next level’ for northern cities, while meeting key climate and environmental objectives.
Read more on Southpenninespark.org and click here to see a map of the park.