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Top 10 Green Spaces: A Touch Outside the City

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26 April 2022

Manc-topia simply does not stop! We've recently opened our new site at Silk Street and we're not the only ones leaving our mark on the Manchester skyline, the city is inundated with new buildings, offices and co-working sites! So, here we are again, looking for the best green spaces for you to take a break and revel in the gorgeous greenery around the newest city that doesn't sleep.

Colony's Top 10 Green Spaces: A Touch Outside the City

Whilst at first it may seem that Manchester has an endless number of public parks and green spaces to get you away from your desk, if you make a go at it, you can get around them relatively quickly. Which is why we've put our heads together, again, and come up with our top 10 green spaces that are a stone's throw from the centre of the city.

1. Dovestone, Oldham

Location: OL3 7NE

Located in the picturesque Peak District, Dove Stone is one of Greater Manchester’s busiest areas of natural beauty, especially in the warmer months. There is essentially two points of interest, the reservoir and the crag at the top of the valley, both of which offer their own unique experience.

The reservoir has flat and gravelled paths that can be easily navigated with strollers and wheelchairs. The Dovestone Sailing Club have sole use the 100-acre reservoir for their water sports activities, offering opportunities for both new and experienced sailors with the potential of taking part in the club racing programme.

The crag that sits looking down across the reservoir, better known as Dovestone’s Edge, can be reached by taking a slight diversion from the path that leads up from the car park and is definitely not accessible by pushchair or wheelchair – in fact to reach the summit, it requires a bit of scrambling - not the type you often see on a Friday afternoon in the office - and so, it’s advisable to take a pass if you’re carrying any knocks or injuries. If you’re fighting fit, however, it’s highly recommended that you take the trip up because the views are amazing!

From both the top of the crag and the path around the reservoir, you can see a whole host of wildlife including hares, mallards, sheep and interestingly the fastest animal in the World, the peregrine falcon which reaches speeds exceeding 200mph! Be sure to bring a pair of binoculars if you want to spot one, the RSPB team are on hand Thursday to Sunday to help out and a lend beady eye.

2. Greenbooth Reservoir, Rochdale

Location: OL12 7TL

Just north of the town of Heywood, Rochdale lies Greenbooth Reservoir, which sits atop of the now sunken village of Greenbooth and hence the name. Prior to 1961 when the reservoir was finished, the village had a total of 80 cottages, a sweet shop, a Co-op store, and even a school. The only visible nod to the submerged community today is a plaque at the side of the reservoir which states: “This tablet commemorates the village of Greenbooth, the site of which is submerged beneath the waters of this reservoir.” Now, the area is home to a stretch of rolling grassland, woods and the 2,600-acre reservoir.

The wind turbines of the Scout Moor Wind Farm can also be seen from the reservoir, and if you’re feeling adventurous, can be accessed via a trodden grass path to the north. From both Scout Moor and the path from the car park down to the reservoir, there are uninterrupted views of the Manchester skyline and surrounding area, which is certainly a sight to behold on a warm, sunny day.

Greenbooth is open with public access 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

3. Tatton Park, Knutsford

(Image Credit: Visit Cheshire)

Location: WA16 6SG

Part of the National Trust, Tatton Park in Cheshire is an impressive 1,000-acre green space consisting of a deer park, mansion, gardens, old hall, and rare breed farm. It is one of the North West’s most popular heritage attractions and is teeming with historical points of interest – most notably evidence of human occupation at Tatton Park as far back as 8,000BC!

One of the park’s prize features is the many deer and other fauna that inhabit it, in particular the rare breed farm which is committed to the conservation and restoration of Britain’s native livestock breeds. Tatton Park is one of only 17 farm parks across the UK that has been awarded the Rare Breeds Accreditation from the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, which is a testament to the standards that the park holds itself to.

Whilst this may be one of the few green spaces that is a touch more costly than others, you can clearly see that the money taken from entry tickets is being well spent on the upkeep and maintenance of the estate, so it’s hard to begrudge paying it.

4. Dunham Massey, Trafford

(Image Credit: Art UK)

Location: WA14 5SG

Home of a spectacular Georgian manor house, beautifully well-kept gardens and an ancient deer park, Dunham Massey is one of the largest National Trust parks in the UK and is wrapped up in fascinating history.

For over 400 years, the Dunham Massey estate has been in the hands of two families, the Booths, and the Greys whose legacy can be still seen today. The conservation of the space is largely thanks to the 10th and last Earl of Stamford, Roger Grey, who took it upon himself to devote his life to preserving Dunham Massey and left the entire 3000-acre space to the National Trust in his will.

The diversity of wildlife across the estate is remarkable, with a grand total of 227 different and unique species including, owls, bats, buzzards, woodpeckers, meadow ants and some of the rarest beetles found in the British Isles.

Information on entry prices can be found on the National Trust website, with discounts available for yearly memberships that also give you access to other Trust sites up and down the country – whether it’s a one-off visit or part of a more regular thing, Dunham Massey is not one to be missed.

5. The Edge, Alderley Edge

Location: SK10 4UB

A stone’s throw away from Alderley Edge town centre, at another National Trust site is The Edge. Its a dramatic sandstone ridge set atop of a disused copper mine with views overlooking the Manchester city skyline, the Cheshire Peak District and Pennines beyond prior to 1755, when the various species of trees were planted, visitors could see a full 360-degree panorama of the country surrounding from Macclesfield Forest to the Blackstone Edge in Yorkshire.

Historically, the woodland that The Edge is comprised of was owned by The Pilkington family, the proprietors of Pilkington’s Glass, until 1948 when the estate was donated to the National Trust by the Pilkington daughters.

It has been registered, like many of the green spaces we have selected, as a Site of Special Scientific Interestdue to the unique geology and the Roman and Bronze Age mines that tunnel through it.

The Edge at Alderley Edge is worth the trip southbound, the walk to the viewing point is encompassed by luscious greenery and the town itself makes for a nice drive. Some of the properties in this neck of the woods are awe inspiring, past residents include famous footballers such as David Beckham, Rio Ferdinand as well as, soap stars like Helen Flanagan and Joy Division and New Order bassist, Peter Hook.

6. Rivington Pike and Terraced Gardens, Bolton

Location: BL6 6RU

Standing at 1,191ft on the most westerly point of Winter Hill in the West Pennines is Rivington Pike and Terraced Gardens. The gardens are made up of Italian and Japanese inspired lakes and delicately laid paths that lead up to Pigeon Tower. At the summit, on a clear day, it is possible to see as far as Blackpool Tower, the mountainous Lake District, the Welsh hills and even the Isle of Man - if you have a really good eye, you might even be able to make out our new co-working space at Silk Street!

Like much of the other green spaces on our list, Rivington Pike is brimming with history. The site on which the Grade-II Pike Tower sits on used to be the home of a beacon, part of a much larger series of beacons across England that were ofttimes ignited to issue a public warning. It was implemented by the 4th Earl of Chester, Ranulph de Blundeville, after a Scottish raid at Clitheroe. The beacon was also lit in 1588 during Queen Elizabeth I’s reign as the Spanish Armada approached. In more recent times, they have been used symbolically in celebration of Royal Jubilees and birthdays.

There is an annual tradition on Good Friday, by which local residents walk to the Pike summit, but there is public access 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so join in on the Easter festivities or pick any other day of the year – we don’t think it matters as the views are stunning all year round!

7. Peel Tower and Holcombe Hill, Ramsbottom

Location: BL8 4NR

Similar to Rivington Pike and Terraced Gardens, Peel Tower and Holcombe Hill are set just a touch outside of Manchester, this time in the town of Ramsbottom, Bury. The hill the tower is built on is known locally as Holcombe Hill due to its close proximity to the village of Holcombe, though it is officially recognised as Harcles Hill.

At the summit of the hill lies Peel Tower, a monument dedicated to two-time Prime Minister and founder of the modern Police force, Sir Robert Peel. The opening ceremony for the tower coincided with the unveiling of another tribute to Peel, in the form of a statue, which was revealed a day prior in Bury town centre, 1852.

Inside of the tower has restricted public access, although there are some interesting features including inscription of one of Peel’s addresses to the House of Commons in 1846 and a viewing platform by which to see the surrounding countryside.

Again, in similar fashion to Rivington Pike, there is an Easter tradition at Peel Tower that involves local residents ascending to the summit on Good Friday and rolling hard-boiled eggs down the steep side of the hill – a reference to the stone rolling down the hill at Jesus’ tomb.

You don’t have to roll any eggs down Holcombe Hill to enjoy the space if you don’t want to, the walk to the top is enough to blow out the cobwebs and the scenery is a perfect archetype of the British countryside.

8. Haigh Hall and Country Park, Wigan

Location: WN2 1PE

Set in the notorious pie barm district of Greater Manchester that is Wigan, Haigh Hall and Country Park is built on the site of an ancient timber-framed manor house. The Haigh estate once covered a total of 500-acres but has been reduced to around half of that today at approximately 250-acres.

Despite the reduction in park area, there are still a number of sights and activities to see and do with everything from high ropes to adventure golf, crazy golf and footgolf, as well as mini zip-lines, climbing frames, swings and rope bridges – there’s fun for all the family.

There are also walled gardens to enjoy a picnic or a stroll and an ancient woodland area filled with wild varieties of flora and fauna. Interestingly, much of the woodland at Haigh Hall and Country Park is on the woodland register which means it has been part of the ecosystem for at least 500 years, if not longer. Like the trees and plants that inhabit the area, there are also a number of rare wildlife to be seen such as roe deers, fox cubs, cuckoos and spotted woodpeckers.

Whether you’re looking to have a day out with the kids, a nice spot to take the grandparents or even some team-building exercises for you and your colleagues, Haigh Hall and Country Park has it all.

9. Turton and Entwistle Reservoir, Bolton

Location: BL7 0LU

Turton and Entwistle Reservoir is a beautiful circular route surrounded on either side by woodland and glistening water. The route to circumnavigate the reservoir is relatively short and flat, both ideal and accessible for all, including pushchairs and wheelchairs as well as cyclists. The reservoir itself supplies around 50% of Bolton’s water and holds up to 3 and a half million litres of water.

If you plan in advance and leave plenty of time to navigate around, you can take a walk off the beaten track into the woods and potentially stumble across mini-waterfalls or wooden tipis if you’re lucky.

10. Ashworth Waterfall, Rochdale

Location: OL11 5UT

Hidden in the depths of the Ashworth Valley in Rochdale, amongst the glowing green trees and dark, black rocks is Ashworth Waterfall part of the Naden Brook. The path down to the waterfall is a touch treacherous and is advised against if you’re carrying a knock or feel as though you may struggle with mobility. If you’re lucky enough to have no issues, then it’s definitely worth the scramble to the base of the fall.

Next to the waterfall itself is a crumbling and abandoned house-like structure complete with a rusted turning wheel of sorts. There’s not much in the area that points to possible explanations of what the structure may have been, but it’s certainly a cool feature to look at regardless – the idea of nature reclaiming previously urbanised spaces is nicely realised here.

There’s more to explore if you follow the river downstream with another smaller waterfall along the way, as Naden Brook begins to merge with Cheddar Brook around an area of woodland known as Windy Cliff Wood. There’s little to no facilities anywhere with it being a bit more off of the beaten track as such, so if you’re planning to visit this hidden gem make sure you’re prepared to carry your rubbish back with you and have all the supplies you’d want at the ready - please don't raid the snack cupboards at any of our sites though, you don't want to upset our Space and Community Coordinators!

As always, there are hundreds of unbelievable areas of natural beauty in Greater Manchester and the surrounding area, we've simply picked our best of a good bunch. No doubt we'll be giving you more options later in the year, so be sure to get through this list of 10 because we'll be back with another before you know it!

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