Districts

Map showing the Greater Manchester districts

Bolton

Location and topography

Bolton lies in the north-west of Greater Manchester, bordering on Lancashire, and ranges from relatively flat land in the south, to the high moorland of the West Pennine Moors in the north, which rises to a height of 444 metres above sea level at Winter Hill.

Habitats

Despite nearly half of the borough being urban land, significant areas of UK BAP priority habitats remain. This includes magnificent upland Oak woods such as Gale Clough and Shooterslee Wood SSSI. A significant proportion of the county's moorland (upland heath and blanket bog) is found in Bolton, which looks stunning in August when the heather is in bloom.

The borough holds the highest proportion of scrub in the county, and the second highest proportion of semi-improved neutral grassland. Bolton has important areas of bog, especially at Red Moss SSSI, where recent restoration work by the Lancashire Wildlife Trust has resulted in the reappearance of Sundew.

There are also numerous ponds, canals, lodges and reservoirs, all contributing to the diverse range of habitats. Nob End SSSI supports an unusual (for Greater Manchester) collection of plant species because of its alkaline substrate, present as a result of past industrial activity.

Wildlife

Three species of newt, as well as Common Frog and Common Toad, breed in the borough's ponds and lodges. Mammals to be seen in Bolton include Badger, Roe Deer, as well as those ferocious predators, Stoat and Weasel.

Otters are starting to return to the rivers and brooks, and hopefully will increase in numbers over the next few years.

Specialist moorland birds, such as Curlew, Raven, Golden Plover and Wheatear can be seen in the upland areas. Many species of rare plant, not recorded elsewhere in Greater Manchester, are found in Bolton, including Carline Thistle, Oak Fern, Vervain, Water-purslane and several species of Bog Moss (Sphagnum).

Seven species of bat have been recorded, many of these roost in buildings in urban areas. Dragonflies and damselflies frequent the ponds and streams, adding a splash of colour in late summer, and many species of butterfly can be seen on the wing on sunny days.

Bury

Location and topography

Bury lies to the north of Manchester and borders Lancashire. The Borough's land is undulating but incise drained by the valleys of the Rivers Irwell and Roch. The Borough's highest point is in the north, on the plateau of Holcombe Moor, reaching 418 metres above sea level on Bull Hill.

Habitats

The River Irwell flows south through the borough, before turning west at its confluence with the River Roch. These river valleys not only provide an important habitat for wildlife, but also act as a corridor through which species can move on migration, or as their distributions change.

Bury has one of the highest concentrations of ponds in Greater Manchester together with a number of important lodges and reservoirs. The Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal also runs through the Borough.

Terrestrial habitats include important areas of moorland (upland heath and blanket bog), as well as broad-leaved clough woodland, such as Ringley Woods, much of which is ancient. Over 15% of the borough is semi-improved neutral grassland, with significant areas of unimproved acid and neutral grassland.

Wildlife

Bury's ponds and lodges support a diverse range of aquatic flora and fauna, including five species of amphibian, numerous damselflies and dragonflies, and many species of breeding and wintering wetland birds. They also provide important foraging areas for bats with nine species recorded in the borough.

Otter signs have recently been found on the River Irwell, and it is hoped this beautiful mammal will decolonise some of its former haunts over the coming years.

Bury remains a stronghold for farmland birds such as Skylark, Tree Sparrow, Grey Partridge and Barn Owl which live alongside Brown Hare, Rabbit and Fox.

Manchester

Location and topography

The city of Manchester lies at the heart of Greater Manchester and runs from Higher Blackley in the north to Manchester Airport in the south, where it borders Cheshire. The lowest point in the city is just 23m above sea level, at Chorlton in the Mersey Valley, with the highest land 108m above sea level at Charlestown.

Habitats

It's amazing how quickly brownfield sites, which have been cleared for development, are colonised by plants, insects and other wildlife. Often these are available to nature for only a short period of time before being redeveloped.

In contrast the Rochdale and Ashton canals provide long-established habitats. The Rivers Irwell, Mersey, Medlock and Irk all flow through the borough, providing an important corridor for wildlife to move through into the heart of the urban areas.

The south of the borough contains many ponds, especially along the Bollin valley.

Manchester has some important areas of ancient semi-natural broadleaved woodland, including Cotteril Clough SSSI which is the best wet woodland in Greater Manchester. Semi-natural grassland is also a key habitat within the borough, especially neutral grassland.

The many parks, including Heaton Park and Wythenshawe Park, provide green refuges, not only for the city's inhabitants, but also for numerous species of animals, plants and trees.

Wildlife

Despite being a mainly urban area, there is an incredible variety of spectacular wildlife to be found in the City of Manchester. Even in the heart of the city Peregrines and Black Redstarts, two of the rarest species of bird, make their homes, and bats can be seen at dusk flying over the canals and rivers.

The River Irwell, flowing through the city centre, acts as a corridor along which wildlife can pass. The Ashton and Rochdale canals are home to birds, fish and aquatic plants such as Floating Water Plantain, Grasswrack Pondweed and Freiberg’s screw-moss.

Along the Mersey Valley the former flood meadows still support a rich mixture of plant species including Orchids and Autumn Crocus. This is also an important area for birds, bats and even reptiles such as Grass-snake.

Oldham

Location and topography

Oldham lies in the north-east of the county and borders West-Yorkshire to the east. It contains the highest land in Greater Manchester, rising to 542m above sea level at Black Chew Head on Saddleworth Moor. There are also low-lying areas along the river valleys in the south and west of the borough down to 75 metres above sea level.

Habitats

The eastern half of Oldham supports spectacular tracts of moorland (upland heath and blanket bog), much of which lies within the South Pennines Moor SPA (Special Protection Area) and Peak District National Park. This area contains over a third of the county's wet heath. Major upland reservoirs at Castleshaw and Dovestone add to the diversity of habitats.

The rivers Medlock, Irk and Tame have their sources high up in the Pennines and provide important corridors for wildlife to move through, as they flow through the borough. Oldham has significant areas of both unimproved and semi-improved acid grassland.

The stretch of the Rochdale canal that runs through the borough has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area for Conservation (SAC).

Wildlife

The moorland supports important numbers of breeding upland birds, including a significant proportion of the county's Golden Plover, and is also home to a small population of Mountain Hares. Ravens have recently returned to the borough's high land. They can be located by their gruff calls and can be seen in late winter performing their spectacular aerial displays.

Roe Deer are an increasingly common site in the woodlands and Badger, Fox, Stoat, and Weasel add to the variety of mammals to be found in Oldham.

Every spring large numbers of Common Toads head towards the ponds and lodges in the Uppermill area to spawn. Oldham's ponds also support three species of Newt as well as the Common Frog. Extensive conifer plantations provide a habitat for specialist species of bird and fungi.

The Oldham section of the Rochdale Canal supports the European Protected Species Floating Water Plantain (Luronium natans). White-clawed Crayfish and American Pondweed (Potamogeton epihydrus), a red data book species, also occur. The UK Biodiversity Priority Species Grasswrack Pondweed is found in the Huddersfield Narrow canal SSSI.

Improvements in habitat management at Daisy Nook have resulted in an increase in Orchids, relocated when the M60 was extended.

Rochdale

Location and topography

Rochdale Metropolitan Borough lies in the extreme north-east of Greater Manchester and is primarily an upland district. The moorland in the north and east is between 200 and 400 metres above sea level, reaching its high point of 472m near the dramatic millstone grit escarpment of Blackstone Edge.

Habitats

A significant part of the South Pennine Moors Special Protection Area (SPA) lies within Rochdale. The borough contains over 80% of the county's blanket bog (a UK BAP priority habitat). It also supports over 90% of the wet modified bog and more than half of the acidic flush habitat. The moorland also contains significant areas of bracken, the highest proportion of any GM district.

The high rainfall associated with the western Pennine edge is channelled into numerous reservoirs, some of which are at high altitude.

In the west of the borough there are important areas of semi-natural broadleaved woodland, such as Ashworth Valley, occupying the cloughs running down off the uplands.

The River Roch has its source high up on the moors and flows south-west through the borough, providing an important wildlife corridor through the urban areas.

Certain stretches of the Rochdale Canal have been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area for Conservation (SAC). A high proportion of Greater Manchester's grassland is found in Rochdale, with more than a third of the county's unimproved acid grassland and nearly 60% of the marsh/marshy grassland.

Wildlife

The South Pennine Moors SPA supports nationally important upland breeding bird populations including Curlew, Dunlin, Golden Plover, Red Grouse and Twite. There are extensive areas of heather. Sphagnum and other bog forming mosses occur locally, with the characteristic cotton-grasses which flower in June and July, adding splashes of white to the upland landscape.

Water Voles still maintain a healthy population along some of the brooks.

Roe Deer have increased significantly in numbers over recent years, taking advantage of the new areas of woodland planting.

The number of species of damselfly and dragonfly has increased as their ranges expand north, including the elegant Banded Demoiselle which frequents the River Roch. A good selection of butterflies can be found, including the Wall Brown which maintains a stronghold on the moorland fringe.

The Rochdale Canal supports the European Protected Species Floating Water Plantain (Luronium natans), as well as American Pond Weed and White-clawed Crayfish.

Salford

Location and topography

The City of Salford lies in the south-west of Greater Manchester and shares a small stretch of its border with Cheshire. It is relatively flat, with the altitude ranging from 15 metres above sea level at Irlam, to 115m at Greenheys.

Habitats

Despite heavy industrial and housing development some semi-natural habitats remain. Of key importance are the surviving areas of mossland (lowland heath / lowland modified bog) at Chat Moss, Astley Moss, and Twelve Yards Road, although much of this habitat has been lost as a result of agricultural drainage and peat cutting.

The River Irwell is an important feature of Salford's landscape providing a green corridor through some of the most built up areas in the county. The Bridgewater and Manchester Ship Canals run through the city, the latter ending at Salford Quays.

Salford has the largest single area of woodland in the county, Botany Bay Wood SBI and also has the highest proportion of planted coniferous woodland in Greater Manchester.

Wildlife

Salford has Greater Manchester's largest Heronry. Wildlife can be found in the heart of the urban areas with Peregrine and Sparrowhawk hunting the skies and Foxes using the railway lines and gardens to feed and raise their cubs.

Salford Quays once supported nationally important numbers of Pochard and Tufted Duck in winter. Although numbers have declined in recent years, there are still some present, as well as an attractive flock of Mute Swans. The European Protected Species Great Crested Newt breeds in the ponds together with Palmate Newt, Smooth Newt, Common Frog and Common Toad.

Brown Hares inhabit the open arable land which also supports important populations of farmland birds including the red-listed Corn Bunting. Dragonflies occur in large numbers on the mosslands providing prey to our only migratory falcon, the Hobby.

Stockport

Location and topography

Stockport lies in the extreme south-east of Greater Manchester and stretches from the Cheshire Plain in the south-west to the foothills of the Pennines, bordering Derbyshire, in the east. At its lowest point in the Mersey Valley at Gatley, the borough is only 33 metres above sea level but rises to 327m on Mellor Moor.

Habitats

The borough has the highest proportion of Greater Manchester's broadleaved semi-natural woodland, much of which is classified as ancient woodland.

The Peak Forest Canal runs through the heart of the borough. The Rivers Etherow, and Goyt flow through Stockport. The River Mersey has its source in Stockport and is formed from the confluence of the Rivers Tame and Goyt. Small areas of species rich neutral grassland and lowland heath occur, both of which are rare habitats in Greater Manchester. Moorland (Upland heath and blanket bog) can be found in the east of the borough along the border with Derbyshire. Ludworth Moor SBI supports the only bogs found in Stockport.

Stockport is one of the few districts where Ancient and/or Species rich hedgerows can be found.

Wildlife

Stockport retains a significant population of farmland bird species which have disappeared from many other districts. It is also one of the few areas of the county where the magnificent Red Deer may be seen, as well as Fallow Deer. The many ponds support a good range of amphibians, with reptiles such as Grass Snake also recorded.

Rare species of plant occur such as Rough Chervil, Rough Hawksbeard, and Greater Burnet Saxifrage. These are not found elsewhere in Greater Manchester. Ludworth Moor SBI is one of the few sites in Greater Manchester where Cranberry grows.

Seven species of Bat have also been recorded in Stockport, with structures in the town centre providing roost sites for Daubenton's and other species.

Tameside

Location and topography

Tameside lies in the east of Greater Manchester, bordering West-Yorkshire and Derbyshire to the east. The borough takes its name from the River Tame and straddles the river catchment of the Mersey basin, as well as the foothills of the Western Pennines. Its altitude varies from 75m above sea level in the west to the highest point in the east, Hoarstone Edge, at 497m.

Habitats

UK BAP Priority habitats found in Tameside include upland Oak and lowland broad-leaved woodlands, lowland dry acid grassland, and springs and flushes. The high land to the east of the River Tame supports a very significant proportion of Greater Manchester's moorland (upland heath and blanket bog).

Four canals cross the borough, including the Huddersfield Narrow Canal SSSI and the Hollinwood Branch Canal SSSI. The rivers Tame, Etherow and Medlock flow through Tameside and provide important habitats for wildlife.

Hay meadows at Werneth Low Country Park are a rare habitat which has been lost from much of Greater Manchester.

Wildlife

Two species of Hare are found in Tameside, the Brown Hare which lives in the lowland meadows and the Mountain Hare, which frequents the high moorland and changes its coat to white in winter. Each year Skylarks announce the arrival of spring on the moors with their evocative song.

Wildlife can be found in the heart of the urban areas with Foxes making use of the parks and gardens to hunt and raise their cubs. A pair of Black Restarts nested in 2009, the only GM district apart from Manchester where this species breeds.

The European protected species Floating Water Plantain (Luronium natans) occurs in the Huddersfield Narrow Canal SSSI, Peak Forest Canal SBI, and Ashton Canal (East) SBI together with Grasswrack Pondweed.

Audenshaw Reservoirs are an important site for wintering wildfowl and also hold the largest winter gull roost in Greater Manchester.

The ancient woodlands such as Great Wood look spectacular in spring when the woodland floor is carpeted with Bluebells, Lesser Celandine, Wood Anemone and Wood Sorrel.

Wildflowers such as Hay Rattle grow in the remaining lowland meadows.

Speckled Wood and other species of butterfly can be seen on the wing on sunny days. Dragonflies and Damselflies hunt for insect prey over the ponds and lodges.

The charismatic Water Vole can still be found along some of the borough's canals and brooks but is rarely seen.

Trafford

Location and topography

Trafford borough lies in the south of Greater Manchester and is one of the lowland areas of the county, with the altitude varying between 15m above sea level at Davyhulme in the north west and 60m at Hale, in the south east. It borders Cheshire to the south and west.

Habitats

Trafford has one of the most important ancient parklands in England at Dunham Massey.

The River Mersey flows through the heart of the borough before joining the Manchester Ship Canal to the west of Carrington. The Mersey Valley provides an important corridor of open land through the built up areas. The River Bollin forms the boundary with Cheshire in the south-west and the Bridgewater canal runs from the north-west to the south-west.

The borough contains over 20% of Greater Manchester's arable habitat. In some areas the old field system survives, with ancient and/or species rich hedgerows marking the boundaries of the fields.

Small woodlands occur along the Sinderland Brook corridor, including Brookheys Covert SSSI, a lowland broad-leaved woodland which appears on the Ancient Woodland Inventory.

Wildlife

Trafford supports important populations of farmland birds. Carrington Moss is one of the last remaining strongholds in the county for Corn Bunting and one of the few places where its jangling song can still be heard. The farmland is also an important habitat for Brown Hare and other mammals.

At least six species of bat feed along the River Mersey and over the canals.

The herd of Fallow Deer at Dunham Massey is an impressive sight, especially the bucks with their palmate antlers. The trees of the surrounding parkland look spectacular in autumn when the leaves turn red and gold. Many species of fungi grow on the dead wood of the ancient trees.

Wigan

Location and topography

Wigan is the most westerly of the Greater Manchester districts, bordering on Lancashire, Merseyside and Cheshire. It is a relatively low-lying area with most of the land less than 100 metres above sea level.

Habitats

Many of the wildlife sites in Wigan have developed as a result of past industrial activity. Subsidence from former coal mines has led to the creation of large areas of open water, known locally as flashes, which support extensive reedbeds and the specialist wildlife which lives there.

Water is the common theme that links many of the sites from the Wigan Flashes to the canals and numerous ponds. In the south of the borough there are important mossland remnants that are of national importance such as Astley Moss SSSI, part of the Manchester Mosses SAC (Special Area of Conservation).

Wigan has the second highest proportion of semi-natural broadleaved woodland of any Greater Manchester district, much of which is ancient.

Other important habitats include dense scrub, semi-natural grassland, heathland, and swamp.

Wildlife

Such a diverse range of habitats supports many UK Biodiversity Priority species including Great Crested Newt, Brown Hare, one of the largest remaining populations of Water Vole in Greater Manchester, 8 species of bat, and the reedbed specialist the Bittern. Wigan is also a stronghold for farmland birds such as Barn Owl, Grey Partridge Skylark, Tree Sparrow and Yellowhammer.

Species of conservation concern which occur in the borough include Roe Deer, Hedgehog, Badger, Water Shrew, 5 species of amphibian, slow-worm, Grass Snake and Common Lizard. Many species of damselfly and dragonfly are found in the wetland habitats including Banded Demoiselle, Broad-bodied Chaser and the magnificent Emperor, our largest Dragonfly.

Greater Manchester Ecology Unit,
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