Our Back Field of Dreams

Our Back Field, Hunger Hill
4th & 11th October 2020

The work of small local groups often goes unnoticed. In 2009 the Hunger Hill Action Group established itself to develop a patch of land behind Knutshaw Crescent for local amenity. The housing estate sits on the busy A58 where there were no safe areas for children or families to play and relax, and so the Action Group was born.

The land is jointly owned by Bolton at Home and Peel Holdings who were happy to let the group use it. With the help of Councilor Bernadette Eckersley-Fallon the group set about gaining grant funding, and then began the hard work of building paths, play areas, community art, and other stuff. The project was named Our Back Field. We think that the Wildlife Trust may have been involved in the original heavy work but that’s still to be confirmed.

Art work
Boardwalk

Fast forward to 2020 and the site’s numerous paths, open green spaces and pond had become over grown and in need of help. Chris, the original founder of the Action Group, approached Bolton Green Umbrella, who introduced her to Bolton Conservation Volunteers, and like the A Team, we love it when a plan comes together.

After delays and set backs caused by the ever changing lockdown rules, and after extensive risk assessments, we finally got to start work on the site. BCV has been following the Rule of Six since before it had a name and the work on this site was no different. The task was split into two teams of six spread over two weekends.

Reed Mace
Reed Mace
Great Crested Newt
Great Crested Newt

On 4th October the target was pond and path work, the pond, which may originally have been an old farm pond, was choked with typha (reedmace). This was dug out and pulled out to create some open water for amphibians. A nearby path also received some attention. Future work could include replacing boardwalks. Although originally meant for amenity the site has good potential for wildlife which we hope we can build on over time.

11th October. With a fresh set of six, including a new volunteer, we started the next stage of our Hunger Hill task which involved improving access through the woodland. We cut back over hanging and encroaching branches to create more room and also cut away branches behind the path to let more light through to the path and the woodland understorey. This will make the walk more pleasant, safer, and also encourage the regrowth and regeneration of woodland flora.

Most of the residents were appreciative of the work we’ve done, although one gentleman took issue with the coppicing of the big willow in the pond the previous week. This tree was cut back to allow more light to get to the pond and reduce leaf litter, improving the oxygen saturation of the pond water and so improving conditions for pond life. Historically the pond contained great crested newt and is the reason why the pond hadn’t been filled in or the site developed for housing. Rick is planning to carry out a pond survey at a later date.

The same gentleman also took issue with the drainage of the path. The pre-existing drain had been cleaned out but he believed that this act had caused the pond to backflow onto the path causing flooding. This does highlight one of the problems of volunteer work: a group of volunteers, working in their own time to benefit a community they don’t live in, can’t please everyone.

Many thanks to Christine for inviting us to help her with her plans for the site, it’s a great site and deserves to flourish. We look forward to helping out again in the future.