Beside the M62, in Merseyside, is a 12-hectare woodland called Griffin Wood.
Despite the hum of traffic from the nearby motorway, Griffin Wood is a beautiful place to take a walk on a sunny afternoon. The road’s proximity hasn’t deterred the local wildlife from claiming their habitats. Birds sing, squirrels scurry along branches, and small mammals rustle through the undergrowth. A stroll beneath the trees is a perfect way to reconnect with nature.
But without the hard work of The Friends of Griffin Wood, this woodland haven would not exist. Until 2005 the area in Bold, south St Helens, was simply a 12-hectare agricultural field, with 1-hectare of mature woodland in the northern corner that had been largely neglected over the past few decades. Then the land was acquired by Community Forest North West (CFNW), and plans were made to plant and sow new areas of wood and meadow land.
One of the first things that CNFW did was reach out to the local community, calling for name suggestions for the area. The name Griffin Wood was chosen from the suggestions they received. It was the perfect choice as it linked well with a local legend involving a griffin and its involvement in the naming of Bold, and the mythical creature’s appearance on the St Helens coat of arms.
In 2007 the community group The Friends of Griffin Wood (TFoGW) was formed, and it is this organisation who have worked in partnership with CNFW to develop, maintain and celebrate the woodland. Three different environments within Griffin Wood have been developed in the years since. The first was sown with shade-loving species and planted with native trees and shrubs. The second area was sown with annual and perennial wildflowers. The third area, to complement the series of both new and existing ponds over the site, was sown with wetland wildflower species. The entire site was also planted with thousands of native broadleaf saplings at several community tree planting days in March 2007.
Further work has also been done by TFoGW over the years, and more things are planned for the future. In 2008, footpaths were added and the existing path onto the woodland was upgraded, creating a circular route through the mature and new woodland. A birdhide and feeding station were added in October 2008. In April 2010 a sculptured bench was designed and installed by Julian Taylor, inspired by both the ferns within the woodland and the rich coal mining heritage of the area. The bench was carved using timber taken from the mature woodland as part of the tree safety works. In May 2010 a sculpture trail was developed, using designs submitted by locals at a community wood works event. The sculptures were then carved by chainsaw artists. Ongoing projects include new orchards, a willow tunnel, and a willow dome.
Events and activities are also run at Griffin Wood. Past events have included Nature Days, which involves groups hunting out the various plant and animal species to be found in the woodland, and Bee Survey Training days.
If you’d like to become involved with this community project, The Friends of Griffin Wood always welcome new faces. They gather for task days on the first Sunday each month. If you’re simply visiting the area, an outing to Griffin Wood makes for a pleasant interlude, enjoying the woodland tranquility whilst the world continues to whizz past on the busy M62. A narrow footbridge crosses the road, connecting Griffin Wood to Bold Heath and the public right of way of Warrington Road.
To find out more, check out their website.