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Local Nature Reserves - Nature On Your Doorstep

Tameside has a great variety of countryside for visitors to enjoy, from the meadows and woods of the valleys in the south, to high open moorland in the east. It is a countryside rich in heritage and wildlife.

Everyday contact with nature is important for well being and quality of life, and everyone should be able to enjoy this contact in safety without having to make a special journey to do so.

What are Local Nature Reserves?

Local Nature reserves are for both people and wildlife.

They are places that are of special interest locally for their wildlife or natural features and have been legally designated as Local Nature Reserves under the 1948 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act. Declaring an area a Local Nature Reserve is a very clear signal to the local community of Tameside's commitment to nature conservation.

In these areas we can protect the wildlife habitats and natural features and so provide an ideal place for everyone to learn about and study nature or to simply just enjoy the countryside.

There are eight Local Nature Reserves in Tameside with four more to be designated, so why not take a walk to your ‘Local’

Great Wood - Broadbottom

As one of the few remaining ancient woodland sites in Tameside, Great Wood is of special importance for nature conservation. The woodland is at least 400 years old and once formed part of the great Longdendale Forest. Although oak is the dominant woodland tree, the woods contain a variety of tree species including birch alder beech and willow. But it is not only living trees that are important - old dying and dead trees, rotting, fallen timber and decomposing leaves all provide shelter and food for a wealth of species such as spiders, millipedes, beetles and fungi. These in turn are food for many other creatures including mammals such as bats, and birds like the nuthatch. The woodland edge and rich grassy clearings are important for wildflowers such as bluebells, red campion and wood sorrel.

Knott Hill - Ashton under Lyne

Knott Hill Reservoir was decommissioned by North West Water in the late 1970's and acquired by Tameside council in 1989. Since the lowering of the water level, wildlife has flourished and woodland has been establishing itself on the banks of the disused reservoir. With a rich mixture of habitats including open water, marsh, swamp, developing woodland and grassland, Knott Hill has become an area important for wildlife.

It is an excellent place to spend some time watching wildlife. The woodlands support a large number of birds such as woodpeckers, owls and nuthatch. The grasslands and marshes are attractive to butterflies such as orange tip and small copper, while damselflies and dragonflies hunt by the reservoir.

Hollinwood Branch Canal - Droylsden

Last used as a working waterway in 1932, the Hollinwood Branch Canal was built to link the Ashton Canal with Hollinwood, primarily to transport coal from the many collieries along its length.

There is a rich diversity of plant life along the canal including several species which are rare in Greater Manchester, making it a vitally important wetland area.

Whatever the time of year, you are likely to spot ducks such as moorhen and mallard on the canal and if lucky you may glimpse sight of a water vole. The canal also attracts many insects, and in summer the bright flashes of dragonflies and damselflies darting over the water are a frequent sight.

The hedgerows alongside the canal provides food, shelter and nesting sites for birds such as robins, wrens and blackbirds, and supports a range of woodland shrubs and plants within it.

Haughton Dale - Denton/Hyde

Lying between the towns of Hyde and Denton, Haughton Dale is the largest Local Nature Reserve in Tameside. While much of the valley is easily accessible, Haughton Dale provides an opportunity to experience and enjoy wildlife in seemingly remote surroundings.

The reserve contains a mosaic of important wildlife habitats


The woodlands, which include some of the few remaining ancient woodlands left in Tameside, provide food and shelter for many animals and birds and give a stunning show of colour in the autumn.


Some of the grass is kept short for picnics and informal games, but in many areas of the reserve the grass is allowed to grow long, at least for the summer, allowing plants to flourish and benefiting insects and small mammals.


The River Tame and the Goyt provide an excellent wetland habitat for a variety of wildlife including amphibians, invertebrates, small mammals and birds. Occasionally the kingfisher can be seen darting along the river.

Besides its wealth of wildlife, Haughton Dale has many historical and archaeological features, including the site of one of the first wireworks and a nationally important location for early glassmaking.

Hulmes and Hardy Woods - Denton

Rich seams of coal enabled Denton to have a thriving mining industry beginning over 200 years ago. Maps of 1848 show numerous coal pits in this part of the Tame Valley, but by the late 1970's, dangerous shafts were filled and capped, and old shale heaps re-planted. The area now is a pleasant mix of ancient and modern woodland, hay meadows and wetland and is locally important for wildlife.

Here are found species like bluebells, for which Britain has an international responsibility. The woodland, with its oak, ash and alder, is an important habitat for birds, and woodpeckers, warblers and owl are often seen or heard.

The hay meadows attract butterflies and other insects including a nationally scarce hoverfly. The wetland areas are home to a variety of amphibians such as frogs and newts, invertebrates, like the great diving beetle, and small mammals such as bats.

Being close to residential areas, here is the opportunity to enjoy wildlife that is truly 'on your doorstep'.

Castle Clough and Cowbury Dale - Stalybridge

This is part of the northernmost valley leading down from the moors above Stalybridge, where heather moor mingles with developing oak and wet willow woodland either side of the brook. The ponds in the valley are now all that remains of the once industrial Carrbrook.

Hurst Clough - Mottram/ Hattersley

Hurst Clough leads down from Hattersley and Mottram to Great Wood, with ancient woodland in the steep valley and a mixture of grassland, scrub and recent woodland on the broader slopes elsewhere. At the northern end, this oasis, you may be surprised to know, hides an old tip.

Download the 'Hurst Clough Nature Walk' (0.61MB) A short walk around this area, inspired by pupils from Arundale primary School Eco Group.

Rocher Vale - Ashton under Lyne/Park Bridge

Now it is a wildlife haven of acid grassland, heath and woodland with River Medlock running through it. But this was part of the industrial hub of Park Bridge Iron Works, with mines, railways, factories and workers cottages, alongside the River Medlock. Some of this still remains but it is now natural heritage that holds sway here.

Download the 'Park Bridge Heritage Trail'(2.06MB)  A short walk to discover the industrial past of Park Bridge.

Looking after the Reserves

Tameside Countryside Service is responsible for managing all our Local Nature Reserves.

The work is extremely varied and the Rangers are responsible for preparing plans and organising events and activities, to conducting surveys and recording wildlife. They also carry out practical conservation tasks, work to improve access and provide an environmental service to schools.

If you would like to help with conservation projects in the Local Nature Reserves, then

Please contact the Ranger service and ask about volunteering.

To find out more about the wildlife in the cities, towns and surrounding countryside in Greater Manchester look on Link to External Website. This website encourages people to record what they see, and to submit their sightings to the Greater Manchester Local Records Centre (GMLRC).