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Moston Fairway

A small area of base-rich marshland that developed 80-100 years ago.

Just south of Moston railway station and not much larger than a football pitch, this former site of the Moston Exchange railway sidings has flourished over the last century as an urban wilderness. The site has dry grassy areas, woodland, and even an urban marsh (unique in Manchester) that acts as a haven for breeding common frogs and smooth newts.


The Wildlife Trust is working closely with Manchester and Oldham councils through the Moston Brook Partnership to enhance the value of Moston Fairway and the wider wildlife corridor to our local communities. In November 2015 Lancashire Wildlife Trust acquired an extension to our existing land holdings at the nature reserve which will help to ensure that the entirety of this special nature reserve will be protected for wildlife and local people. As part of the acquisition process Lancashire Wildlife Trust has been reviewing the management of the nature reserve and what local people think about the current and future value of the site throughout 2014. The results from our management review and community consultation will help influence our work at the site over the next few years to increase the biodiversity and community value of the site. For details on the community consultation exercise see here.


One of the key outcomes from the community consultation exercise was that local people wanted to see the site used more by local people, particularly school children. Lancashire Wildlife Trust are already taking forward this recommendation from local people through the development of a flagship Forest Schools project throughout Moston, based from Moston Fairway Nature Reserve. This project, supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery was launched in Spring 2015 and is working with several local primary schools – see the short video below which gives a fantastic flavour of what there is to discover on Moston Fairway. 


TV presenter and Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts vice-president Nick Baker has been amazed at the special community feel of Moston Fairway nature reserve. “The enthusiasm, sense of momentum, and community spirit has been overwhelming” said the impressed nature ambassador. “This is what it’s all about, opening up our natural world to young enthusiasm and inspiring kids to love learning and being outdoors”.

What we’re doing with Forest Schools

We’re developing a sustainable Forest Schools cluster with four local primary schools centred around Moston Fairway nature reserve. This project has given Moston Fairway a massive boost, brought a whole new group of kids and families into contact with the reserve, and generated amenities and partnerships that will mean community engagement goes from strength to strength for the future.

You can find more about our Forest Schools work on Moston Fairway supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery here

Wonderful wildlife and unique habitats

Just south of Moston railway station and not much larger than a football pitch, this former site of the Moston Exchange railway sidings has flourished over the last century as an urban wilderness. The site has dry grassy areas, woodland, and even an urban marsh (unique in Manchester) that acts as a haven for breeding common frogs and smooth newts.

Moston Fairway’s ecological value arises from the diversity of plant and animal communities that are found here. The variability of wetness is the underlying factor for plant diversity with areas of temporary water, permanent pools and drier areas in the clay.

Fascinating flora on the Fairway

The railway sidings origin of this nature reserve has influenced the soil chemistry – limestone aggregates used in the past allow plants more typical of calcareous grassland to flourish in these patches today. These include Common Restharrow, Pale Toadflax and Kidney Vetch.

As you walk round the reserve you can see the dominant Hard Rush and Common Cotton Grass give way to grasses and even Heather in the drier patches. Marsh Willowherb, Marsh Ragwort and Sneezewort occur across the site with the attractive Lady's Smock. Bog mosses can also be found on the reserve and together with the swathes of Common Cotton-grass are reminiscent of more acid landscapes such as moorlands and mosslands.


The site supports three species of rush and five species of sedge, of which three - including Yellow Sedge - are uncommon in Greater Manchester. 


If you visit in spring or early summer you can count the spikes of Southern Marsh Orchids from the path. They should be easy to spot with bright pink flowers in a pyramidal shape. However, don't be surprised to find flowers with paler pink flowers. This is due to hybridisation with Common Spotted Orchids, no longer found on the site. There is a rich variety of mosses and liverworts that can be seen all year round.


Goat Willow once covered the site but some of it has been coppiced by volunteers, although it still has to be kept in check. One willow, struck by lightning, has earned itself the local name, the 'Witches' Tree'. Although this is outside the reserve itself, it can be seen from the pathway. This area also supports some lowland heath habitat and heather can be found with occasional patches of Crowberry.


Birds, amphibians and other fauna

Reed Bunting, Linnet, Kestrel and Snipe are all to be seen here and Moston Fairway is a successful breeding site for Frogs and Smooth Newts. A visit in spring or summer will provide you with an excellent display of butterflies and moths. Look out for the Brown Hawker Dragonfly and the Common Blue Damselfly among the abundant insect life. Recently, Broad Bodied Chasers, another type of dragonfly which is gradually moving north, has regularly been seen.


The railway and local history
The local railway is also of wider historical interest. Just over a mile along the railway line, on what was then called North Road and is now Northampton Road, was the first football ground home of a team founded in 1878. Newton Heath Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Cricket & Football Club began at the local railway carriage works and, in 1902, changed its name to become Manchester United Football Club.


Getting there
There is a car park available just off a small residential street, The Links (postcode M40 3NT), which has a path leading directly down into the reserve.
If you take the A62 Oldham Road heading away from the city centre, you then take the A663 Broadway through Moston. There's a left turn onto Nuthurst Road followed by another left turn to get on to a long residential road, The Fairway. A right turn at the mini roundabout a good distance down the Fairway takes you on to The Links. It's a short distance then to our small car park on the right. The path from the car park descends down leftwards then onto the reserve.
The reserve is also easily accessible from the nearby Newton Heath & Moston stop on the Metrolink tramline between the city centre and Rochdale.


Find out more and get involved
We want people to discover and enjoy Moston Fairway whenever they can. You are always welcome as a visitor and the reserve is free to access and always open. If you would like to get involved with the volunteer group on Moston Fairway or just want to find out more, you can contact the project officer for Moston Fairway, Adam Berry, on and 01204 663 754. Or come down and say hello on Wednesdays, when the group meets for its practical day. Click here for more information on getting involved.
You can also find out about Forest Schools work on Moston Fairway supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery here


Moston Fairway is one of our reserves that allows well-behaved dogs on leads. Our dog-friendly reserves are featured on Bauwow, a brilliant app where pooch lovers can find great places for their pets. Click on the Bauwow logo for more details.

Species and habitats


Nearby nature reserves

Eastwood Nature reserve
6 miles - Cheshire Wildlife Trust
Compstall Nature Reserve
9 miles - Cheshire Wildlife Trust
Summerseat Nature Reserve
10 miles - The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside

Nature reserve map

Reserve information

The Links, Off The Fairway, Moston
Map reference
SD 884 016
Get directions
Find out here
Public transport
Plan your journey
Opening Times
Open at all times
1.40 hectares
Walking information
Part of the reserve runs alongside the Manchester and Rochdale railway line. There is a fence along the reserve boundary for safety and on no account should visitors cross this fence line.
Reserve manager
Martyn Walker
Tel: 01204 663754