Festival attracts thousands of nature fans

Fun in the sun at #MFoN - picture by Paul Heyes (1)

The first Manchester Festival of Nature had Heaton Park buzzing in the heat of Saturday, as thousands of people paid a visit.

While an estimated 7,000 people took part in a multitude of wild activities, 500 of those visitors dressed up as bees in an attempt to beat a World Record.

And conservation groups, two universities and Manchester Museum were able to get their message across that everyone can get involved in protecting Manchester’s amazing wildlife.

Chairman of the #MFoN committee, Alan Wright said: “We are over the moon with the way the event went and thousands of people turned up to celebrate the astonishing nature we have in and around Manchester.

“Heaton Park is a natural wonder in our wildlife-rich city and we are so grateful that they hosted what we hope is the first of many nature festivals.

“If the turnout is anything to go by, the public certainly support the work that all of our conservation organisations, universities and museums are doing. We estimated between 7,000 to 7,500 visitors to #MFoN but it could be more as there was a constant stream of people coming in the two main gates.”

More than 120 officers and volunteers from the conservation sector, universities, Manchester Museum and Manchester City Council, made sure there were plenty of interesting activities in the main Market of Nature.

There were performances by author and musician Margit van der Zwan, environmental discussions involving young people and performances based on the children’s book, the Lost Words, in the woodland. Families got involved in balsam bashing, bird walks and forest school sessions. There was the Bogtastic van, from Moors for the Future and Bolton Mountain Rescue brought their Land Rover and chatted about their work.

Alan said: “One thing that struck me was just how keen parents were to bring their children along to the festival, which proves that we have lots of people already switched on to the message that young people need to be outdoors more.

“Then we have the young people, who spoke and got involved in discussions about the environment which raised the spirits of everyone listening in. It was brilliant to see Bury Youth MP Emma Greenwood who is helping to give young people a voice. I honestly believe the world will be in much safer hands once we hand it over to these young environmentalists.”

One of the main features of #MFoN was an attempt to beat the world record of people dressing as a bee. Alan said: “Our target was 2,700 but on a roasting hot day, I think the fact that we persuaded 500 people and two dogs to dress as bees was unbelievable. It also helps us draw attention to the plight of our threatened bees.” The bee parade followed a giant bee, provided by Ben Turner, the festival organiser.

The first #MFoN was a partnership between The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside, the Cheshire Wildlife Trust, the RSPB, City of Trees, the National Trust, Manchester City Council, Manchester Metropolitan University, The Conservation Volunteers, Action for Conservation, RHS Bridgewater, Chester Zoo, Moors for the Future Partnership, Manchester Museum, the University of Manchester, Friends of the Earth, The Carbon Landscape, Myplace, The Tree Station, Friends of Chat Moss, British Cycling, Heaton Park Beekeepers, Treetop Trek and the Canal and River Trust. It was supported by Nectar Creative, the Casey Companies, VokkerStevin and Niche Event Hire.

Alan said: “The aim of #MFoN is to create a united approach to the conservation of nature in Manchester and the region and to engage people, young and old, in the fight to save our wildlife, but it was also a pleasure to see so many happy people enjoying a wonderful and sunny day.”

If you are interested in supporting #MFoN you can contact Alan at awright@lancswt.org.uk. For more information go the Twitter page @MancNature.