The Permanent Secretary of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Tamara Finkelstein was visiting Manchester to meet partners on the Urban Pioneer programme which looks at new ways to manage the natural environment.
And Ms Finkelstein insisted on visiting projects which reflected innovative approaches to environmental issues.
Before a visit to the Woodland Trust’s Smithills Estates, to learn about the Northern Forest, accompanied by Pete Stringer of City of Trees and Vicky Entwistle of the Woodland Trust, she paid a visit to Bolton’s Moss Bank Park.
Owned by Bolton Council, the Hive at Moss Bank Park has been created by Lancashire Wildlife Trust to introduce people to wild places in a safe environment.
It offers Nature Tots, wild adventures and growing schemes and is the first Greater Manchester hub for the Myplace project, which is offering natural therapies to young people with mental health issues and steps back into employment for the long-term unemployed.
The Wildlife Trust’s Greater Manchester manager James Hall said: “The Permanent Secretary was interested in how we have built the Hive for a wide range of people. By getting people interested in gardening and wild cooking and persuading families to get outdoors, it is encouraging them to appreciate wild areas and the creatures that live there.
“It operates without funding so we took over the café last year, with all profits going back into the park and the Hive.”
Ms Finkelstein was given a guided tour by James and Lancashire Wildlife Trust Chief Executive Anne Selby. Officials from the Urban Pioneer programme were also present including LWT’s Daveen Wallis, Connor Hudson and Andy Mather from Myplace, Dave Bell of Natural England and Sarah Williams, Lee Rawlinson and Mark Easdale of the Environment Agency. Ms Finkelstein also brought along intern Alice Thompson, who is shadowing her this week.
Anne said: "We are delighted that we could host the Permanent Secretary for DEFRA and showcase some of the work of the Wildlife Trust in Greater Manchester. Despite a rainy afternoon at Moss Bank Park we were able to look at the fantastic work there. We were pleased that Tamara was able look at how environment and health can work well together and particularly the work of My Place, an’ ecotherapy’ project helping young people with mental wellbeing issues.
"As an economist Tamara was interested in some of the new thinking we are developing in Greater Manchester for funding environmental aspirations. The Natural Capital Group ( which I chair) bid to be the Urban Pioneer for the government’s 25 year Environment Plan, so it was great that our work was being considered as a good example of what can be done in other parts of the country."
The majority of the guests are involved in Urban Pioneer, a programme to looks at ways of ensuring cleaner air and water in our cities, towns and suburbs, green roofs and walls, green paths and cycle networks and well managed public parks.
The vision of Urban Pioneer is to make a clear and evident contribution to Greater Manchester’s natural environment, engaging and connecting people with nature, maximising their health and economic benefits through investment in the environment, creating sustainable growth and a good quality of life.