Cy­cling loop creates path­way to sur­vival

Macclesfield Express - - THE LAUGHING BADGER - SEAN WOOD

SUS­TRANS is a lead­ing UK char­ity en­abling and en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to travel by foot, bike or pub­lic trans­port for more of the jour­neys we make ev­ery day.

It works with fam­i­lies, com­mu­ni­ties, pol­icy makers and part­ner or­gan­i­sa­tions, so that peo­ple are able to choose health­ier, cleaner and cheaper jour­neys, with bet­ter places and spa­ces to move through and live in.

By 2020 the char­ity would like to see four out of five lo­cal jour­neys made by bike, foot or pub­lic trans­port. That’s dou­ble the cur­rent fig­ure, al­though it’s a big chal­lenge, af­ter re­cent suc­cesses Sus­trans is con­fi­dent.

Sarah Roe, north west press of­fi­cer, is ex­cited about the amount of ur­ban wildlife that peo­ple have re­ported see­ing since tak­ing up the chal­lenge to walk and cy­cle.

Sarah said: “Many of the com­muters who get off the tram at St Wer­burgh’s sta­tion in Chorl­ton are un­aware that this also marks the start of an­other busy com­muter high­way.

“The Fal­low­field Loop cy­cle and walk­ing path is one of Manch­ester’s best-kept se­cret green spa­ces.”

The eight-mile traf­ficfree path, which is man­aged by Sus­trans, runs from Chorl­ton to Gor­ton and at peak times there is the quiet hiss of rub­ber on as­phalt, as dozens of peo­ple choose an al­ter­na­tive to the petrol fumes of the high street.

Sarah adds: “As dusk falls and the com­muters are warm­ing up at home the tree-lined route rus­tles with an­other kind of night trav­eller.

“Hedge­hogs, bad­gers and bats come out to for­age amongst the rich un­der­growth and fol­low its lin­ear path­way through to feed­ing grounds in dif­fer­ent parts of the city.”

Around this time of year bats are some of the species along the path which are look­ing for a cosy place to hi­ber­nate and a group of Sus­trans vol­un­teers de­cided to help them out by build­ing some new bat-friendly homes. On Hal­loween day vol­un­teers and lo­cal fam­i­lies met at the Quad­rants area of the Floop, near the old Leven­shulme sta­tion and made 30 ‘Kent-style’ bat boxes with two sizes of crevices for dif­fer­ent species of roost­ing bats. At 15mm or 25mm wide the crevices are big enough for the bat to get in but too small for preda­tors. Dur­ing a re­cent bat walk along the path our bat de­tec­tors picked up the fa­mil­iar clat­ter of com­mon, as well as rarer so­prano pip­istrelle, noc­tules and pos­si­bly a whiskered bat.

The bats use a spe­cial high-pitched form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion known as echolo­ca­tion, which is in­audi­ble to the hu­man ear, to nav­i­gate their way down the route.

The Loop is a great for­ag­ing ground for bats as well as other crea­tures of the night as it’s largely un­lit and is rich in in­sect life. Some species pre­fer to use dark cor­ri­dors to travel, and there are also adjacent gar­dens, parks and the reser­voir at Deb­dale, which act as good for­ag­ing grounds.

Lo­cal bat ex­perts also ex­pect to dis­cover brown long-eared bat us­ing old rail­way tun­nels and ma­ture wood­land as feed­ing and roost­ing grounds.

The straight lines of green space from cy­cle paths and dis­used rail­ways are ap­peal­ing to many types of wildlife as they help to con­nect up habi­tats frag­mented by hous­ing and road de­vel­op­ment. Sus­trans and Part­ners are work­ing to mon­i­tor and pro­tect the wildlife and habi­tats along the ‘Floop’, for a na­tional scheme to im­prove traf­fic-free cy­cle and walk­ing routes through­out the Na­tional Cy­cle Net­work. Vol­un­teer wildlife cham­pi­ons help to mon­i­tor and record the wide va­ri­ety of species along the route and to cre­ate bet­ter con­di­tions to help them thrive. They will be in­stalling the bat boxes over the next few weeks.

If you want to find out more about bats in Greater Manch­ester please look up the South Lan­cashire Bat Group on slbg.org.uk/ or the Bat Con­ser­va­tion Trust, bats. org.uk.

If you’re in­ter­ested in vol­un­teer­ing to be a Sus­trans wildlife cham­pion on the Fal­low­field Loop or for other traf­fic-free green­ways in Greater Manch­ester please con­tact vol­un­teer-nw@ sus­trans.org.uk or go to www.sus­trans.org.uk.

The Laugh­ing Badger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Pad­field, Glossop

●» Young­sters help in­stall bat boxes on the Fal­low­field Loop

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