Cycling loop creates pathway to survival
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