Earlier this year, we made a last minute decision to visit Sale Water Park for the City of Trees Go Wild event. City of Trees are a movement aiming to restore Greater Manchester’s woodlands and generally make Manchester greener through planting trees, and their Go Wild event was aimed at getting kids outside.
We arrived at Sale Water Park, left the car at the free car park, and began our walk down to the field where the activities were taking place. It had been a while since I been to the water park and in all honesty, I had no idea where I was going, so we just walked in the general direction. We hopped across some stepping stones and walked down a tree lined path. It was lovely and shady and I started to wonder why we don’t come here more often.
Along the way, we came across a gorgeous tree with wonderfully textured bark. I completely understand why City of Trees believe Manchester needs more of them.
As we approached the field, we could here lots of music and voices, and peeping through the trees, we could see stalls with families milling around. However, we arrived just as the nature trail was beginning, so we decided to tag along.
Our guide was brilliant! And we didn’t have to go very far to spot our first specimen. Up on a tree branch we could see some black circles. These, we were told, we a fungus called King Alfred’s Cakes, named after the burnt buns that resulted after the king fell asleep when he was supposed to be making sure they didn’t overcook. Underneath, we spotted another toadstool with brilliant markings.
We walked down a path alongside Barrow Brook. There were all manner of plants growing in the verge but one that was pointed out was sweet cicely. When the plant is crushed, it smells of anise, and even better, the seeds are edible and they are deliciously sweet and aniseedy. However, it is really important check the smell first as there are other plants which look similar but can give you a bad stomach.
Armed with a fist full of sweet cicely seed pods we continued along the path. Our guide was explaining how you can spot that different creatures are present without actually seeing them. To demonstrate, he pointed out a leaf, almost turned to lace by the bugs that had been eating it. He did also tell us what the bug was, but I still like to blame baby brain for my rubbish memory.
A bit further along, we came across cleavers, also known as goose grass or sticky bobs. This climbing plant uses the hooks on its stems and leaves to attach to other plants to get a peg up to the sunlight. Hooks on the fruits can attach to passing animals to help disperse its seeds. They are also good for sticking to your children.
What became clear as we walked along was the more you look for creatures and plants, the more you see. We spotted some dragonflies, a Speckled Wood Butterfly, and a Comma Butterfly. We were also introduced to Pineappleweed. You can spot these plants everywhere, and if you crush the leaves (hoping that a passing mutt hasn’t used them for a toilet) you will pick up a distinct smell of pineapple.
One the nature trail was over, the walked back to the stalls for a wander round. There was face painting, music and information stands. On the craft stalls, Rowan made a clay bug and a garden decoration from some off cuts of branches – all in all, a brilliant afternoon. If you’d like to find out a little more about the work that City of Trees do, and the events they have on offer, please have a look at their website, here.