Sutton Manor Woodland sign

Sutton Manor Woodland & Farnworth Sutton Greenway

Formerly an Historic Colliery - Now the Home to Dream!

Sutton Manor Woodland in St.Helens
Formerly an Historic Colliery - Now Home to Dream!
The Sutton Manor Woodland in St.Helens
Formerly An Historic Colliery
Video made by The Mersey Forest on the Elf & Fairy Fair held in Sutton Manor Woodland in September 2012
Entrance to Sutton Manor Woodland with Dream in the background
View of an entrance to Sutton Manor Woodland
When visiting the woodlands site at Sutton Manor in St.Helens, perhaps to view the stunning 'Dream' sculpture, it's hard to appreciate that until quite recently this 230 acre site, located in the south of Sutton, was a highly productive colliery with enormous slag heaps. As one walks along the green open space, that's now managed and cared for by the Forestry Commission, one should reflect upon the fact that there are huge quantities of unmined coal still lying underneath your feet that's now highly unlikely ever to see the light of day.

Also that so much blood, sweat and toil took place in near darkness beneath your footsteps throughout most of the twentieth century which cost the lives of sixty men. The last coal mined at Sutton Manor Colliery was on Friday 24th May 1991 with British Coal - the successors to the National Coal Board - claiming that the pit was unproductive having apparently lost £23 million over the previous five years. Others point out that there was 40 years of coal reserves. At its peak during the 1960s the colliery employed over 1,000 miners and was annually producing over 300,000 tons of coal. However, all that’s left to remind visitors to the site of its illustrious past are the old NCB gates in Jubits Lane and the capped pit shafts.

The Sutton Manor site with a capped pit shaft pictured in the early 1990s - contributed by Frazer Nairn

The Sutton Manor site with a capped pit shaft pictured in the early 1990s

The site with capped pit shaft in 1990s

By the end of 1992, the whole colliery site had been flattened. Budge Mining (now known as UK Coal) then spent two years with six staff in a mobile washroom, washing the coal that they picked out of the spoil heap. Then in February 2001, the Forestry Commission leased the site from St Helens Council and after consulting with the local community put project 'Wasteland to Woodland' into operation.

The National Coal Board gates in Jubits Lane are a reminder to visitors of the site's heritage

The National Coal Board gates are a reminder of the site's heritage

NCB gates are a reminder of the past

First the heavily compacted soil was prepared for tree planting and habitat creation, a procedure that took two months. Then fifty-thousand young trees including alder, willow and ash were planted. A mix of slow and fast-growing trees were chosen by the experts at the Forestry Commission with the two millionth tree in the borough of St.Helens planted on the site in March 2005.

Left: Aerial views of the Sutton Manor site in November 2001; Right: In October 2006 - contributed by the Forestry Commission

Left: Aerial views of the site in November 2001; Right: Taken in October 2006

Aerial views of the site in 2001 & 2006

The two aerial images above which look north over Sutton Manor, with the M62in the foreground, reveal how much the woodland had flourished in just five years, through a combination of good soil preparation prior to the planting of the saplings and plenty of rain!

The removal of eight miles of rabbit fencing on the Sutton Manor site in February 2007

The removal of eight miles of rabbit fencing on the site in February 2007

The removal of rabbit fencing

An astonishing eight miles of rabbit fencing was used when the tree-planting project began in 2001 in order to protect the young trees from rabbit damage. However, by February 2007, the trees were growing sufficiently for the lengthy process of removing the fencing to begin.

Burnet moths on lucerne on the site in 2009 - contributed by Duncan Macnaughton of the Forestry Commission

Burnet moths on lucerne - contributed by the Forestry Commission

Burnet moths on lucerne on the site

There is a remarkable botanical diversity on the site which results in a diverse fauna, including Burnet moths on lucerne. Orchids and other wildflowers also thrive on the site and and the 'poorer' soils which have not been improved for tree planting, result in drifts of yellow trefoils which are a food plant of Burnet moths and common blue butterflies. Some 'escaped' garden flowers add to the interest on the site, such as the blue iris just inside the Main Gate.

’Magical Sutton Manor' - photograph by McCoy Wynne and contributed by The Mersey Forest

’Magical Sutton Manor' - photograph by McCoy Wynne (The Mersey Forest)

Magical Sutton Manor by McCoy Wynne

The Forestry Commission's Notice on the Site States:
'Welcome to this Forestry Commission community woodland. Until the 1980’s this whole site was a thriving coalmine with huge slag heaps behind it. When the colliery closed the transformation of the site to open parkland took place. Whatever your age there is something here for you. Kick a ball about; gather with your mates at a bench or just stroll through listening to the birds and admiring the wildflowers. Climb the hill to 82m above sea level for fine views. It’s your woodland for you to enjoy. For more information call 01606 882167.'
Sign at Sutton Manor Woodland St.Helens
A path at Sutton Manor woodland's perimeter runs adjacent to the M62 for almost a mile. Despite the constant noise of the motorway, owls can be seen and heard hunting at night and during the day buzzards and kestrels can sometimes be observed, as well as rabbits, hares and partridge.

The top of the Manor Woodland at the apex of the former colliery's spoil heap - where ‘Dream’ is situated - is over 200 feet above sea level. It was originally 270 feet high (as detailed in this old FC site notice - pictured right) but the sculpture's installation led to some levelling and reduced the height. From here visitors can enjoy views across to the Pennines, Clwydian hills and even Snowdonia. To the north is Billinge Beacon with Rivington Pike and Winter Hill (with its landmark television and radio transmitters) further away. Shuttingslow (the highest point in Cheshire) and Bosley Cloud can be seen to the southeast. Daresbury Tower, Halton Castle, Delamere and the Widnes-Runcorn Bridge are clearly visible to the south.


The chimneys of Fiddlers Ferry power station dominate the south-westerly skyline. Plus the 281 feet spire of St. Elphin's parish church in Warrington, the third highest church in England, can clearly be seen. On a good day football lovers can spot Manchester United's ground at Old Trafford and the Reebok stadium in Bolton. The Trafford Centre, Thelwall Viaduct, Frodsham Hill and Alderley Edge can also be identified. Every few minutes planes perform 180 degree banks over Sutton Manor in preparation for landing at nearby John Lennon Airport and can be seen descending up until a few seconds before they land. Manchester Airport can also just about be discerned.

In November 2006 the Sutton Manor site was added to the six locations throughout the UK which had already been chosen to create and host a work of art as part of the Channel 4 Big Art Project. In June 2009, Jaume Plensa's Dream sculpture was officially opened and is now sited at the apex of the former spoil heap. It's visible for miles around attracting huge numbers of visitors (see 'Making of Dream' page). Unfortunately, the growth of the trees has been so phenomenal that motorists on the adjacent M62 motorway can only view the artwork for a few seconds. So the Forestry Commission, who manage the site, are planning to prune back some of the trees to improve Dream's visibility.

Forestry Commission notices at Sutton Manor Woodland during the winter of 2009/10 and summer of 2010

Forestry Commission notices during winter of 2009/10 and summer of 2010

Forestry Commission notices

As Dream has had such a dramatic impact on the site and thrust Sutton Manor firmly into the limelight, the Forestry Commission have been taking a fresh look at how they manage the whole site in order to sustain it as a high quality visitor destination, both now and in the longer term.
“Bench

Benches designed by children at Sutton Manor Primary School who worked with artist Bernadette Hughes

“Bench

Benches designed by children at Sutton Manor Primary & Bernadette Hughes

“Bench

Benches designed by local children

As well as the Dream sculpture on the Sutton Manor site, the summer of 2009 also saw the addition of a number of superb new benches which graphically represent the history of the site. These have been courtesy of Sutton Manor Primary School's heritage project in conjunction with artist Bernadette Hughes and the Shining Lights Heritage Group. In November 2009, Marion White of the latter received a nomination in 'The Unseen Hero' category in the 2009 St.Helens Tourism and Leisure Awards. During the same month the Forest Road primary school received an International School Award.
“Roe

Roe deer in Sutton Manor woodland photographed and contributed by Rob Dillon on January 29th 2012

“Roe

Roe deer in Sutton Manor woodland photographed by Rob Dillon in 2012

“Roe

Roe deer in the woodland in 2012

Access improvements were made in June / July 2010 and in a poll commissioned by The Mersey Forest in September of that year, the Sutton Manor Woodland was singled out for praise. Residents commended the site as an asset to the area and a vast improvement on how it had been. In late 2011 roe deer were observed on the site for the first time with the longer grass and expanding tree coverage providing more hiding places for wildlife. The secretive animals were first photographed by Rob Dillon in January 2012 and the Forestry Commission say the best time to see them is at dawn or dusk. They are trying to establish if the deer have set up home in Sutton Manor or are just passing through.
“Heritage

Part of the six-strong heritage art trail in the Sutton Manor woodland installed in January 2012

“Heritage

Part of the six-strong heritage art trail in the Sutton Manor woodland

“Heritage

Part of the 6-strong heritage art trail

A heritage art trail designed by the local schoolchildren working with Bernadette and writer Collette Hughes was unveiled in January 2012. Six flame-like monoliths, inscribed with poems dedicated to the memory of Sutton Manor miners, grow from the ground and lead up to Dream. One verse reads: 'There is a wisdom in our bones, in our aching backs and blistered feet. We blink the dust from our eyes, every time we awake and because we remember we remain.' The Heritage Trail stretches for more than half a mile around Sutton Manor and each of the cast steel structures, which have been dubbed Green Flames, is about six feet tall. This is another welcome addition to the landscape. Work to improve the pond on the site is also scheduled to take place in early 2012. The Forestry Commission plans to improve the habitats to create better environments for endangered animals, such as water voles.
“Picnic

One of a number of picnic tables which are situated within the Sutton Manor Woodland near to the Dream sculpture

“Picnic

One of a number of picnic tables situated within the Sutton Manor Woodland

“Picnic

One of a number of picnic tables

Two ornately-decorated benches funded by Bold Parish Council and dedicated to the memory of Sutton Manor pitmen have also been installed on the site. Within days of their installation in March 2012, vandals removed one bench, although it was quickly found and re-sited. There is a constant battle against vandals but the Forestry Commission and the Shining Lights Heritage Group are keen to ensure that they do not win. There are many benches and picnic tables spread over the site, so visitors can take a moment or enjoy a packed lunch while enjoying pleasant views. Regular litter-picking days are organised to keep the woodlands site as pristine as possible.
“Water

Water voles are flourishing within the reed beds at the Sutton Manor Woodland in St.Helens

“Water

Water voles are flourishing in the reed beds in the woodland

“Water

Water voles are flourishing in reed beds

In June 2012 the Forestry Commission installed six new owl boxes in Sutton Manor to encourage nesting. The long grass is filled with small mammals, which makes it an excellent hunting ground for barn owls. However there is a lack of large trees for the owls to nest in and so the boxes are designed to compensate and create the perfect habitat. In February 2013 it was announced that water voles are flourishing at Sutton Manor, reversing a nationwide trend. This is down to the habitat management work on the reed beds that the Forestry Commission have undertaken. Ten years ago there were no voles on the site but over the past five years they have spread at a remarkable rate.

Since the creation of the Sutton Manor woodland, children have been involved in a range of activities, including the aforementioned art and heritage projects, planting and nature studies. An interesting example can be found just off the ’middle track’, accessed by going up the hill from the fish pond at the site’s Clock Face end. There you’ll find a school garden, lintel stone and arch.
“Replanting

The replanting of St.Matthew’s school garden at Sutton Manor Woodland - contributed by Jennifer Robinson

“Replanting

Replanting of St.Matthew’s school garden at Sutton Manor Woodland

“Replanting

Replanting of St.Matthew’s garden

These belonged to St. Matthew’s school in Thatto Heath, which closed in June 2004. In the weeks before the closure, the schoolchildren transplanted their nature garden to Sutton Manor. This had been tended by years 5 and 6 and the school’s gardening club. The wide mix of plants included crocuses, bluebells, daffodils, rose and skimmia bushes.

The replanting was at the suggestion of Community Ranger Duncan Macnaughton of the Forestry Commission, working with Jennifer Robinson of the school. Duncan wanted the children to still be able to see their plants at a new home in the Sutton Manor Woodland. The intention was for the garden to meld into the developing woodland site. In fact some of the tree seedlings that the school had grown were also planted at Sutton Manor. Stones from the school garden were deposited too, along with an 1929 date stone.
“Lintel

The entrance lintel of St.Matthews school now resides in Sutton Manor Woodland near to the school garden

“Lintel

The entrance lintel of St.Matthews school now resides in the woodland

“Lintel

St.Matthews school entrance lintel

Near to the garden you’ll also now find the school entrance lintel and ‘arch’. With permission from the school authorities, these were ’rescued’ by the Forestry Commission when the building was demolished. The heavy stones were put in storage and finally placed in position at Sutton Manor Woodland in February 2014.
“Sutton

The flourishing Sutton Manor Woodland and the Dream sculpture pictured from the M62 road bridge

“Sutton

The flourishing Sutton Manor Woodland and the Dream sculpture

“Sutton

Flourishing Sutton Manor Woodland

Farnworth Sutton Greenway

The Farnworth Sutton Greenway is a 3 metre wide footpath and cycleway, which was completed in early 2015 and runs the 2.7km (1.67 mile) length of a former railway minerals line. The shared use path connects Dream and the Sutton Manor Woodland to the outskirts of Widnes at Mill Lane. It also serves as a bridleway and local representatives of the British Horse Society were consulted over the design.
“Sutton

The Sutton Manor Colliery mineral line of which part is now Farnworth Sutton Greenway - contributed by Frazer Nairn

“Sutton

The Sutton Manor Colliery mineral line is now Farnworth Sutton Greenway

“Sutton

Sutton Manor Colliery mineral line

Until 1982 the route was used by Sutton Manor Colliery and formed part of the St Helens and Runcorn Gap Railway. In recent years after becoming an overgrown wilderness, St.Helens and Halton Councils decided to convert it into a recreational path with hard-standing surface. Financial support was obtained from the Local Sustainable Transport Fund and the greenway forms part of the recently created Bold Forest Park.
“Farnworth
An 'A' frame located at the top (and end) of the path prevents access to motorised vehicles and scrambler bikes. The route travels south under the M62, Union Bank Bridge and the historic Bold Bridge on the Warrington Road (A57) in Bold Heath. The latter has the rare distinction of being struck by a German Zeppelin bomb in 1918 and is the demarcation point between the two councils. St.Helens Council has responsibility from Sutton Manor to Bold Bridge, with Halton Council in charge until the end of the route.
“Farnworth
The bird life to be observed along the way includes birds of prey - such as buzzards and sparrowhawk - as well as yellowhammers, common whitethroat, fieldfare and redwing. The vegetation includes Harts Tongue fern and the limestone formerly in the track ballast in the southern section has led to the growth of alkaline loving plants. The butterflies that may be spotted include orangetip, gatekeeper and the comma.
“Farnworth
More On This Website About Sutton Manor Woodland:
Beauty Pages: Sutton Manor Woodland Photo-Album;  Location Information;  Making of Dream;  Research Sources
Heritage Pages: Sutton Manor Colliery Part1;  Sutton Manor Colliery Part 2;  Picturesque Sutton - How Sutton Has Changed
Contact Details: Forestry Commission: 01606 884937; Site Ranger: Phil Lee Tel. 075543 33548 phil.lee@forestry.gsi.gov.uk Mersey Forest Love Your Woods Become A Mersey Forest Supporter

Bold Forest Park logo
Sutton Manor Woodland / Dream is part of the new Bold Forest Park initiative which also includes Brickfields, Maypole Wood, Griffin Wood, Wheatacre, Clock Face Colliery Country Park and Colliers Moss. The stakeholders - St.Helens Council, Mersey Forest, Forestry Commission and St.Helens Chamber - describe it as an 'evolving idea to develop the woodlands and businesses of south St.Helens as a place to visit and enjoy, bringing local jobs and prosperity'. There are plans for a wide range of activities and facilities. Click/tap here to visit the official Bold Forest Park website.
Video by ukenigma made in August 2014 which showcases Sutton Manor Woodland as well as Dream
Stephen Wainwright
This website has been written and researched and many images photographed by myself, Stephen Wainwright, the Sutton Beauty & Heritage site owner. Individuals from all over the world have also kindly contributed their own photographs. If you wish to reuse any image, please contact me first as permission may be needed from the copyright owner. High resolution versions of many pictures can also be supplied at no charge. Please also contact me if you can provide any further information or photographs concerning Sutton, St.Helens. You might also consider contributing your recollections of Sutton for the series of Memories pages. Sutton Beauty & Heritage strives for factual accuracy at all times. Do also get in touch if you believe that there are any errors. I respond quickly to emails and if you haven't had a response within twelve hours, check your junk mail folder or resend your message. Thank you! SRW
This website is written and researched by Stephen R. Wainwright ©MMXVI  Contact Me
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