Blackley Forest

The forest was planted by Manchester Corporation and local residents beginning in 1953 and was, therefore, Manchester’s first true community forest. Prior to 1953 the land had been grazed and tree cover was very limited. In 1953 the forest was replanted as a community forest. It commemorated the Queen’s coronation and also the local people who gave their lives in the Second World War.

The area has had woodland on it since the Norman Conquest in 1066 when wild boar and deer roamed and eagles flew above.

During World War II (1939-1945) many trees were felled to provide fuel.

A Site of Biological Importance

Forty years after the first tree was planted the site had become a valuable community and wildlife resource supporting a range of habitats.

There had been little in the way of co-ordinated and practical management of the area and there was an urgent need to improve access and other facilities so a fully integrated woodland management plan was prepared for presentation to Manchester City Council.

The forest was made into a Local Nature Reserve in June 2005 by English Nature and Manchester City Council.


Two videos about the history of the forest: click here

Filmed by Sarah Griffiths


Top: A winter scene of forest and river

Photo: Craig Brisbane

Centre: Blackley Forest

Bottom: Victorian Blackley

Photos: Sarah Griffiths

The River Irk

The River Irk flows along two sides of Blackley Forest. It rises in the hills of Royton, North of Oldham, and flows to the city centre where it joins the Irwell at the foot of the CIS tower.

The name of the river is derived from Iwrcke which means swift.

There have been healthy fish in the Irk within living memory. It has a big history. The Irke was mentioned in a document telling of King Henry III’s grant to Thomas Grelle in 1249 of the exclusive right of fishing in its waters. The document states:

“There are the waters of the Irke upon Manchester and Blakel (Blackley), the banks of which both sides are the

Lord’s soile, on which it is unlawful to fish without the Lord’s license as it is his warren. The value thereof is twelve pence”.

The valley of the Irk has a long history in textile development. In medieval times cloth making was a cottage industry and the pieces of cloth were naturally bleached on the banks of the Irk using sunlight, rain, sour milk and the daily collection of urine from Blackley Village. This was called Bowkering and Bowker Bank was a prime site.

Did you know?? Queen Victoria's wedding dress was made in Blackley!

More Info

To download more information on the history of land use and management in the forest, click the links below:

Land Use & Management History [Page 1]

Land Use & Management History [Page 2]