DESCRIBED as a countryside oasis set among an urban setting, Moses Gate is 750 acres (300 hectares) of kiddie-friendly beauty.
This has not always been the case because it was at one time packed with polluting industries including coal mines, cotton mills, bleach works, chemical works and especially paper mills. These were all serviced by the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal which was completed in 1796 and short stretches of this are still full of water.
At this centre it is possible to trace the history of the Croal-Irwell Valley back to the Ice Ages. As the Industrial Revolution gathered pace from 1800 onwards the Croal and the Irwell rivers which merge near Rock Hall, became polluted, but both are now clean. Between Rock Hall and the adventure playground is the weir which increased the water flow for the wheel. This is the place to watch birdlife especially the kingfisher.
Gradually the rivers became so polluted that the water was useless for paper making and the Cromptons dug out three huge ponds which are locally called lodges and which have footpaths running around them.
Care has been taken to landscape the site and nearly 200 plant species have been recorded as well as nearly 140 species of birds. A bird hide has been built and there is an information centre.
From the car park head towards Rock Hall Information Centre and turn left at the gates. The meander of the River Croal is to the left and time should be taken to explore the wildlife around the huge weir.
Even the most slow moving of adults will find a burst of energy just by watching children making full use of the adventure playground. Here I once watched four generations enjoying this area and I’m not sure which was getting the most fun – the four-year-old boy or the 93-year-old grandma! From the playground follow an obvious track.
Turn left and follow the gentle incline to the Rock Hall Information Centre and collect the informative and free leaflets. Turn right and then left and pass the fishing lodge on the right. Watch the anglers and also watch the most skillful anglers – these are called birds.
At the fishing lodge and stroll through the trees of the adventure nature trail. Here there is a scratch and sniff area where visitors are asked to scratch the surface of the plants and enjoy the smell. There is also a touch area where the plants can be rough, smooth, have crinkly edges or feel sticky. Whatever the age of the visitor it is fascinating to make full use of each of the senses. There are also look and listen areas where birds can be seen and heard.
From the fishing lodge, bear right to reach the wildlife lodge on the left.
Here the sight and sound of birds such as mallard, mute swants, Canada Geese, coots and moorhens can be both seen and heard.
There is no shortage of picnic tables and the path swings right passing the main lodge on the right. Return to the car park.