Rewilding a Golf Course

Rewilding a Golf Course
Rewilding a golf course – Sun Glinting on a September Sunday

Not too far from Winstanley and makes for a grand trip out. Whether on your own, with family or the dog, or even a run. It really is a stunning expanse of land, free from crowds and traffic A truely relaxing place to visit. What’s more it’s less than an hour from Winstanley, approximately 45 minutes depending on traffic. If taking pets or small children, then please be aware that parts of the old golf course do have extremely steep drops from the sandstone cliffs. Plenty of free parking and 5 minutes from some amazing pub restaurants and cafes in and close to the centre of Frodsham too. You could even carry on to Delamere, Chester and other parts of Cheshire.

So what is rewilding. Why has it happened. Who has done it? Exactly what is happening? 94 acres of woodland, free from traffic waiting for you to explore. With tree cover just shy of 6.5% in Merseyside and Cheshire, compared to the national average of 13%, the site will provide vital green space, as well as becoming a beacon for combating climate change.

What is Rewilding?

Rewilding a Golf Course - lost fairways

Rewilding if done properly, involves turning land back to its natural state. At Frodsham, that involves a mix of broadleaf woodlands and meadow. Pre Covid the area was a prestigous golf course. Footballers such as Michael Owen were regular players there. It has stunning views from the sandstone cliffs. When Covid hit, the course closed. Sadly for the golfers it never reopened. Since it closed, the golf course rewilded itself over two years. Silver Birch saplings have self germinated on former greens. Woodpeckers and badgers making their own holes, the 18 from the groundsman a distant memory. The sandstone ridge at Frodsham is rich in archaeology from iron age hill-forts to middens from the stone age. Mangeean added: “I wonder what the archaeologists of the future will make of the sandy bunkers in the midst of a woodland?”

The Woodland Trust. then stepped in and bought the site. So no longer for exclusive use of a limited number of golfers, the site now provides a vast green space for the public. So extensive that I have yet to see it crowded. It joins a growing number of sites being put to new, more community friendly use.

What is Happening?

Rewilding a Golf Course - fairway water hazards

A golfer keen or not can spot where tees, greens, bunkers, water hazards and fairways once stood. As well as the natural rewilding, the Trust are also planning to plant more broadleaf trees, starting Autumn 2023. See later in this article how you can get involved! Eventually it will be a mix of woodland, grassy areas and wildflower enclaves.

Transforming the course into woodland will reconnect the ancient woods of Frodsham Hill Woods, Snidley Moor and Woodhouse Hill. “This was a highly strategic opportunity because it was up against ancient woodland,” said Mangeean from the Woodland Trust. “With this land, we can buffer our ancient woodland particularly from pesticide and herbicide spray drift from farmland and make this habitat bigger, better and more joined up.”

Rewilding a Golf Course - wooded paths

Older trees including some venerable ashes and other native species planted by the golf course will be retained Jays and squirrels are vhelping plant acorns from the ancient oaks bordering the site. Volunteers from the local community will also plant trees from locally sourced seed.

One-third of the course will remain open space such as glades sown with wildflowers. As such preserving the spectacular views over the Mersey as well as biodiverse meadow species. “It’s not going to be wall-to-wall trees at all,” said Mangeean. Meanwhile the clubhouse has been turned into Ashton House children’s nursery and the Woodland Trust hopes the new woodland will provide forest opportunities for preschool children as well as the local primary and secondary schools.

The site is the latest addition to the Northern Forest, an effort to add 50m trees to 10,000 square miles of mostly treeless northern England from Liverpool to Hull. Did you know that the UK once had it’s own temperate RAin Forests all down its western coast?

What You Will Find at Frodsham

Rewilding a Golf Course - panoramic views

At one end of the Woodlands you can find breath taking views across Frodhsam Marsh protected wetlands. Extending to the wide river Mersey and beyond to the Cathedrals in Liverpool’s city centre. There are views over to Fiddler’s Ferry and across West Lancs.

Numerous trails, some in open grassland others in sheltered Woods cover the vast site. The current landscape will change gradually over the next 50 years as broadleaf trees are planted and wild flowers establish their habitat.

It really does have that get away from it all feel. Some aims at Frodsham are;

  • Nature recovery: The new native woodland and other habitats created on the site will support nature recovery and enhance biodiversity by providing new habitats for wildlife and connecting existing woodland.
  • Climate change: It will capture carbon and develop as a long-term carbon store.
  • People: It will provide access to nature for local people and for public recreation and community involvement, as well as opportunities for outdoor learning.
Rewilding a Golf Course - the layout

Thoughts from the Woodland Trust

The plan was welcomed by local walkers. “I’m glad,” said Cliff Seeger. “I’ve heard they are going to plant thousands more trees on it. There is space for a lot more trees and the environment needs more green areas.”

“We’re really excited about this place,” said Simon Mangeean of the Woodland Trust, “Over lockdown, people came out and pretty much commandeered the space. Once the opportunity is there, it almost becomes like common land.”

“It’s a great thing to see people using this place, coming out for exercise, or spiritual nourishment,” said Mageean. The Woodland Trust is not against golf courses, but would welcome more wildlife-friendly links. “The biodiversity value of golf courses could be massively increased if they changed their conventional management practices. If I was a golfer, I’d love to see more wildflowers in the rough for instance.”

The campaigner and writer Guy Shrubsole, who launched a petition to open urban golf courses to the public for exercise during the pandemic, said the conversion of Frodsham into woodland was a good sign. “Golf courses take up a disproportionate area of our green belt and green spaces in cities. In urban areas, far more of them need to be repurposed as public parks filled with wildlife rather than manicured greens.”

Thoughts from the Locals

“It’s just like a country park has opened up,” said Sophie Gibson. “I think there are some golfers who aren’t quite so happy but it’s a lovely spot with great views.”

But in the nearby market town of Frodsham it is difficult to find any dissenters – even among golfers. One local golfer said: “It’s good news – it’s much better than having housing built on it.”

“We’re all ecstatic,” said Jayne Davies, proprietor of Tail Mates pet shop and dog-friendly cafe. “It was a very nice golf course but it’s nice to have something there for everyone. Not everyone plays golf – a woodland is more universal.”

Northern Forest

The Northern Forest has already established over 5 million new trees since 2018 and is transforming the landscape from coast to coast and in and around cities such as Liverpool, Chester, Manchester, Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield, York and Hull. A partnership between The Woodland Trust, the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK, and Community Forests: City of Trees, Mersey Forest, Humber Forest and White Rose Forest is delivering this ambitious project. The partnership is connecting people with nature through the Northern Forest, creating growth and investment opportunities, reducing climate change and flood risk, improving health and wellbeing, supporting the rural economy and developing innovative funding mechanisms for the future.

The community forests in the north – The Mersey Forest, White Rose Forest, City of Trees and Humber Forest – have been working with the Woodland Trust to take the Northern Forest from concept to reality. They all have a long and successful history of working together and combine over a century of environmental regeneration and green infrastructure experience.

The Mersey Forest

The Palm House in Sefton Park

The Mersey Forest is a growing network of woodlands and green spaces spread across Cheshire and Merseyside which has been creating ‘woodlands on your doorstep’ for 30 years.

The Forest is one of the leading environmental regeneration initiatives in the North West. Through community and partnership working, it has planted 9 million trees – equivalent to five new trees for every person living within the Forest area.

The Forest helps towns and cities adapt to climate change; creates woodlands that 20% of local people visit at least once a week and helps improve the image of towns and cities. It achieves all of this and more through partnership of local authorities, landowners, the Forestry Commission, Natural England, the Environment Agency and businesses.

Other Rewilding Projects in the UK

Nature Reclaims a Former Bunker

In Brighton, Waterhall golf course, owned by the council, is being rewilded, while the former 18-hole Beckenham Place Park has been transformed into south-east London’s biggest park. Other council-owned courses in Exeter and Sunderland are also being turned into wild green spaces for people and nature.

Find Out More about Rewilding and British Woodlands

Think Big. Act Wild. | Rewilding Britain

Tim Oliver, Trees for Climate Coordinator at The Mersey Forest, said:

“We’re pleased to be working alongside The Woodland Trust to help create new native woodland in this area. Creating more woodlands in and around our communities helps to connect people with nature, improves people’s health and wellbeing as well as providing habitat for local wildlife to thrive.”

The site will provide habitats for wildlife, providing access to nature for local communities and locking away carbon. The new woodland will protect the existing ancient semi-natural and secondary woodlands nearby. It will have a varied and diverse woodland structure interspersed with grassy paths and open glades.

    About the Woodland Trust

    The Woodland Trust is the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK. It has over 500,000 supporters. It wants to see a UK rich in native woods and trees for people and wildlife. 

    The Trust has three key aims;

    • Protect ancient woodland, which is rare, unique and irreplaceable
    • Restoration of damaged ancient woodland, bringing precious pieces of our natural history back to life
    • Plant native trees and woods with the aim of creating resilient landscapes for people and wildlife.

    Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,000 sites in its care covering approximately 29,000 hectares. Access to its woods is free so everyone can benefit from woods and trees.

    Further Links

    UK’s Largest Woodland Conservation Charity – Woodland Trust

    The Mersey Forest | Woodlands and green spaces across Merseyside and North Cheshire | The Mersey Forest

    The Northern Forest: Planting 50 Million Trees | The Woodland Trust

    Northern Forest Projects & Partner Stories | The Woodland Trust (

    How to Get To Frodsham

    The easiest way to find the largest car park and woodland entrance is to search for Ashton House Nursery – Frodsham. DO NOT search for Frodsham Golf course as this is now linked to a domestic address in Helsby.

    In summary, head to Frodsham. Once in the village follow the signposts to the War Memorial. Go straight past the war memorial. The entrance to the car park will be on your right off Simons Lane. If you look on Google Earth, you will see that the satellite still shows the area as have a manicured golf course. Since the rewilding, it looks very different! We hope you enjoy, have a grand day out. #WWO.

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