Just over two years since the Boxing Day Flood devastated Lower Broughton, the second Salford Flood Basin was unveiled, much later than planned but extraordinary in its outcome.
Across from Kersal Dale, the area that was formerly Salford University sports pitches has been transformed into a wetland area, with 2.5kilometres of pathways straddling the embankments*, ten hectares of wildflower habitats, incredible artwork by Kelzo and panoramic views of wading birds.
"I'm very wary about statutory agencies because they tend to come in and say what's best for you, but what we found on this was they took on board what was being said and as a result we have this stunning area" explained Mike Thorpe of the third sector organisation Broughton Trust.
"We see this as an amazing wellbeing site for the city, and we see this as a destination, an outdoor Lowry for people to come to" he added "It's an incredible environment."
Mike was talking at the 'peak' of Harry's Hill, where the best views of the wetlands are gained, and there's a board dedicated to the memory of local activist and councillor, Harry Davies, who sadly died 14 months ago.
Environmentalist Harry, who knew the River Irwell backwards, raised the alarm as the waters rose on Boxing Day 2015, so it was very poignant that he has been remembered permanently, not only within the new flood basin but also within the new wetlands.
"Harry was an agitator before he became a councillor, and he was lovingly referred to as 'Harry the Bastard'" Mike joked "He was a cracking bloke, I got on really well with him - two bastards together - so this is his Hill and unfortunately it's a great shame that he's not here to enjoy this."
Present, however, were Harry's wife Linda, brother Mike and sister, Ruth..."I'm ecstatic" said Mike, overcome by emotion "It's a legacy that he's left behind truly and wholly for the local community, not just of Kersal and Broughton but the whole of Salford. And when you're stood here you can see where he was brought up, his allotment, the school and Kersal Vale..."
Earlier, a plaque was unveiled by local MP Graham Stringer, Salford City Mayor, Paul Dennett and Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency, to mark the official completion of the site, although it won't be open to the public until the end of March, due to health and safety works on the paths needing to be completed.
"I know from the many visits I do up and down the country how schemes like this can really help the local community put behind them some of the tremendous anxiety that has been caused because of the flooding that took place a couple of years ago, so it is absolutely wonderful that this scheme will better protect two thousand properties" said Emma Howard Boyd.
"What's so exciting for me is that it's not just about flood protection, it's all the other things that we have been able to bring to the scheme that I think the community will benefit from in years to come...the fact that you can cycle around it, walk or run around it, and the artwork is wonderful..."
The site is absolutely breathtaking. A few yards across the River Irwell, Kersal Dale has always been an unspoilt hidden beauty spot, right in the heart of the East Salford community. While that remains, this site has been created from flat sports pitches, with areas lowered and raised to evolve the wetland habitats, as the Kersal Racecourse and Castle Irwell history, together with local wildlife have been vibrantly depicted by graffiti artist Kelzo on small functional buildings across the area.
The intention is to add seven sports pitches for community use, while three community ponds will be used and looked after by local primary schools. More than ninety hectares of development land has also been protected through the scheme with the Government stating that it "will allow increased opportunities to develop land within the river corridor".
The underlying function of the £10.3million basin**, however, is to protect homes and businesses should there be any further floods, with the site able to divert and hold 650 million litres of water, or more than 250 Olympic-sized swimming pools. It complements the other flood basin across Littleton Road, which failed to stop Lower Broughton from flooding two years ago.
After the unveiling, a cake in the image of the flood basin, created by Salford Women's Institute, was cut by Mike Thorpe inside St Aidan's Church, as World Wetlands Day was celebrated in style...
See also previous related Salford Star articles...
A Tribute to Harry Davies – click here
* Derek Antrobus Way In The Wetlands? Councillor Wins Carly Simon Award For Vanity – click here
**Funding for the flood basin and wetlands area breaks down as £9.1million from the Government and £1.2million from Salford Council.
Main photo shows Mike, Ruth and Linda on Harry's Hill