Community Nature

Transforming the Delph

In a short space of time, Ainsworth Friends of the Delph; a small, dedicated group of volunteers, with the support of their community have transformed a communal green space at the heart of their village. Paul Buckley from the group, talks about what they’ve achieved, their hopes are for the future, and his advice for those with similar visions for their community.

History of the Delph

The Delph, in Ainsworth started life around the early part of the 1800’s as a stone quarry. The correct way to spell the Delph is “Delf” meaning stone quarry. The stone cottages on Church Street were built around 1834 onwards, with the stone from the quarry.

We are not sure how far the stone travelled to create other buildings either locally or nationally. We know that the stone which was quarried was transferred by a small railway to Lowercroft. The remains of the line can be traced across the field, on the village link towards Lowercroft Road.

We don’t know the exact date that the quarry flooded, but we think around the early 1900’s.The quarry flooded so quickly that there was no time to take out any tools or machinery. That is now buried at the bottom of the quarry.

The quarry was filled with water in the late 1970’s following the drowning of a little girl who lived opposite the quarry on Church Street.

It was filled in with household rubbish, slack from the mines in Radcliffe, and grave stones from Radcliffe. Once filled in the Delph is probably the size of 2 football pitches.

The Council gave over the responsibility of the Delph to Ainsworth Community Association to maintain around 2017. The Council own part of the Delph, and the other part is owned by The Earl of Wilton.

Bury Council stopped maintaining the Delph around 2017. The Association have tried to maintain the grassed areas, but this has been a challenge in the last few years, and a local farmer helped out by cutting the grass twice a year. The Association also had the path put in all the way round, added a number of benches, and two raised beds at the front of the Delph.

In March at the Association’s meeting Paul Buckley suggested a sub-group be formed to take on the responsibility of looking after the Delph.

On 3rd April 2021 Paul formed Ainsworth Friends of the Delph. We are all volunteers from the village. We have a team of 12, but 8 regulars.

The aims of the “Friends” was to improve and keep the Delph in its natural environment for wildlife whilst being accessible to the public for exercise, dog walking and general enjoyment of the surroundings.

We wanted to ensure wherever possible any waste created from our work would be recycled. Our aim was also to plant some trees. With the help of City of Trees we planted 10 fruit trees to form a community orchard. The fruit is free to pick like our strawberries and herbs.

In the first 12 months:

  • We have spent 5 weeks reclaiming the path, which we are now maintaining and repairing.
  • We have added new path edgings around the main entrance with the help of the Community Rangers.
  • We have cut back some of the overgrown trees and beech hedges.
  • With the help of the Council and Community Rangers we have removed damaged branches from the Willow and Oak trees on the east side, and used the cuttings to create a living hedge.
  • Installed 3 new commemorative benches with rose bushes either side, on the east side of the Delph. 2 of the benches were kindly financed by a resident on Church Street. We incorporated the Ainsworth Snake stones into the beds of the new benches.
  • A ceremony was held on 21st June 21 to unveil “Dev’s bench,” with his family and friends. He owned the convenience store in the village.
  • We have created a rubbish dump at the far end of the Delph.
  • Created bug hotels with the help of the Scouts and Brownies.
  • The Council have treated the Japanese Knotweed found at various locations on the Delph.
  • Formed a border at the front entrance.
  • Removed the damaged tree which was blown down in a storm.
  • Created a new bed at the main entrance next to the wall.
  • Formed a new surround for the Christmas tree.
  • Formed a large planter to be positioned near to the Christmas tree.
  • Generally tidied and cut back one metre around the outside of the path.
  • Planted over 600 bulbs round the Delph, including English Bluebells, Iris, Daffodils, Tulips, Crocus and Snow Drops.
  • We created a fernery in the top corner, behind the bus stop.
  • We created 3 new circular beds with plants donated by Mark from Arthur Lane Nurseries, and surrounded them with wooden edgings and finished them with wood chippings.
  • Planted numerous plants, bushes and shrubs kindly donated by people from the village.
  • Cut the grass on a regular basis during the growing season. (Thanks to Chris and Jason).
  • We installed a community notice board near to the main entrance. Notice board kindly made for us by Shuttleworth Community Group.
  • Held a successful summer event on 17th July 21 to raise funds.
  • Held a successful village chat event on 5th September 21 following feedback from the summer event.
  • Held a successful Ainsworth Community Christmas tree lights switch on event on 5th December 21.
  • We have planted 10 free fruit trees with the City of Trees team on Saturday 29th January 2022.
  • We completed our wildflower meadow in early April 2022.It will be approximately 100 square metres.
    We have recently planted a number of trees and bushes around the Delph.
  • We have planted a red hawthorn tree near to the entrance to commemorate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

The support we received, our future plans, and setting up a group.

We continue to be amazed how the village and individuals support our work and heap praise on what we have achieved in one year. Of course without that support we wouldn’t have accomplished so much.

  • Special thank you to:
  • Chris and Jason for cutting the grass during the growing season.
  • All those residents who donated flowers, shrubs and bushes for planting on the Delph.
  • For those residents who continue to give monetary donations.
  • Ainsworth Village Day, for giving a grant of £100 to buy a grass strimmer.
  • All those Ainsworth residents, who have supported and donated at our 3 events in 2021.
  • Ashley, from A Edge Tree and Garden Services, for donating a truck load of wood chippings, and Mark from Arthur Lane Nurseries for donating plants for our 3 new beds.
  • Dave, from the Shuttleworth Community Group, for making our notice board from reclaimed wood.
  • The Volunteer Rangers and Council staff who have helped with cutting of the larger trees.
  • Casalingo and the Duke William Pub for providing raffle prizes for our summer event.
  • The residents who donated cakes for the summer event.
  • The Mayor of Bury, our local Councillors, and our MP for supporting our events.
  • The continued help and support of the Ainsworth Community Association colleagues.
  • A special thank you to my neighbour who lives on Church Street, who donated £200 to the Delph Gardening team

All proceeds continue to be used to maintain the Delph.

And finally, the Ainsworth Friends of the Delph gardening team for volunteering to do all the things we have listed above in the first 12 months of the groups’ existence.

The Team have found that our work is good for both your mental and physical health. We held a team Christmas party and have really bonded and found new friendships.

You can watch our progress by joining us on Facebook at Ainsworth Friends of the Delph. The Delph is now truly a community asset which receives constant support from the kind people of Ainsworth Village.

Future plans

  • We intend to carry on planting bushes and shrubs to encourage more wildlife and more bulbs to create colour.
  • We will continue to weed and maintain the path around the Delph.
  • With the help of Chris and Jason we will continue to cut the grass during the growing season. This ensures the Delph is useable for the community.
  • We will continue with our events throughout the year. Some will be fund raisers, and others to just bring the community together like the Village chat last September 2021.
  • We have a dog show and fundraiser organised on 1st May 2022 starting at 11.30am.
  • We also have a Queens Platinum Jubilee Village picnic on 5th June 2022 starting at 12.30pm.

Advice in setting up a group

My advice to setting up a group like this is to ensure you communicate well with key people from the Council, local councillors, groups such as Scouts and Brownies, and ensure you have community support.

It is surprising once I asked for volunteers how many I got, but also how individuals found different ways of being part of what we were trying to achieve. It was simple things like buying some bedding plants, donating some money, or at our summer event baking for the cake stall. Individuals have found different ways of being part of the Delph story.

Paul Buckley, Ainsworth Friends of the Delph gardening team