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Potteries Orienteering Club

West Midlands Orienteering Association

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First published in The Potter January 2006
Text © Copyright John Heaton 2006

Hanley Central Forest Park

Mapping and Event History

In 1994/5 Nathan Townshend led a team, including myself, to produce our first map on OCAD for Leycett. This prompted me to take on a small project and Hanley Forest Park was a suitable area to produce a map of. Some four years earlier I had made an half hearted attempt to start on the map, but lack of confidence in my scribing skills with pen and ink had curtailed the venture. Since completing the first map I have been continually updating it as the vegetation matures, new paths form, sections are added and, as recently occurred, major changes have been made.

Local Events Log

Date Entrants Planner
August 1995 11 John Heaton
April 1996 52 John Heaton
August 1997 17 Terry Deighton
February 1998 22 John Heaton
June 1999 26 Nathan Townshend
June 2002 2 John Heaton
January 2003 28 John Heaton
October 2004 10 Austin and Barbara Farr

Would I have bothered if I knew 7 years later I would be staging an evening event that only attracted 2 competitors?

History

At the end of the 1960s the whole area was a bleak, empty wasteland but by 1971 the £300,000 reclamation scheme was completed. Most of the area was the land and the spoilheaps of the Hanley Deep Pit which closed in 1967, which at its peak employed 1300 men. A panoramic picture from that time is difficult to recognise. There were 3 spoilheaps, the smaller two (probably the oldest two) retained a similar profile but the third which stood on the current plateau area to the south was almost eliminated. Much of this was used to fill in the 15 acres of Marl holes that were on the site. The large mainly featureless plateau to the west was a large marl hole used as a rubbish tip. It was not officially open to the public until the end of the 1990s and methane gas produced from decaying rubbish is still drained off. Another photograph I have showing the scene after the restoration is also unrecognisable. It shows an uninterrupted view from the far south of the area to the treeless hills. This year extensive upgrading has taken place. Tarmac tracks have been constructed around the Lake, and on the main paths connecting the access points. The latter form part of the National Cycle Path network. A large skate board plaza has been constructed just south of the car park and by the time of the next event a small children’s play area will be under construction. For years I am sure the council deliberately did not maintain the car park surface to deter boy racers from using it as a race track. The car park has now been levelled and tarmaced.

Future proposals include boating on the lake, mountain bike trails, outdoor artificial climbing wall and an Angel of the North type monument on the top of one of the hills.

Geography

Two steeply sloping hills dominate the north-west half of the area rising 40 and 50 metres from the shore of the lake. The plateau to the south falls steeply to a small housing estate created at the same time as the reclamation. The plateau that tops the former tip falls to the SW to a small area of wasteland of a old foundry some unrestored where remnants of slag dumps can be seen. The 35 years since its formation has seen the tree and bush cover increase from negligible to about 25% at present, and each time I take a fresh look areas I originally classed as "scattered trees" need replotting as green or white.

Wildlife

Waterfowl and swans flock around the lake. Large numbers of Canada Geese gather on the patch of grassland between the lake and the car park and keep it well cropped. My back garden borders the NE edge of the map and I have received occasional visitors, grass snakes, nesting kestrels, a pheasant as well as the more common squirrels and foxes.

John Heaton