Birchwood Forest Park

Birchwood Forest Park cover an area of 500 acres, and is located in east Warrington between the M6 in the west and the M62, junction 11, in the east

History

Birchwood Forest Park was created on the site of the Risley Royal Ordnance Factory, where thousands of bombs were made during the Second World War.

By the end of the 19th century, Risley, as the area was originally known, comprised 30 tenant farms, a gamekeeper’s lodge and a peat cutting industry based at Risley Moss. Risley had become one of the most fertile agricultural villages in the country, growing cereal crops and vegetables, and was especially well known for its giant celery.

In 1939 much of the farmland was acquired by the government by compulsory purchase for the construction of the ROF. Within 18 months a huge complex covering 927 acres of prime agricultural land was built, including 1,800 small buildings and a network of road and rail links. Labouring day and night, up to 30,000 workers (mainly women) produced a staggering one million mines and 500,000 high explosive shells. Many of the women came over from Ireland or the northeast and lived in specially-built hostels.

The factory was divided into rectangular sections each serving a different function. See my map below of modern-day Birchwood showing the locations of each area.

After the War production of ammunition ceased as the ROF was built as an emergency factory only. It was then used by the Admiralty as a storage depot until 1961, except for the north west section which was taken over by UKAEA in 1956.

The huge disused site was put up for sale in 1963 but no buyer could be found.

In 1968 Warrington and Runcorn Development Corporation acquired the ROF, which at the time formed one of the largest derelict land sites in Europe. The factory was demolished and over 500 acres of woodland, meadows and green corridors were created in and around the area now called Birchwood.

The sluice mechanism in one corner of the walled garden

Some facts about the factory:

The factory took twice as long to demolish (3 years) as it did to build due to the strength of the reinforced concrete used to build the bunkers.

Pestfurlong Hill and all other mounds are man-made. The demolition rubble from the ROF was used to create them.

Four remaining bunkers can be seen next to the Forest Park playing fields.

The main entrance to the factory was situated at Oakwood Gate Park. 6,000 people would arrive all at once at the huge bus terminal to begin their shift.

The Walled Garden was created from the former Royal Ordnance Factory reservoir.

The Walled Garden in Oakwood, part of Birchwood Forest Park

Here are some photos of Birchwood Forest Park.

You can read more about the area in the Risley Moss section.

Birchwood Forest Park is managed by Warrington Borough Council and other organisations, including the Woodland Trust. Large open spaces and smaller pond areas contribute to the beauty of this part of Warrington, providing footpaths (suitable for buggies and wheelchairs), as well as cycling and walking.

Directions

Leave Junction 11 of the M62 and follow the A574 (Birchwood Way). Turn left at the first set of traffic lights and right at the next roundabout into the car park. The car park close to the Ranger Centre has designated parking bays for orange badge holders.

The Park is easily reached from Birchwood Station. The buses stop outside from Ordnance Avenue.

See Warrington Borough Council’s website for latest information on opening times and facilities.

Check with Warrington’s Own Buses for up-to-date information on bus timetables.