IT has been one of Bolton’s hidden wildlife treasures for some time ­— but thanks to the work of park volunteers people are now waking up to its natural beauty.

Their tireless efforts to breathe life back into this little known oasis in the heart of Harwood’s Longsight Park, has won Bolton arboretum international recognition with a prestigious Green Flag Community Award, the mark of a quality park or green space.

The site, full of biodiversity, wildlife, native and none native trees surrounded by a circular pathway leading to the river, home to otters, brown trout and kingfishers, is now being enjoyed once more thanks to the Friends of Longsight Park, a group formed in 2014 to transform the once neglected park.

Since then they have been busy digging, campaigning, building, cleaning and raising money to ensure the park becomes a major attraction for people ­­— and wildlife ­— with the arboretum one of the park’s most striking features.

Not only did the volunteers cut back the overgrown undergrowth to reveal the wooded area, they applied for funding to install benches and repair the path to make it accessible.

Jane Wilcock of Friends of Longsight Park said: “It is recognition of the hard work of all the volunteers who have been improving the park since 2014.

“Green spaces such as this are so important for physical and mental health and we want people to enjoy the park and help us look after it.

“You quickly forget how the park used to be, with the arboretum covered in brambles. To get international recognition is wonderful.”

She added: “Going forward we are looking to plant fruit trees for people to enjoy.”

This Is Lancashire:

Bolton arboretum joins 2,000 other venues across the UK in earning the award during a year when green spaces have played an invaluable role in helping people stay active and connected to nature. They included Queens Park which won the award for the fifth year in a row.

Keep Britain Tidy Chief Executive Allison Ogden-Newton OBE said: “This year, more than ever, our parks and green spaces have been a lifeline and we know that millions of people have used them to relax, meet friends, exercise or simply escape for a short time.

“It is testament to the incredible dedication and hard work of parks staff and volunteers that, despite the challenges that went along with record numbers of visitors, Bolton arboretum has achieved the highest international standards demanded by the Green Flag Award.”

To support the Friends of Longsight Park email friendsoflongsightpark@hotmail.co.uk