This constitutes one of the largest public open spaces in Bury. It is in effect a number of parks that have been combined under this label. These include Prestwich Clough, Mere Clough, Phillips Park, Drinkwater Park and Water Dale. These all focus on the River Irwell but this belies the complexity of the sight. Mere and Prestwich Clough are valley that come of the main river valley and have quite distinctive habitats.
It would be impossible to discuss this area without mentioning the Victorian naturalist Buxton and his ‘Botanical Guide of Manchester’ 1849. He listed the following flowers as present in Mere or Prestwich Cloughs or nearby
Ivy Leaved Water Crowfoot (Mere clough), Marsh Marigold (Prestwich ad Mere clough) Wood Anemone (Prestwich Mere clough), Boreau (Mere Clough)
Viola palustris (Mere Clough), Red campion (mere prestwich Cloughs) Ragged robin (mere prestwich Cloughs), Greater stitch wort (banks of the irwell) , Lesser stitch wort (Bank of the irwell), Water blinks (Heaton Park Prestwich Mere cloughs),
Meadow sweet(Mere clough), Water Avens (Mere clough), Wood Strawberry
Opposite leaved saxifrage (Mere clough), Alternate leaved saxifrage( Mere clough)
Enchanters nightshade (mere prestwich clough), Moschatel (Below mere clough towards clifton aquaduct), Sweet woodruff (Mere clough), Hemp agrimonys (Prestwich Mere clough), Bittersweet (Mere clough), Cow wheat (Mere Clough)
Yellow archangel (Mere clough towards Clifton Aquaduct), Spotted palm orchid Mere clough, Purple spring crocus (Preswch clough and church, mere clough), Ransoms (Mere clough), Bluebell Pretwich (Mere clough)
Many of these have long since disappeared like Moschatel but other remain like the Autum Crocus in Prestwich Clough. However, the Cloughs and surrounding area has changed greatly since Buxtons time. In Prestwich Clough, Water Dale and Drinkwater Park industrial activity in the form of the Hospital, Printworks, Sewage Works, and subsequent demolition have greatly altered the area. Even where building did not take much of the area was turned over into municipal parks. However despite these changes many of the fauna seen by Buxton is still present in this area today and much more.
Prestwich Clough. This was opened as a Public Park in 1906 by the local UDC when they spent £2000. Running from Prestwich Church down to the river much of the park is nineteenth century with laid out paths and beds. At the bottom of the clough lies the remains of a bleach works that started in the eighteenth century. The best parts of this park for wildlife are at the top of the clough below the church and on Gardener Mount where the Autum Crocus still flower.
Mere Clough This is the Valley that runs between the Hospital and Phillips Park down to the Irwell. Less developed that Prestwich Clough it still has suffered to some degree with the laying of paths. However Mere Clough still gives good shows of Wood Anemone, Wood Sorrell, Tree Creeper and Nuthatch.
Waterdale Park This is a vast expanse of land in the extreme west of Prestwich below Phillips Park. Much of this has been laid out to bike tracks and the Clifton Viaduct transect the site. The River Irwell and Motorway form most of its boundary. The Bury Bolton Canal used to flow through the area and can still be traced from the Clifton Aqueduct. Several old mill lodges are in Waterdale and this reveals its former industrial past. However significant wildlife includes common fleabane, southern marsh orchid and ragged robin.
Drinkwater Park is in the valley bottom and borders Salford. Much of this has been laid out to municipal park or football pitches. However within the park are several ponds which have in them the plant frogbit and lots of Dragon and Damsel Flies including the banded demoiselle. Nearby in the site of the old sewage works much landscaping has been achieved and this is plant rich with Vipers Bugloss, Evening Primrose, Wild Carrot, Dyers Rocket, Salad Burnet and Prickly Lettuce present.