The borough of Rochdale lies to the North East of Manchester and consists of the towns of Rochdale, Heywood and Middleton and the Pennine villages of Wardle, Littleborough and Milnrow. The population of the borough is around 213,000.
The area is mainly upland with the moorland in the north and east between 200 and 400 metres above sea level reaching its highest point at 472 m near the dramatic millstone grit escarpment of Blackstone Edge.
A number of rivers such as the Roch, Spodden, Naden, Irk and Beal flow through the area on their way to their confluence with the River Irwell, providing important wildlife corridors through the urban areas.
The Rochdale canal, parts of which are a nationally important Site of Special Scientific Interest and a European Special Area of Conservation, threads its way through the borough on its way from Manchester to Yorkshire.
The area has the highest number of reservoirs in the UK. Watergrove, Upper Naden and Piethorne and their surrounding areas are well known important open spaces, whilst Hollingworth Lake is a popular Country park with a good range of wildlife.
There are local nature reserves at Healey Dell, Hopwood Woods and Alkrington Woods, and Ashworth Valley is an area of semi-natural broadleaved woodland.
The borough contains a number of Sites of Biological Interest. These range from a small corner of a field supporting a small colony of autumn crocus to expansive tracts of open moorland containing over 80% of the county’s blanket bog (a UK BAP priority habitat), 90% of wet modified bog and more than half of the acidic flush habitat, providing excellent habitat for nationally important upland breeding bird populations.
This wide variety of habitats support and equally wide and rich diversity of wildlife.