Join us this Sunday 26th May for our Beautiful Oldham – Why Not? event – a celebration of local heritage, nature and community at Northern Roots in Oldham!

Inspired by pioneering conservationist, social reformer and Oldham resident Mary Higgs, co-created by our team of local Community Champions, and funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, our FREE, family-friendly event will feature heritage and nature based crafts, nature and wellbeing activities, plant sales, food and growing demonstrations, and games and play.

We’ll be opening up the Urban Farm and Community Garden to welcome you in, and encouraging you to explore the beautiful, 160-acre Northern Roots site from 2-5.30pm.

What’s on – all afternoon

The following activities are FREE and suitable for a range of ages.

Our celebration starts with a heritage exhibition, showcasing the story of Mary Higgs and the Beautiful Oldham Society she founded in 1902 – the inspiration for our celebration.

Throughout the afternoon we’ll have a wooden spoon carving demonstration from local carver Joe and Community Champion Tayyibah will showcase her beautiful henna art. Watch Colne Valley Museum as they demonstrate traditional wool spinning techniques and enjoy Chris Ruffoni’s woodland musical devices – which are powered by the sun and wind and create an immersive audio connection to nature.

Get creative making nature crowns with the Salvation Army Fitton Hill, then hop, jump and skip your way to the Seed Bomb making zone.

Meet the Mascots and enjoy interactive performances from the team at Oldham Theatre Workshop.

Grab a nature bingo sheet and see what wildlife you can spot on our nature trail, and receive your free bespoke badge, designed by Community Champion and Oldham College student Tom, for completing the trail.

Join the fire circle at Martha’s Forest School and get involved in outdoor games such as rounders, football, Cat and Mouse, and Tug of War with Dare to Know Theatre.

Inspired by Mary Higgs and the Beautiful Oldham Society, we’ll encourage you to make your promise to the future of Oldham at our Promise Tree.

Make your way across to the Urban Farm to see where our grown in Oldham veg is produced and meet the Community Growers. Meet the beekeeper, watch the bees make honey in a display case and grab a picture in a beekeeping suit.

Heirloom tomatoes, chilli, aubergine and strawberry plants will be on sale, as well as flowers such as sweet peas, cosmos, marigolds and sunflowers, with prices starting at 50p.

Don’t miss out on our limited edition ‘Beautiful Oldham – Why Not?’ totes bags for only £3. Designed by Greater Manchester artist Swillistrations and inspired by the very thing that makes Oldham beautiful – the people.

The lovely people at RePause will have coffee, hot chocolate and cakes, and Kaddy’s ice cream will have sweet treats to cool you down. Please feel free to bring your own picnic and relax in our picnic zone, which will have log circles, deckchairs and picnic benches.

Book your free place

Sunday 26th May: My Beautiful Promise – FREE Guided Intention Setting and Meditative Planting with Steph at 2:30pm and 4pm

As part of our ‘Beautiful Oldham – Why Not?’ celebration on Sunday 26th May, take a moment for yourself. Join Steph, our Natural Health Service Lead, as she guides you through setting intentions for yourself, while you get hands on with mindful planting.

Book your FREE place via EventBrite.

Sunday 26th May: Plant, Chutney and Chaat with Tracey and Faiza – Live Demonstrations at 2:30pm and 3:30pm **SOLD OUT**

Learn how to grow your own herbs at home with Tracey, and use them in tasty, traditional South Asian chutney and chaat with Faiza.

Book your FREE place via EventBrite.

Friday 17th June: Think It Make It Grow It with the University of Salford.

Interested in growing food and how this can be done in urban environments? Have great ideas you want to share about increasing access to healthy, home-grown foods in Oldham? Never heard of urban agriculture and just want to learn more? Find out more and book your place on this free workshop.


‘My Northern Roots’ Podcast with Matt Dean

In this Kupod series, Matt explores identity, belonging, heritage, and his personal connection to Oldham. He documents the stories of our wonderful team of local Community Champions as the ‘Beautiful Oldham – Why Not?’ project evolves and considers what ‘Beautiful Oldham – Why Not?’ might mean today.


Mary Higgs and the Beautiful Oldham Society

“The Beautiful Oldham Society should encourage the cultivation of shrubs, flowers in the spaces adjoining public buildings, schools, mills, houses, to cultivate the love of nature and gardening in school children, to utilise waste and open areas for tree planting, gardening, to encourage and provide facilities for the cultivation of plants and flowers in window pots and boxes, to provide groups of cottages with common gardens.” Mary Higgs, Beautiful Oldham Society, 1902

In 1901, Oldham resident Mary Higgs wrote to the Oldham Chronicle asking, ‘Beautiful Oldham – Why Not?’.

By the mid-19th century Oldham had become the cotton-spinning epicenter of the world, its skyline and fortunes transformed by the mills of the Industrial Revolution. Mary saw beyond the sooty mills and chimneys of the industrial Oldham she lived in. Her vision was to create a cleaner, greener Oldham, in which residents were empowered to make positive change.

In 1902 Mary founded the Beautiful Oldham Society. The Society encouraged residents, young people and businesses to plant flowers and trees, grow veg, and to cherish and protect the environment.

” I promise to do all in my power to protect wild birds and plants, and flowers, and to influence others to do the same. To do my best to sow seeds, or plant flowers or trees, in or around Oldham at least once every year.  To do all I can to make my home, school, and town beautiful”. Beautiful Oldham Society Promise, 1914.

Mary recognized that encouraging children to care for nature was vital to the success of her vision. By 1910, the Junior Beautiful Oldham Society had over 10,000 members, who met regularly on Snipe Clough, which lies at the northern end of the modern-day Northern Roots site. She encouraged each child to make a promise to plant seeds, protect nature, and make Oldham a more beautiful place.

During our Beautiful Oldham – Why Not? celebration event, we’ll be making our own ‘promises’ and encouraging you to do the same. Beautiful Oldham – Why Not?


National Lottery Heritage Fund

Using money raised by the National Lottery, we inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future.

Since The National Lottery began in 1994, National Lottery players have raised over £43 billion for projects and more than 635,000 grants have been awarded across the UK.

Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund.

Northern Roots

Northern Roots is creating the UK’s largest urban farm and eco-park on 160 acres of stunning green space, fifteen minutes on foot from Oldham town centre. A unique new community asset and vibrant visitor destination.

Northern Roots is being developed for and with local communities and will create a wide range of activities, facilities and business opportunities on the site. From growing edible crops at scale, bee-keeping and animal husbandry, to mountain biking, outdoor events, and arts and culture, there will many opportunities for local people – and visitors – to discover, utilise and enjoy the site.

This year, visitors to the Northern Roots site will see the beginning of a programme of work that will transform the Northern Roots site for everyone. The first phase of construction at Northern Roots, which includes a new Visitor Centre, Forestry Skills Centre and the expansion of the Urban Farm, is now underway.

Over the coming years, visitors to the Northern Roots site will see the creation of a Learning and Wellbeing Centre, a solar array, sports pitches, cycle routes, play facilities, performance spaces and a swimming pond.

Find us

The Northern Roots site is located fifteen minutes on foot from Oldham town centre, in Greater Manchester. The 160-acre site stretches from award-winning Alexandra Park in the north, past Park Bridge Heritage Centre, to Bankfield Clough in the south. It is bordered by the communities of Glodwick, Fitton Hill, Hathershaw, Alt, Bardsley and Park  Bridge.

Follow Northern Roots

Follow Northern Roots for daily project updates on  TwitterInstagram and Facebook and find out more at

Mary Higgs, inspirational change-maker and Oldham resident. Image courtesy of Gallery Oldham.
Get involved with FREE heritage and nature crafts.
The Beautiful Oldham Society Promise, 1914. What would you promise to do? Image courtesy of Gallery Oldham.
Don't miss the planting, cultural and mindfulness activities with our Community Champions. Book via EventBrite.
We're selling tote bags, flowers, veg and more!
The 'Beautiful Oldham - Why Not?' project is made possible by funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Artists impression of the proposed Visitor Centre at Northern Roots, April 2024.
Local children learning about conservation and nature at Northern Roots, Oldham.