Thursday, 2 September 2010

Wigan Flashes

On Tuesday I visited Wigan Flashes at the invitation of The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester & North Merseyside.

The Flashes (or lakes) are a legacy of the town's industrial past and were formed as a result of mining subsidence.

The Trust manages Wigan Flashes statutory Local Nature Reserve (LNR) on behalf of Wigan Council. This covers 260 hectares of wetland and woodland. It is part of a larger network of important wetland habitats forming a ‘Living Landscape’ running for approx 9Km along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal.

These include Hey Brook, Abram Flashes, Pennington Flash Country Park and Hope Carr Nature Reserve. The Trust has recently acquired Abram Flashes, as an additional wetland reserve.

Wigan Flashes habitats include large areas of open water, reedbed, fen, rough grassland, wet woodland and scrub. Over 200 species of bird, 15 species of dragonfly and 6 species of orchid have been recorded.

The elusive Bittern is regularly recorded in the winter months and work to improve and manage the reedbeds is aimed at attracting this nationally rare bird to stay and breed.

The Makerfield area also supports healthy populations of Water Vole, having suffered catastrophic declines elsewhere in the UK.

I was delighted to hear of the committment of the Trust to engage with schools, colleges and youth groups and the impressive 600 strong regular volunteer army who help the Trust’s staff in maintaining wetland areas.

Trust Chief Executive Anne Selby arranged the tour of the Flashes with Mark Weston – Asst Chief Executive and Mark Champion who has worked tirelessly over the past decade as Conservation Manager of the Wigan Flashes.

We are blessed to have such a fantastic resource protecting the natural environment. The Flashes offer a network of important wildlife habitats and provide recreational activities for the community. In our busy lives we can sometimes overlook what is on our own doorstep, so I would encourage local people to visit this oasis within the borough.

For more information about the work of the Trust please click here.