The Lancashire Environmental Fund (LEF) awarded the grant to enable Grimsargh Wetlands Trust to carry out the next phase of its development plans.
Situated in the village of Grimsargh, between Preston and Longridge, Grimsargh Wetlands is one of Lancashire’s newest nature reserves.
Made up of three former United Utilities reservoirs, the site once provided water for the local community and industry from the mid-1800s until they were decommissioned in 2001.
In 2017, the wetlands were taken over by the Grimsargh Wetlands Trust, which is now responsible for maintaining the site which is now home to a stunning range of wildlife.
Since securing a 25-year lease of the wetlands from Grimsargh Parish Council, the Trust has been working to promote the conservation, protection and improvement of the nature reserve.
Central to the success of this, has been attracting funding to improve public access to the nature reserve, which was classified as a Biological Heritage Site in 2003.
Explaining the importance of the grant, Geoff Carefoot, a Trustee at Grimsargh Wetlands Trust, said:
“We are delighted to have been successful in our bid for funding from the LEF. The Fund has been a major supporter of our conservation work to date and this latest grant has enabled us to forge ahead with the next phase of our development plans, to open up viewing access into a new section of the wetlands.”
The money has already been put to good use by the Trust which, in February, brought in local contractors John Dewhurst (Longridge) and McKay and Simpson (Southport), to begin work to construct a new viewing screen into The Fen – the most easterly of the three wetlands.
Visitors will have access to a new viewing point into an area of The Fen, where Red Scar Anglers were once licenced to fish the waters, but which has been closed to the public since 2005. A concessionary path is due to open opposite the new Elston Park housing development on Preston Road later this month (March).
Drained in 2001, The Fen is currently made up of damp scrub and reed beds. Until now, it has not been possible for the public to get a close-up view of the species which frequent this area of the nature reserve, as Trustee, Andy Small, explains:
“We are lucky to have three very distinct habitats which make up the wetlands here in Grimsargh. Few people realise that The Fen is part of the nature reserve, because it looks so different to other areas of the wetlands, however, this area has an important role to play in supporting a range of species from reeds, mosses, lichens and liverworts, to newts, frogs, warblers, reed buntings, barn owls and roe deer.”
“By opening up a new viewing point into The Fen, we hope to attract more visitors to enjoy this section of the wetlands, with a completely different variety of species than they might experience from our other viewing screen which is accessed via the wetlands compound opposite Oban Court in the village, and looks onto the waters of The Mere and The Island Lake,” continued Andy.
Andy Rowett, Fund Manager at Lancashire Environmental Fund, commented:
“The Fund is pleased to be supporting the next exciting phase of the wetland development, especially as the new viewing platform will be accessible for all to discover the wildlife in the fenland habitat.”
The works, which are being project managed by Grimsargh Wetlands Trustee, Geoff Carefoot, also include the installation of a lockable split pedestrian and vehicle gate and ramped path which leads up to the new viewing screen, and is accessible by pushchairs and mobility scooters. Meanwhile, secure fencing is being installed to retain the integrity of the wetlands reserve.
Below the LEF-funded viewing screen, a clearing has been made in the wooded area of The Fen, and a shallow pond has been built with a new bird feeding station, which will encourage a variety of birdlife. During the construction work, Woodcock and Roe Deer have already been sighted visiting the newly created pond.
Trustee Andy Small, concluded: “We are also taking the opportunity to create two additional ponds in The Fen to encourage amphibians and dragonflies to breed, which we hope our younger visitors will enjoy seeing once the time is right to re-commence our guided walks.”
Whilst contractors are onsite, two additional viewing screens are being installed overlooking The Island Lake, the central of the three reservoirs, where visitors can expect to see a variety of wading birds including Whimbrel, Curlew, Avocets and Little Ringed Plovers.
For more information about visiting Grimsargh Wetlands or to support the charity through a donation, membership or by becoming a corporate sponsor, visit grimsarghwetlands.org.