Grimsargh Wetlands will be for all to enjoy, but there is much work to do

Grimsargh Wetlands
Grimsargh Wetlands

After years of negotiations, three former Victorian reservoirs at Grimsargh are finally to become a safe haven for flora, fauna and wildlife.

To be known as Grimsargh Wetlands, the nature reserve is now owned by the village after being handed over to the parish council by United Utilities together with a substantial amount of money towards the site’s future upkeep.

But while the three wetlands, off Preston Road, already provide nature lovers with much to enjoy, the site has been neglected for years and there is much work to be done to make it both more accessible for the public and wildlife friendly.

The parish council has set up The Grimsargh Wetlands Trust to manage the project, at whose helm is a village resident who has campaigned tirelessly for the area to be preserved.

David Hindle, wildlife enthusiast - birdwatcher - author - historian - parish councillor has not only fought long and hard for the area to escape the bulldozer, but is determined the wetlands will become one of the finest nature reserves in Lancashire.

He says his vision for Grimsargh is broadly based on four disused reservoirs at Barnes, London where the late Sir Peter Scott transformed them into the London Wetland Centre “a fantastic green oasis set deep in the metropolis.”

While UU has sold off land fronting Preston Road to enable the financing of the project and David reckons there have been around 10 years of negotiations, he has nurtured the idea for much longer. His back garden backs onto the wetlands, he is a regular visitor there and says the biodiversity reports he provided 14 years ago led to the securing of the former reservoirs as an important Biological Heritage Site under the auspices of the county council.

“This level of conservation status has, without doubt, been a crucial safeguard against development of the site,” said David adding the parish council has worked hard alongside UU and other bodies “with the aspiration of preserving the former reservoirs in perpetuity for the local community”.

The eight trustees are now looking forward to developing the area and are appealing for volunteers to join them on their first volunteer day this Sunday, October 8.

The three wetlands now comprise a mere, shallow lagoon and fen area and David says the beauty of the site is the biodiversity of the three different areas.

He has listed more than 145 species of birds including many uncommon and rare species such as black tern, slavonian and black-necked grebes, osprey, hobby, black tailed godwit, long tail duck, common scoter, scaup, ruddy shelduck spotted crake, avocet, smew, garaney, red kite, goshawk, peregrine falcon, hobby and last year a rare great grey shrike.

Parish council chairman Lindsay Philipson says the council is “absolutely thrilled” that after all the years of negotiations with UU the wetlands now belong to the community and the future is secure.

She said: “The land came to the parish council with a dowry of £191,384. Although this is a substantial amount of money, it must be carefully conserved to cover the costs of maintenance and improvement forever, and will be supplemented by enthusiastic fund raising.

“We are confident the newly formed Grimsargh Wetlands Trust will, with the help of volunteers, begin to reverse many years of neglect and make significant improvements in both wildlife conservation and access via the public right of way over the site.”

David added: “The legacy of the Victorian Reservoirs at Grimsargh is to become a significant local nature reserve to be enjoyed and cherished by the public and local school children alike. A public footpath crosses the causeway between two of the wetlands affording good public access and an elevated view of two of the former reservoirs. There are plans to improve public access and better facilities for the public in future. “There is no doubt the threat of the bulldozers and other perceived threats have been quashed for good and we can now look forward to the prospect of a fine nature reserve for Lancashire.”

If you would like to join the trustees and volunteers on Sunday please meet at the village hall at 10am in suitable clothing, stout shoes or boots with own hand tools such as spades and loppers and picnic lunch. There will be a health and safety induction and coffee and biscuits prior to four hours of work.