Making a break for it

Recently our volunteers were treated to a day out at Woolston Eyes Nature Reserve, arranged as a ‘Thank You’ by Lancs Wildlife Trust Project Officer, Mike Longden, and guided by our committee member and Bird Man, Dave Steel. This is his low down of the day.

Tuesday 070519 0945-1415 Woolston Eyes NR in Bright and Fresh conditions.

The Little Woolden Moss Volunteers make a break—for a break


I am not too sure why I was elected to be the head of the Little Woolden Moss Nature Reserve (LWMNR) escape committee as in truth it lifts my sprits each day that I witness this tireless and dedicated Team of volunteers re-invigorating the once lifeless sweep of peat on that came about in less enlightened times when peat milling ensured that there was to be no room for wildlife whilst there was a profit to be made from peat extraction.

For me to assist them in their plan to leave off Hare’s Tail Cotton Grass planting along with other such life enriching re-wilding planting seemed counter-productive to my yearnings to see the LWMNR 107 Hectare area of so very rare inland raised peat bog once more brimming with a myriad of wildlife until it occurred to me that I could share another link in the Carbon Landscape chain, which itself had taken a beating by profit margins but NOW was brimming with life after the efforts of similar dedicated people as themselves.

Thus followed my cunning plan….if I encouraged the team of weary vols to pause in their escape from hours of back braking work (and perfecting how to lean on a spade) they would abandon their plans to escape to the sun and instead head back east and charge enthusiastically onward in restoring what I feel to be a major part of the heartlands of the Carbon Landscape!

Weir Lane reached by 0945 and most of Mike’s dedicated Team were on site with a couple of M60 captives managing their escape by 10ish then all were ready to head off happy in the knowledge that this was a ‘Jolly’ that held new horizons which promised a spread of wildlife.

An oxbow of the Mersey viewed from the old connecting point between the Runcorn to Latchford Canal and this river was our first stop on this amble about Woolston and from here apart from the expected Mallard we noted Tufted Duck, Pochard and Gadwall.

Steps taken south then led to the basin area where Lesser Black Backed Gull mingled with Shelduck and a pair of might I say over optimistic Great Crested Grebe which yearly choose this precarious spot to place their floating nest (if the water rises its swept away…if it falls it becomes isolated and falls foul of predators.

The route then took us along the western bank of Number Two Bed (Woolston is divided into four dredging beds which took—-and in parts still take dredgings from the mighty Ship Canal) with this particular bed still being used for these dredgings) along this route the songs of Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Common Whitethroat, Cetti’s Warbler and Greenfinch slowed our progress as we peered to catch a glimpse of these birds, most of which coyly sat behind leaf cover!
Narnia was then reached as we crossed the footbridge into Black Headed Gull land, or so it seemed as the voices of the Gull colony filled the air with their celebration of another breeding season—yes—here but three miles from Warrington such birds find enough shelter to move another year of rearing their young into this wildlife uncertain world.

Today only certainties prevailed as we peered from the south scaffolding hide from which sweeping views across this restful dredging bed which has been nurtured into a wildlife haven created by volunteers reflected a glow of satisfaction from our own LWMNR vols who would but pause on this rest day before they continued with their own site restoration but six miles east of this now thriving reserve.

Then an unexpected bonus to our trip came when one of Woolston Eyes most venerable members of the BTO ringing scheme Team that voluntarily give thousands of hours of their own time to ring the birds on and passing through the reserve, helping in the scientific gathering of information on wild bird population trends, offered us the chance to witness the delicate and intricate process of ringing birds.

Bullfinch, Robin, Greenfinch, Blackcap ringed, noted and carefully released we moved on mesmerised by such delicate, caring and time consuming work being carried out by yet more volunteers in the cause of conservation.

It was time to take a period of repose in what is surely one of the best hides that any voluntary group could ever achieve — yes we had reached the Morgan Hide. This in spite of the welcome delays to our progress brought about our resident botanist who in truth is an elder statesman in the realms of the Lancashire Wildlife’s hall of fame of volunteers having given more years than he would care to admit in restoring the Astley Moss LWT nature Reserve—another major link in this Carbon Landscape mosaic of wildlife connectivity.

Black Necked Grebe stole the limelight, as expected, but just the sheer delight to be gained from peering at all this life in full flow (Gadwall/Lapwing/Coot/Teal/Little Grebe etc noted) that others would deem a ‘Brown Field Site’ gave all an appetite to revel in the scene that lay before our gaze whilst lunch was taken in comfort.

Then before a second round of Chocó-cake delight could be consumed we hit the slow pathway back to our start point leaving the now resident new leader of the Cotton-Grass Brigade a few morsels of his baking tin for next time this now relaxed team regroup with spades in their hands over on Little Woolden Moss.

The Winter Seed Crop area was noted as was the wildflower meadows as we progressed around the inner pathway of the bed before we re-crossed the footbridge and plodded onward to our cars…..a day of rest and recuperation was thus gained ensuring that once the reveille was called by young Mr H all would be there to get out on LWMNR and continue with its miraculous recovery!……..Dave.


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