About this project
Over a three year period 2010-13 Red Rose Forest and Lancashire Wildlife Trust wanted to provide opportunities for the local community to get involved and learn about their natural and industrial heritage, whilst restoring a piece of wetland called Lightshaw Meadows for the benefit of key habitats and species listed on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan Priority List.
We were successful in our application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for the purchase of the Wigan Borough wetland. The land covers an area of 18ha, of which 13ha has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to the species rich wetland which is vitally important to a number of priority species and habitats that are in decline. In 2013 Snipe returned to the site after an absence of ten years. At the time of the HLF application the SSSI had been classified as ‘unfavourable’ and through a planned programme of capital works it achieved ‘favourable’ status in 2012. The physical accessibility of the site was very poor at the start of the project. We have since improved access by purchasing a piece of land connecting Lightshaw Meadows to Byrom Wood, a popular Forestry Commission site, and a ramp was built connecting the canal towpath on the Leeds-Liverpool canal to the site. We continue to manage the site and are strategically linked within Greenheart Regional Park, and since May 2013 the site is now part of the Nature Improvement Area, which is a fantastic opportunity to develop new partnerships and access funding.
The land forms part of the Abram Flashes in Wigan’s Greenheart Regional Park, which itself is part of a series of wetlands called the Wigan Flashes. The Flashes that form the bulk of Lightshaw Meadows are a legacy of the area’s industrial past, created as a result of coal mining subsidence.
Working with the community
The project was successful in engaging over 2,500 school children, teachers/ TA’s, the general public, specialist interest groups and volunteers in a variety of heritage activities; guided heritage and nature walks, sessions at schools, community events, health walks, on-site interpretation boards and website. We overcame the physical inaccessibility and the SSSI status of the site by having a mixture of on-site ‘by invitation only’ events and remote events at schools and at partner sites. Participants learnt about their local heritage and developed new skills (including cattle management!) and we are continuing to provide opportunities for engagement after the funding ends by the introduction of a Wetland and Woodlands custodian volunteering programme, a series of yearly community events, and seeking further financial investment to continue the work that has already been achieved in terms of improving the physical access onto the site.
A success story
The project was shortlisted for a National Lottery Award under the category of ‘Environment’ and was amongst seven projects nominated. We did not win the award. However the fact we were nominated demonstrates that the project has been a big success and deserving of recognition.
Hilary Wood, project manager at Red Rose Forest: "We are delighted that Lightshaw Meadows made it through to the finals of the National Lottery Awards. In the last three years the work of Lancashire Wildlife Trust and Red Rose Forest has transformed this place for the benefit of wildlife and people. Our place in these prestigious awards is recognition of our efforts and the support we have received from the local community."