A former industrial wasteland in Manchester, England, has officially been designated an 1,824-acre nature reserve that will provide 300,000 locals with access to nature.
The Flashes of Wigan and Leigh will become one of England’s most extensive urban nature reserves and will provide protected habitat for endangered bitterns — a relative of the heron — water voles and 52 pairs of willow tit. The patchwork of meadows and wetlands consisting of marshy grassland, swamp, reedbed, wet woodland and tall herb fen will become part of the National Nature Reserves network.
A gradual sinking of land due to mining led to the formation of lakes that became habitat for species. The Wigan and Leigh nature reserve highlights the transfiguration of the Flashes over the past century.
In addition to protecting wildlife, it is hoped the new nature reserve will become a site for sustainable tourism, as residents already cycle, fish, birdwatch and go on nature walks there.
The new nature reserve combines 13 sites, including Amberswood, Three Sisters, Wigan Flashes and Bickershaw Country Park, plus Viridor woodland, which was planted more than two decades ago by Forestry England.
England’s National Nature Reserves were created not only to protect habitats for threatened species, but for use as “outdoor laboratories” for schools, the public and special interest groups to be exposed to wildlife and preserving nature.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the first of England’s nature reserves, of which there are now 220 covering more than 254,519 acres. The reserves will help with the UK government’s goal of stopping the decrease in wildlife populations by 2030.