Wildlife Wonders – Birchwood Shopping Centre August 2019

On Saturday Risley Moss Action Group (RIMAG) hosted an event entitled Wildlife Wonders at Birchwood Shopping Centre’s Micro Park.

Organiser Paul Speake, RIMAG chair, said “It was a lovely warm sunny day. We invited eight partner groups to take part to help raise awareness of Birchwood’s natural environment and wildlife.

Model of New viewing platform to be erected at Risley Moss

“We had experts as well as enthusiasts to answer questions, give out free leaflets and activities for the young along with wild birds of prey on display.”

The wildlife partners taking part included Carbon Landscape Partnership, Warrington Nature Conservation Forum, Friends of Gorse Covert Mounds, Friends of Birchwood Forest Park, Friends of the Walled Garden, Birchwood Plant and Seed Swap, Birchwood Hedgehog Rescue and Wild Wings of Prey.

The Carbon Landscape Partnership

The unpredictability of British weather produced a few gusts of wind around midday. The first casualty was the Hedgehog Rescue gazebo that was blown over and had to be dismantled. Ironically hedgehogs are an endangered species, but it was the lovely hand-made ones that needed to be rescued. They were available for adoption at £5. The second gust hit the next-door Friends of Gorse Covert gazebo where Jill’s frog dip game was being enjoyed. The frogs took fright and dived below the water line.

It got a bit blowy during the afternoon

Jenny Griggs Carbon Landscapes – Community Engagement Co-ordinatorsaid, “No sooner had we rescued the hogs our gazebo flipped over backwards. We realised that the best way to stabilize it was remove the sides because they were acting like sails and carried on without incident.

“We were very grateful to Birchwood staff and Nigel Balding for their prompt help in the recovering the gazebo. I noticed the two girls who had been working on a Carbon Landscape activity, hadn’t moved inch. They’d been so engrossed in colouring and carried on for a long time.”

Geoff Settle, Warrington Nature Conservation Forum (WNCF) chair said, “We were sharing Jenny’s gazebo and our identification leaflets and books were scattered. The books are written by Rob Smith, local author and ecologist, about the birds and amphibians of Risley Moss.”

Rob is selling his books and donating the proceeds to a RIMAG fund that will go towards the costs of a replacement for the Observation Tower that was burnt down. A model of the replacement was on display at the RIMAG table.

Paul concluded by saying that “We are very grateful that Birchwood Shopping Centre for letting us use the Micro Park. It is a lovely outdoor space with play facilities and picnic tables.

“We are pleased to have achieved our main objective of raising people’s awareness about the variety of wildlife in Birchwood and how to get involved.

“It was great to see Jenny Griggs from the Carbon Landscape Partnership. All the groups here today have an association with the project that extends from Wigan to Warrington. It incorporates the Pestfurlong and Risley Mosses as well as Rixton Clay Pits, Woolston Eyes and Paddington Meadows. You can discover more by going to their web site https://carbonlandscape.org.uk/ .”

The Big Butterfly Count – 19th July – 11th August

The Warrington Nature Conservation Forum (WNCF) have joined Chris Packham in urging people to join in the Big Butterfly Count.

WNCF media manager Paul Speake said “This is a great annual event and just like the Garden Bird Count anyone can take part.

“All you need to do is to log onto the Butterfly Conservation web page and download a The Big Butterfly Count Chart containing 19 species of butterflies and count how many they see in a place in 15 minutes. The results can then be easily entered on your mobile or PC.”

Chris Packham, who is patron of Woolston Eyes where you can find most varieties, launched the Big Butterfly Count on BBC 1 TV. He said that over 100,000 people took part last year and recorded one million sightings across the UK.

He said “We need the raw data to learn more about the natural world and what is happening to butterflies, its good science.

“This is also a great opportunity to get people outdoors and help improve their mental health.  We are proud to be doing this in association with MIND this year.”

WNCF chair, Geoff Settle said “I’ve seen most of the butterflies on The Big Butterfly Count Chart this year and all within five minutes-walk of my house. One good place for me is standing on the “new” environmental bridge that crosses Spittle Brook. It was built as part of the environmental flood protection scheme for Cinnamon Brow and has fantastic view across the stream’s floodplain where there is a tremendous variety of wildflowers.

“In the early warm Spring weather, I spotted the following butterflies in the area: Brimstone, Ivy Blue, many Peacocks, Commas and loads of Orange Tips during the warmer months early in the year.

Comma ( Polygonia c-album)

Unfortunately, since then there has been a lot of rain which has put a dampener on the butterflies. They need the warmth of the sunshine to bring them out and it’s only recently that the Large and Small Whites have appeared flying high and fast and the meadow browns scurrying between the tall grasses.”

Geoff is now looking forward to a buddleia cutting, given to him by his brother some four years ago that has begun to flower attracting Peacocks and Red Admirals butterflies. He said “The buddleia has taken ages to grow but this year it is looking good and open for business.

“The rest of the garden contains many plants that my wife who is a keen gardener has planted flowers that have attracted many insects and butterflies to the garden, including the Holly Blue.”

Holly blue ( Celastrina argiolus)

To find out more about the Big Butterfly Count and plants to grow in your garden go to https://butterfly-conservation.org/ and like Chris Patten says get out there and enjoy the experience.

Wild Flower Conservation 2019

A letter sent by our Chairman to Warrington Borough Council in the spring of 2019

can you pass this email onto the person in charge of the mowing team please and ask for a response?

I am writing on behalf of the Warrington Nature Conservation Forum as chair and checking up on the holding off mowing in two small area of land for a month or so. Birchwood Way grass verge alongside the cycle path (People are amazed at the sight of Bee-Orchids) and Greenall Avenue Stockton Heath at the edges of the small field along side the footpath by the woods).  This gives rare orchids and other wildflowers to grow and supports many other things into the bargain.

Firstly – pass on our thanks for not mowing the grass either side of the M6 bridge that goes from Poulton North to Birchwood on the left grass verges. We note that there has been a minimal border cut which is fine.

What has emerged is clear evidence on many rare bee-orchid spikes, but no northern marsh as of yet. There have been no signs of either during the last couple of years because of mowing.

Bee Orchid ( Ophrys apifera)

In the second area at Stockton Heath this morning beyond the WBC vehicle and woodland there is only about 6 spikes and these are on the right hand side of the path through the thicket. Five years or so ago I recorded about 50 bee-orchid spikes. There are none around the small edge of the field and clear evidence that the mower is being worked close to the small wood. However there is one solitary purple orchid that has so far survived. It would be nice if this could be preserved in some way.

The WNCF would like to meet up with a representative to see if anything can be done to protect wildflowers in Warrington – perhaps not to the extent of a Scottish Sign that I have attached but certainly something along these lines.

I will copy in to this email Gail Quartly-Bishop whose specialises in identifying where Warrington wildflowers are located and can perhaps be part of the process to build up maps, processes etc that could prove useful in protecting them and ultimately helping people of Warrington to appreciate their beauty, well-being and preservation.

Brian Martin on Radio 4

Brian Martin : The Living World

On Sunday last I woke up and switched the radio on just after 6 30am and suddenly heard my voice! it was on a programme called the Living World that was recorded at Woolston in 2000. I walked around the Eyes with a man called Lionel Kellaway who introduced the programme for many years. It was part of a new series highlighting the apparently best of the old Living Worlds. I didn’t know it was going to be broadcast but in the following hour received 3 emails and 2 telephone calls from people who had heard it. It can be found on the BBC  iPlayer for Radio 4 starting at 6 30 am on 24th June.


Radio 4 The Living World Woolston Eyes


Brian Martin

WNCF AGM and a talk on the Carbon Landscape Project


The Warrington Nature Conservation Forum (WNCF) met at the Fiddlers Ferry Power Station Educational Resource Centre again this year on Saturday 2nd December. The centre is a great resource centre used by many schools in Warrington and Widnes and they wish to thank Gemma for hosting the event.

Our speaker this year was Jenny Griggs (Community Engagement Officer) of the Lancashire Wildlife Trust (LWT). She gave a brilliant talk on “The Carbon Landscape Project” click on this link http://www.carbonlandscape.org.uk for more details and short video.

Her talk was followed by a lengthy exchange of some very interesting questions with the WNCF members passing on to Jenny a list of partners details and what they could offer.

One of the outcomes for the Carbon Project is to link up the mosses and coalfields of parts of Manchester and Warrington. They will be attempting to map for visitors a wildlife corridor with a marathon 26-mile central spine and involve volunteer groups and individuals over the next 5 years.

The chair pointed out that the WNCF had expressed a view to link up wildlife sites as part of the Warrington Local Plan developing the ideas of Hugh Warwick in his book Linescapes.  Jenny said “The LWT have estimated that there are over 100,000 people within 10 minutes walking distance of the Carbon Project or half of Warrington Town’s population.

David Nowell (New Cut Heritage and Ecology Trail) posted later in the day on the WNCF Facebook site “Very interesting meeting. Particularly, Jenny Griggs’ presentation on the Carbon Landscape.” It was Dave’s first WNCF meeting and we hope that he will spread the word and return for our spring meeting, details will appear on our new web site www.WNCF.co.uk  where you can join up or ask questions via our contact page and don’t forget out Facebook site “Warrington Nature Conservation Forum” which usually has at least one update per day of interest.

The Treasurer (Brian Martin of Woolston Eyes) and Chair, Geoff Settle reported that two years after Warrington Borough Council divorced itself from the WNCF the Forum had a bit of money in the bank and a developing media base on which to go forward. The treasurer had found a venue for the quarterly WNCF exec meeting in exchange for him doing their gardening.

With a membership of almost 550 LIKES one issue is to translate that into bums on seats at meetings so that more can find out about the great Nature Conservation work going on in the Town by the many wildlife groups can be further highlighted.

In interview on Radio Warrington earlier in the week presenter the Tuesday and Thursday afternoon slots, Steve Lewis made a remarked “people don’t appear to be that interested in Wildlife in Warrington”.

Geoff replied “Well some are very enthusiastic, and they are beavering away quietly in small groups actively trying to conserve what we have. We were set up by WBC following the World Rio Conference in 1990’s to act as a voice for Warrington and shout about Nature conservation and Biological Diversity and get people to learn more through doing stuff.

Hence our 11 pages of evidence to the Local Plan and the Western Link.

It was good to hear from Jenny say, ‘WBC was one of the 22 partners in the Carbon Landscape Project.’

So, maybe we are not shouting and writing in vain, hopefully are views and are being read and considered. We will continue to be a conduit, but people should remember that we are all volunteers with limited resources (time and money) so the more people that we can get involved the better chance we can have of raising awareness along with our partners.”

Geoff Settle

Chair Nature Conservation Forum

Warrington Westernlink Red Route

Warrington Westernlink Red Route comments from the Warrington Nature Conservation Forum




I  am writing on behalf of the Warrington Nature Conservation Forum, as Chair, to express the views and opinions of our members concerning aspects of the Warrington Red Route Plan.

Red Route

Our membership consists of hundreds of Warrington residents with a keen interest in Wildlife, several of whom are local ecologists and our partners such as Cheshire Wildlife, rECORd, RIMAG, Mersey Gateway Environmental Trust(MGET) and Liverpool Museum. Between them they have entered thousands of sightings into the rECORd database that is used as evidence to verify the biodiversity status of wildlife sites and scrutinise planning applications across the Borough of Warrington.

We have already spelt out and submitted our concerns about aspects of the Warrington Local Plan several aspects of which are broadly applicable in this case and hope that they will be taken on board with this submission.

We hope that our suggestions and ideas will be incorporated into the final plans rather than be ignored at the expense of the wildlife networks of green corridors, green canopy, water network etc. Examples can be seen on such approaches by the work of the Environment Agency and their flood defence work, the Mersey Gateway Environmental Trust monitoring the new bridge build and the many projects large (Saltmarsh) and small (Orchids) as well as Mersey Forest plantations to name but a few.

The red route is only a few miles away from the construction of the £600 million Merseylink Bridge. This has been the first major engineering project in the UK, maybe in the World, to have been built in association with the Mersey Gateway Environmental Trust (MGET). It also runs close to the construction of a second bridge that links Chester Rd to Slutchers Lane/Centre Park where an environmental impact assessment screening has been requested by Warrington Borough Council on the absorption capacity of habitats identified as sensitive. We will be watching with interest.

It would seem appropriate that WBC should consult with the organisations to see what lessons and practices by for example Merseylink can be learned that can benefit the Westernlink. The Merseylink Project did for example deal with expected and unexpected pockets of waste especially chemical, a huge traffic management exercise either side of the bridge, demolition of many buildings, extensive wildlife monitoring (that will continue for several decades) which includes birds on the estuary, aquatic life within the Mersey, the estuary embankments of salt marsh, transfer and relocation of wild orchids etc.

Following the opening of the new Merseylink bridge the monitoring will be managed by the MGET. The MGET’s area of interest includes part of the Warrington’s red route Westernlink network maybe WBC should contact them to see what is involved rather than duplicate effort as they both share the same water course of the River Mersey.

The route doesn’t simply mean the construction of bridges across the Manchester Ship Canal and the River Mersey but it also means development of a network of roads (yet to be shown – but whose intersections give an indication of) for housing development. These roads of course are the nodes from which the Local Plan will be developed. It would be of great benefit if the whole network is shown on the Local Plan map so that people can see the intent and extent of the routes planned to be constructed.

If this route does get government approval and funding then we have concerns for the green areas that it will change particularly Sankey Valley Park, Morley Common, the United Utilities tree plantation memorial garden and others. It would appear from the Red route map that adjacent green pathways and networks will be untouched and hopefully maintained as Rights of Way. These are of great importance to both wildlife and humans be they walkers, cyclists and horse riders to name but a few.

We would argue for the need for great care with these and other local natural environments with EIAs where appropriate. These sites all require monitoring against impact, before and after, the networks construction with detailed measures, processes and procedures to mitigate any potential damage to these places and the River Mersey.

As stated in our comments, submitted for the local plan consultation, it would be very useful to be able to views overlay plans that WBC partners have in mind. These include Peel Holding and its Port of Warrington, Environmental Agency Flood Plains, Mersey Gateway Environmental Trust’s area of interest etc along the lines of map overlays already featured on the WBC interactive maps where various layers can be switched on and off.

Obviously, the impact of commuters has led to the need to find a solution to the Warrington Town grid-lock issues and need for change, but has the additional volume from industry and the Port of Warrington been considered as these organisations adapt by changing and modifying their routes, what is the networks sustainability life-span? Will there be a need for any form of sound proofing for the neighbourhoods along the route?

Talking of networks, we would like the planners to explore the need to mitigate the natural network of species in the area. We would like to see a review of the data held on the RODIS data base managed by rECORd and Cheshire Wildlife Trust to ensure that any such networks found are not destroyed. It might be that such investigations might lead to the creation of a new Local Wildlife Site that if designated would enhance the quality of the place and show that WBC has a VISION that incorporates and respects the NATURAL ENVIRONMENT. If it’s right for the wildlife then it will be right for the humans as argued by Hugh Warwick in his book LINESCAPE. We don’t need a vision of a concrete jungle purely driven by the Government targets we would like to see greater input and local control.

Austerity measures have unfortunately seen the demise of the WBC environmental office and the transfer of some of the services that they used to provide, to the Greater Manchester Ecology Unit based in Tameside. Some of our partners have had their funding from WBC reduced or withdrawn and we ourselves have lost our presence from the WBC web site after a couple of decades. It used to be an active portal with links to wildlife groups and archive of WNCF newsletters until it was removed in 2016 shortly after being updated! All these actions were confirmed as being due to cost cutting in a reply to our environmental question posed at Full Council twelve months ago. We hope that such action hasn’t reduced are ability to influence decisions, after all it was WBC who set up the WNCF decades ago.

Risley Moss

None of the 3rd sector wildlife groups and individuals want wildlife sites to be reduced or threatened in any way instead we are asking for a clearer statement of how the places especially LWS sites they support are to be protected, enhanced, created and if appropriate linked especially between like species and environments. We believe that by doing so the final version of the Local Plan will be improved and more sustainable for wildlife and enhance our surroundings.


Moore Nature Reserve

The Immediate area contains the Moore Nature Reserve, a vibrant footpath network, plans for a new Regional Park, Sankey Valley Park and Morley Common and more. We believe strongly that these natural resources should be linked in some way and an environmental plan drawn up to pull them closer together in an accessible way for nature to thrive and people to appreciate.

We feel that the local plan should say something about identifying new sites and joining up sites to create a eco network, by using existing networks of paths, rivers, tributaries as ecosystems worth saving, along the lines of the thoughts of Hugh Warwick in his book “LINESCAPES – Remapping and Reconnecting Britain’s Fragmented Wildlife”,

Members of the Warrington Nature Conservation Forum believe that the Local Plan must identify the measures to mitigate, protect and even create new wildlife places. Any plans should be an opportunity to make sure that their boundaries are protected and that wherever possible they are connected as described by Hugh Warwick in his research and his book along with green corridors and green canopies.

It must be beholden on WBC to offer the appropriate advice, expertise and knowledge to help and encourage developers to achieve a high standard of care for the environment as part of the planning process.

Following approval, the development of the Westernlink must be monitored on a regular basis to make sure that appropriate and timely action is taken to rectify any deviation from the agreed plans. On a larger scale, we expect the same to be done with larger construction projects, networks etc as they have been with the Merseylink bridge by Halton.

Having cited networks for the good they can be used for there is also a need to keep at bay wherever possible the evasive plants that are common alongside river and stream banks and using the water course networks on an inappropriate way. A policy for eradicating or at the very least preventing further expansion of the evasive species would be very welcolmed.

We would welcome the inclusion of being able to identify potential water vole’s habitat and increase the opportunity of improving their environment of any tributaries in the area for them and other species. We know that Cheshire Wildlife Trust have done an extensive study upstream in the Sankey Brook. One thing that this did highlight was the extent of evasive plants covering and destroying the banks of the rivers and streams which have eroded the water vole’s habitat, let’s not add to that negative situation.

One of the largest and significant LWSs under threat is Moore Nature Reserve (originally 2 LWS but more recently combined into one). It is an incorporated as part of the Local Plan’s Waterfront encroachment by the Peel Port’s development of the Port of Warrington. This new Westernlink routes, will open developments in the area whilst at the same time increase the risk to wildlife.

Our members are still coming to terms with what impacts the proposed changes will bring and is a great shock to them to see how close this construction and the rest of the local plan impact on Moore Nature Reserve and the surrounding area. It would be good if compensation could be made to mitigate any disturbance(s) that might accrue.

This has been a hugely successful wildlife site development especially the extended Nature Reserve which that has become home to at least six BoCC Red species of bird including the lesser spotted woodpecker and song thrush and at least nine species on the BoCC Amber list. ‘Friends of Moore Nature Reserve’ has many active members and it has been well supported by thousands of people from near and afar. Anyone who saw the early developments of 20 years ago and returns now will marvel at the changes, they just get better and better. However now that the funding from WREN, due to closure of Arpley Tip, has been ended from this resource once the remedial work to cap the Top is complete.

The transition to a regional park needs to have a formal wildlife conservation and biodiversity management plan in place as well as a carefully thought out plan for appropriate management features such as what the MGET is already looking such hides being sited to view the flocks of birds and tidal surges on the Upper Mersey Estuary across to Fiddlers Ferry.

Hides provide great leisure places for bird watchers and people travel long distances to see the and learn about the wide variety of wildlife that continues to be attracted to this place. Having said this at the opposite end of the spectrum are the vandals who have recently set ablaze a hide at MNR and a few miles away at Risley Moss. For this place to be built on or around (the map isn’t too clear) is certainly a retrograde step in our view and we wonder what consideration has been given to managing the flood plain. It is one of Warrington’s great successes that needs to be promoted not threatened by layers of concrete.

In conclusion although to some this is simply a road network it is on our view a very complex and rich natural resource. We await details of a more detailed plan and would like to anticipate receiving details of endeavours to protect and managed the rich wildlife that will be found within the ecologists reports and analysis. There are also local wildlife groups, organisations, experienced individuals and ecologists and rangers that WBC can draw from.

We believe that by doing so measures and suggestions at a finer level will be forthcoming that will be of benefit to the wildlife, people, diversity of ecology and future vision for Warrington adding to its many great wildlife sites provided it broadens its approach and outlook as it has done in the past. We need to be creating an environment for people and wildlife to live in harmony and thrive alongside each other enhancing each groups wellbeing.


Kind regards

Geoff Settle

Chair Warrington Nature Conservation Forum.

Development of the old Parkside Colliery site

Plans for the redevelopment of the Parkside Colliery are now beginning to be submitted with consultations currently taking place.  One planning application for requesting EIA Scoping Opinion has been submitted to Warrington Borough Council in line with application for access roads see planning application 2107/30726 at the WBC planning applications Webpage.  For more information check out the documents on the Parkside development website at http://www.thisisparkside.co.uk/

Under the latest news is the dates of the consultation which have unfortunately passed as the last one was today 13/07/17.  However there are downloads of the presentations as PDF’s at http://www.thisisparkside.co.uk/consultation/ with a link to the PDFs via the link from Parkside Regeneration – Exhibition banners  http://www.thisisparkside.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Parkside-Exhibition-Banners-website-version-.pdf

Although only some of the actual site is within the boundaries of Warrington Borough Council, it will have a major impact on the wildlife and the environs of Warrington.

Warrington Guardian 11/05/17

Have you seen page 42 (Club & Societies) of the Warrington Guardian today below is a copy for you to read. It’s an account I wrote about Sunday’s RECORD Conference at the Chester Zoo Lecture Theatre. Photos to go with the article can be found below posted on Sunday.

Warrington has a wealth of ecologists who live in the Town and on Sunday 7th May several of them played a big part delivering speeches at the Annual RECORD Conference at Chester Zoo.
Their passion shone through for their specialisms as well as recording data on RODIS (RECORD Online Data Input System) the Cheshire Biodiversity database.

What has Jeff Clarke found?

RECORD is a charity and non-profit making organisation that deals with all data for Cheshire wildlife, Cheshire biodiversity, Cheshire nature, Cheshire habitats, Cheshire wildlife sites and Cheshire geology, geomorphology and geodiversity.

The Chair of RECORD, Tony Parker from Penketh introduced the speakers in turn. Many of them are members of the Warrington Nature Conservation Forum (WNCF) in fact Tony is a past chair.

The opening speaker and author Hugh Warwick gave a very interesting talk on his theory of Linescape:- Remapping and Reconnecting Britain’s Fragmented Wildlife (also the title of his new book).

His theory stems from decades of studying Hedgehogs.
Hugh said, “One way to help reconnect Hedgehog’s journeys is to make holes at the base of garden fences to allow them to get through to neighbouring gardens. The holes reconnect the hedgehog’s linescape.”

The WNCF will look for more ways of re-establishing the linescape in Warrington.

The next topic was about Swift surveys in Chester given by Roger Nutter.

Roger Nutter praising the work of Brian Martin

During his talk, he praised Brian Martin a renown birder from Grappenhall. He said “Brian produced a comprehensive Swift survey across Cheshire back in 1995. We have been using his knowledge and expertise to guide us.

Jane Cullen from Latchford (Warrington Guardian’s 2015 Great and Green Award Winner) spoke about the work of the Wirral and Cheshire Badger Group under the title of the “Data Sett”.

Jane Cullen with Data Sett

The group’s aim is to protect the badger in many ways including a vaccination programme to prevent TB spreading to Cheshire and badgers being culled.

A colourful talk followed about Diptera (the study of flies) by Glenn Roston covering Hoverflies, Soldier flies, Crane flies and many more. He cited the excellent recording work and academic papers of his colleague from Croft, Phil Brighton.

Phil Brighton with a new project for the North West

The last speaker Carl Clee works with Tony Parker at Liverpool World Museum and he described the work that they are doing to produce the first ever on-line “Atlas of Bees, Wasps and Ants of Lancashire and Cheshire.”

Geoff Settle.

New Training Opportunity

Carbon Landscape Trainee Placements

Closing date: Sunday 14th May 2017

Location: Wildlife Trust Wigan Office, Three Sisters Recreation Area, Wigan. WN4 8DD

A great opportunity for anyone who is looking to have a career in environmental conservation.

There are 3 nine month, part time placements available starting in July based in Wigan.

Don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity