The Lyme and Wood Pit Country Park
When Wood Pit, the last colliery in Haydock, closed in 1971 it was the end of an era. Haydock had largely been built on its mining heritage with up to 13 collieries working at one time whilst more recently several of the former colliery sites remained as derelict slag heaps. A somewhat hair-brained scheme to turn the Lyme and Wood Pit heaps into artificial ski slopes came to nought and little happened with the locality of these two former collieries until planning permission was granted for refuse landfilling on the site. As would be expected this was not exactly welcomed with open arms by nearby residents, however a number of conditions were laid down as part of the planning consent. Most important was that on completion of landfilling the site should be completely restored and become a country park.
Originally landfilling should have been completed over a year ago but due to a number of factors this did not happen and following a further planning application closure of the site was put back until the end of 2016. One of the key reasons was a reduction in landfilling due to an increase in recycling, particularly by local authorities. This has been encouraged by the government’s increasing of the landfill tax to its present £72 per tonne rising to £80 per tonne next year.
In the meantime most of the site is already available as a country park and is open to the public. There are three entrances off Vista Road, two off Clarence Street and one by Lyme Street School at Earlestown, plus others in Haydock. Planning permission has been granted for a small car park off Vista Road and work will commence on this as soon as the Council provides some necessary documentation. On cessation of landfilling the current site office area will become available as a visitor centre and car park. The area is crossed by the Newton Heritage Trail and display boards showing the layout and routing of the paths, which are indicated by coloured marker posts have been installed at the entry points.
The park is a mixture of woodland, open grassland and native hedgerows with a wildflower meadow, wetland areas and fishing ponds (managed by Newton Anglers’ Association). Literally tens of thousands of saplings have been planted and (despite some vandalism) large numbers of these, particularly relatively quick growing Rowans and Alders on the Haydock side have now become well established but it will be future generations who will see the true magnificence of the slower growing oaks and beeches.
In July, the site operators, Cory Environmental, appointed a ranger to manage the park and an action plan has been produced with the aim of encouraging community involvement including residents and local schools. The latter have already been involved in tree and wildflower planting and involvement and advice from organizations such as the RSPB and Lancashire Wildlife Trust has and will be sought.
On final completion there will be an excellent view from the top of the mound and all that will remain to show the area had been a landfill site will be the gas engine generators. The gas generated by the decaying landfill material is collected by a network of pipes and fed to several gas engines which drive generators producing electricity which is sold to the National Grid. This is currently about 4.2 megawatts (more than two of the largest wind turbines) and sufficient for several thousand homes.