In 2003 Cory Environmental commissioned land fill operations on the area of spoil from the old Lyme and Wood Pits Collieries. Conditions for the planning application directed that at the end of the development the area should be made environmentally sound and the site ground should be restored and the area made into a country park for the local community.
This has now “come to pass” and the Lyme and Wood Pits Country Park opened in 2012 whilst restoration and Land Fill operations are still in progress these are expected to be completed in the near future and the Park fully opened in 2016.
Cory Environmental have an excellent reputation for providing the perfect habitats for wildlife at their sites and from the progress to date we have no doubts this will be the case in the Lyme and Wood Pits Country Park. In 2013 Cory appointed Scott Lancaster as Park Development Ranger and Scott is very much focussed on establishing the new park for the future and encouraging public use of this important local asset.
Lyme and Wood Pits Country Park already has an established habitat in some areas, other areas though are entirely new ground established after the recent land fill operations and therefore we are on the journey to fully establishing the habitats.
Country Parks such as this one do serve a valuable purpose both for people and for wildlife. For people it’s the opportunity to relax and exercise in nice surroundings. For wildlife its simply species survival, the provision of habitat and as a connecting green corridor serving migration, roaming, shelter and breeding purposes. Country Parks do have their limitations for wildlife though and are not a direct substitute for wild countryside as certain species are sensitive to human disturbance. Nonetheless even for these species they do serve a primary purpose of connecting corridors to other areas of green space. This is an important point, nature does not exist in zones but is everywhere and without interconnecting and diverse habitats nature and species will fail, connectivity a fundamental part of ecology is all.
However many species do react well to the managed country park environment and in fact often respond better than in a truly wild unmanaged environment. This is because they can be nurtured by specific species management plans to create the optimum habitat shielded from predators. Plants, amphibians and insects particularly but also certain species of birds and mammals do adapt well in these environments, particularly those less sensitive to human disturbance.
In terms of the country park itself it is well served by grassland habitat and emerging woodland there are three new fishing ponds on the park managed by Newton anglers , Lyme Pool, Wood Pool and the Ron Hassall pool. There is a wetland area near to the Vista Road Car Park but this is rather limited and dries up in the summer months.
There has never been more public interest in our natural environment and one key advantage of country parks is they bring nature and people together and have enormous recreational and educational benefits, as evidenced by success of places like Risley Moss and Pennington Flash both in terms of public attractions and biodiversity management.
The Grange Valley Lagoons Concept
To complement the existing fishing pools on the Park and the other natural features there is a vision to create a safe dedicated natural wetland area that is reserved exclusively for wildlife such as nesting wildfowl, amphibians. aquatic mammals, inspects and plant life. This is to the underdeveloped and emerging west area of the country Park in a site called Grange Valley Lagoons. The Lagoons are an area of about an acre in size and are currently being used in the operations of the Landfill in clay extraction to support the work in securing a safe environmental restoration of the land fill operations in gas and ground water. The area of the lagoons has potential for three pools and a grassland / meadow area.
The first of the pools is a natural pond the second is a depression which is used in the operations and intermittently fills with water on winter rainfall or on pumping operations the third pool is a shallow depression of marsh area.
The suggested capital work is to line and raise two of the lagoons with geosynthetic clay liner, adding shallow marginal planting shelves and create scrapes to allow for natural drying out and overflow of surface water to a nearby stream and culvert. Two of the pools are to be ponds and the third area to be a part small wetted area and the remaining area marshland.
There are three key aspects to this proposal.
The first is it will enhance the overall attraction of the country park, the second is a safe point of interest including educational possibilities and the third is enhancing local biodiversity.
Dealing with each of these in turn
The evolution of Lyme and Wood Pits Country Park
The country park is not yet complete in terms of features it is currently balanced towards the east side of the country park by the vista road car park here is the existing wetland area and the three angling pools are also located in this area. We strongly believe The country Park would be enhanced by the addition of a new feature at the west side of the park accessed by the public from the Lyme Street entrance (Earlestown) or the Grange Valley entrance (Haydock), creating a very nice balance of assets throughout the Park.
Point of Interest
The popularity of places such as Risley Moss and Pennington Flash speaks for itself and if the country park had a fraction of the attention of these places it would deliver huge local benefits. For adults it’s something of interest, for children bugs are items of the utmost fascination often sparking a lifetime of interest in the natural world. For schools and local societies there are the educational aspects which are self evident. It will also have possibilities for future research and study for wildlife trusts and universities etc.
Enhancing Local Biodiversity
Places such as the proposed wetland on Cory Country Park are part of the green infrastructure of the St Helens Borough, it all counts towards the whole entity of our local environment. Although by itself a small area it will be an important facilitator for the wider country park by creation of substantive managed habitat where none exists before. In particular wetland habitats are disappearing at an alarming rate as development encroaches and areas are drained, the loss of farm ponds and ditches in the agricultural process has added to this trend. Many local amphibian species that 40 years ago where commonplace are very scarce or extinct. One advantage to a managed habitat is it will encourage the spread of species throughout the park. For example Newts given a favourable environment such creatures will successfully breed until they have exhausted the territories. They will then leave travelling overland to establish a new home and thus expand their local range. This is successful in other regional country parks, nature sometimes needs a helping hand. This applies not just to Newts but right across the ecology scale.
So what wildlife would be expected to live on the site?
Birds, Mammals, insects, amphibians and plants. For example Kingfishers, wagtails, waders, moorhens, coots even the illusive water rail, herons, voles, smooth and great crested newts, frogs, toads, grass snakes, a huge variety of aquatic bugs, dragon and damsel fly, grassland and other species of butterflies, day and night time moth species. In other words sufficient variety of species in alignment with the wider country park to stimulate the interest of the local public and local schools by creating a focal point and wider learning centre.
In terms of endangered species and new species the site will provide the opportunity for direct management plans under the control of the rangers and or local public / universities / wildlife trusts. With climate change species (particularly insects) are arriving into our region and areas such as this can provide the plant life required not just for the present but the “soon coming” species such as a number of new butterfly species to our region.
The Local Public
If you like what you are hearing from this article this is what you can do.
In the first instance email Scott Lancaster on the email below and express support for this proposal which is only an idea at present.
If you have any ideas about how the community can support and maintain this proposal please do mention to Scott who will be very keen to hear your views. Although the capital work will be performed as part of the restoration of the site there is much work the community can do in planting and maintaining the site and recording species on an ongoing basis.
Park Development Ranger
Link to Cory Environmental web page Lyme and Wood Pits Country Park HERE
To see a map of the Park click HERE
For Newton Angling Association click HERE