General background on the Lake.
162 year old Newton Lake formed in 1852 by Thomas Legh who employed the services of contractor Paul Caudwell.
The capital cost in 1852 was £8k, in today’s money that would equate to around £1.2m.
The lake is man made on the natural watercourse of two streams Millingford Brook and Dene Brook.
The lake is a much loved local amenity and has been used as such for generations by the people of Newton Le Willows and surrounding towns.
Its current state of badly silting is something of sadness and local concern.
The Lakes current situation.
The last significant viability study of the lake was 16 years ago in 1998 with the Hyder Report commissioned by the Ground Work Trust. The consultants looked at around six options all concerned with the lake itself.
These ranged from complete re-dredging of the original lake to more limited options of saving parts of the lake.
The conclusions were the lake had fundamental atrophic silting due to the suspended matter the (then) heavily polluted Millingford Brook.
There were also issues over the removal of many thousands of tons of very contaminated and dangerous silt built up over many decades.
Another issue raised was cost benefit analysis, with the large capital cost of re-dredging the lake there had to be a sensible accompanying benefit stream. Given the main feeder stream was badly polluted at that time there would also have been the issue of the lake would re-silt and be in the same position in another 50 years and not justify the huge capital outlay. In our suggestion below, we believe we have an improved cost / benefit ratio benefit stream that might give the community a practical option with much reduced capital costs (compared to Lake Restoration) and provide a tangible (and measurable) benefit to justify the outlay.
The full re-dredging cost was prohibitive running into several million pounds and there are legal issues to address with the primary owner.
The Lake today is silting very fast and it seems there are few practical options other than to let the Lake bed dry up naturally and revert to its original state.
Given the speed of the silting there are unlikely to be many more years left in the lakes life.
A suggestion for Newton Lake.
In financial and legal terms it seems restoring the lake to its former glory as in 1852 is to all intents impractical.
If we were to do nothing then it would revert to willow scrubland with the concealed brook running through centre of the scrub. Not only would this look very unsightly but would be low in natural biodiversity compared to a managed habitat. All the local nature reserves, Woolston, Moore, Pennington, Rixton and Risley are all managed habitats to attract specific species.
Also a managed habitat looks tidier and more pleasing to the eye as well as attracting more interesting wildlife to see.
Also perhaps emotionally it would be a sad reflection on a former local amenity and might impact also on the broader visual appeal of Willow Park.
We therefore have fundamental challenges but it does not mean there is nothing that can be done.
Last year a small number of the members of OL V have explored another possibility and we have spent some time on three other sites in the North West examining costings and how these amenities have been developed by local community groups in collaboration with local authorities and other groups.
We think there may be an opportunity to develop a scheme for Newton Lake if we scope in the wider area to the M6 motorway and beyond on the greenway to Rob Lane within the overall area.
The three external case studies we looked at were New Ferry Butterfly Park on the Wirral and Anderton Nature Park at Northwich. We have also briefly looked at the reed bed operations at Moore Nature Reserve in particular some of the capital costs and water management.
The suggestion is that the lake and parts of the greenway are developed into a biodiversity amenity and heritage hub for both children and adults to experience and be educated in local wildlife and local heritage.
In particular species and habitat management particularly for amphibians and insects (Butterflies, Damselflies and Dragonflies) which lend themselves well to school / eco projects and transparent management plans which the public can follow and enjoy.
There is also the possibility of local art and sculpture as we witnessed at New Ferry.
Newton Le Willows is rich in history (which is a major asset of the town) and one it could be said we are not exploiting. There might be an option to create a small heritage centre to promote this aspect in conjunction with the biodiversity. This could create a wider amenity capable of being on the “what’s on” guides even potentially attracting more visitors to Newton Le Willows.
There might be opportunities to get local schools involved such as Eco and Forest schools. These were very popular features indeed with the local public we noted at Anderton and New Ferry.
Marketing wise we might promote this a wild insect, amphibian, bird, botany Park / heritage centre, name to be developed.
What is being proposed?
It is suggested there might be three discrete zones.
Zone One – the Dam Head to the edge of Willow Park.
The remaining areas of the watered areas of the lake are evolved into a managed reed bed habitat planting specific plant species and adjusting the water table.
A limited area of water at the dam head to be preserved to promote wildfowl and allow feeding ducks etc.
A sluice gate to be installed on the outflow to managed water levels of the reed bed which will need to be maintained indefinitely to preserve the reed and prevent willow encroachment. Waders, Warblers, Wildfowl and other birdlife to be encouraged along with insect and amphibian life.
Boardwalks, viewing screens and signage to be installed.
A small heritage centre could be built on Willow Park showcasing the local history from the Bronze Age to the industrial revolution or the centre at Mesnes Park utilised, see below. In addition specific wildlife action plans on the park and greenway to be highlighted.
Prime feature bird, amphibian, insect and heritage.
Zone Two – from the edge of Willow Park to the M6 motorway underpass. Encompasses reed bed and some meadow habitat. Includes signage, boardwalks and pathways.
Prime feature Amphibian, bird, dragonfly, damselfly and butterfly wild flower managed habitat.
Zone Three – Castle Hill to Rob Lane encompassing Castle Hill field. Managed Oak and Elm woodlands and extensive soil removal and re-seeding and restoring Castle Hill Field to wild flower meadowland. (Castle Hill barrow (currently vastly overgrown) restored).
Prime feature here is wild butterfly park (as New Ferry) and woodland facilities for forest eco / schools.
Scalable – the project is scalable that is we can do all or part or phase over time. It’s not all or nothing.
Species Action Plans (SAP) – the community can particulate in SAP setting the conditions to encourage new, rare and or interesting species to settle and colonise. This can be part of a wider scheme in the green way. For example White Letter Hairstreak butterflies which require specific elm growth and are increasingly settling into the North West. Local schools and the public could participate in these initiatives which could be organised by the Rangers.
Desired Outcome - It’s to recognise that although we can’t re-create Newton Lake (as was) we can (in the original spirit of Legh / Caldwell in 1852) re-create another comparable public amenity to the lake. One that might (in a different way) give as much pleasure to future generations just as the lake did back in 1852.
We also don’t lose the amenity capacity within Willow Park as the Lake goes, the new feature replaces. Also there can be some synergy with Mesnes Park. For example if the cost / viability / Parking is not appropriate in Willow Park the close proximity of Mesnes Park and the existing Mesnes visitors centre may be utilised as an option it can also give a new opportunity to the green way itself with walks from the visitors centre hub. It is also close to the railway station and bus interchange making it attractive to visitors to the town. This in turn may help the retail outlets on the High Street.
Barriers to this project
There are many
Finance we anticipate the project build costs to circa £200k and £500k (over a 5 year cycle) and potentially £10k to £30k incremental annual run cost depending on need and volunteers.
Legal Issues / Lease etc
Wishes of the landowner
Health and Safety
Ownership – do local people want this amenity or would they rather it was left to its own devices or something else? To reiterate this needs substantive community buy-in, engagement and commitment. Right across all sections of the community without which it will fail.
Entity if the project is to receive grants etc it will need to be some form of legal entity. The constuition and powers of that entity need to be decided.
Local authority does these meet with St Helens MBC core Parks strategy?
Any many more no doubt!
The position of Our Local Voice.
OLV are a generic group of local people who wish to preserve our environment and heritage in general terms across Newton and the surrounding towns.
A group of us have simply developed this idea in 2013 as it seemed a shame the way the lake was fading before our eyes but remember this is an idea only at this stage and at least an option for local people to consider.
We do have a more detailed presentation of the technical aspects described within this web page.
As a group we don’t have anything like the resources to develop a project of this scale.
But even if we did that would not be appropriate.
The Newton Lake Project has to be freely accessible across all sections of the community both in its development and thereafter as the amenity will need to be maintained indefinitely.
Otherwise it simply won’t work if it’s factionalised in any way.
In the New Ferry and Anderton parks these have been maintained by a wide variety of local volunteers across all sections of the community along with local authorities.
We therefore welcome any support or suggestions from any organisation or individuals if you agree this is something worth pursuing as an idea.
Please let us know your thoughts via Face book or the contact page on the website.
Suggested Possible Next Steps
Gather public feedback
Organise managing / participating groups or managing entity