Wigan’s wet and wild side has just been given the seal of approval.
The borough’s rich industrial past has helped to create the most biologically diverse place in the whole of Greater Manchester; and the endorsement for that fact doesn’t get much higher!
British botanist, veteran broadcaster and environmental campaigner David Bellamy believes the borough of Wigan – from Pennington Flash to Haigh Country Park – is the most biodiverse region in Greater Manchester.
“Wigan is one of the biodiversity hot spots of the North West,” says David.
“It is the only borough in Greater Manchester where you can find bittern and red squirrels and is a stronghold regionally for species such as water vole, great crested newt, willow tit, water rail, pochard and a host of others. What’s more, they are in expert caring hands!”
2010 has been declared the international Year of Biodiversity by the United Nations. To celebrate this Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust (WLCT) has teamed up with Lancashire Wildlife Trust to organise a series of events for residents to discover local biodiversity.
From Bee Days (yes we’ve spotted the pun) to Butterfly Safaris, Bat Walks to Bug Hunts there’ll be plenty to keep wildlife enthusiasts busy this year. And in case you haven’t noticed, they’ll all begin with a B for biodiversity.
Graham Workman is the wildlife and countryside manager for WLCT.
He said: “Two words make us a hotspot for biodiversity – ‘wetlands and wildlife’.
“Thanks to our industrial past of mills and mines we now have a rich and varied landscape and wealth of wildlife.
“The sinking of the land due to mining gave us the ‘flashes’ at Wigan and Pennington and the cotton famine of the 1860s saw redundant mill workers planting Haigh Plantations – the borough’s most important woodland.
“Reclaiming industrial land has provided Wigan with some of its other ‘green jewels’ such as Three Sisters Wetlands and Low Hall Local Nature Reserve.
“Then there are Wigan’s ancient sites such as Borsdane Wood Local Nature Reserve, Bottling Wood and Lilford Wood which have had continuous tree cover for hundreds and hundreds of years.
“Join all these and the other sites up through wildlife corridors of canals, streams, hedgerows, woods, country lanes and large tracts of farmland and then manage them sympathetically and it’s easy to see why Wigan is the ‘hot spot’ of Greater Manchester!”
But what is biodiversity? According to Wikipedia it’s the variation of life forms within a given ecosystem, or for the entire Earth.
Biodiversity is often used as a measure of the health of biological systems. Graham has a much more poetic view.
He added: “For me it’s the rich variety of life. Biodiversity is a name for all the living things that surround us.
“Here in Wigan it’s our woodlands and wetlands, our rivers and lakes, our gardens and parks.
“Biodiversity is the soaring buzzard high in the sky, the dragonfly hovering over the river, the tiny whirligig beetle spiralling across the surface of a pond and bluebells nodding in the breeze.
“What more could you ask for?”
For details of events as part of the Year of Biodiversity visit Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust (external link), check your local What’s On guide throughout the year or phone 01942 233 976.
Wigan Wildlife Top Ten
1. Red Squirrel
3. Water Vole
4. Willow Tit
5. Great Crested Newt
6. Viviparous Lizard
7. Banded Demoiselle
9. Noctule Bat
10. Grizzled Skipper
Main photo: Paul Simpson Photos (external link)