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Wigan Flashes

Bee banks

The Wigan Flashes team have been creating bee banks for solitary mining bees to nest. Females of bee species such as the Tawny mining bee (Andrena fulva) and Ashy mining bee (Andrena cineraria) among many others will dig out a tunnel on bare slopes and patches of bare ground to lay their eggs. The tunnel is made up of a series of egg chambers, each has one egg and a supply of food to feed the developing larva until it emerges as an adult.

Some of the bee banks are of brick construction, filled with a mix of sand and cement to recreate the favoured firmness of ground for the bees to dig into. The other type are areas where bare ground has been created by stripping off the vegetation on slopes and in some of the flatter areas sand has been added to the surface.

This work has been funded by Biffa Award and is just one part of the work being done to improve the meadows areas for bees and other vitally important pollinators.

A volunteer tamping down (compressing) the sand and cement mix inside the bee bank before the flagstones are fixed on the top.

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July 2020 Newsletter

News Roundup

This quarter has been a difficult one because of the pandemic and associated restrictions. Volunteer work parties had to be suspended. The Flashes have had a lot of visitors, making use of the Reserve for their exercise. As usual the vast majority of visitors have respected the site and other users. There have been many positive comments from regular site users and those discovering the Reserve for the first time. Unfortunately, there has been an increase in anti-social behaviour as well. Areas of concern have been around:-

There have been reports of inflatable boats used on Scotmans Flash by people fishing, of disturbance to the reed-bed, and also fires being lit. The police have attended on more than one occasion to deal with this.

Mountain bikers: These have been using Westwood area and causing damage to the paths and a hazard to walkers.
Littering: This is an ongoing issue, but has been more of a problem over the past few months with extra footfall. On the plus side, some caring residents have been voluntarily collecting litter and leaving it by the bins for
collection, and we all owe them a debt of gratitude. We don’t know who they all are, but if they contact Helen Nelson on 07860438449 she can arrange to supply them with litter pickers and rubbish bags.
Illegal camps: A shelter was removed from the woods near Bryn Marsh in May by LWT and Wigan Council staff along with a lot of rubbish. They dismantled a further shelter at Ochre Glades in June.
Vandalism: A section of the boardwalk was ripped up on the 1st of June. This was repaired voluntarily by a local resident, who had some spare decking boards. I’m sure we are all grateful for this kind and generous act.

In June two dogs, in separate incidents, had to be rushed to the vets after eating a noxious substance on the Reserve. Fortunately, the dogs survived, but please contact LWT if you hear of any further incidents.

Although the anti-social behaviour is disappointing, it is worth remembering that it is not just Wigan Flashes which have had an upsurge in anti-social behaviour. There have been similar problems all over the country, often with worse consequences. The Police have attended The Flashes on a number of occasions to move people on. The Council Resilience Team have also been checking on groups of youths.

There is good news as well in that the Green-winged Orchids which were introduced onto the site have flowered.

As you are probably aware, the new bypass is now open. There are walk-ways and pavements leading up to and over the new canal bridge. The pathway under the bridge on Scotmans side is now paved.

In addition, a section of canal bank has been shored up on Scotmans side, and there is a new landing stage near the lock. It may well be that some of you have been, or still are, isolating because of the pandemic, and have not been able to get out and see the changes, so there are a few photos below.

The building projects at the Sailing Club, associated with the merger of Wigan Sailing Club and Pilkington Sailing Club to form WISH Sailing Club, have been delayed by the pandemic, but are now nearing completion.

Grazing by Aberdeen Angus heifers is due to start soon on Lightshaw Meadows. A lot of work has gone into making the fields stock-proof.

If anyone noticed dead fish at Bryn Marsh in May, the Environmental Agency has investigated. Only mature bream were affected, and the conclusion was that the fish were stressed because they had recently spawned, and oxygen levels in the water were on the low side after the hot weather. General water quality was within the normal range when tested, so they have put the incident down to natural causes.

Recent work on the Flashes

Work on site has continued during the pandemic, but has been limited because there have been no volunteer work-parties. In addition, the numbers of the public accessing the site have made social distancing difficult for LWT staff at times. Nonetheless, in addition to dealing with the results of anti-social behaviour, some of the usual maintenance and habitat work has continued. Several wind-blown trees have been removed at Horrocks Flash and Pearsons Flash. A further fallen tree was cleared from Scotmans Loop. Overhanging branches are being cut back. It is hoped some limited volunteer activity will be starting before the end of the month. There will be a lot more precautions to ensure the safety of volunteers from the risk of Covid infection.

Events update

No events are currently being planned because of the pandemic.


One of our members kindly sent word that a bittern had been seen at Bryn Marsh, and also 2 red kites over the Reserve.
Another member watched a roe deer swimming strongly down the canal recently. It jumped out near the concrete bridge.
Unfortunately, mink with kits have been seen by more than one person around the Hawkley end of Scotmans Flash.

Future Projects

The tenders are now in for the pathway works, and are being considered. Some work has taken place with schools on signage and interpretation.

Coppice Group
There is no news from the Coppice Group as sessions have stopped because of the pandemic. The Coppice Group usually meets every third Saturday in the month. Anyone interested in joining the group should contact Helen Nelson on 07860438449.

And Finally

Hope all continue to keep well and safe, and that we get some good weather the rest of the summer.

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April 2020 Newsletter

Recent work on the Flashes

Early in the New Year the glades at Westwood and Horrocks Flash were strimmed, to clear bramble, and other unwanted vegetation which would compromise this habitat. The cuttings were then gently raked away to leave the covering of moss as little disturbed as possible.

A surprising number of different types of moss and lichen were seen, including the one pictured below, with its bright orange-red fruiting bodies.

Other work has included cutting back the hedges along the path by the school, and cutting the bramble back around Scotmans Loop.

Storms Ciara and Dennis made their presence felt in February, disrupting and delaying planned activities.

One activity which was delayed was the monthly Wetland Bird Survey. This normally takes place on a Sunday, or the nearest available day. In February it had to be delayed until Wednesday, which is very unusual. During the survey all the Flashes are visited, and LWT staff or volunteers stand at designated points counting all the numbers of all the different species visible. It is part of a nationwide survey, with the British Ornithological Trust collecting the data.

The storms and persistent rain also created issues with the paths, making many waterlogged, muddy and needing repair. There has been a particular problem at the back of Ochre Flash, where water drains off the field. This is in spite of the drainage work done by the Council last year, and valiant efforts from volunteers and LWT staff to channel the water away.

Following the storms work was getting back to normal before the Covid 19 virus pandemic meant usual volunteer work parties were cancelled until at least the end of April.

Other News

Green-winged Orchids have been introduced onto the Wigan Flashes site. These came from Altcar where there is a strong, but isolated, population. They are being introduced at various sites around the wider area so that the species can be protected from loss if any one habitat is compromised.

Pilkington Sailing Club will be joining Wigan Sailing Club on Scotmans Flash to form WISH Sailing Club.

A lot of planning and work has gone on to make the merger as smooth as possible, and I’m sure we all wish them well.

Events update

The Easter Children’s Event had to be cancelled because of the pandemic and the Open Day, which usually takes place early in June, has been postponed.


The Smew was reported again in February on Turners Flash, which was a treat for the bird-watchers.

Numbers of Willow Tits are holding up well. During a recent survey 3 males were heard calling in the area adjoining Scotmans Flash. The Cettis Warblers have also been heard, lots of frog spawn sighted, and an early Brimstone butterfly spotted in March. The earliest blossom was photographed in February; that’s the picture at the start of the Newsletter. Since then all the usual spring blossom and flowers have started to emerge including primrose, oxlip and violets.

Fungi don’t excite everyone, but some do have lovely names. There have been good sightings of ‘Scarlet Elf Cups’, and ‘King Alfred’s Cakes’ as in the pictures on the left. No prizes for guessing which is which.

Future Projects

Plans were made for the involvement of school children in the signage and interpretation improvements to the Ochre Trail, and Moss Bridge to Bryn Marsh Canal path. Unfortunately, their involvement is now difficult because of the school closures due to the virus pandemic. However tender documents for the work on the paths themselves are in preparation.

Coppice Group

Work has continued on the latest area to be opened up for coppicing. The ground is being cleared of unwanted vegetation, and plants needed for coppicing trimmed to encourage new growth.
In addition, several hazel ‘whips’ were planted in the two areas where coppicing had already commenced.
It is hoped these slender ‘whips’ will survive and flourish.
NB. The Coppice Group meets every third Saturday in the month. Anyone interested in joining the group should contact Helen Bird on 07860438449.

And Finally

Hope everyone keeps well and safe in these difficult times.

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January 2020 Newsletter

Recent work on the Flashes

Autumn is usually the time to carry out fen cuts and areas are cut in rotation, to let new growth through. This autumn was very wet, as you will all be aware, and that, and the breakdown of the mower, meant the usual work was delayed. The path from Welham Road to Moss Bridge was flooded for several days.

Another delay caused by the wet weather was the ditching work on Lightshaw Meadows. As you may remember, from the minutes of the AGM in October, this work was made possible because of a grant from Viridor. It was finally completed in the second week of January.

Fortunately, work could commence on the Heathland area, which was so badly burnt in the summer of 2018. Scrub has been removed to encourage the regrowth of heather, which is already having results, as you can see from the picture on the left of heather in flower on a very frosty day.

The glades have been strimmed and raked to maintain their integrity.

In addition, large quantities of American Dogwood have been removed from alongside the ‘Yellow Brick Road’, the path to Turner’s Flash, and from between the meadows adjacent to that path.

American Dogwood is not a native species, as is obvious from the name, and it is not appropriate in a Nature Reserve. A party from the Council’s ‘People Directive’ helped with this on a council volunteering day.

Other work has included clearing drains alongside the meadows and at the back of Ochre Flash

Events update

The Halloween Event was successful, with 96 attending, and the weather being kind on the day. A large number of participants successfully passed their broomstick flying tests! £43 was raised from sales of food and £7 in donations. We are once again very grateful to Angela and her family for the catering.
A further £40 was raised from sales of crafts, both on the day and shortly after.


2 pipistrelles were found during bat box checks.
2 bitterns were seen in December, during a regular survey, which is splendid. In addition, a Great White Egret was seen on Horrocks Flash, later moving to Lightshaw Meadows. There have also been recent reports of a smew on Turners Flash.

It was mentioned recently that birds which we were once thrilled to see moving into the Flashes, such as buzzard, we now regard as commonplace and routine! It takes something really new or special for people to feel it worth reporting. Nevertheless, the good recent sightings of birds like kingfisher, great spotted woodpecker, and winter thrushes are still a treat.

Future Projects

With help from the Carbon Landscape Team there have been 2 successful bids for funding, and work will be starting this year on these projects.

You will already know from the minutes of the AGM that there has been a successful bid to National Lottery ‘Awards for All’. This is for new information boards and artwork around the Ochre Trail.
The second successful bid was to the Post-code Lottery. This is for pathway improvements between Moss Bridge and Bryn Marsh, including an art project and interpretation artworks.

Both of the above projects include working with schools on design, and more detailed planning will be starting soon.

The other good news this year is that we have been adopted as a Co-op Local Cause again. All members have already been emailed about this. 1% of what Co-op members spend on selected goods and services is available for local causes. Members can choose which cause they wish to support by going to coop.co.uk/membership and clicking on “Choose your local Cause”.
We won’t know how much money is available to us until the end of the Local Cause year next Autumn, but we hope to be able to repair a large section of the path from Welham Road to Moss Bridge.

Don’t forget

The Coppice Group continues to meet every third Saturday in the month. A new area is currently being opened up. Anyone interested in joining the group should contact Helen Bird on 07860438449.

And Finally

A Very Happy New Year to you all.

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