Nature reserve’s tenth anniversary celebration

Lee Rowley MP, Euan Hall and Tim Birch at the anniversary celebration.  Photo by Doug Jackson.
Lee Rowley MP, Euan Hall and Tim Birch at the anniversary celebration. Photo by Doug Jackson.

A north Derbyshire nature reserve celebrated its tenth anniversary with a community gathering and ceremonial tree planting.

The 17 hectare Avenue Washlands reserve at Wingerworth, near Chesterfield, was established on part of a former coking works site works site.

To mark the tenth anniversary, the Land Trust and Derbyshire Wildlife Trust hosted an open day, incorporating historical and wildlife displays and a walk to explore the site’s habitats and amenities.

The highlight was the planting of a young oak, mirroring the opening ceremony a decade ago. This time Lee Rowley MP, Euan Hall, chief executive of the Land Trust, and Tim Birch, head of Living Landscapes North of Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, dug deep to get the tree off to a good start.

Despite the wet weather, dozens of people came out to celebrate Avenue Washlands Nature Reserve.

Euan said: “Transforming the former industrial site into an accessible space for people and wildlife was an enormous task, but thanks to the resilience of nature and a strong partnership between the many organisations involved, it’s a huge success story.

“We’re delighted that the reserve is so well used and loved by local people and that it is home to so many different species, and thank the staff and volunteers of Derbyshire Wildlife Trust for their continuing hard work and passion.”

Tim added: “It’s fantastic to see how brilliant this old industrial site has become for people and wildlife. The development of the site is testament to a great partnership with the Land Trust and dedication from a wide variety of volunteers.”

Previously The Avenue coking works, the land and water were heavily polluted, but through the East Midland Development Agency and the National Coalfield Programme of the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), the clean-up created a wildlife haven and community green space.

The reserve is thriving, with over 954 species recorded there – up from 386 species before 2007.

Birdlife sightings include the glossy ibis, a colony of breeding swifts, red-listed species such as lapwing, ringed plover and linnet, and even the odd budgerigar!

In addition, regular butterfly transects are held, with the Purple hairstreak a new addition recorded this summer, and it is also an essential habitat for a wide range of plants, amphibians and small mammals.