Reedbed Habitat Restoration at the Wigan Flashes: Restoring the Post-Industrial Landscape for Wildlife Conservation

Mark Champion, Paul Ashton

Research output: Contribution to conferenceLecturepeer-review


Wigan Flashes SSSI is a large area (245ha) that has been heavily modified by industrial processes, predominantly mining, in the last two centuries. This has left a variety of habitats which are dominated by subsidence lakes (flashes) that consist of open water and extensive reedbeds and scrub. In the last ten years work has been undertaken to restore the conservation value of the site. This was specifically targeted at bittern (Botaurus stellatus) although the requirements of other species were incorporated into the work. These species included avian reedbed specialists and the Water Vole (Arvicola amphibious). The conservation work involved major earthworks to unify the hydrology, reedbed lowering, ditch creation, reed transplanting via rhizome mats and scrub clearance. The management has led to the area improving the general quality of the habitat compared with the starting point, although it is not in an ideal state. However work has led to an increase in visits from the main target species, bittern. Almost all other secondary target bird species show a rise in numbers following the onset of management with subsequently some fluctuation, possibly weather related. Exceptionally Water Rail shows an initial drop then recovery and an increase. The value of the site to Water Vole has increased markedly from no records at the start of the project to its current level where the area is recognised as one of the most important sites for the species in the North West. The results show that by using and adapting traditional and more drastic land management techniques, the periurban, post-industrial landscape can deliver important regional, national and international conservation gains. Comparison with the theoretical ideal for the site allows the direction of future work to be identified.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2010
EventInternational Conference of the British Land Reclamation Society - University of Glamorgan, Pontypridd, United Kingdom
Duration: 7 Sept 20109 Sept 2010


ConferenceInternational Conference of the British Land Reclamation Society
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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