Nature reserve reduces flood risk
The Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve and Flood Storage Reservoir, health close to Maghull, in Merseyside, is a newly-created wetland site on the flood plain of the River Alt. The 77 acre site has been designed to temporarily store flood flows from the River Alt whilst providing new habitats for a huge range of wildlife.
The project has converted agricultural land into wetland and will become one of the region’s biggest reedbeds. The wetland is fed by diverting part of the flow of the River Alt. The Environment Agency has taken three years to construct the project, which will be managed by the Lancashire Wildlife Trust over the next 25 years, in order to provide much-needed nesting and feeding areas for wading birds such as the oystercatcher and lapwing.
Over 60 species of birds have already been found on the reserve, and half of those are starting to breed. Reed warblers, sedge warblers, grasshopper warblers and reed buntings are already making their homes in the reed beds, and it’s hoped the bittern will soon be settling in, as part of its fantastic boom in numbers over recent years. A total of 13 birds of prey have also been spotted, with barn owl, short-eared owl and kestrel regularly seen hunting there.
One of Britain’s most endangered animals, the water vole, is also present, with Lunt Meadows expected to become a stronghold for this species as they take advantage of the new reserve. Many types of butterfly, dragonfly and damselfly have bred on the wetland area and on the River Alt, and brown hare are regularly seen.
In stark contrast to the surrounding intensively cropped farmland, and helping to create the right conditions within the wetland for nesting birds, the site is currently grazed by a number of rare breed animals including Exmoor ponies and red poll cattle. Volunteers from Lancashire Wildlife Trust have formed a group at the site to undertake tasks such as reed planting and path work.
To assist in the next phase of developing Lunt Meadows as a Nature Reserve, Lancashire Wildlife Trust has received a £36k grant from The Veolia Environmental Trust, awarded through the Landfill Communities Fund, and £68k from the Heritage Lottery Fund. This will support habitat creation work on the site and allow further exploration of archaeological finds here.
Adam Graham, LWT Lunt Meadows Project Officer, said: “Lunt Meadows is a really exciting place. The scale of the project is huge, on what was previously intensively farmed agricultural land we now have over 70 hectares of wet grassland, pools and reed-bed, and already attracting all sorts of wildlife. It will be fantastic to watch the site develop over time into what will surely be one of the most important bird sites in the area”
Dan Bond, Area Environment Manager at the Environment Agency, said: “The Lunt Meadows project is a brilliant example of how flood defence schemes can be developed with significant improvements to habitats and biodiversity. Not only are we helping to reduce the risk of flooding, we are bringing benefits to the environment for a massive range of wildlife species. Lunt Meadows is a shining example of how people and the environment are intertwined and we hope it sets an example for schemes in years to come.”
The Executive Director of The Veolia Environmental Trust, Paul Taylor, adds: “We are pleased to be able to help this exciting and ambitious project happen. It is a great example of how we and the Landfill Communities Fund can help organisations like the Lancashire Wildlife Trust transform our landscape for the benefit of a wide range of plant and animal species, as well as visitors. We love it when volunteers get involved too. I look forward to hearing about the meadows thriving in the future,”