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The work to restore Lytham St Annes Local Nature Reserve after the devastating fires

PUBLISHED: 00:00 14 September 2018 | UPDATED: 10:28 14 September 2018

The Wildlife Trust's Amy Pennington with Ranger, Andrew Mills at the fire damaged Nature Reserve

The Wildlife Trust's Amy Pennington with Ranger, Andrew Mills at the fire damaged Nature Reserve

John Cocks

The site was designated Lancashire’s first ever ‘Local Nature Reserve’ in 1968 and is also designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

The weeks of hot sunshine were a boon for seaside resorts as thousands flocked to the coast to find what little cooling sea breeze there was. But the weather created tinder box conditions across swathes of countryside which led to devastating fires, most famously on Winter Hill and Saddleworth Moor.

At St Annes, almost a quarter of a Local Nature Reserve was wrecked when flames tore through the heather and grassland.

Nearby homes were evacuated as six fire crews fought the blaze which destroyed plants, killed animals and ruined their habitats.

The reserve is managed by Fylde Council and Lancashire Wildlife Trust and the trust’s sand dunes officer, Amy Pennington, said: ‘There were reports that two people were see running away and police are treating the fire as arson.

‘There are rare species of flora on the reserve, such as the Isle of Man cabbage and four types of orchid, and there are birds such as sky larks, reed bunting and stone chat and there’s a sparrowhawk nesting nearby. We’ve got foxes as well and rabbits which were affected by the fire.

‘It could have been a lot worse. If the wind was in the other direction we could have lost a lot more.

‘The common stuff will re-seed quickly but the rarer plants will take years to re-establish themselves, if they ever do. We think that to the untrained eye most of the site will look as it did within five years but it could take up to 15 years to get back to where it was before the fire.

‘The silver lining, if there is one, is that we have had an influx of people offering help but we’re not sure if there’s anything they can do.

‘We have spoken to experts and ecologists, and the advice is not to re-seed the area but to turn over some land to bring seeds to the surface that have been lying deeper underground.’

The reserve – which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and has been classed as a Local Nature Reserve since 1968 – is on land close to the old Pontin’s holiday camp site which has now made way for housing and Amy is concerned at the impact on the site of extra people living on its doorstep.

‘When it was Pontin’s there were people here seasonally but now there are going to be families and their pets here all the time and that will bring new challenges. Dog dirt is the big problem because people think it’s a wild site and they don’t have to clear it up here, but it changes the nature of the soil and can encourage non-native plants to grow.’

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