Why you should visit Brockholes Nature Reserve

PUBLISHED: 00:00 08 October 2019

Roe deer are regular visitors to Brockholes. Picture by Alan Wright

Roe deer are regular visitors to Brockholes. Picture by Alan Wright

Alan Wright

Since opening in 2011, Brockholes nature reserve has proved to be a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. Lancashire Wildlife Trust's Alan Wright celebrates a brilliant summer at the reserve.

Swans in flight captured by Alan WrightSwans in flight captured by Alan Wright

What are the high points at a 250-acre nature reserve? There are so many and they will depend on your viewpoint or interest. The sighting of a young osprey was a big moment for birders, but they will be more than delighted if bittern overwinter in the Meadow Lake in the coming months. The white-letter hairstreak will always excite insect experts but we have also had two new species of bees at Brockholes this summer. Otters always cause a stir, too, when they wander over from the River Ribble looking for fish, but we are always delighted to see our brown hares and roe deer in the morning. Whether you are working or visiting, the reserve always has something wild going on.

And it's an opportunity to act wild. Your high point might have been sitting out in the open watching a performance of Wuthering Heights. Or your little one may have made a butterfly or flower to brighten your home for a few weeks. In fact, the education work at Brockholes is all aimed at bringing people slap bang into the middle of nature as it squawks, buzzes and booms around you. My favourite story concerns the weekly pram walk around the reserve. This hour-long ramble has attracted more than 30 mums and babies - and some dads. One morning they were walking in their long line, when five roe deer wandered through the middle of them.

Another time we had osprey landing on their platform - it was exciting on a number of levels. While ospreys have visited the reserve since its opening none have shown an interest in this ready-made nest. Built by volunteers and Electricity North West, it has served as a work of art since 2013.

But no longer as the young osprey landed to look at a possible new home. It has since returned to Africa, but when he finds a mate perhaps he will remember this nest just waiting for their return. We certainly hope so as it would be the first osprey to nest in Lancashire since the middle of the 18th century. And all in close proximity to the Brockholes floating Visitor Village.

The reserve enocurage families to meet wildlife. Picture by Alan WrightThe reserve enocurage families to meet wildlife. Picture by Alan Wright

We now expect bittern to return to the reserve every winter and our plan is to increase and improve reedbeds so they stay and breed in spring. Bitterns are big, brown, speckled birds that are camouflaged in the reeds. In spring males will "boom" in an attempt to encourage females.

The white-letter hairstreak is a butterfly that only flies for three weeks in late summer. Over the past five years it has been seen on the edge of the reserve at Boilton Wood. It tends to stay high up in the trees but comes down to feed on the brambles and delight the long-lens brigade.

There are 250 species of bee in the United Kingdom, most of us are interested in the 25 bumblebees that can visit our garden flowers. So when a black-horned nomad bee and a Davies Collettes bee arrived at Brockholes for the first time it caused quite a buzz.

Wintergreen at BrockholesWintergreen at Brockholes

Insects are a big part of the Brockholes landscape with around 20 dragonflies and damselflies adding colour to the lakes and lakesides on sunny days. Butterflies also add to the invertebrate population.

They have found a home on the massive variety of plants. In the warmer months we saw beautiful orchids dominating the meadows and rare wintergreen could be seen hidden by the lakes' quieter areas.

Over autumn and winter staff and volunteers will be working hard to tidy up and improve habitats for wildlife. They will try to cause as little disruption as possible, but wildlife just gets on with it anyway.

Brown hares will continue to charge around the meadows in the early mornings, and the roe deer will roam freely with a soundtrack of the busy M6. The otter sightings have occurred in daylight, despite hundreds of human visitors being on site.

Osprey lands on the platform for the first time. Picture by Ian McGillOsprey lands on the platform for the first time. Picture by Ian McGill

Brockholes was built to bring people and nature close together at all times of the year in all weathers. As new species add to the thousands of plants and creatures, it proves that making habitats for wildlife really does work.

If you are paying a visit to the reserve, check for opening times and events online at brockholes.org.

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