Remembering 50 years of local nature conservation

Practical conservation

As Remember a Charity Week begins, Individual Giving Officer, Victoria Lamb, takes a look back at the rich history of the Trust and how far we have come.

We all remember a time when we've felt overwhelming wonder at the magic of wildlife. I can recall exactly where I was when I witnessed a 50,000-strong starling murmuration dancing in the early evening, and when I saw my first otter. I'll never forget the feeling when I finally saw a bittern flying over a reedbed after nine years of searching.

Experiences like this only reinforce that our precious wildlife and wild places need protecting, and thankfully, the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside has been at the forefront of local nature conservation for almost 60 years. As Remember a Charity Week begins, let's take a look a back at where we've come from, how we were formed and the barriers we've had to face.

Charles Rothschild founded the organisation that was to become the Royal Society for Wildlife Trusts

Charles Rothschild founded the organisation that was to become the Royal Society for Wildlife Trusts

Our own history starts with the history of the Royal Society for Wildlife Trusts: the central organisation of which each local, independent Wildlife Trusts is a member.

It all started in 1912 when Charles Rothschild formed the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves (SPNR), and in 1916, The Society was granted its first Royal Charter by George V.

After WWII the requirements for wildlife conservation were increasingly recognised by naturalists, and between 1950 and 1965, 41 new local trusts formed as secondaries to the original society. One of those was our own Trust (formed in 1962), though back then we were known as the Lancashire Naturalist's Trust. Our conservation mission seemed to really resonate with the public and by 1972 we had more than 450 members.

The first ten years of the Lancashire Naturalist's Trust saw plenty of change. Reorganisation of the local governments in 1974 meant the South Walney Nature Reserve in Barrow-in-Furness - originally part of the Lancashire region - was handed over to Cumbria Wildlife Trust, and work began on what is now the longest motorway in Britain: the M6. It started at Preston, opposite what is now our brilliant Brockholes Nature Reserve.

Wildlife surveys across the region helped to establish the state of nature locally, establishing which species and habitats needed better protection and management.

Scrub control taking place at Haskayne Cutting in 1979

Scrub control taking place at Haskayne Cutting in 1979

We've fought for better protections for our region's spectacular wild places since the beginning. In 1969, Salthill Quarry was granted SSSI status after scientific evidence was submitted to the Nature Conservancy. The site is of rich carboniferous limestone and is host to thousands of marine fossils called crinoids, which show that Salthill Quarry once lay at the bottom of the ocean. As you walk around the site you can see the crinoids in the rock and, in some spots, even scattered across the ground.

1975 saw our first Wildlife Watch Clubs formed. Here, young children could be inspired to get closer to nature through activities such as practical conservation work, identifying insects, wildlife photography and wild art. Today, our Watch Groups have extended to all corners of our region, allowing youngsters from all walks of life to play outdoors and care for their natural world.

A few years later, in 1978, management began at a brand new nature reserve: Haskayne Cutting. Lying around a disused railway line, this beautiful wildlife refuge has been transformed into a secret garden brimming with colourful wildflowers. If you're lucky you may even spot a common lizard basking on one of the fence posts in the sunshine.

In the midst of all this hard work, our charity changed its name to the Lancashire Trust for Nature Conservation, and in 1980 we acquired a small part of an incredibly special place: Mere Sands Wood. Two years later we were overjoyed to acquire the rest of the site, bringing the area encompassed by the reserve to 42 hectars. Now, Mere Sands Wood is a rich mosaic of habitats including heaths, pools and sandy, wet meadows, creating superb homes for wildlife all year-round. Keep your eyes peeled for creatures including great-spotted woodpeckers, sparrowhawks, kingfishers, great-crested grebes, foxes and roe deer, as well as the rare willow tit.

Fast forward 30 years and we are now The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside that you know today (our name changed again in 1992!).

We now manage more than 40 nature reserves across the region, covering 1,288 hectares of habitat, and we have more than 29,000 active members who stand up for wildlife and nature. Thank you!

As well as our conservation work, we're more dedicated than ever to inspiring even more people to care for their local wildlife. Over the past couple of months alone we hosted the first ever Manchester Festival of Nature (MFoN) in partnership with organisations including the RSPB, The Woodland Trust and National Trust. We joined 12,000 people in a Mass Lobby at Westminster, where we campaigned for the creation of an Environment Bill that will give the UK a Wilder Future for both wildlife and people. Excitingly, we have also begun a reintroduction project that will see the large heath butterfly returned to peatland sites where it has been extinct for more than 150 years.

Our visions and aspirations from 1962 still stand today: to create a vibrant region brimming with wildlife and local communities who are passionate about protecting it. But it's worth remembering that we simply wouldn't be where we are now without the help of our lovely supporters and members.

Close-up of the head of a tiny large heath butterfly caterpillar

Large heath caterpillar by Chester Zoo

We don't receive any funding from the government, so we're reliant on the kind donations of members of the public to carry out our vital work across the region. Memberships, donations, gifts in Wills, and in-memory and in-celebration gifts have helped us buy land that would have been destroyed, reverse the fortunes of species on the brink, buy tools for our army of volunteers, teach the next generation about the wonders of our Irish Sea and much, much more. Legacies in particular are instrumental to our work, helping us to acquire land, secure funding and continue conserving nature.

This is why, between 9 - 15 September 2019, Remember a Charity Week is spreading the word about the wonderful benefits of gifts. Gifts in Wills are an amazing way for you to leave a lasting legacy for wildlife, after you have remembered your family and friends. It would mean the world to us and your region's wildlife if you'd consider leaving something to the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside.

I hope that like me, you too will want to protect nature and safeguard it for future generations. Our natural world never ceases to amaze me, and I'm hopeful that when my family grows they too will be able to enjoy a wonderfully wild North West.

Leaving a legacy to the Wildlife Trust

Leave a lasting legacy for wildlife

We understand how difficult writing a Will can be, so when you're ready to talk, we're here to help.

If you'd like to find out more about leaving a legacy or feel ready to speak to someone, click the button below.

Leave a gift in your Will