Wigan Flashes Local Nature Reserve

A great crested grebe swimming with two small chicks on its back
A bee orchid at Wigan Flashes nature reserve

Dawn Monrose

Feel your worries wash away as you stroll around tranquil lakes and peaceful woodlands brimming with wildlife.


South of Wigan town centre

OS Map Reference

SD 585 030
A static map of Wigan Flashes Local Nature Reserve

Know before you go

264 hectares

Parking information

Parking on Welham Road.

Walking trails

Wigan Flashes has a good network of footpaths.


Open access to most areas, with a picnic area at Ochre Flash.


Under effective control


Picnic area

When to visit

Opening times

Open at all times.

Best time to visit


About the reserve

As you feel the quietude and gentle birdsong wash over you, it’s hard to believe that Wigan Flashes started life as a casualty of industry.

The ‘flashes’ themselves are lakes formed as a result of mining subsidence. First partially filled with colliery waste and ash from the former Westwood Power Station, it is natural recolonisation and large-scale reclamation works that have really helped heal the industrial scars.

Now, a stunning mosaic of open water, reedbed, fen, rough grassland, wet woodland and scrub habitats support a spectacular array of plants and animals. They join important reserves like Abram Flash SSSI and Hope Carr Nature Reserve to form a 9km wetland retreat along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal.

In spring and summer reed buntings, willow tits, reed warblers, sedge warblers, common terns and water rails breed across the reserve. In winter, the flashes swell with overwintering herons, tufted ducks, gadwall, great-crested grebes and pochard. If you’re lucky you may even spot an elusive bittern skulking through the reeds. These birds are regularly recorded at Wigan Flashes during winter and we hope our work to manage the reedbed will encourage them to stay on and breed.

The bittern isn’t our only success story. Wigan Flashes sits right at the centre of a network of habitats that support 10% of the UK’s willow tits: the country’s most endangered small bird.

But birds aren’t the only animals that steal the show at Wigan Flashes, where dragonflies feed over the water by day; handing the lakes over to noctule and Daubenton’s bats as night falls.

The reserve is also a haven for plant-lovers. The colliery spoil and ash left by an industrial past have allowed orchids and evening primrose to thrive, while the delicate lilac flowers of pale toadflax grow alongside ocean-blue viper’s bugloss. Botanists will relish the chance to spot a handful of rarities, including round-leaved wintergreen, yellow bird’s nest and the breath-taking marsh helleborine.

Contact us

Mark Champion
Contact number: 01942 233976

Environmental designation

Local Nature Reserve (LNR)
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)