A trail fit for a king

Kingfisher at Mere Sands Wood by Ryan Pentall

One of Britain’s most iconic birds will be the star of a riverside trail being revived to link walkers to their historic past and to benefit wildlife.

The Kingfisher Trail is an 11-mile route leading from the West Pennine Moors above Bolton through Salford and into Bury. It follows the course of the Croal-Irwell Valley, passing through seven Local Nature Reserves and an internationally important Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Unfortunately much of the information about this route has disappeared since its first conception in the 1980s.

The Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s new project is calling for volunteers to help reassess and survey the route and its current state so that we can begin to use this vital asset once again.

Through most of the 20th Century the river was synonymous with squalor and pollution but this is no longer the case.

The trail is a fantastic place to see the flash of an iridescent blue kingfisher as it streaks down the valley, to watch nesting dippers, hear the call of an owl, go deer spotting or witness the acrobatics of bats at night.

Project Officer Stephen Cartwright said: “Kingfishers can be seen on many parts of the trail. Walking the trail will be a great opportunity for people to see these wonderful birds and to learn something about the heritage of the area.”

It is a vital lifeline for wildlife through one of the country’s largest urban conurbations. At present lots of community groups and organisations are quietly working away on individual patches. The Wildlife Trust hopes to link these groups together to better manage the route on a larger scale and create a living landscape full of thriving wildlife.

The stretch of river was altered massively by the industry that thrived here during the industrial revolution from Benjamin Rawson’s Vitriol works to James Brindley ingenious Wet Earth Colliery and the huge increase in manufacturing brought about by the creation of the Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal.

The Wildlife Trust is seeking volunteers to help us research this history to create material to celebrate the industrial and engineering achievements that brought prosperity to the area.

Many of the industries along the trail have only fallen into disuse in living memory and we are also asking people to get in touch so that we can create a record of their memories and add to the rich heritage value of the valley.

For more information, to volunteer or share your memories please get in touch with Stephen Cartwright, the Industrial Wildlife Project Officer at the Lancashire Wildlife Trust on 01204 663 754 or scartwright@lancswt.org.uk.