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Avenue Washlands Nature Reserve celebrates 10th anniversary

Thursday 10th August 2017

Charles Langtree and Sam Willis, by Doug Jackson

From ‘one of the most polluted sites in Europe’ to a wildlife haven and vital community green space.

Avenue Washlands Nature Reserve this week celebrated its 10th anniversary with a community event and ceremonial tree planting.

The 17 hectare site near Chesterfield was opened in August 2007, following reclamation work. The reserve was established on part of the former Avenue Coking works site, and the wider restoration work within The Avenue project is just now completing. To mark the 10th anniversary, the Land Trust and Derbyshire Wildlife Trust hosted an open day, incorporating historical and wildlife displays, and a short walk to explore the site’s habitats and amenities.

The highlight was the planting of a young oak tree, mirroring the opening ceremony a decade ago. This time, Lee Rowley MP, Euan Hall – Chief Executive of the Land Trust, and Tim Birch – Head of Living Landscapes North of Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, dug deep to get the tree off to a good start. Despite the wet weather, dozens of people came out to celebrate Avenue Washlands Nature Reserve, each with their own link to and love of the green space, and all advocating the importance of such community amenities.

Lee Rowley MP, Euan Hall – Chief Executive of the Land Trust, Tim Birch – Head of Living Landscapes at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust

Euan said: “It’s wonderful to see Avenue Washlands Nature Reserve continuing to thrive ten years on. Transforming the former industrial site into an accessible space for people and wildlife was an enormous task, but thanks to the resilience of nature and a strong partnership between the many organisations involved, it’s a huge success story.

“We’re delighted that the reserve is so well used and loved by local people and that it is home to so many different species, and thank the staff and volunteers of Derbyshire Wildlife Trust for their continuing hard work and passion.”

Tim added: “It’s fantastic to see how brilliant this old industrial site has become for people and wildlife. The development of the site is testament to a great partnership with the Land Trust and dedication from a wide variety of volunteers. We look forward to the next 10 years!”

Previously a coking works, the land and water were heavily polluted, but through the East Midland Development Agency and the National Coalfield Programme of the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), the clean-up operation created what is now a wildlife haven and much-loved community green space.

Avenue Washlands Nature Reserve is owned by national land management charity the Land Trust, with Derbyshire Wildlife Trust as managing partner to carry out on-site work through its staff and volunteers.

The reserve is thriving, with over 954 species recorded there – up from 386 species before 2007. That’s 568 new species who have visited or made their home on the reserve since it opened – one a week for ten years! The birdlife is probably the biggest draw for the site, with notable spottings including the occasional Glossy ibis, a new colony of breeding Swifts, red-listed species such as Lapwing, Ringed plover and Linnet, and even the odd Budgerigar! In addition, regular butterfly transects are held, with the Purple hairstreak a new addition recorded this summer, and it is also an essential habitat for a wide range of plants, amphibians and small mammals.

To find out more about Avenue Washlands Nature Reserve, visit: www.thelandtrust.org.uk/space/avenue-washlands-nature-reserve/