A riverside nature reserve in Northwich has received a major transformation thanks to the Cheshire Wildlife Trust and local chemicals manufacturer INEOS Enterprises.
Poors Wood nature reserve, between Kingsmead and the River Weaver, is a semi-natural ancient woodland full of native English bluebells in spring, and popular with dog walkers and wildlife lovers.
Until a few months ago however, access through the woodland and between the River Weaver footpath and neighbouring residential areas was limited to informal pathways along steep slopes, which were regularly waterlogged and muddy.
Other areas of the woodland were also inaccessible for most visitors, sitting underwater for much of the year but home to wildlife that remained hidden away from view.
With a £21,000 injection from INEOS Enterprises, Cheshire Wildlife Trust has spent the last year installing more than 50 metres of boardwalks, ‘stepping in’ trails along the woodland’s steep sides, and opening up large parts of the woodland to visitors for the first time.
In addition, the woodland has been included in the Wildlife Trust’s English bluebell recovery scheme, which has seen hundreds of bulbs of this quintessential British flower planted across the nature reserve, in a bid to stem declines caused by habitat loss and cross-breeding with foreign garden varieties.
Much of the work has been carried out by volunteers including members of the Train’d Up team which helps those out of employment and with learning challenges to gain practical experience to help gain permanent jobs and develop new skills.
Matt Allmark from the Cheshire Wildlife Trust, who led the project, said: “This has been an important and high-profile project for us at the Trust, with hundreds of people living just a few yards from the wood and using it on a regular basis.
“We’ve been able to consolidate the existing footpath network, but also create new trails into areas where people can now experience plants like the marsh marigold, which previously would have found visitors knee-high in water.
“By creating a definitive and engaging route through the reserve, I hope we can now protect more fragile areas like those that are home to bluebells, or parts of the wood that were formally too dangerous to walk through.”
Janet Ward from INEOS Enterprises who financed the scheme through its Landfill Communities Fund, added: “As a dog walker myself, it was delightful to experience the new trails after so many months of hard work by the Trust and their volunteers on this very challenging location alongside the river.
“We are always keen to support projects that enable better access to the environment for the local community, and Poors Wood will certainly offer that now for many years to come.”