North West nature reserves, including Lunt Meadows, have played their part in preventing catastrophic flooding of homes as well as providing habitats for wildlife, according to The Wildlife Trust.
Lunt Meadows, Bickershaw, Lightshaw Meadows, Wigan Flashes and Brockholes have been managed to create areas where floodwater can run, before reaching residential areas.
And while this may cause some disruption to wildlife, things get back to normal fairly quickly according to the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside.
In the recent Storm Christoph, serious breaches of the banks of the River Alt saw thousands of gallons of water flooding into the Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve. The water levels rose so high that parts of the car park were flooded, but it stood firm and prevented major problems in nearby Sefton and Maghull.
Lunt Meadows has been designed to act as both a flood reservoir and a nature reserve, providing wetland habitats for species, such as water vole, marsh harrier and kingfisher, while also holding excess rain and river water.
The water is then either absorbed by plants and soils, returns to the atmosphere or is slowly released back into the River Alt, taking the pressure off drains and reducing the likelihood of flooding in more built-up, urban areas. Recent work at Bickershaw in Wigan has created a water storage pool on the site, reducing local flood risks, similarly to Lunt Meadows.
During this storm, the embankment separating Lunt Meadows from the River Alt was badly damaged by the pressure of the water as it poured over into the reserve. Paths are submerged, and the water remains very deep on site, with only the tops of some bird screens visible.
Nevertheless, the wildlife is still at home on site, with barn owls spotted hunting of an evening, hundreds of lapwing displaying and greylag geese swimming across the fields in which they normally graze in the day.
The Wildlife Trust’s Lunt Meadow’s Project Manager Cheryl Ashton said: “We are working closely with the Environment Agency to get the site open but while the reserve remains flooded and inaccessible, we don’t yet know the extent of any damage, and therefore the best approach to fix any issues. The water is slowly retreating and the wildlife is still present, but we have got to be patient and only open up again when it is safe.
“This event shows the importance of Lunt Meadows in the local area. Not only is it a brilliant site for wildlife – it is proving vital in protecting local communities from severe weather events. Every town needs a Lunt Meadows.”