Hillylaid web 2

World Wetlands Day: a new wetland for the Wyre catchment

A new wetland initiative in the Wyre Catchment in the North West of England.

Rebecca Duncan


You may have read before about Broomfield Park wetland in Enfield London, which is a project we are really proud to work on. We are also incredibly excited to share a new video this World Wetlands Day about a more recent wetland initiative in the Wyre Catchment in the North West of England.

The Hillylaid Wetland in Thornton, Lancashire was born as a result of partnership working between statutory agencies and local academia. What started as a small wetland designed to improve water quality has developed into a holistic wetlands project which brings a wide range of benefits for the environment and local communities.

Situated just north of Blackpool in Lancashire, Thornton is a low lying area of land sandwiched between the River Wyre and the Irish Sea. Historically, the area was dominated by wetlands, ponds and lowland mires. However, in recent decades the area has seen the intensive development and drainage of its wetland sites. This has exacerbated water quality and flooding issues, leaving more than 2,500 houses at risk of fluvial and surface water flooding.

To help reduce this risk, the Wyre Rivers Trust is developing a network of wetland sites in the area. Of these sites, the Hillylaid Wetland is the lowest in the Hillylaid Pool catchment. It has been designed to include two wetland cells, one which is optimised for water quality and one which is optimised to reduce flood risk. The trust has also created a small pond to support locally active great crested newt populations (a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Framework) and a number of hibernacula to support amphibians and reptiles that hibernate during the winter months.

The wetlands were constructed in September 2020 and, with help from the local community, will be planted with a wide range of native wetland plants in spring of this year. It is expected that around 6,000m3 of storage will be created at the site following the completion of phase two, which will see the reconnection of a paleochannel (a stretch of inactive river) which runs through the site. We also expect to see up to 80% reductions of Faecal Indicator Organisms such as E. coli, as well as reductions in the concentrations of nutrients and other contaminants which enter the wetland complex.

The wetlands will also help local flora and fauna to thrive, supporting a wide range of species by creating a mixture of habitats by direct intervention and benign neglect. Furthermore, they will act to sequester large amounts of carbon, helping to combat climate change. The wetlands will be subject to regular monitoring, allowing the Wyre Rivers Trust, Wyre Waters Catchment Partnership and local communities to assess the wide range of ecosystem services that these wetlands will provide.

Take a look at the video below to learn more about the project:

This project has been supported by the EU LIFE IP Natural Course project and the Prince of Wales's Charitable Fund.

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