I have travelled up and down the M6 motorway passed Junction 31 for months and months and months along with 27 million other users of the M6, always casting an eye towards the old gravel pits on the left hand side of the motorway when travelling southbound to see if I could view the unique floating venue which I knew was being created on the site known as Brockholes.
I had been to a meeting on the site after it had been purchased by the Wildlife Trust back in 2007 and met with the project managers at the gravel pit when Adam Khan’s ‘Floating World’ design was announced as the winning design of a new competition launched by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) for new visitor facilities.
Last night I was fortunate enough to have been invited to attend the celebrations of the launch of the opening of the Brockholes nature reserve and get a close up experience of the UK’s first floating venue and wow what a venue has been created, it is really amazing and once the landscaping around has settled into its natural surroundings which has included the propagating of 50,000 reed seedlings and the moving of 47,000 cubic metres of earth to help improve the infrastructure and access routes for visitors, it is all going to bring the visitors so much closer to nature.
There is ample of car parking making the site the most alternative motorway service venue along the M6 within Lancashire, with children’s playground facilities and picnicking areas which have already seen the approval of 12,000 visitors during the first two weeks of being open! The visitor village – which clusters on the floating pontoon – provides a local produce shop, a welcome centre, a conference centre, a wildlife trust commercial shopping outlet with some very nice gifts for bird lovers and nature lovers as well as the obligatory restaurant/tearooms and toilet facilities.
The Lancashire Wildlife Trust is grateful to the 150+ volunteers who work at this new kind of nature reserve, known as an ‘unreserved reserve’, and are passionate about engaging people with the natural world and their vision for Brockholes is that everyone is welcome and able to eplore and learn about nature, whether they are a wildlife expert or a beginner. Even though the M6 motorway is so close to the nature reserve you could be a million miles away as far as the wildlife is concerned, this was confirmed by Simon King OBE – the renowned wildlife programme maker and camera man – who officially cut the cake and opened the Brockholes nature reserve and spoke warmly of his love of reedbeds and the birds to be found within them. Wildlife already enjoying the improvements at the gravel pit include lapwings, sanderlings, whimbrel, little ringed plover, oystercatchers, brown hare and roe deer.
My advice would be to follow the very well sign posted brown tourism signs featuring ‘Brock the Badger’ when you exit the M6 at Junction 31 and make a visit to Brockholes, also watch out for the forthcoming events which are planned to be hosted there, including a local produce food festival in early June, or go for a walk around the reserve and make a note of how many species of wildlife you encounter.
Thanks to Jason Lock and Neil Aldrige for the images used in this post.