Harrington Reservoir Local Nature Reserve
Harrington Reservoir Local Nature Reserve is one of two Local Nature Reserves (LNRs) in the Workington area, the other being Siddick Ponds. A Local Nature Reserve (LNR) is an area of land protected for its contribution towards wildlife, geology, education and public enjoyment.
The history of Harrington Reservoir
The reserve has direct links with Harrington's industrial heritage as the reservoir was actually constructed in 1863 to supply water for nearby iron works. The final shipment of pig iron left the iron works in 1928 on a cargo ship Girasol on its way towards Swansea. Between the 1880s and 1930s 'The Rezzer' was used as a boating lake before being left to nature.
The area around the reserve was once mined for coal, formed millions of years ago when the area consisted of swampy, tropical woodland. One of the legacies of the mining is the presence of ochre, a rusty coloured iron-based substance that has completely changed the colour of the stream bed stones in places along the Ellerbeck.
Much of the land around the reservoir was used for grazing and old OS maps show very few houses in the area. It is likely that much of the area around the reservoir was quite open and consisted of marsh and fen vegetation, the present day willows and other trees and shrubs not being planted until relatively recently. The Local Nature Reserve was declared in 1993.
The wildlife of Harrington Reservoir
The reservoir itself forms a relatively small part of the reserve, most of which is defined by the narrow wooded valley of Ellerbeck, running for some 700m upstream of the reservoir. The reserve encompasses a man-made reservoir fed by the Ellerbeck, extensive willow scrub, two herb-rich meadows and riverine woodland . The mosaic of habitats, some of them increasingly rare and found in few other places throughout West Cumbria, are linked together by a network of paths, steps and bridges with seating and viewpoints located at strategic resting points throughout the reserve. The site is very popular with wildlife and the local community.
The generally wet conditions enable water loving plants to flourish, including; marsh marigold, sawort and meadowsweet. There is evidence that parts of the woodland in the Ellerbeck valley are 'ancient', having developed naturally over a period of over 400 years. Woodland plants including bluebell, wood anemone, ramsons, lesser celandine and wood sorrel carpet the floor from March through to May. The two 'unimproved' meadows are now rare in the west Cumbria region. Unlike other grasslands that may have been 'improved' for farming or drained, these meadows have never been affected by agriculture and have retained many unique and now rare plants.
The diverse range of habitats attracts an equally diverse fauna. The shallow water of the reservoir attracts small numbers of duck (mainly Mallard but with occasional Teal, Goldeneye, Tufted Duck and even Pintail), Mute Swan, Coot and Moorhen, although the rapid siltation of the reservoir in recent years has had a negative effect on the numbers and variety of wildfowl. The surrounding willow scrub and marginal vegetation attracts smaller birds such as Sedge and Willow Warbler and the more wooded areas upstream are home to Great Spotted Woodpecker, Tawny Owl and Treecreeper throughout the year and joined in summer by Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Garden Warbler. Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail can occasionally been seen along the Ellerbeck and Sparrowhawk and Kestrel are also regular visitors to the reserve.
A good range of common butterflies can be found, particularly in late-summer. A notable recent colonist is the Speckled Wood which is now commonly seen flitting in the dappled shade of the streamside woodland. This is a new arrival on the reserve having spread rapidly north and west in Cumbria in recent years, probably as a direct result of climate change.
Located south of Workington between Harrington and Salterbeck, the main entrance to the reserve is off Moorclose Road in Harrington, opposite St Mary's Primary School. There is also direct access from nearby Brierydale and, at the north end of the reserve, from the West Cumbria Cyclepath.