Parks and Nature Reserves
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Siddick Ponds is one of two Local Nature Reserves (LNRs) in the Workington area. A Local Nature Reserve (LNR) is an area of land protected for its contribution towards wildlife, geology, education and public enjoyment. There are over 1400 LNRs across England for both people and wildlife to enjoy. It is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) primarily due to the diversity of birdlife it supports. SSSIs are the country's very best wildlife and geological sites and there are over 4,100 in England, covering around 7% of the country's land area.
History of the ponds
The ponds are a product of both natural and human influences. Approximately ten thousand years ago the ponds were part of a huge delta in what is now the River Derwent. The depression in which the water is held is only twelve feet above sea level. The name 'Siddick' is believed to have originated from 'Siggit' or 'Seagate' an old racecourse located close to where the ponds are today.
The coal industry and associated railways used to transport coal, made a lasting impression on the ponds. In the mid-19th century, the Cleator Moor to Maryport railway was constructed, part of which passed through what is now the nature reserve. Coal continued to be extracted up until the 1970's at nearby St Helen's pit in Siddick. Following its closure and demolition much of the land was reclaimed and many hundreds of trees and shrubs were planted, creating much new habitat for small birds such as Meadow Pipit, Skylark and Linnet.
Wildlife of the ponds
Siddick Ponds is one of Cumbria's most important bird sites, despite its close proximity to heavy industry, commerce, housing and a busy main road. The large reedbeds and extensive open water habitat is unique in Cumbria and attracts a distinctive community of birds throughout the year. The combination of two ponds - one freshwater, the other brackish - contributes to the variety of species using the site.
Winter is the best time to observe wildfowl on the ponds. Over-wintering birds include Teal, Goldeneye, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Shoveler and occasional parties of Whooper Swan, usually in family groups. Many of these birds will have spent the summer months on breeding grounds in Iceland, Scandinavia, continental Europe and even Russia.The Bittern, one of the rarest breeding birds in Britain, is probably the reserve's "flagship" species. The reserve is undoubtedly the best location in Cumbria to see this secretive species. The birds visiting Siddick are continental birds which have escaped the harsh winters of the European mainland and to 'winter' in the relative warmth of West Cumbria thanks to the influence of the Gulf Stream.
During the winter of 2004-2005, five Bitterns wintered at Siddick Ponds making this the largest number ever seen at Siddick Ponds. Winter is also the best season to see (or more likely hear) Water Rail. Their pig-like squeals can sometimes be heard from the depth of the reedbed and there is always a chance of catching a glimpse of one foraging on the edge of the reedbed, particularly during icy conditions.
Spring sees an influx of migratory birds travelling north from Africa, reaching a peak in late-April and early-May. Warblers arrive en masse and Swifts, Swallows, Sand and House Martins make the most of aquatic invertebrates emerging from the ponds. Many of these remain to breed, notably Reed, Sedge and Grasshopper Warblers, Whitethroats and Lesser Whitethroats, all of which find a perfect home in the mosaic of habitats around the ponds. Other breeding species, which can usually be seen throughout the year, include Tufted Duck, Pochard, Shoveler, Mute Swan, Coot, Moorhen, Reed Bunting and there is always a good chance of seeing Sparrowhawk, Barn Owl, Cormorant, Greylag Goose and Kingfisher.
The pond's coastal location makes it an attractive stopover for a wide variety of passage migrants in spring and autumn, although often only for brief periods. Scarcities include occasional Little Stint, Wood Sandpiper, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Mediterranean Gull and Little Egret while rarities have included Caspian Tern, Leach's Petrel, Firecrest, Cetti's Warbler, Marsh Harrier and Osprey.
Other wildlife is less well-recorded but butterflies well represented and include interesting species such as small blue, common blue, speckled wood, gatekeeper, ringlet and grayling in addition to more common species. Dragonflies are also visible on warm summer days and species such as Southern Hawker, Migrant Hawker, Common Darter and Blue-tailed Damselfly can be seen, depending on the time of year.
Harrington 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.
Vulcan Park is a 14 acre town centre park situated in the centre of Workington on Vulcan’s Lane. The bulk of the land now known as Vulcan Park was purchased by Workington Corporation in 1908 and after being used as allotment gardens during the First World War it was formally opened as the first public park in Workington on 4 June 1925 by Alderman J McMullen.
Today the park remains a valued amenity and is used by the local community for relaxation and recreation as well as a variety of events and activities throughout the year.
Facilities available in Vulcan Park include:
A bowling green and bower
A playing pitch with goal posts
Vulcan Park café and public toilets
Vulcan Park Childrens' Play Area
An outdoor gym for adults
Workington Hall Parklands
Workington Hall Parklands includes the grounds of Workington Hall, Curwen Park and Mill Field.
Situated near the centre of Workington, the parklands are popular with dog walkers, cyclists and the local community. The park is rich in history, Mary Queen of Scots stayed in Workington Hall on her last night of freedom in 1568 and the Curwen’s were a prominent family throughout the history of Cumberland.
In the upper park, attractions and facilities include:
Workington Hall - a historic Grade I listed building and Scheduled Ancient Monument
Mature woodland with a network of paths and lots of wildlife
A miniature railway
An historic carriage way and associated features such as the Cuckoo Arch
A skatepark at Horse Close
In the lower park, the floodplain of the river Derwent (Curwen Park; Mill Field) there are:
attractive walks along the river Derwent and Mill Stream including a pedestrian and cycle track
the Yearl - a wear in the river Derwent at the eastern extremity of the park - a good site for watching the wildlife of the river
open parkland and meadows
The Parklands are also a great place for those with an interest in wildlife. The stream through Mill Field (Mill stream) is man made and sheep are a common site within Curwen Park and Mill Field due to links with the nearby Schoose Farm. Mill stream supports a variety of wildlife including Grey Heron, Mute Swan, Mallard, Moorhen, Grey Wagtail and the occasional kingfisher. Small numbers of dragon and damselflies can also be seen during the summer including Common Darter, Southern Hawker and Blue-tailed Damslefly. Butterflies can be abundant in late-summer, nectaring on thistles, knapweed and other streamside flowers, with species including Peacock, Painted Lady, Ringlet and Small Copper. Otters have also been spotted along the adjacent River Derwent and the within stream.
The fields and surrounding rough grass are a haven for insects including several species of butterfly and a few different species of bee. Deer have been spotted in the fields on occasion and owls are known to be present in the woodland on Mill Field.
The woodland between the fields and Horse Close supports good numbers of woodland birds including Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Jay. In summer Spotted Flycatcher, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff can be seen, or more likely, heard. Great Spotted Woodpecker and Mistle Thrush can often be seen in the mature trees in the parkland near the Hall. Red Squirrels are more commonly spotted between the lodge on Washington Street and the Curwen Centre in the middle of the park but are also present in the woodland area near Horse Close Car Park.
Red Squirrels can also be seen in the vicinity of the Hall, especially early in the morning. This area is also good for bats, mainly in the early hours of the morning and at dusk. During the day at certain times of year the bats have been found to roost within the bark of some of the older trees in the park. For this reason you may see some trees that have been pollarded rather than removed altogether as they are providing vital habitat for these creatures. Bats also use the nooks and crannies in the Hall as a daytime roost.