A new path at Dove Stone reservoir near Oldham has proved a hit with visitors and wildlife alike.
Following months of hard work by RSPB Site Wardens and a hardy gang of local volunteers, visitors to Dove Stone can now enjoy a walk off the beaten track through a woodland setting, taking in wildlife ponds and reservoir views.
The new path has been created through one of United Utilities’ mature conifer plantations (known as Pennyworth Plantation) and allows all visitors, including those with all terrain wheelchairs to experience a different setting to the main circular trail.
Staff and volunteers will next be planting trees such as oak, rowan and birch to create a wonderful mixed woodland of the sort that would naturally grow there.
RSPB Site Warden Kate Hanley said: “People often wonder why a conservation charity would cut trees down, but dense conifer plantations like this one are dark places making it hard for a variety of plants and wildlife to thrive. The conifers have been thinned out to allow more light in and we are already seeing tiny trees appearing.
“Of course some wildlife, such as goldcrests, like conifers so we are not removing them all. Dead wood is also an important aspect of woodland management, so we create habitat piles for insects, small mammals and birds like robins and wrens, and leave some tree stumps standing upright for a variety of insects and birds like woodpeckers.”
In fact leaving dead wood has proved to be especially important for one tiny creature – a brand new resident at Dove Stone which has appeared directly as a result of this work.
RSPB volunteer and local naturalist Ken Gartside suggested holes were drilled into some dead conifer stumps to create artificial rot holes which hoverflies breed in. The team at Dove Stone are very excited to report that Ken has already found the rare furry pine hoverfly for the first time ever at Dove Stone as a direct result of this work
This particular hoverfly is nationally scarce and is mainly found in pine forests in Scotland. There have been a small number recorded elsewhere in England but it is a new find for Dove Stone.
Dave O’Hara, RSPB Site Manager at Dove Stone commented: ‘I’d really like to thank the local volunteers, aided by United Utilities staff on their work parties, who have transformed the woodland habitat as well as creating the new path. The hoverfly discovery is a great reminder of how quickly nature can respond if we create the right conditions, and was a fine example of well thought-out habitat creation by Ken. The ponds created are also attracting dragonflies.”
Although many visitors have already found and enjoyed Pennyworth path, an official opening was held on Friday 11 August, following the installation of wooden way markers and interpretation by local artists Richard Dawson and Jacqui Symons from Woodend Artists.
With one of their members being a regular volunteer for the RSPB, Oldham Mountain Rescue also attended with one of their landrovers which was a great source of excitement to the children on the day.
As well as the new path through the plantation, staff and volunteers have also improved access at Binn Green with a new wheelchair friendly path to the viewpoint and bird feeding area.
Dove Stone reservoir is owned by United Utilities and the water company works in partnership with the RSPB, who manage the estate. The partnership aims to encourage public access and recreation, while protecting water quality and wildlife for future generations.