Former pit is haven for birds

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Burnley Bird Haven, which occupies the site of the former Bank Hall Colliery, is the creation of appropriately-named husband and wife Colin and Gillian Nightingale.

The haven, complete with “England’s shortest but best” nature walk, has become a labour of love for the couple who wanted something meaningful to do in their retirement.

Gillian and Colin Nightingale at their bird haven.

Gillian and Colin Nightingale at their bird haven.

Colin, who in his working days occupied a very different way of life as a casino croupier, now spends his days transforming the remnants of a scarred former industrial landscape into a nature lover’s paradise.

He said: “It all started off when I started counting the birds in my back garden at home in Nelson.

“I knew absolutely nothing about birds but I thought it would be interesting to count and record the different types.

“From this I began to learn more about our birds and the great variety we have here. Over a period of 10 years I recorded 76,000 birds.”

We think we have created a habitat which will encourage birds and wildlife to thrive

Colin Nightingale

But it was only on a chance visit four years ago to Karlen Antiques, at Bank Hall Works, off Colne Road, that Colin hit upon the idea of creating a bird haven.

He added: “I asked the owners Michael and Linda Huer if I could use some of the spare land outside to put up a few bird-feeding boxes.

“They were very accommodating and very helpful. It soon grew from putting a few feeders up to clearing what was a wasteland into somewhere that people could come and enjoy the nature.

“We think we have created a habitat which will encourage birds and wildlife to thrive.”

And that transformation has seen a dedicated circular nature walk created which traverses the edge of the Leeds Liverpool Canal as well as the River Brun.

It is hard to imagine that not too many decades ago this area would have rattled to the sound of heavy machinery as miners withdrew coal from the depths of the Burnley earth.

Now, it is a much more serene affair with dry stone walls, a pergola and a bird-watching hide, all built courtesy of Colin, Gillian and their friends David Tyree Mysercough and Geoff Wensley.

Of course, the real stars of the show are the birds themselves, and Colin believes people would be surprised at the myriad collection of his feathered friends.

Woodpeckers, jays, robins, wrens and nuthatches compete for space with bullfinches, tits and goldfinches.

Gillian said: “We would love more people to know about this place. It is hidden away, which is lovely, but I think that’s also why so many people don’t know we’re here.

“It is completely free to come and walk around or sit and watch the birds. My interest is in the planting side. I have planted elderberries, hydrangeas, wild roses and geraniums.

“The idea was to create as much biodiversity as possible. Planters encourage insects which are sustainable food for the birds.”

Around a dozen bird feeding stations are regularly filled by the couple who pay for the running costs out of their own pocket.

Colin added: “We sometimes go into garden centres and primary schools in a bid to increase our profile, but we would still like to see more families visit the haven.

“In the four years we’ve been here, all our visitors say how fantastic it is. That cheers me up.”

If anyone would like to donate, volunteer or simply visit Burnley Bird Haven more information is available by calling 449782 or emailing