Diggers move in as work begins to create Clitheroe's ambitious new nature reserve

(From left) John Milne, Nicola Hopkins, Coun. Alison Brown and Jack Spees.
(From left) John Milne, Nicola Hopkins, Coun. Alison Brown and Jack Spees.

Work has started on a derelict Victorian mill lodge in Clitheroe – paving the way for the transformation of this unloved patch of boggy wasteland into an urban wildlife oasis.

After more than half a century of neglect, the Primrose Lodge Blue and Greenway Project will create a new green corridor connecting the town centre with the surrounding countryside by restoring the site between Whalley Road and Woone Lane.

Over the next 18 months, the scheme will create a new lake and install the longest fish pass in Britain to encourage salmon, sea trout and eels to migrate through the heart of Clitheroe to

their spawning grounds on the lower slopes of Pendle Hill.

After gaining access to the overgrown and inaccessible site – which was abandoned after the closure of Primrose Works in the 1960s – the contractors’ first job was to divert Mearley Brook to allow desilting work to begin. Contractors have also removed several tonnes of plastic waste and accumulated rubbish – including discarded drinks bottles, traffic cones, tyres, dozens of footballs and the bonnet of a 1959 Ford Popular!

Speaking about the project, Ribble Rivers Trust CEO, Jack Spees, said: “We are ecstatic to see works happening on the ground. To finally see the project taking shape is fantastic, we have already had a swell of support demonstrating the value that this site will bring to the local community, and the environment. The main contractor Ebsford Environmental has carefully planned and produced an excellent programme which has meant progress has been exceptional. We are also really grateful to our supporters and funders for seeing the potential of the project and the benefits it would bring.”

Nicola Hopkins, director of economic development and planning at Ribble Valley Borough Council, added: “The start of this project marks the culmination of a lot of hard work by all the

organisations involved and it will be a fabulous asset for all residents of Clitheroe.”

Looking ahead, existing trees and vegetation will be thinned out and new wetland species planted to stabilise the margins of the stream and new lake. Clearance and restoration work will continue for another six weeks, before the second phase of the project kicks in. This will create a new footpath linking Whalley Road with the western section of Woone Lane, providing access through the green space and incorporating a new bridge over the stream, a section of waterside boardwalk and a viewing platform.

Once complete, the project will create an urban wildlife oasis, connecting Clitheroe town centre to the open countryside beyond via a network of riverside access paths. The restoration work will also improve water quality and reduce downstream flood risk.

The RRT has already logged a number of wildlife sightings at the site – including moorhen, coot and kingfishers.

The £0.8 million project is being funded jointly by the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government, through the European Regional Development Fund, as well as funding from

Ribble Valley Borough Council and charitable funding from RRT. The final phase of the project will see the construction of what is expected to be the longest fish pass in England, allowing salmon, trout, eels and other fish species to migrate further along Mearley Brook through the heart of Clitheroe to Worston and beyond.

Once complete, the site will be managed and maintained by the newly established Primrose Community Nature Trust.

Trustee, John Milne, said: “This nature reserve will be a fantastic asset for Clitheroe residents because it’s right on their doorstep. Local children will be able to walk to school through a beautiful green oasis for wildlife and get closer to nature on a daily basis.”

Coun. Alison Brown, chairman of the council's planning committee, said: “I’m extremely impressed with the progress they have made so far – it’s going to be a brilliant

project for local residents. This is a fabulous scheme and we are very lucky that so many groups have worked together to get this project off the ground.”