The most recently designated local nature reserve in Preston is in Fishwick Bottoms and was officially opened in October 2007.The site is crescent shaped and covers an area of approximately 26 ha on and adjacent to Common Bank which is a natural escarpment overlooking the flood plain of the River Ribble.
Following extensive landscaping and restoration work of previously derelict land, the recreation ground and nature reserve now offer several miles of footpaths complete with seating areas and interpretation signs..
There are three main habitat types found in Fishwick Bottoms; woodlands, grasslands and wetland features. There is also a remnant orchard, containing approximately 40 apple trees (of a variety of apple called Golden Spire).
The existing woodlands are the result of planting in the 1960’s and 1970’s to stabilise the slopes which resulted from landfill operations. Much of the woodland includes tree species which are not native British trees or are not species which would occur naturally in this part of North West England. The management of the site seeks to replace these trees with more appropriate species, over a long period, which in turn will benefit other plant and animal species. Selective thinning of some areas, by felling and coppicing, will enrich the diversity of species and the age range of trees. Ultimately the woodland should fit into the same natural corridor as Boilton Wood, extending wildlife into the heart of the city.
One woodland (Throslock Wood), at the east end of the reserve, is a county Biological Heritage Site. Throslock Wood has had woodland cover for several centuries and has a more natural composition and feel to it. Here the canopy trees are mainly Oak and the ground flora, seen at its best in Spring, includes Bluebells, Wild Garlic, Campion and Celandines.
There are seven grassland areas which have developed on old landfill areas or through the abandonment of other activities such as industry or farming. These areas have been enhanced by the introduction of appropriate wildflower plants and seeds. The management of the grasslands seeks to replicate traditional local farming practices so as to develop wildflower flower meadows typical of those found in hay meadows and wetter areas. Grasslands on lowland farms would have been grazed by farm animals and cut for hay. Due to the location of Fishwick, and the site being open to the public, grazing by animals is not possible but planned cutting and removal of the grass crop will make the site suitable for a diverse range of colourful wildflowers. This is in turn will result in a habitat for insects, mammals, amphibians and other animals.
The freshwater wetland features in Fishwick Bottoms comprise three ponds, created in 2007, and improvements to a ditch system which runs through the site There are smaller ponds, dug and managed by volunteers, which hold water for most of the year and are connected to the ditch system during periods of flooding.
The newly dug ponds were planted with appropriate aquatic plants and have been colonised by sticklebacks (fish), newts and a wide variety of invertebrates such as dragonflies, damselflies, snails and beetles. The ditch, which joins the River Ribble, is home to larger fish species and consequently attracts heron and kingfisher.
Over the coming the years the ponds will change, in terms of the plants and animals found there. This will be partly influenced by the other freshwater features nearby, the river and a reed-filled swamp area.
Fishwick Terrace Swamp (another county Biological Heritage Site) is a large area of wetland below Fishwick View. There is little open water, the swamp being dominated by Bulrush (Typha). Work carried by the Park Ranger and volunteers in 2012 has attempted to raise the water level in a small area of the swamp so as to create a swimming pool size open water area.
Known by many as the ‘old athletics track’, the recreation ground has had a varied history.
Sand and clay were dug close to London Road, before the area was used as a municipal tip for many years. A travellers camp and the athletics track came more recently but then the site became abandoned when the Preston Harriers moved on to better facilities.
Following refurbishment in 2006, there is now a BMX bicycle track and football pitch on the site.
Preston Pirates (www.prestonpiratesbmxclub.co.uk) are a highly successful BMX who have a lease to use the track for coaching and club racing. Outside of the Club’s operating time the track is open for use to locals and visitors.
Unicorn FC and a youth team (also called Preston Pirates) use the football pitch at weekends.
The Park Ranger, Events & Volunteers
A Preston City Council Park Ranger, Terry Blackburn, regularly works on the site carrying out inspections, maintenance and management duties. He can be contacted via the Parks Services office on 01772 906471 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
There are volunteer work parties, lead by the Park Ranger and Lancashire Wildlife Trust (www.lancswt.org.uk) . These mainly take place on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
A range of events, open to the public, takes place each year. These are part of Preston Parks service annual events programme.
How to Get There
Fishwick LNR can be accessed via the Recreation Ground, on London Road (A6) or from the river side car park, to the rear of the Shawes Arms. There are further access points off Brockholes View, Ashleigh Street and the top of Watery Lane (the Loney).
There is a car park at the London Road entrance and on the riverside to the rear of the Shawes Arms.
The post code for the site PR2 5AN and the Grid Reference for the main entrance is SD554293.
The area is included on two ordnance survey maps; Explorer 286 and Pathfinder 679.
A number of Preston bus services stop approximately 100 meters from the site;
The north bound buses stop at London Rd/Frenchwood stop and the south bound at London Rd/Ashleigh St.
109 Chorley 126 Bolton
112 Croston 150 Bamber Bridge
113 Wigan 151 Bamber Bridge
114 Chorley 152 Burnley
The Walton le Dale Park and Ride (No2.) service operates from a short distance away.