Project update: Hillylaid wetland

The Hillylaid Wetland in Thornton, is situated just north of Blackpool in Lancashire. It’s a low lying area of land sandwiched between the River Wyre and the Irish Sea.

Natural Course has been involved with this project for a number of years as part of the wider action ‘using coastal bathing water quality and multiple benefit approaches to address upstream rural pollution using green infrastructure and public awareness’.  In Phase 2, we aided with the design, securing the relevant permits, permissions and authorisations for the project, and more recently in Phase 3, we have assisted with the physical work to create the wetland area.

It’s such a great project and it really highlights the benefits partnership working – it started as a small wetland (designed to improve water quality) but developed into a holistic wetlands project bringing a wide range of benefits for both the environment and local communities.

Historically, the area was dominated by wetlands, ponds and lowland mires. However, in recent decades the area has seen the intensive development and drainage of its wetland sites. This has exacerbated water quality and flooding issues, leaving more than 2,500 houses at risk of fluvial and surface water flooding.

To help reduce this risk, the Wyre Rivers Trust developed a network of wetland sites in the area. Of these sites, the Hillylaid Wetland is the lowest in the Hillylaid Pool catchment. It has been designed to include two wetland cells, one which is optimised for water quality and one which is optimised to reduce flood risk. The trust has also created a small pond to support locally active great crested newt populations (a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Framework) and a number of hibernacula to support amphibians and reptiles that hibernate during the winter months.

The wetlands were constructed in September 2020 and, with help from the local community, will be planted with a wide range of native wetland plants in spring (2021). It is expected that around 6,000m3 of storage will be created at the site following the completion of phase two, which will see the reconnection of a paleochannel (a stretch of inactive river) which runs through the site. We also expect to see up to 80% reductions of Faecal Indicator Organisms such as E. coli, as well as reductions in the concentrations of nutrients and other contaminants which enter the wetland complex.

The wetlands will also help local flora and fauna to thrive, supporting a wide range of species by creating a mixture of habitats by direct intervention and benign neglect. Furthermore, they will act to sequester large amounts of carbon, helping to combat climate change. The wetlands will be subject to regular monitoring, allowing the Wyre Rivers Trust, Wyre Waters Catchment Partnership and local communities to assess the wide range of ecosystem services that these wetlands will provide.

We are incredibly excited to share this new video about the project, created by The Rivers Trust and Wyre Rivers Trust.

Hillylaid Wetland Development – Wyre Rivers Trust video transcript (opens new tab)