St Helens beauty spot up for Prince of Wales prize

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A renowned St Helens beauty spot has been nominated for a top prize by the Prince of Wales.

Stanley Bank Meadow in Blackbrook has been nominated as part of a green initiative.

It was selected as one of just 60 such places, nationwide to be part of Prince Charles’ Coronation Meadows scheme in 2013, honouring the 60th anniversary of the crowning of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.

The council-owned meadow, designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in 1986 due to its grassland environment – a rare natural habitat in Merseyside – has been painstakingly managed and improved over a period of 15 years by the council’s Ranger Service and Grounds Maintenance Team, bringing it in line with Natural England SSSI regulations, as a site ‘favourable’ for encouraging plant and wildlife diversity.

Throughout the year, the meadow, part of the wider Stanley Bank Local Nature Reserve, is maintained by the Ranger Service, and receives an annual cutting to reduce and remove unwanted and invasive weeds.

This year, the cuttings from Stanley Bank – one of just 14 SSSIs in Merseyside, and the only one in St Helens – were donated to Wigan Flashes, in the hopes that in years to come, the latter will grow to be as rich an environment as the former.

The annual cutting helps to maintain a rich sward of valuable species including less common plants like Lesser Spearwort, Adder’s Tongue Fern and Small-fruited Yellow Sedge, which in turn attracts large numbers of butterflies, the most regular being Peacock, Meadow Brown and Gatekeeper.

Many species of moth have also been recorded during evening surveys, including the impressive Leopard Moth and the locally rare Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn Beetle has also been found on the meadow.

Coun Seve Gomez-Aspron, Cabinet Member for Green, Smart and Sustainable Borough, said: “Our Ranger Service does a job to be proud of in caring for Stanley Bank Meadow, and all other green spaces under our remit across St Helens borough for people to enjoy. By donating our green hay and seed from Stanley Bank to Wigan Flashes, we’re fulfilling the Coronation Meadow programme’s secondary ambition – after celebrating existing meadows – to create new ones at recipient sites.

“Although 97 per cent of meadows have been lost nationally in the last century, in our borough we’re actively encouraging this habitat in places like Stanley Bank, Mesnes Park and Sankey Valley wetland by the viaduct.”

Mark Champion, of the Lancashire Wildlife Trust and manager of Wigan Flashes Local Nature Reserve, said: “We’ve been able to use the green hay to enrich the species mix on our meadows.

“The green hay is carefully harvested, bailed and then spread on the meadows at Wigan to allow the seed to drop.

“We then used the fields for a day-long sports event to make sure that the seed was trampled into the soil.

“The good quality meadows provided a source of different plant seed as those in Wigan were planted about 20 years ago as part of the land reclamation process, and have a limited species mix despite being managed as hay meadows since 1999.

“It’s been great working with the Ranger Service in St Helens and the Coronation Meadows team in using St Helens’ meadows to increase the quality of flower meadows in the region.”

If you would like to visit Stanley Bank Coronation Meadow, or find out more about it, please telephone the St Helens Council’s Ranger Service at Sankey Valley Country Park on 01744 677 772. To find details of other Coronation Meadows, see www.coronationmeadows.org.uk