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Nature Recovers

Last week I visited a beautiful SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) in Little Lever, Bolton. The comically named – Nob End, is a remarkable site, situated at the confluence of the rivers Croal and Irwell, in an area once dominated by industry and which still bears the obvious scars.

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The unassuming landscape of SSSI Nob End © Matthew O’Donnell

Once a dump for industrial by-products such as sulphuric acid and washing soda, the area has developed an unusual soil chemistry, making it unique in the region for it’s unusual and diverse assemblage of plant life leading to its designation as a SSSI. Nob End is perhaps most famous for its rare orchids, of which it is home to several species, which thrive in this human made calcareous soil.


Fragrant orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea) © Matthew O’Donnell

This area is a fantastic example of nature’s ability to heal itself, even from some of the most serious levels of disturbance. Something I have been reminded of on an almost daily basis during lockdown. Lots of urban parks and green spaces within the Greater Manchester region have benefitted from a decreasing level of management, with meadows appearing where once only ‘green deserts’ (lawns) were present. Lawns, although aesthetically pleasing to many, offer little habitat for biodiversity.


Management is still an essential part of any long-term rewilding process, and leaving disturbed sites to rewild naturally is a difficult process, often these areas are dominated by a few hardy pioneer species, and might never return to a balanced ecosystem. But defining the right process of management is essential. Troublingly, the latest return to normality I have witnessed has been the widespread use of weed killers and pesticides to ‘control’ these spontaneous meadows that have popped up, and provided much needed habitats for much of our embattled flora and fauna.

These chemicals have an incredibly damaging and long lasting effect in the environment. Killing not only the targeted ‘weeds’ but also the pollinators, soil fauna and amphibians to name but a few groups. Some have even been shown to have harmful impacts on human health. My proposition is that we challenge our local councils to look at imaginative ways of managing our local green spaces, learning lessons from past successes in sites like Nob End, and help give nature a chance to recover.



3 Responses

  1. Hi Matt,

    Could that be a six spot burnet rather than a cinnabar? Margaret

    • Hi Margaret,

      Great spot, I think you’re correct! I should stick to my herpetological posts! 🙂 I’ll make an edit to the description.

      Thanks a million,


      • Hi Matt. Thanks. Great pics and report by the way! I must go down there for a wander round.

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