The Lancashire Wildlife Trust are launching a new project at Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve in Sefton, thanks to generous support by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Lunt Meadows Wetlands Nature Reserve and Flood Storage Reservoir is a unique site, a haven for wildlife, a rare archaeological secret and a flood storage reservoir protecting homes from a changing climate.
With approximately 30000 visitors a year, the reserve is popular with dog-walkers, bird-watchers and as a place to socialise or exercise, but many visitors do not realise what a fantastic, multi-purpose resource Lunt Meadows really is.
The Presenting Mesolithic and Modern Life project, will be a 5-year long partnership between several North West organisations; Lancashire Wildlife Trust, the Museum of Liverpool, the Dept. of History and Archaeology, University of Chester, Soroptimist International Crosby and the Environment Agency. The project aims to present Lunt Meadows to visitors and the extended community, giving them an understanding of how humans have interacted with the landscape over thousands of years, how landscape changes affect human lives and how these choices influence our future.
Owned by the Environment Agency and managed by Lancashire Wildlife Trust, Lunt Meadows is home to many rare and protected birds, such as barn owl, lapwing and bittern. Within the site is also the remains of a 9000-year-old Mesolithic settlement, discovered by Ron Cowell, Curator of Prehistoric Archaeology, from National Museums Liverpool in 2012. Since then, the Museum of Liverpool have unearthed over 6000 artefacts, some of which can be seen on display in the museum’s Lunt Meadows exhibition, giving a glimpse into the lives of some of the region’s earliest residents.
Cheryl Ashton, Lunt Meadows Project Manager, from Lancashire Wildlife Trust says, “Between ourselves and our project partners, we have a wealth of skills and knowledge about many different aspects of the site that we would love to share with visitors. We know how people want to engage with Lunt Meadows and we know that current users don’t want change that will damage the wildlife and peace that they enjoy at the reserve now. So we have developed engagement programmes that we hope will encourage use of the reserve, but more importantly will deepen and enrich people’s experience at Lunt and connect them with the landscape, wildlife and history.”
The team will be putting on a variety of events, including plant and animal identification workshops, guided wildlife walks and stargazing. Working in partnership with the Museum of Liverpool and the University of Chester, the Trust will offer opportunities for public involvement in archaeological workshops, experiences, talks and guided walks, relating to research and discoveries within the reserve. Archaeologists from the University of Chester will also train the Trust’s staff and volunteers, so that they will be able to lead workshops in the longer term. An outdoor education area will be developed too, along with a reconstructed Mesolithic house, that will enable people of all ages to really experience Stone Age life at Lunt and develop a deeper understanding of that time.
Dr Amy Gray Jones, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Chester said: “We are very excited to be a part of this project. The Stone Age Experience workshops that we ran during the pilot phase were really well-received by all who participated in them – increasing knowledge of the archaeology of Lunt, an understanding of the Stone Age, and promoting mindfulness and a sense of wellbeing.”
Dr Barry Taylor, also a Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at the University added: “Lunt Meadows is a wonderful place, and we are looking forward to working with the Wildlife Trust, and the other project partners, to help more people learn about its rich prehistoric and natural heritage.”
Thanks to the £1.1 million grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the team will also be able to bring some much-needed advancements to the site. Paths, gates and bird screens will be updated to improve accessibility for visitors, while a new centre will be built containing a staff office, volunteer space, visitor toilets and a classroom. This will allow the Trust to increase their staff presence on the site, which in turn will make it easier for the team to carry out conservation and engagement work, and monitor the wildlife’s wellbeing. The new classroom will also enable the Trust and partners to offer an alternative indoor space for learning, wellbeing and leisure opportunities for the general public, educational facilities and special interest groups.”
Cheryl adds, “Events in the past have been ad hoc due to the unpredictable weather and lack of facilities. Feedback from visitors and volunteers often includes the desire for toilets and shelter on site. That Lunt is so popular despite its lack of facilities is a credit to our volunteers who, come rain or shine, give their time to make Lunt Meadows an ideal habitat for wildlife. We are pleased that we will be able to provide a base on site now, and make visits more comfortable for all.”
Many events will be kindly supported by Soroptimist International Crosby, who are part of a world-wide organisation of women who aim to advance human rights and the status of women – at local, national and international level. SI Crosby have experience of working with organisations that will be new to the Trust, providing opportunities for the project to engage different communities and audiences with Lunt Meadows.
Terry Francis, Programme Action Officer at SI Crosby, says “Our initial involvement with the project’s development was through an email from Lancashire Wildlife Trust staff in 2018. The Lunt Meadows site was a hidden gem known only to a couple of members at the time. Since then, through site visits, meetings, volunteering and supporting the project’s development, we have all realised the potential of having such a resource on our doorstep.”
Lancashire Wildlife Trust are starting off the project with a series of free online talks running from the end of February into April. As well as an introduction to the project and opportunities for involvement, attendees will hear from experts about the wildlife at Lunt, how it works as a flood storage reservoir and the rich Mesolithic history it is home to. Each talk will be a great opportunity to find out more about these fascinating aspects of Lunt Meadow’s heritage.
To find out more about these events and to book onto talks, visit: www.lancswt.org.uk/events
Lancashire Wildlife Trust
The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside is dedicated to the protection and promotion of the wildlife in Lancashire, seven boroughs of Greater Manchester and four of Merseyside, all lying north of the River Mersey. It manages around 40 nature reserves and 20 Local Nature Reserves covering acres of woodland, wetland, upland and meadow. The Trust has 27,000 members, and over 1,200 volunteers.
To become a member of the Trust go to the website at www.lancswt.org.uk or call 01772 324129. For more information about Cheshire Wildlife Trust call 01948 820728 or go to cheshirewildlifetrust.org.uk.