Damage and Theft During Lockdown

Local nature conservationists are devastated to report an upsurge in damage and theft at their site in Irlam over the last weekend.

Little Woolden Moss, off Astley Road at Irlam, has had several items vital to the restoration of this important natural site stolen, including pumping and irrigation equipment and troughs with an estimated value of over £500.

There has also been significant damage caused by off-road vehicles including motorbikes and quad bikes using the site as a playground, damaging large areas of planting that have been completed by dedicated volunteers and Wildlife Trust staff.

Lancashire Peatlands Initiative Project Officer, Mike Longden, said, “We are just so disappointed that people are being so reckless and causing such unnecessary damage. We have worked incredibly hard over the past few years to restore this site and this could really set us back. Little Woolden Moss provides an important habitat for a number of rare and endangered birds, many of whom nest on the ground, and we are concerned that many of their breeding sites will have been damaged and potentially abandoned which could have a really negative effect on their future populations.”

Many of the items that have been stolen were made by the local Princes Park Garden Centre in Irlam, who work with people with disabilities helping them to learn new skills. As part of a project funded by Salford CVS the team had created a number of troughs which were used to hold ‘Bog in a Box’ sets.

The ‘Bog in a Boxes’ held in the stolen troughs have also been significantly damaged. These were small containers that had been created by local schoolchildren to grow new plants to help restore the area and to inspire our next generation on the importance of our wonderful peatland sites.

The pump and irrigation system that were also stolen was currently being used to help keep areas of the site wet during this current dry spell.

Little Woolden Moss is a small part of what remains of Chat Moss, a large area of peat bog that used to cover large areas of Greater Manchester. These sites not only provide a habitat for a number of rare plants and animals but are also a vital natural resource in the fight against climate change, as healthy peatlands store large amounts of carbon which would otherwise be released into the atmosphere contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

Alan Wright, Manchester Wildlife Trust Campaigns Manager, said, “This increase in people entering and damaging our precious nature reserves is very concerning. Not only are these people breaching COVID-19 lockdown rules, but they are causing safety issues for people who are legitimately visiting Little Woolden Moss as part of their daily exercise. We are appealing for people to remain vigilant and report any sightings of further anti-social behaviour directly to the police either online or by phoning 101. Please help us to protect our nature reserves so that they are still there for us all to enjoy when current restrictions lift.”

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