Sunday 7th August 2022 – Wild Flower Meadow Management
Before Eatock was a Local Nature reserve it was just an abandoned industrial lodge, that lodge belonged to a colliery, before the colliery there was a farm, and before the farm there were open fields. The first record of the name Eatock in Westhoughton was in 1739, this and architectural evidence, place the building of Eatock’s Farm’s farm house at around the same time. The farm passed through several hands and was originally larger than it was in its final years, however, in 1862 some of the farm’s land was leased by Wigan Coal and Iron and in 1882 construction began on a new colliery. In 1890 Eatock Colliery started producing coal from its 1000 foot deep shafts, the mine continued to operate until 1936 when it finally closed and was then demolished. The closure was partly due to The Coalfields Act 1930 forcing the merger of collieries into larger amalgamated concerns, but also Eatock’s history of flooding and the fractured nature of its coal seams made it too expensive to continue.
At this time Eatock Farm was owned by John Gregory, who also owned nearby Hoskers Farm. In 1944, John Mather Snr, a former shunter driver at Eatock Colliery, purchased the farm from him. With his wife, Annie, their children, John and Jessie, and Annie’s sister Emily, John Snr. ran the farm for dairy, eggs and apples, serving the people of Daisy Hill and Westhoughton until 1973. Over this time the Mather family acted as stewards to the lodge and pit shafts keeping them safe from intruders. But in 1973 Eatock Farm closed after being served with a Compulsory Purchase Order by Manchester Council which had plans to develop the site. Once vacated the buildings were immediately demolished and the land left vacant until 1978, the area was then landscaped and the shafts filled in with the material from the spoil tips. The site was then left again until housing development began in the 1990s.
But the story didn’t end there. Just before the housing development began a team of ecologists, including BCV’s Rick Parker, did a torch-light search for amphibians and found over 1000 breeding toads on the site. This unprecedented find resulted in Eatock Lodge being designated a Site of Biological Importance Grade ‘B’ in 2000, and as a Local Nature Reserve in 2004. Eatock Lodge LNR is now home to toads, swans, heron, hedgehogs, and emperor dragonfly.
John and Annie’s daughter, daughter in-law, grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren now live in London, Weymouth, Leigh, Bolton, and Westhoughton, and one even works with BCV. I’ll give you a guess who that is.
Today’s task at Eatock, with members of the Friends of Eatock Lodge group, involved cutting back scrub from the flower meadow and using it to create barriers to stop anti-social activities on other parts of the site. At the moment the meadow contains mostly field scabious but we’re hoping to extend the number of species; meadows help to support pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and moths. Eatock Lodge is a wildlife island amongst a sea of houses, a place where wild animals can find sanctuary, food and water in an increasingly urbanised human environment. A good place to raise a family.