Rick Parker – A Force of Nature

UPDATE 15/06/24:
Rick’s funeral is at 12:00 noon on 8th July 2024, afterwards we will be going to the Strawbury Duck. Rick’s resting place will be at the West Pennine Remembrance Park. Location is just to the northern end of Entwistle Reservoir. Follow the 2 links above for details about the park. If you wish to attend please let Tom know so Rick’s family can have an idea of numbers. If you don’t have Tom’s contact details you can email bcv.queries@hotmail.com and I’ll pass the message on to Tom.

Rick 2015

On 27th May 2024 Bolton, and the nation as a whole, lost one of it’s legendary sons.

Born on 9th September 1950 Richard ‘Rick’ Parker became interested in conservation after watching a pond being destroyed by a bulldozer when he was a child. After studying at University he went on to work for the Bolton Hospital’s pathology lab to make a living, but his real passion was wildlife and in the 1980’s he joined the fledgling Bolton Conservation Volunteers, becoming the group’s co-ordinator/chairman in 1985/1986, a role he held until his passing. For anyone to lead a volunteer group for 38 years is an outstanding achievement, but to do it with the same commitment and passion throughout that time is extraordinary, and is what made Rick such a legendary figure.

Rick took BCV to new heights of success creating hundreds of ponds, establishing reed beds, and planting tens of thousands of trees throughout his leadership. Along the way both Rick and BCV won multiple awards, Bolton Councils Golden Elephant Award, Certificate of Merit from Britain in Bloom, Bolton News Green Hero Award (twice), The Cabinet Office’s Points of Light Award, to name a few. Rick was an acknowledge expert on amphibians and dragonflies and not only has gave lectures to the great and learned he also appeared on the radio, wand wrote chapters for books. Rick was a great communicator and could talk conservation all day to people of all ages and backgrounds, inspiring new generations of conservationists who themselves have gone on to their own successful careers.

After retiring from the hospital’s path lab he started a new career as a freelance hedge layer and in 2008 was the first National Hedge Laying Society Accredited hedge layer in Greater Manchester. But the work he was most proud of and enjoyed the most was teaching Bolton’s school kids about nature and wildlife. Even while in hospital he said he was looking forward to getting back to teaching the year 4 kids.

Over the last few months Rick hadn’t been in the best of health and on 24th May was admitted to hospital for tests. Throughout the 25th several of our volunteers spoke to him and he appeared to be in good health and good spirits, asking about the swans on Doffcocker Lodge, cygnets at Eatock lodge and upcoming tasks. That evening he went to sleep and during the night suffered a catastrophic stroke, he remained unconscious until he passed away peacefully on Monday 27th May.

To say Rick will be missed is an understatement, our world will never be the same. Rick was the bedrock of Bolton Conservation Volunteers, he was the cornerstone of Bolton’s conservation community. Rick was a force of nature, and a force for nature. We’ll miss his old jokes, his tall stories, and his ‘Rickisms’, most of all we’ll miss his energy and enthusiasm. Although he’s gone BCV will continue his legacy, and his immortal spirit will remain at the heart of BCVs goals and aspirations.

Love and best wishes to Rick’s family, and to everyone who knew and worked with him, which is no small list.

Please feel free to leave comments, comments go through a moderation process so won’t appear instantly, I’ll try to approve in the mornings and evenings. If you don’t have access please email comments to bcv.queries@hotmail.com and I’ll add them. May thanks in advance.

In addition to photos and messages on this page the Bolton and Bury Swifts group have also posted a tribute. and the Friends of Eatock also posted this. Thanks everyone.

BCV News

May 27th 2026 – Rick in hospital

Rick 2015
Winning a Points of Light Award in 2015

As some of you know Rick has been unwell for the last few months and recently has been experiencing tiredness and anaemia and was admitted to Bolton Hospital for tests on 25th May. On 26th May Rick suffered a massive stroke in his sleep and was undergoing treatment. Rick’s son, Rowan, was by his side along with Rick’s sister and ex-partner, Linda. Rick was on ICU, unconscious, and connected to medical support and monitoring equipment. Sadly Rick passed away on the morning of 27th May without regaining consciousness. All our thoughts are with Rowan and Rick’s family. More details will follow. Tasks and meetings will continue to go ahead as planned .

February 2024 – Neil Harris

Some sad news for 2024; Neil Harris has passed away after a long fight with cancer. Many of our current members won’t know Neil, but he was responsible for planning and leading many of the great and memorable walks we had when the BCV waling group was still running. Neil was the devoted partner of long time BCV volunteer Trish Calderbank, and was always there for her for many years. All our love and best wishes to Trish along with our heartfelt condolences; your loss is our loss.

August 2022 – 20+ Not Out

BCV 20+ Years Award
BCV 20+ Years Award

Well done to Rick, Francis, Claire, Neil, Carol, Lynn, Colin, Elaine, and John on being recognised for 20+ years of volunteering with BCV. The achievement was marked by a bit of a do on the 13th August at the Sweet Green Tavern in Bolton attended by around 50 friends and well wishers. The awards for the troops were handed out by Rick and Rick’s award being handed out by Francis. There was a buffet, drinks, and karaoke (for those who like that kind of thing), bunting and other stuff. Many thanks to Francis for sorting out the awards themselves (a picture of one attached but with the name removed to avoid favouritism), Caroline for organising the food, Tom for ferrying stuff, and to everyone who attended. A special thanks to our Officer for Fun, Jane, for putting it all together. Two thumbs up.

April 2022 – Community Hero 2022

Congratulations to Rick on winning the Bolton News Community Heroes award’s environment category. This is not the first award Rick has won, over the years he has been awarded Bolton Council’s Golden Elephant Award, Bolton News Green Hero Award, and The Cabinet Office’s Points of Light Award. Find out more at Community Heroes 2022.

June 2021 – Fan Pit Cottages

We had an email from Anne at Fan Pit Cottages, I’ve shortened it slightly but the full version has been sent to Rick.

Just wanted to update you about my little project to attract more wildlife to our area. You might remember laying a hedge and clearing some of the land adjacent to our house at Fan Pit cottages. We were fighting a battle with Japanese Knotweed, which we have almost won!

In 2015 you created a pond for us, which has been very successful, attracting newts and toads almost immediately. Unfortunately this year a pair of mallards have decided to trash it, ripping weed out and feeding on the occupants of the pond, so I have covered it. I would love to create more ponds! We have planted a variety of trees, wild cherry and Rowan, with a few others. Sadly some of our mature trees have been affected by ash die back, so I did quite a lot of research to find trees that were suited to our clay soil and resistant to diseases.

We have a lot of marsh orchids this year and I am slowly adding more wild plants that survive the conditions. We still have hares living near the big pond, at the bottom of the field and deer have been spotted there too. Please pass on our good wishes to Rick and all the volunteers who remember coming to us. I can’t thank you enough for all your help and wish you could come again. Kindest Regards, Anne.

Doffcocker Lodge: The Magic Pond

Pond Restoration 19/05/24

Ponds are magical places, places where the mortal and spirit worlds meet, where strange things happen and nature can see its own dark reflection mirrored the water’s shifting surface. But even with all this supernatural power we still couldn’t get water to run up hill.

Our task was to re-fill a pond by digging a channel from a nearby stream but it it didn’t quite go according to plan. We dug the channel and it filled with water and flowed towards the intended pond but halfway there it decided it had better things to do and went towards a different pond. There was only a slight difference in height between the ponds but it was enough to make a difference. Anyway, it wasn’t the only job we did today, we also cut back some branches, made a linear habitat pile and took down some balsam.

You canna break the laws of physics, Captain.

And now some photos with obscure captions. More pond stories here.

Moses Gate: Parting The Waters

23rd May 2021 – 5th May 2024 Reedbed Management

Reedbeds are a disappearing habitat in the UK, there are only 900 sites around the country and only around 50 are greater than 20 hectares. Many reedbeds have been lost to agriculture either through drainage or pollution, and climate change is now posing a threat to coastal sites as sea levels rise. But all is not lost, there has been a resurgence of interest in reedbeds in recent years as sources of biofuel, water treatment, and as an alternative source of compost.

Reed Bunting
Reed Bunting

BCV has been planting reedbeds since its early years, and for us it’s about wildlife. Reedbeds can support over 700 species from invertebrates to bittern, many of these species can be found nowhere else and are dependent on reedbeds for their survival. While urban environments don’t make ideal sites for large reedbeds small ones can still be very valuable to birds such as reed warbler and reed bunting.

23rd May – Today’s task was to continue the work started last year when we diverted a stream to re-wet an area to the north of the park, see the Hidden in the Reeds post for more info. Before we can plant any reeds we first need to create an area of open water, this we did by clearing the willow and creating a dam. The line of the dam was marked out by stakes and tree trunks, other trunks were cut into logs and driven down into the mud to create a palisade, gaps were filled in with mud. Once the dam was built we dug a channel to redirect the pooled water to another area. It was a bit of a learning experience and we were making it up as we went along but it turned out to be pretty effective. Additional dams will be needed to further manage water levels, then we can start planting. More info on creating phragmites reedbeds can be found in the download below (click the link to view or button to download), photos of today’s work can be found below that. Today’s task was funded by Bolton Council’s Climate Change Fund.

30th May – A week later we returned to the reedbed. The dam was still working, although the overall water levels has dropped a bit it was still retaining water as planned. The next step was to establish the reedbed itself. After moving some of the previous week’s brash out of the way we tried 2 techniques of reedbed creation. The first was to dig up some of the reed’s rhizomes from another area and plant them in the soft mud behind the dam. This is usually the most successful way of creating a new reedbed. The second technique was to use cuttings which we gathered from an established reedbed and push them into the mud. Although a bit early in the year for trying this it was worth a try, if the weather stays warm it has a good chance of working. More info on reedbed creation can be found in the download further down the page.

5th May 2024 – Moving on a couple of years and were back again, May 5th 2024. The dam continues to work but not as well as it could, even though last year we cut numerous channels to move water to other parts of the site. So this year we continued that work. We cut additional channels to re-wet the areas further away from the dam and used the mud to shore up the the dam itself and make it water tight. By the time we left it pond behind the dam was pooling up nicely. Well done to everyone; special thanks to Jayne from Banana Enterprises and Rock Halls Volunteers.

Photos below are from this task and also the initial 2021 task.

Eatock Lodge: Home from Home

Sunday 21st April 2024 – Habitat 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.

Map of Eatock 1909 and 2022
Map of Eatock 1909 and 2022

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.

Eatock swans
Eatock swans

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 digging drainage channels from the path. The recent wet weather has resulted the paths becoming muddy and difficult to negotiate. Hopefully the channels will help aleviate this. In the afternoon we created a dead hedge to stop people trespassing near the swan’s nest, disturbing the swans and damaging their eggs.

Thanks to Chris and the Friends of Eatock Lodge crew for having over.

Gravel Pits South: Disappearing Ponds

De-shading ponds April 7th 2024

The last time we were at this site was in 2018. Back then it was a fairly uneventful task- we came, we saw, we conquered, we went home. This year was a bit different.

Tom’s Land Rover, our version of Thunderbird 2, had a breakdown en route leaving us not only locked out of the site’s car park but also bereft of tools. As you can’t save the planet without tools it was a bit of a problem. Luckily Chris went and found our broken ‘bird and collected as many essentials as he could; Nathan collected the keys to the barrier as well so we did finally get started albeit a bit later than planned.

Setting off with the tools and other kit we journeyed into the wilds of Gravel Pits South, part of Moses Gate Country Park, next door to Darcy Lever Gravel pits. The plan was to de-shade the ponds by removing the surrounding trees, this would let more light get to the pond. But first we had to find the ponds. In the years since our last visit the trees had grown, like they do, hiding them from view. We trudged in the mud looking for ponds, walking past them once or twice before finally finding them totally obscured.

With 19 volunteers we began the job of de-shading. There was a lot of new growth and re-growth which was easy to get through as the stems were quite thin. Everything that was cut down was used to make a dead hedge around the site to deter intruders and off-road motor bikes.

While we were there Rick did a quick pond survey and found great crested newt eggs. If you want to find out more about ponds see ‘Do Ponds Succeed’ and the ponds category.

Thanks to everyone for doing a great job.