Darcy Lever Gravel Pits: Restoration

Pond restoration Sunday 12th February 2023

The Darcy Lever gravel pits were formed around 40 years ago when the site was used for the extraction of aggregate to be used in the construction of St.Peter ‘s Way; the construction crews left but the holes in the ground remained and soon filled with water. Over time the site matured and in the early noughties great crested newts were found on the site.

BCV at the Pits 2006
BCV at the Pits 2006

In 2003 a new conservation group was set up by Mike, Dave, Denis, and John to look after the site, the Gravel Pits Action Group (GPAG). Since then GPAG has been maintaining the gravel pits for its wealth of wildlife which includes great crested newt, palmate and smooth newts, common frog, common toad, 18 species of dragon and damselfly, deer, bats, foxes, a multitude of bird life, fungi, and a wide variety of plant life.

In recent years many of the 24 ponds on the site have been in decline, silting up and becoming dominated by typha. The good news is that GPAG obtained funding from English Nature and the Greater Manchester Ecology Unit to restore the site to its former greatness, these 2 bodies provided contractors to dig out several of the ponds in a project planned to run over the next few years.

BCV was involved in some of the early work on the site, but it’s been well over a decade since BCV and GPAG worked together. Well, we’re getting the band back together, GPAG and BCV are once again joining forces to help the gravel pits return to being arguably Bolton’s most biologically rich site.

Today’s task involved removing trees from around the pond, letting in more light to reduce the build up of leaf litter. More light means the oxygenating plants can function better, more sunlight also creates a warmer microclimate which will benefit dragonflies and amphibians. Removing trees also gave us the chance to try out our new piece of kit – a winch. On today’s task we used a hand operated winch to drag a felled tree out of the pond. No more bad backs.

Many thanks to Mike and the GPAG team for inviting us back to the pits, and thanks to BCV’s volunteers for taking part. More pond work can be found in the pond category.