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Improving Wicks Lake at Formby

Mallard ducks on Wicks Lake Formby
Mallard ducks on Wicks Lake Formby | © Harriet Wilkinson

We’re working with fantastic volunteers to create healthier habitats for wildlife at Wicks Lake and improve this special spot for people to enjoy.

What’s the history of Wicks Lake?

Formby’s special coastal landscape hasn’t always been protected as it is today. Records from the 1900s show commercial sand mining took place. The man-made lake, as it’s also known, started to form in one of the sand excavation pits. It was deepened in the late 1970s and used for recreational swimming for about 10 years, until harmful bacteria were found in the water and for safety reasons the lake was fenced off. The lake was re-contoured in 1987 and re-purposed as a conservation space by Sefton Council.

Why do the water levels change so much?

Evaporation is a common problem for man-made reservoirs, particularly in hot, dry conditions and can result in huge loss of water during the summer months. Wicks Lake is also an unlined pool and relies upon ground water to fill it.

The good news - these conditions are beneficial for amphibians like rare great crested newts. The lack of water helps give them a safe space to breed as well as reducing the number of natural water predators feeding on their larvae. Low water levels also encourage seasonal flowers to grow like purple loosestrife - great for bees and butterflies. Rare, obscure wainscot moths also thrive on the common reeds.

The lake is a popular spot for water birds including moorhens, coots and mallard ducks to breed and raise their chicks. The chicks have usually fledged by the time the water level drops in the summer months, with the adults moving on to other local ponds and returning in winter.

What has been achieved so far?

Here’s a roundup of the work that has been carried out so far:

  • Re-built rotten revetment fences.
  • Removed old boundary fences.
  • Surveyed the bridge and started making repairs.
  • Checked the water quality is ok through testing.
  • Carried out plant and bird surveys to monitor changes.
  • Taken out old rotten benches and moved other benches so they are more accessible.
  • Created 3 hibernacula to provide safe, warm places for amphibians to hibernate.

Over the summer of 2023 we also replaced the old worn-out fence. This will give people space to enjoy the natural surroundings, whilst creating a safe undisturbed area for wildlife. This work was made possible thanks to a grant from Ørsted through their Burbo Bank Extension Community Fund and also donations from The Southport and Formby National Trust Association.

Great crested newt photographed from above on grass
Great crested newt | © Rob Coleman

Here’s a summary of on-going work that will be happening in this area:

  • Improvements to the surrounding paths to give everyone better access.
  • Repairs to the bridge.
  • Regular plant and bird surveys to record and monitor changes.
  • Coppicing a large proportion of the willow and alder trees around the lake or cutting back to ground level. This will encourage new growth and give space for a wider variety of trees and plants to grow, to support pollinating insects and foraging water birds.
  • Coppiced trees will also create a thicker understory to protect ground nesting birds.
  • The large trees that remain will be healthier and have more space to mature, supporting the bird life that thrives here, such as tits, woodpeckers and finches.
  • Leaving some of the larger trees is also important as they provide shade, which helps reduce water evaporation and algae blooming in summer.

Longer term we may also look at introducing new species to the area, such as flowering and fruiting trees like cherry and crab apple to further support pollinating insects and birds.

What to expect whilst the work is carried out?

This conservation work is on-going and will take time so please bear with us. Some of the work, such as tree coppicing, can only take place in the winter months, outside of the bird nesting season.

Please keep a safe distance from the team working in the area and dogs under close control.

Your support helps keep Formby special

Every time you pay to park, scan your membership card, give your time as a volunteer or simply take your litter home with you, you’re supporting important conservation work like this. Together we can protect Formby’s wildlife so that it’s here for everyone to enjoy, for ever. Thank you.