Places to see birds

Billinge Hill, Orrell Water Park, Greenslate water meadows

Billinge Hill, Orrell Water Park, Greenslate water meadows
New plantation - Laura Bimson

Billinge hill is the highest point in Merseyside at 587 feet , doesn't sound particularly high but from the top on a clear day the views are extensive, reaching out to the mountains of Snowdonia in Wales, to the north-east Winter Hill, the south the Derbyshire Peak District, and on an exceptional day even Blackpool Tower over thirty miles away. A beacon tower is at the summit, built in the early 1900s it was used for aircraft observation during and after the war. Further back in history the Beacon was one in a chain of beacons that spread the news of the Spanish Armada. Sadly the tower is now closed, disused and regrettably covered in graffiti.

Liverpool RSPB's walk around Billinge includes woodland and farmland habitat. We uee the public footpaths of the area, walking through woods and along field edges from the high point of Billinge Hill down to the Kings moss and back again.
Some of the farmland habitat is managed for the benefit of ground nesting birds and rare mammals such as skylarks, grey partridge, lapwing, brown hare and voles. Surrounding field hedges are being restored, and they are noticeably busy in spring with blackbird, sparrows , linnets and chaffinches. The most sought after bird from a birdwatchers point of view is probably the yellowhammer, a beautiful bird regularly heard and seen on the walk, usually singing from the top of a hedgerow or tree along the field edges. Conifer and pine has been planted in some woodland parts and four species of tit can be seen flitting through the tops. Farmland birds seen usually seen running into the field cover include pheasant and partridge. In winter migratory geese, fieldfare and redwing can be seen feeding in the fields. In Billinge woods and on the Beacon hill slopes jay, woodpecker, mistle and song thrushes can be found.

At Fir Tree farm at Kings Moss a community woodland plantation has been set out with over 4 hectares of native woodland species planted such as oak, rowan and hawthorn, a wonderful place for Billinge wildlife. The woodland features several chain saw wooden sculptures, a willow tunnel to walk through, wildlife pond, and a wooden bench to rest a while, whilst listening to the sound of birdsong and buzzing insects feeding on the abundance of native wildflowers including orchids and primroses. Visiting butterflies include peacocks, red admiral, whites, common blue, speckled and wall brown. This plantation is frequented by goldfinch, greenfinch, willow warbler, kestrel, sparrowhawk, tits, jays, thrushes and robins.
By the way, the farm has it's own café & restaurant, a great place to stop for a welcome cuppa and a delicious slice of homemade cake.
The Public Footpath to Billinge Hill starts from B5206 Upholland Rd, just past Longshaw post office

Orrell Water Park, owned by Wigan Council, lies on the course of Smithy Brook, part of the River Douglas. The main entrance to the site is on Lodge Road, about two minutes walk from Orrell railway station. There is a large car park.
Formerly the site of stone-lined reservoirs it's been converted into two shallower lakes. The lakes are now mainly run as a coarse fishery stocked with carp, bream, perch, roach, tench and gudgeon.

There is a network of footpaths around the entire site. South of the main lakes is an area of wetland and woodland. This area has been designated as the Greenslate water meadows local nature reserve. Farmland surrounds much of the site and as such Yellowhammers, skylarks and finch flocks often occur in the hedges around the park. The reserve area often holds bullfinch and can be good for warblers, with garden Warbler, reed Warbler and Lesser whitethroat having bred.
Gt crested grebes nest on the site, there were 5 birds on the first lake (2014) coots, moorhen, canadian geese, black headed gulls and mallards present. Others birds known to visit garganey, goosander, wigeon, kittiwake and grey herons.

Green slate meadows reserve provides a mixture of open water, swamp, wet woodland, scrub, native trees surrounded by well established hedgerows. It contains a reedbed, and 4 ponds fondly named darter, chaser, hawker and damselfly intersected by 3 small bridges. Water rail, kingfisher and watervole have been recorded on site.

Upto thirteen species of dragonflies and damsel flies, water voles, four amphibians and nineteen species of butterflies have been recorded on the site.

The Friends of Greenslate Water Meadows (FROG) have set up a bird feeding area. Visitors recorded include long-tailed tits, blue Tits, greenfinches, goldfinches, chaffinches, robin, siskins, bullfinch, gt spotted woodpecker. Less common include firecrest, mealy redpoll, pied flycatcher, crossbill (attracted by conifers in nearby Moss Wood and Chair Wood ) and ring ouzel.

The site, close to Billinge hill is well-placed for visible migration, redwing can be found in berry laden trees along the path. Lots of berry bearing shrubs and trees surround the park, rowans, elder, hawthorn, blackberries, dog rose.
In the last couple of years Waxwings have been regular visitors to a local birders garden on the junction of Moss Rd/Lodge Rd, attracted by apples suspended in the branches of a tree.

The paths around the area are generally wide concreted or well trodden rough surface, how ever become more grassy, muddy and narrow as you leave the site to enter the public footpaths out to the farmland, via wooden gates.

Ranger Service, Reservoir House, LodgeRoad, WN5 7AT Orrell, Lancashire.
Phone: 01695 625338