Places to see birds


Island Lodge (Frank Wood)

ALTHOUGH our group was founded in Bolton and still draws much of its membership from within the Bolton borough boundary, our catchment area stretches much further than that.
In recent years, the biggest growth in membership has been from the Bury borough area, due to a large extent on the publicity given to us over the years by the Bury Times and Radcliffe Times newspapers.
Besides the famous Elton Reservoir, recorded each month in magazines like Bird Watching and Birdwatch because of its uncanny attraction as a stopover for birds of passage, there are lots of other areas where birding walks can be rewarding.
In October, 2010, the Kirklees Valley - an industry-scarred river valley running through Greenmount, Tottington, and into Bury - was established as Bury Council's fifth Local Nature Reserve.
Thankfully, apart from a few information signs and improved footpaths, the rough, unkempt appearance of the valley has remained largely untouched. And that is good for wildlife if you have the patience to explore.
The valley occupies a wide area between the B6214/6215 Brandlesholme Rd and B6213 Bury Rd, Tottington.
The council's own information suggests parking near the former Tottington Town Hall or in Kirklees Street, Tottington. But I think the best starting point is Greenmount, from the Bull's Head pub, where there's public access to a very large car park. And right next to it is the northern start of the Kirklees Trail along the route of the former Bury to Holcombe Brook railway line.
Walk down this tarmac trail for quarter of mile then take the first main track to the left, which leads you into the Kirklees Valley proper.
Paths follow Kirklees Brook, past the remains of former textile mills, and thread between a series of large and small lodges. Some are managed by Bury Angling Society, but others are left to nature.
Surprisingly, two which are regularly fished are the best for wildlife. Cartwheel Lodge, near the Holcombe Hunt kennels, is my favourite with almost guaranteed goosanders, herons, a variety of gulls, occasional kingfishers, several duck species, plus many wintering redwing and fieldfare in the berry-rich bushes all round.
The other magnet for water birds is Island Lodge, the largest in the valley and crossed by a multi-arched stone viaduct carrying the rail track, now part of the Sustrans National Cycle Network..
Dipper are common on the brook itself and successfully nested two years ago, only for the young to be devoured by a heron within days of them leaving the nest.
The list of birds such as the many warblers in spring and summer, and the variety of mammals (including several species of bat) is too long to go into detail here. But there's such a variety of habitats that, invariably, something is seen to get excited about.
A free leaflet on the valley is available from Bury Tourist Information Centre. And there's lots online about the valley and its history by Googling "Kirklees Valley"