Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Holden Vale Flash and its importance to Wildlife.


It seems ages ago since I did this blog (further down the page) for my Grane Blogsite, in fact it was in 2009 when I wrote it, but it refers to times around the beginning of the 1990's. And nowadays I regular think about the "Holden Vale Flash" and wondering how its doing. Just at the moment I am hearing all sorts of stories about a local company with proposals to fill in the "wildlife area" and develop the site for commercial vehicle hardstanding.

A lot of people will be well upset if this is allowed to go ahead. I still remember the words being uttered from the mouth of the Lancashire County Council Engineer, who at the time of the original development gave us his assurances that this sites future was "purely for the long term benefits of wildlife". It was at that time the home of the rare schedule one (protected) breeding bird "The Little Ringed Plover". Also it has become a well established breeding area for toads - a protected species (see photo above - I took this photo near the East side outlet of the pond in 2009.

On Sunday last Wadey had lots of beautiful dragonflies at the pond. I have always suspected Water Voles being present at this site, simply because they are or were present very closeby on the bottom boundary of Holden Wood Reservoir (a few hundred yards away), they certainly where on my last check at the turn of the millenium. I also knew the area to support breeding Reed Bunting, and Sedge and Grasshopper Warblers in the more recent past along with the more commoner Mallard and Moorhen etc.

" When all them years ago, we stood in front of the bulldozers to stop the destruction of the Little Ringed Plover site, and after negotiation with the LCC Engineer, we actually thought we had won a do for them little birds!!"
but sadly promises were broken......"You trust and then you untrust"

These are four photos which I took of when the Lancashire County Council were making the Holden Vale Flash (Clearing the old toxic waste dumping area of the long gone "bleach works", or the Holden Vale Manufacturing Co. Ltd a subsidary partner of the corporate giant USA Hercules group. (Please click over photos to enlarge)....
The whole idea had been to try and preserve some resemblance of the original habitat for the continuation of the breeding of the rare Little Ringed Plover, which had successfully bred on this site for each year over a decade, prior to this excavation and rebuild of the area.

Sadly, all went wrong!! the outcome to what was originally proposed, never materialized as it was supposed to do, and consequently it was tragic and devastating to lots of us, but especially to the rare schedule 1 Little Ringed Plover and to find out that the LRP never returned the following year.

Some excellent news is that thankfully in more recent times the LRP has actually bred at another habitat closeby.

A email received on 30th August 2012 from Mike in France (ex pat) :

Hello Bryan,
Around the back of the bleach works there were railway lines which ran to warehouse loading bays facing the so called "lake" which was full of industrial waste with a nasty chemical odour.
In between these two sites there was a huge pile of clinkers from the "boiler house" and an area where the clinkers had been flattened to make a lorry park. In several places, the ground was warm as some of the coal waste was still burning and had been for years. The local kids used to dig around these warm places to catch small lizards and we were told that they were sand lizards. Recently I have been searching the internet for photos and information about them and I am pretty certain that they were not "sand lizards". In fact, I have not been able to find any photos which match these reptiles. They were up to 2 inches long with a brown back and a beige underside with orangey/light brown stripes on each side of the body, separating the brown from the beige.
I often wondered if these lizards had been hiding in the bales of cotton (the warehouse was full of these) which came from foreign countries and were naturalised because of the ground temperature.

My Letter sent to the Rossendale Free Press on 4th Sept 2012 - In response to their letter of the week offered by Messrs. Solomons.

To: Rossendale Free Press. dated: 4th September 2012.
Dear Sir/Madam,
I would be extremely grateful if you would kindly print the following reply to the letter offered up by Messrs. Solomons. I do think that the public have a right to know exactly what that "Pond" was built for.

In reply to the “Letter of the Week” from Messrs Solomon Commercials Ltd. I do feel I need to go over a “historic point” which has been incorrectly outlined in their letter of intent in regards to the history of “The Pond”.

First of all let me assure you that the area you classify as “The Pond” was only built in the early 1990’s, specifically with the intentions for wildlife in mind. It was not built for any other reason whatsoever.

You will probably have noted that one side of “The Pond” is a shallow pebbly scrape, intentionally put there for the purpose of “breeding waders” especially with the main purpose in mind of the rare Schedule 1 “Little Ringed Plover” which had been nesting within close proximity to “the pond” for the previous ten years prior development. “The Pond”, was also set to create suitable habitat for other birds species, small mammals, amphibians, insects, and varied flora, which over the years since the 1990s has become very successful and matured ecologically just has was expected of it. It has been specifically successful in the population growth of the “Common Toad” (with at least 20/30 breeding pairs in 2009 – monitored during Feb/March from their breeding area at the small outlet).

I will try and give a brief summary of how the pond got there in the first place.

It started as a sort of Flash or shallow lake and used in the main for the dumping of industrial waste (a sort of blotting paper – cotton waste product) manufactured by the Holden Vale Manufacturing Company Limited ( Bleach Works). The size of the Flash (or Lake) was perhaps six times the size of what you see “as the Pond today”. After the Company ceased trading, it was later considered that this area was very toxic and contaminated with “Caustic” and other dangerous chemical elements.

Lancashire County Council moved in and it was decided that the area needed to be cleaned up of such a hazard. I am sure that this must have been a tremendous cost to the Ratepayer/Taxpayer at the time.

At the start of the clean up, I received a phone call from a friend to say all this heavy equipment had turned up on the site and had started digging and moving soil about.
On hearing this, I plus another individual quickly moved down there and went on site to try and stop the work immediately which we successfully did. The reason for this was that the site held a very rare Schedule 1 protected breeding bird called the Little Ringed Plover and that at that time of this disturbance the birds had chicks, and on our arrival it was quite obvious the parent birds were under much distress.

Immediately the “Lancashire County Council Engineer” was called and it was decided there and then that the proposed work be stopped completely until we where all fully satisfied that the birds had finished breeding and left the site to return to Africa.

When work recommenced several weeks later, it had then been decided that we should first try and preserve the “crust coating” (a sort of thick blotting paper), which was to be piled to one side to be re-instated later, but this never turned out as planned. Also it was decided that the new plans should have a pond built at one side, with a gravelly shallow sloping scrape for the intentions of breeding waders. And that’s the pond you have today (built in the early 1990s).

We where told at the time categorically by the Lancashire County Council Engineer that this site (the new pond area) would be preserved for evermore for the long term benefit of wildlife. And that this had been agreed by all parties concerned, and that the sites future was secure for these purposes.

Yours faithfully,
Bryan Yorke
(Haslingden resident for 62 years) 

A Email kindly received from John Sumner on 16th September 2012. 
Hi Bryan
Regarding the "newts" in the lodge at the back of Holden Vale Bleachworks. There was quite a lot of varied wildlife in & around the lodge which was actually a catchment area for waste cotton from the mill.
It is quite possible that they came in with the cotton bales as we used to chase allsorts of weird & wonderful things from the bales.
I was actually on the last shift when it closed down & someone mentioned it was to be preserved as a nature reserve because of the wildlife & also because no-one knew how deep it really was.

A Email kindly received from John Sumner on 17th September 2012.
Hi Bryan
Re- reading the blog your corespondant says it was nicknamed 'bleachworks'. It was known as Holden Vale Bleachworks as their main business was the bleaching of cotton.
I spent 8yrs there starting in the dryhouse. Then had a spell as a forklift driver working between the dryhouse & sheeting plant moving the finished product.then had a spell as a floater working between the warehouse, devil hole & wet end before finally ending up as chargehand in the sheeting plant operating the cutter & reeler.
Eventually the dryhouse wrapping area was moved into the sheeting plant so they could cut down on staff.
I still have the company tie that Hercules gave to every member of staff when they took over.It would be good to read your article in the rfp as I haven't read it for years.
Also "old advert" for the "Bleach Works".

Holden Vale Bleachworks taken from the air  (Click over to enlarge)
Photo: Kindly contributed by Alec Taylor and uploaded here on 18th April 2016

Holden Vale Bleachworks  (Click over to enlarge)
Photo: Kindly contributed by Alec Taylor and uploaded here on 18th April 2016