Wildlife plan for marsh

Smawthorne Marsh Wildlife Group is back up and running. They want to turn the marsh land behind the magnet pub into a nature reserve. L-R Andy Hirst (organiser), Annette Tonks,Irene Uribe,Clr. Tony Wallis,Bill Hesketh and Albert Caley.
Smawthorne Marsh Wildlife Group is back up and running. They want to turn the marsh land behind the magnet pub into a nature reserve. L-R Andy Hirst (organiser), Annette Tonks,Irene Uribe,Clr. Tony Wallis,Bill Hesketh and Albert Caley.

A NEGLECTED corner of Castleford could be turned into a haven for wildlife and nature lovers if local campaigners’ plans come to fruition.

Smawthorne Marsh, a former allotment site sandwiched between Pontefract Road and Lisheen Avenue, is currently choked with undergrowth and plagued by fly-tipping.

However, a meeting is being held on Wednesday June 20 with the aim of setting up a working group to make the area more attractive to wildlife and to improve public access.

The meeting, which will take place at the Magnet Hotel, on Pontefract Road, starting at 7pm, is being organised by Andrew Hirst, whose Cedar Court home overlooks the marsh.

He said: “I walk my dogs through there and I’m appalled at the state of it. The water is choked with bullrushes and there’s rubbish dumped everywhere.

“However, it’s such a lovely area once you’re in the middle – you could be miles from anywhere and I’m sure there’s all kinds of wildlife in there we don’t know about.

“I know there used to be great crested newts in the water but it’s all so overgrown now that you can’t see any of it.”

Mr Hirst and several neighbours have banded together as the Smawthorne Marsh Wildlife Group and hope to organise volunteers to start removing litter and cutting back excess undergrowth.

In the longer term, they have ambitions to open up access to the ponds in the north-west corner of the site and, subject to co-operation from owners of the land, form a trust to manage it as a nature reserve.

Mr Hirst said: “Coun Tony Wallis organised a meeting in May 2009 and quite a few people turned up but nothing really came of it.

“Now we’d like to get a working group going to organise things like activity weekends and, further down the line, to see if local businesses might be interested in helping by providing materials and equipment.

“We’re also looking to get the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, Wakefield Council and Natural England involved. One of the things we’d like to do is a survey to find out just what wildlife is in there then we can build on that.”

A Smawthorne Marsh page has been set up on Facebook, or contact smawthornemarsh@live.co.uk for more information.