The Peel Bank Urban Woodland Trust manages three sites in the Ribble Valley and Hyndburn areas of Lancashire.
Higher Elker Woods, Billington 22 acres Grid Ref: SD714353
This is the largest of the Trust's sites, and the youngest. It is situated between the two settlements of Billington and Langho. This area of grazing land was acquired in the mid-1990s. Three main areas have been enclosed and planted with native trees and shrubs. The remaining, unplanted areas continue to be grazed by sheep, providing a small income for the Trust. A stream borders the western edge and a smaller stream runs through the middle section.
One of the wooded areas is planted with native Silver Birch which can provide food and habitat for more than 300 insect species - the leaves attract aphids, providing food for ladybirds and other species further up the food chain, and are also a food plant for the caterpillars of many moths. Birch trees are particularly associated with specific fungi. Woodpeckers and other hole-nesting birds often nest in the trunk, while the seeds are eaten by siskins, greenfinches and redpolls.
As the woodland areas develop and mature they support a large diversity of insect, mammal and bird species.
The poem on the Foundation stone is 'Cut Grass' by the English poet and novelist Philip Larkin (1922 -1985), written in 1971. It captures, in two short sentences, the transient beauty of an English June day with a wistful perfection.
Clough's Ground 0.6 acres
This piece of land was donated to the Trust in 2014 and borders the old Whalley to Blackburn turnpike. The boundaries are the same as recorded on the Enclosure map of 1791 and the land was once part of the Baron Petre estate. The view from the site across the Ribble Valley towards Longridge is spectacular and the planting at Higher Elker Woods can be seen in the valley below.
The hedge along the road has several old plum trees and the Trust has layered the hedge between them to thicken and improve the boundary. There are several mature oak trees on the site. Oak trees support a large number of insects and other invertebrates which feed upon the leaves. It is common to observe oak leaves looking tattered by late July and a new flush of leaves, especially on young trees. This phenomenon is called lammas growth, because it occurs around the time of Lammas, the Celtic festival of first fruits, on 1st August.
Peel Bank Works Reserve 1.5 acres Grid Ref: SD745293
This was the first site acquired by the Trust in 1989. It surrounds the manufacturing and office premises of an established engineering company. It has been landscaped in a natural manner, planted with native British trees, shrubs and wild flowers. The area includes a short canal arm off the Leeds Liverpool canal, and an area of established trees along the bypass perimeter.
The purpose of the site is to bring the natural landscape into an urban environment for the enjoyment and interest of employees of the company and provide sanctuary for wildlife. The area supports a diverse range of flora and fauna, including the scarce Snake's Head Fritillary, daffodils, bluebells, and common orchid. Pike are seen in the canal as well as kingfishers and regularly nesting swans.
The quotation on the Foundation Stone is from the longest major poem, 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner', by the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It tells the tale of a sailor returning from a long sea voyage and the unfortunate events that occurred following the shooting of an albatross by a mariner. It relates to the fickle nature of Man and his misunderstanding of the complexities of Nature and his place within it. Exploring the violation of Nature and the resulting psychological effects on the mariner; who as a penance and driven by guilt for shooting the bird, wanders the earth telling the story over and over again and teaching everyone he meets the lesson he has learnt. This seems an apt quotation amidst these natural surrounds, as the founding purpose of the Trust was to reduce the environmental impact of manufacturing from these premises and respect the value of the natural world.
This reserve is independent of the engineering company neighbouring the site.
Houghton Hey Plantation and Ancient Woodland, Hapton 5.7 acres Grid Ref: SD790306
As of August 2017, this site is now privately owned
This site was bought in 1989. It is part of an area of ancient woodland (Lancashire County Council, Historical Landscape Character Map), dominated by sycamore on the steep-sided valleys through which two streams run. Sycamore which was introduced into Britain in the 17th century is attractive to aphids and therefore a variety of their predators, such as ladybirds, hoverflies and birds. The leaves are eaten by the caterpillars of a number of moths. The flowers provide a good source of pollen and nectar to bees and other insects, and the seeds are eaten by birds and small mammals. Bluebells, ramsons (wild garlic) and wood anemones are prolific.
Two fields, previously used for rough grazing were purchased adjoining the wood and planted in the 1990s with native trees species and shrubs. The bluebells have now colonised these areas too.
The site is on the outskirts of Hapton village overlooked by Hameldon Hill.
The Heights Plantation, Rishton 6.2 acres Grid Ref: SD703310 As of March 2017, this site is now privately owned
These two fields of open grazing were purchased in the early 1990s and planted with native trees and shrubs over several years. A wide band was left fallow to be colonised by indigenous grasses and flowers. The plantation is on an exposed ridge overlooking Blackburn and is surrounded by drystone walling and a small stream running along one boundary. Tree species include Scots pine which has crucial relationships with many plants, insects, birds and animals. Some of these live on the pine itself, particularly epiphytic lichens and mosses. These grow on the bark and branches of the pine but do not take any nourishment from the tree. In fact, many of the lichens growing on a Scots pine add to the fertility of the forest through their ability to absorb, or fix, nitrogen from the air.
This planting was completed to commemorate the Golden Wedding Anniversary of The Queen and Prince Philip in 1997. As of March 2017 this site is now in private ownership and is no longer managed by the Trust.