Mystery of Wigan park's missing pigs solved

The Saddleback pigs at Haigh Woodland Park
The Saddleback pigs at Haigh Woodland Park

Mystery surrounding the sudden disappearance of a Wigan park’s pig enclosure has been cleared up by wildlife experts.

Visitors to Haigh Woodland Park were shocked to find the pig pens empty on recent visits, seemingly without explanation and just weeks after the animals were re-introduced to the area.

The British Saddleback pigs are used to keep the park’s rogue plants at bay by grazing on them. Japanese Knotweed and pernicious weeds are just some of the overgrowth that the pigs love to munch on and keep the area tidy in the process.

Thanks to the pigs, there are now areas in which colourful new plants like bluebells can be introduced, which could not be colonised previously because of other invasive species like rhododendrons.

Now, after concern from some residents, the borough’s wildlife experts have put an end to any idea that anything sinister was behind their disappearance.

The pigs have cleared the overgrowth in their current location and would cause damage to the woodland if they continued to graze there, according to Graham Workman from Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles.

In the meantime, they have been temporarily moved to a private site, while a new spot for them inside the park is finalised.

“You can only have the pigs in one compartment for so long,” said Graham.

“They have done the job we wanted them to do, so we are looking to move them to another part of the site,” he added.

“We regularly move them in and out,” said Jack from Conservation Pigs, the Ashton-based company which supplies the animals to Haigh each year.

“We’re in a transition period, where we have been identifying a new place for them to go. We’re sorting out fencing, paperwork, insurance, etc. We are nearly there, it’s just a matter of crossing the Ts and dotting the Is.”

The pigs have been making appearances back at the park on special occasions, such as visits from local school children and are set to be put back in the park in early December.

The plots are moved approximately every six to eight months and to date, over four hectares of land have been naturally cleared.

The project – supported by the Forestry Commission, Red Rose Forest and delivered in partnership with Edge Hill University, is proving very popular with visitors, the local community and educational groups interested in biodiversity and sustainable woodland management.

Up to 20 pigs at any time forage on unwelcome plants including Himalayan Balsam. The pigs are rotated on a six monthly basis.