Wigan’s precious nature reserves could take a decade to recover from spate of callous arson attacks, it was claimed today.
A frustrated Mark Champion, Wigan projects manager for the Lancashire Wildlife Trust, hit out after yet more images of burned open land in the borough emerged last week.
Mindless vandals torched green spaces at Amberswood and near the canal towpath close to Kirkless Nature Reserve in Ince.
Following hot on the heels of severe blazes at Wigan Flashes and other conservation spots in the borough Mr Champion blasted the long-term damage done and spoke of wildlife lovers’ despair at being able to do so little to stop wanton arson.
He said: “It will probably take 10 years for some of the habitats to recover. It has put our work in Wigan back.
“Mid-summer is always a concerning time and we are losing habitats. There’s also the smoke from the fires which is a public health issue.
“It has been incredibly dry, the fire service is stretched beyond what it can cope with and the flames have done a lot of damage.
“It doesn’t matter how many resources you’ve got, you have to be there when it is happening. It’s enormously difficult to get to these places in time.”
Mr Champion said it was believed Wiganers of all ages were responsible for setting the fires but schools worked in the last few days of term to warn pupils about the consequences of anti-social behaviour.
Work has also taken place to make grass habitats less flammable, including clearing away tinder-dry straw.
Mr Champion’s comments were also echoed by furious Wigan photographer and nature enthusiast Steve Heaton, who has catalogued the recent spate of destruction and shared his anger at what is happening to the borough’s most beautiful places.
Mr Heaton said: “Why these people cannot find something else to do instead of damaging the countryside is beyond me.
“In Higher Ince there were a lot of bushes and saplings destroyed such as beech trees, oak trees, blackberry bushes, gorse bushes and even a large weeping willow tree was damaged along with wildflowers.
“The idiots have also been out in force at Amberswood. It is a beautiful place to visit but these morons are ruining it for everyone else.”
Mr Heaton said he was also concerned about the potential increase in off-road biking at wildlife havens such as Amberswood and animals being targeted with air rifles during the summer.
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) have run a high-profile crackdown on the powerful machines being ridden illegally in recent months.
Criminal offences at wildlife spots should be reported to police on 101 and Wigan Council can be made aware of anti-social behaviour using the Report It app.