Harrington Nature Reserve: A very special place...
'Special' will mean different things to different people. Young people may simply love to explore and find a place to hide and the reserve provides many wilder areas and opportunities for such pursuits. A mother and child may prefer to feed the many ducks and wildfowl, whilst dog walkers might suggest that the improved path network and seating areas is what is best for them.
Local people, many of whom use the reserve on a daily basis will come to expect the sight of Blue Tits, Mute Swans or even an occasional Kingfisher or Woodpecker. They will also be used to wandering through the many different habitats, each with its own wildlife and special atmosphere.
For the visitor, many of these things will be a new experience. Indeed, it's not everyday that one can walk past open and running water, willow carr, tall herb communities, mixed scrub, flower rich meadows and woodland all in the space of half an hour. All this one the edge of Workington!
The Reserve's Special Features
Harrington Nature Reserve consists of many high quality habitats, some of them very rare and found in few other places throughout West Cumbria. Indeed, there is so much more to see than the reservoir alone, known locally as 'The Rezzer'
The two meadows for example will retain a diverse range of herbs, flowers and grasses. This diversity is important for many invertebrates which feed, shelter or over-winter on particular types of plant or grass. The Large Skipper butterfly for example will often be seen in rough 'unimproved' grassland during the summer. Importantly, these rough grasslands have never been 'improved' like many uniform types of grassland which have little wildlife interest.
Running water is an important feature because it affects almost every other habitat within the reserve. The Ellerbeck transports nutrients and sediments throughout the reserve a little like food and oxygen is transported by blood around our bodies. Water is also important for bank side trees, mostly Alder, Willows and Sycamore, not to mention marginal vegetation like that found around 'The Rezzer' and on more sunny ports of the beck. The Ellerbeck is also home to many forms of wildlife including Mallards, Grey Wagtail, Moorhen, Sticklebacks, the larvae of dragonflies, as well as Common Toads and occasional Kingfisher.
The Ellerbeck appears a mere trickle during drier periods but the scene changes dramatically following prolonged heavy rainfall. Here, the Ellerbeck takes on the appearance of a raging river, destroying bank sides and moving riverside trees with ease. This is a natural process yet it's caused problems associated with silt deposition, particularly within 'The Rezzer' where the once deep lagoon is now almost filled-in with sediments.
Despite being located next to a busy industrial estate, if you stand in the middle of the woodland on a calm day you con hear nothing but bird song and the sound of water.
The rich and varied habitats are linked together by a series of paths, steps and bridges with seating cress and viewpoints located at strategic resting points throughout the reserve. Here, the visitor can choose a route that suits their particular needs whether this be a short five minute walk with the dog or a more adventurous stroll taking in the whole nature reserve.
Education and environmental activities play on important role of any Local Nature Reserve. Schools and youth groups are particularly welcome and encouraged with a number already having benefited from this free service.
Interpretative signs are located at the Brierydale and main entrances. Each board provides a good account of the likely wildlife to be seen at certain times of the year in addition to highlighting footpaths, habitats and general points of interest. The Brierydale board was designed by young people who also helped out with conservation tasks at the reserve.
Good for the Body, Mind and Soul
Nature reserves, particularly those situated in and around our towns and cities are known to benefit humans, as well as wildlife, in many different ways.
Access to nature reserves and quality green spaces is known to improve our sense of wellbeing, that is, how we feel about ourselves and the world around us. Wellbeing is also on important 'indicator' of our quality of life. Who knows, those who regularly visit Harrington Nature Reserve may experience a better quality of life! We also live in an increasingly busy and hectic society. More and more of us travel and travel further whilst information technology is becoming more and more commonplace in our every day lives. For this reason, people need places to relax and escape this busy lifestyle. Local Nature Reserves, like at Harrington, are one of the best places to escape and experience peace and quiet. The fact that Local Nature Reserves are 'local' also means that many people can experience them without having to make any great effort, for example travelling somewhere via the car.
Walking to or around Harrington Nature Reserve is thus good for: the body; through its health benefits associated with exercise, the mind; by leaving behind the hustle and bustle of everyday living and enjoying nature and peaceful surroundings, and the soul; by getting closer to nature and wildlife and the many natural things that ultimately enable us to live.