Projects are an important element of our work, and we are continuously working on new ideas with our stakeholders and partners in areas such as citizen science, eDNA and habitat creation. We work with local communities to showcase what’s on their doorstep and highlight how important the estuarine and surrounding habitats are for our wildlife.

Winter Wellbeing Walks

We joined forces with Hazlehurst Studios to deliver a series of Winter Wellbeing Walks to the public.

Artists from Hazlehurst Studios showed us how to use our camera phones to highlight the sometimes-hidden beauty of nature that is all around us and take a longer look at usually overlooked details through sketching and mark making methods, while staff from the Mersey Gateway Environmental Trust taught plant identification and survey techniques, with tips on how to record wildlife on your phone.

It was exciting to see so many signs of spring! We spotted blackthorn blossom, hawthorn leaves starting to unfurl, and bluebells pushing their way up from their winter beds.

Lauren Quayle demonstrated camera techniques how we can use photography to be more mindful, ‘view things from another perspective’ or ‘through another lens’ and to think about our composition, while Rachael Prime Art showed us some mark making methods near the canal, and encouraged us all to take notice of our surroundings, look at detail, and have a go of creating rubbings from the different textures and patterns we found. We took moments along the way to practice mindfulness and meditation techniques led by HedgeRose Healing, including imagining our feet growing roots and connecting us to the earth beneath us!

A huge thank you to everyone who attended and to all the artists and friends from the studio who have helped with organising the events and sharing their skills with us.

“I see through my eyes, not with them.” – William Blake

Mersey Coastal Breeding Birds

We are delighted to announce that we have been successful with our application to receive funding from the Natural England Species Recovery Programme Capital Grants Scheme to enhance saltmarsh habitats for breeding birds through our Mersey Coastal Breeding Birds project!

Natural England has been operating the Species Recovery Programme (SRP) for more than 30 years, driving national action to help reduce the risk of extinction and promote the recovery of our most threatened species. A significant number of England’s species are declining in numbers, with average abundance falling by 52% between 1970 and 2018, and 15% of assessed species are currently threatened with extinction.

The Mersey saltmarshes are home to skylark, lapwing and other ground breeding birds such as oystercatchers or common terns, all of which are all Section 41 listed, meaning they are of principle importance to the conservation of England’s biodiversity. Over the next 2 years, the Mersey Gateway Environmental Trust (MGET) will be working on both Astmoor marsh (Wigg Island) and Widnes Warth to provide bespoke and targeted habitat management that seeks to improve conditions for breeding success of these species.

We will take established methods from the agricultural sector and make adaptations to suit the local saltmarsh environments, in order to provide more opportunities for the birds to raise their young. If successful, MGET will be contributing to the recovery success of the species and new methods on how to manage saltmarsh for a number of species. MGET will be supporting several student projects associated with the saltmarsh enhancement to ensure monitoring and analysis of results, and we will be working closely with our partners The Conservation Volunteers (who will also be doing some work as part of this project at Port Sunlight River Park), and Halton Borough Council as the landowner.

More information on the Species Recovery Programme can be found here.

Brookvale’s Young Envionmentalist Project

We had lots of fun with Brookvale Community Centre exploring Spike Island as part of their Young Environmentalist Project.

We started the day with a spot of bird watching along the estuary, and the group showed us their brilliant plant ID skills, pointing out sycamore trees, blackberries, dock leaves, and elderberries. After lunch and a play in the park we headed back out for some tree bashing and insect hunting – everyone did an amazing job and all together found over 100 insects!

Image by Ollie Smith from RSK group.

City Nature Challenge 2023 BioBlitz

The City Nature Challenge is a global citizen science project. For the “collaboration-meets-friendly-competition”, city regions around the world compete to see who can find the most species within the 4 days.

We set up camp at Spike Island and Runcorn Hill Park for our BioBlitz weekend this year, taking count of the flora and fauna we spotted and talking to the community about the importance of recording wildlife! MGET staff and our fabulous volunteers were on hand to discuss the local ecology and help identify species, as well as show people how to download the free iNaturalist app upload observations.

5 Ways to Wellbeing

As part of Halton Borough Council’s 5 Ways to Wellbeing project and City Nature Challenge 2022, we invited local primary schools to take part in a mini nature challenge around the Mersey estuary, finding, photographing and recording wildlife.

The children were set the challenge to find and record using tablets and cameras any wildlife they could find, including plants, insects and birds – and they did not disappoint! Together we enjoyed exploring the winding paths and wooded areas of Wigg Island, turning over sticks and stones to discover insect species on Spike Island, and soaking up the views of the Mersey Estuary, being active, and connecting with nature.

Back in class, the children reviewed their findings and used the iNaturalist app to identify the species they observed, contributing to local and global conservation efforts.

‘It was great to be in touch with nature. 10/10 stars.’ – Erin

‘I’m going back there with my Mum because I liked it so much’ – Freddie

‘My dad is going to drive us there with our bikes’ – Sophia

‘I saw everything I wished to see’ – Ethan

Beyond Our Bridges

The aim of this project was to bring 62ha of saltmarsh and reedbed along the estuary back into good management, primarily for the benefit of birds such as the iconic lapwing, skylark and meadow pipit.

Activities included lots of practical management works, such as creating scrapes on the saltmarsh and other micro habitats for different nesting preferences in the reedbed. Through their grazing, livestock on saltmarshes can increase plant diversity as well as help create good nesting sites for birds, so fencing was put in place and we welcomed cattle onto the saltmarsh too!

In the reedbed and creeks, management work was undertaken to maintain water circulation and allow fish movement. The reedbed management work aimed to improve the upper levels of the estuarine habitats that are ecologically linked to the wider reedbed resource in the Mersey valley beyond the site boundary, contributing around 2.5 % of the UK freshwater reedbed system and supporting a significant number of species of conservation concern.

Monitoring was another important part of this project, with surveys and recording contributing towards the national Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS). The project was supported through funding from WREN.