A FREE family fun day will take place at Pennington Flash next month to celebrate the launch of the ‘Flashes Festival of Nature’.

The event, on Sunday, July 16, will be the public launch of The Flashes of Wigan and Leigh - Greater Manchester’s first and only National Nature Reserve (NNR).

There will be a host of nature-themed activities from 11am to 3pm including nature walks and accessible trails, foraging, facepainting, ecocrafts and activities, nature stalls, photography and wild art.

It will also see the launch of the children’s play area.

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Councillor Chris Ready, portfolio holder for communities and neighbourhoods at Wigan Council, said: “The Flashes Festival of Nature is a chance for our whole community to come together and celebrate our precious flashes, which we were proud to see declared as a National Nature Reserve by Natural England last October.

“We’re so lucky to have these incredible environments on our doorstep and are working with Lancashire Wildlife Trust, Leigh Ornithological Society and other partners to conserve them for our wonderful local wildlife and to educate future generations about their importance and rare natural beauty.

“It’s going to be a brilliant day with so much to do for all the family - so come along, join in the fun, and connect with nature!”

The Flashes of Wigan and Leigh is a chain of eight separate wetland habitats running through Wigan, all created by the subsidence of land on former coal mining sites.

It was awarded NNR status in recognition of its ecological importance - including being home to the endangered willow tit.

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Ginny Hinton, Area Manager Cheshire to Lancashire at Natural England, said: “The creation of this unique urban NNR is an important moment for nature recovery both locally and nationally. It shows what can be done by working in partnership to reverse nature’s decline and these wonderful places are needed now more than ever.”

As the largest of the eight sites, Pennington Flash has recently benefited from £2.7m of council investment to improve the visitor experience, including a new café and visitor information point, new accessible toilets and expanded parking.

Next month’s event will also include the official grand opening of a new adventure playground, designed by developers Proludic Ltd to include nature-themed equipment for children up to age 11.

Cllr Ready added: “We know families have been so excited about the new play area and we can’t wait for children to be able to enjoy it. It will really make a trip to Pennington Flash the perfect family day out.”

Family-friendly activities at the Flashes Festival of Nature will be available on a first come, first served basis.

Residents should also be advised that demand for the paid-for parking on site is expected to be high, so please consider other modes of transport where possible.

Free parking is also available in Leigh town centre on weekends, with an upgraded network of footpaths connecting to Pennington Flash.