Conservationist David Hindle honoured with award for monitoring wetlands wildlife in Grimsargh

David Hindle receives his award from (l) Peter Titley, Marsh Christian Trust and (r) Martin Spray, CEO, WWT
David Hindle receives his award from (l) Peter Titley, Marsh Christian Trust and (r) Martin Spray, CEO, WWT
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Author, naturalist, conservationist and broadcaster, David Hindle from Grimsargh near Preston, has been named the WWT Marsh Award winner for Community Wetland Conservation in 2019.

David has received the award in recognition of his work over many years in monitoring the wildlife on the decommissioned United Utilities reservoir site in Grimsargh.

His work was a major contributor to the three unused reservoirs being designated as a conservation area for the whole community in 2009, and final ownership of the community wetlands reserve being transferred to the parish council in 2017.

The three Victorian reservoirs used to provide water for Preston and the surrounding area, but were decommissioned in 1959, and became a safe haven for wildlife over the years.

David said: “I have been interested in the natural world ever since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. We moved to the village in 1996, and having this wildlife sanctuary on my doorstep, which I have known since childhood has only served to deepen that interest, and even led me to write a book on the village’s history.

“My vision for Grimsargh reservoirs was modelled on the late great Sir Peter Scott who created the London Wetland Centre at Barnes, London from four decommissioned reservoirs.

“It is a huge honour to receive this award from WWT, whose work I greatly admire, and I have been a Life Member for many years.

“I would like to recognise the bountiful cooperation and generous donation from United Utilities, Grimsargh Parish Council and the totally dedicated hard work of my fellow trustees, as well as an enthusiastic team of local volunteers and, indeed, the magnificent Grimsargh wetlands reserve itself.

“We are not going to stop here though, we have a big vision to develop the reserve even further and I believe it has the potential not just to be an amazing local reserve, but a very significant regional wetland.

“Already it is an important reserve for wintering and breeding wildfowl and declining waders as a safe haven for migrating whimbrel. Furthermore, I have recorded over 500 of the globally threatened curlew roosting in the shallow wetlands.”

David started monitoring and collecting data on the site’s wildlife back in 2000, since when he has counted 145 different species of birds and an impressive list of flora and fauna over his time observing the wetlands. It was this monitoring that was largely instrumental in him successfully managing to help thwart the prospect of the bulldozers by having it listed as a biological heritage and local wildlife site in 2003.

Having saved the wetlands from potentially being concreted over, David, a member of the parish council, helped negotiate a deal between United Utilities and Preston City Council that kept to a minimum the number of homes being built on the site’s road frontage. A grant of nearly £200,000 from United Utilities helped finance the creation of the rest of the Grimsargh reservoir site as a nature reserve.

Trust Manager of Marsh Christian Trust, Annie McCarthy said: “We were hugely impressed with David’s long term commitment and vision to turning these unused and unloved expanses of water into such an amazing asset that everyone in the community can enjoy.

“Wetlands all over the country are under threat, and David has shown what can be achieved with ambition, imagination and a huge amount of effort. His expertise in persuading the major stakeholders to limit housing development and provide funding to establish the reserve was critical in the success of this project.”

Now under the ownership of Grimsargh Parish Council, the Grimsargh Wildlife Trust, with David as its chair, has a group of volunteers who oversee the reserve’s management for the benefit of the local and wider community. Educating the next generation is important to David and the Trust, and they want the wetlands to both inspire school children about the natural world, as well as being a learning resource for Lancaster University students.