If you want to see an example of nature’s incredible ability to bounce back, you need look no further than a rehabilitated reserve, right on our doorstep. The Avenue Washlands in Wingerworth, was once a former coking works and one of the most contaminated sites in Europe. In 2005, the restoration began through a partnership between Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and the Land Trust, officially opening to the public in 2007.
Now, the Avenue is becoming a community favourite for getting out of the house and back to nature.
Back in the 1880s, the site was opened as a colliery but was derelict by the time of the Second World War. In 1956 it became an operational coking works, producing smokeless fuel through coal carbonisation with chemical by-products, employing 800 people at the peak of its usage. The coking works closed in 1991.
The formerly polluted waters and soil of the Avenue is now lush with grasslands – the swaying reeds framing a wide, multi-user circular path that meanders around the football pitches and ponds of the nature reserve. The path is bike, wheelchair, and pushchair friendly, easily accessible from the free car park at the top, attracting an array of visitors.
For parents, it’s the perfect place to take children of any age thanks to the variety of paths and routes. For younger children, there’s plenty of pleasant short walks, the wooden caterpillar being a popular spot to stop and have a play. The wide paths are the perfect place to practice riding bikes and scooters for older children. The information and viewing boards dotted around provide lots of opportunities for outdoor learning and bring up some interesting topics for discussion.
For nature lovers and bird watchers, there’s plenty to see now that much of the wildlife has been established.
Kingfishers, skylarks and lapwings rule the skies, whilst great crested water voles and newts have made their home here. It’s fair to say there will be many photo opportunities for the keen birdwatcher.
Weekends at the Avenue are buzzing with community spirit, with Wingerworth Junior Sports Association often on the playing fields and the local running club, Cannon Events, hosting their running clubs for both adults and children.
In June 2021 a fire destroyed part of a composite decking walkway, and £4,000 was quickly raised to replace and restore the affected area. The support from the local community and the rapid response to this tragedy was testament to how important the Avenue Washlands has become to everyone who visits.
The site has such historical significance for the area and has played its part in employing local people and providing job security. It’s heart-warming to think that this area has been restored back to nature and is now at the centre of the local community for all the right reasons.
The Avenue Country Park can be found just off the A61 Derby Road, left at the new roundabout onto Hornbeam Drive - use the postcode