Red River Local Nature Reserve is a good example of an old industrial site that has become an important local haven for wildlife. It consists of what remains of 3 old ponds that were adjacent to the 'owd' Loscoe colliery but which probably owed their origin to the water powered mill that used to exist where St Luke's Church stands today.
Only one of the ponds remains today; the others have succeeded to willow carr and alder carr. On either side of the watercourse is also a mosaic of grassland, scrub and bits of dry woodland, that give a small site considerable diversity and value both for nature conservation and as a semi-natural haven that is much loved by many local people.
Although the wetland, wet woodland and some of the grassland areas are all important habitats in their own right, the main conservation interest probably lies with the sites colony of Gt Crested newts: a species once common but in rapid decline all over the country. We have been aware of their presence here for the past 3 years, and the main focus of management has been to maintain the ideal conditions for them to thrive.
Encouraging the Gt Crested Newts involves managing the pond where they breed: limiting the spread of reedmace and keeping areas of open water, while increasing the diversity of aquatic and marginal plants, and preventing colonisation by fish and too many ducks.
It also, however, means managing the rest of the site to ensure they have the right range of feeding habitats and hibernation sites for overwintering, for which the current mix of wet and dry woodland, short and long grassland and scrub is just about ideal.
Unfortunately we have not been able to construct proper disable access around Red River: there is, however a stone surfaced path that runs along the length of the site from Loscoe High Street. This includes one moderately sloping section where a wheelchair would need to be pushed, but is otherwise virtually level. There is a seating area with an interpretation panel along this path, overlooking the pond.
In order to minimise disturbance to the south side of the site (thought to be the main dryland habitat for the newts) there are no footpaths on this side of the river except for a short section near the site entrance.
There has been strong community involvement from the start with Red River Nature Area. The Friends of Red River have been given the authrority by Heanor Town Council to take responsibility for management of the site, and much of the practical work on site has been done by them.
There is a regular link with Loscoe primary school, and pupils have done everything from treeplanting to mini beast hunts to helping design the artistic entrance gates that are an eyecatching reflection of the sites industrial past and wildlife-rich present.