The Sanctuary -
Bird and Wildlife Reserve at Pride Park

The Sanctuary covers an area of ten hectares, and lies right next to the Derby County Football Stadium and the River Derwent. It was formerly a gas works tip, and so the land here was fairly contaminated. It had long been protected from development as part of the “green wedge” policy of Derby City Council, and the grassland habitats present there had also developed sufficient value to be designated as a “Site of Interest for Nature Conservation”. However it was not until 2001 that the importance and potential, of this site was fully appreciated. At that time the work to create the Pride Park business site was coming to a close.

Pride Park itself is an eighty-hectare site, located 3km south-east of Derby city centre. It was the original site of Derby’s railway manufacturing industry, but land here had also been used for gas and coke works, gravel abstraction and landfill. These uses left behind a cocktail of contaminants, including tars, phenols, heavy metal, ammonia and boron. Over the last ten years Derby City Council have been reclaiming Pride Park, using a robust and sustainable reclamation strategy. Ultimately, this has attracted a wide range of companies to the site.

During the Pride Park Restoration Project the ten-hectare area of land we now call “The Sanctuary” was set aside from development to create a ‘green wedge’ and for the construction of a raised storage mound to hold the worst of the contaminated material removed from other parts of Pride Park. It was generally assumed that the remaining parts would be turned into open parkland with public access. Though nice for people to use and look at, parkland is not the ideal habitat for some of the rarer species of our City’s wildlife.

In 2001, preliminary site surveys by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust (DWT) and Derby Museum discovered significant populations of breeding skylark - a UK Biodiversity Action Plan species (UK BAP). Other birds with local and UK BAP significance were also discovered, so Derby City Council was pursuaded to think again about the site’s future. A group of experts from DWT, DCC (including Derby Museum) and a local ornithologist met early in 2003 to devise ways to protect and enhance the biodiversity potential of the site. Their plans (which included restricting public access to encourage and protect ground-nesting birds) were endorsed by many messages of support from local naturalists and wildlife groups. The final go-ahead was given by the City Council in June 2003.

These proposals included:
• Continued maintenance of existing grasslands for Skylark (UK BAP species) and Meadow Pipit (Local BAP species)
• Construction of artificial Sand Martin nest bank (local BAP species)
• Creation of lake with bare islands to encourage Common Tern to nest. (Local BAP species)
• Planting of reed bed areas around lake and pools (UK priority Habitat Action Plan)
• Creation of bare gravel zones to encourage Little Ringed Plover to nest (Schedule 1 protected species, local BAP species)
• Extend existing fencing to protect ground-nesting birds by limiting public access.
• Installation of bird, bat and insect boxes across the site.
• Creation and planting of dragonfly and amphibian pools.
• Creation of viewing platforms and interpretation boards to help visitors see and appreciate key biodiversity features from the perimeter fencing.
• Possible future development of an on-site Environment Centre for the city.

The project caught the imagination of local naturalists and societies, many of whom made small donations to help buy a wide variety of bird, bat and insect boxes. A range of local businesses helped in other ways. One company (Melbourne Developments) generously provided the materials and labour to build the huge artificial Sand Martin bank which was occupied within a few months of its completion.

The appearance of The Sanctuary may surprise many visitors. It is intentionally very bare and almost devoid of trees and tall vegetation. But rough grassland is the perfect place for skylark and meadow pipit to breed, even though some might see it as “wasteground”. We will never attract the Little Ringed Plover or the Common Tern unless we create large, bare gravel areas near water and restrict the growth of plants there. Only then will they make their nests on the ground. We know that they will see it as attractive, and we hope visitors will appreciate this.

The achievements so far shows how a creative partnership between the public, private and voluntary sectors can make a real addition to the quality of life of the area's workers and residents. We are trying to ensure that rare and declining species can have a quiet sanctuary of their own in the heart of the City’s business zone. Wildlife comes first here, but people will soon be able to see and appreciate them with ease. At minimal extra cost The Sanctuary has taken forward priorities in both national and local Biodiversity Strategies. It also shows how planning and regeneration activities can, if carefully planned, deliver positive enhancements both to wildlife and to the well being and liveability of Derby people. This is just one of a number of initiatives presently being implemented along the Derwent valley and across the City to protect and enhance our biodiversity heritage.

The Sanctuary is still in its infancy. There are still many sponsorship opportunities for businesses wishing to be associated with this unusual biodiversity project. There are other ways, too, that local people can get involved, whether by helping with on-site working parties, by telling us what they have seen when they’ve visited, or running school projects based on the environment around Pride Park.

For more information on anything related to the Sanctuary including Species and Volunteer teams
please contact: