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Friends of the Tawd Valley

Friends of the Tawd Valley are a community group who preserve the environment of Skelmersdale’s river and wildlife. They involve people of all ages and abilities in maintenance and improvement activities.

Mike Flaherty

Mike Flaherty.jpeg
Mike Flaherty

Well, I've been part of Friends of Tawd Valley for about 2 to 3 years now. What really inspired it was during lockdown. There was a real bad bout of pollution on the River Tawd, and I think it was like three main pollution incidents and one being like a milky substance that ran through the Tawd Valley, one being like a large plastic pollution, which was millions of plastic bits that ran through the Tawd. But the main one was a detergent which foamed up the Tawd really bad and it killed hundreds of fish.

So that that inspired me to get down there, get it reported to the Environment Agency. I got the Environment Agency involved. We got Rosie Cooper our West Lancs MP involved. And yeah, it sparked a massive investigation. It really it upset me really, because I've been going down the Tawd now all my life since I was a kid. The Tawd is part of me. It's in my body and it really upset me. And to know that it killed hundreds of fish was really upsetting and it killed most of the species down there which sparked me to get in touch with the Wild Trout Trust, which is a nationwide charity. And they came to doing a report on the Tawd and to help us improve it and they've really helped us to bring the Tawd to get it a better quality and standard and it's been fantastic. And at the moment we're working through... They've got a project at the moment called Trout in the Town. I'm working through their criteria to try and improve it and at the moment we're at Silver level chapter.

I think the major impact we've had is we've brought a lot of people together. So through Friends of Tawd Valley, we've become members of the Douglas Catchment Partnership, which is a massive organisation that covers the Douglas Catchment and which is part of the community. And members that are part of that are United Utilities, the Environment Agency and loads of other big organisations. So we're now a member with them. So we've got a bigger voice in the Tawd valley, we're the voice for the river. The impact we've had. I think in my opinion, I feel that the since the investigation from the Environment Agency with the pollution, I think the industrial estates are more aware and the companies in those states are more aware because it seems that industrial pollution is now reduced in the river Tawd, which is a major impact. So I hope that the water quality is improved from our actions and the stuff that we've took, the actions we've took.

Oh, Skem's got an amazing character. The people are amazing, the community is amazing. They're all kind hearted. People want to get involved. People want it when someone struggles. And I don't know if you've heard of the Facebook page, that Skelmersdale First and a lot of people, I think there's like 14,000 members on that. And then when people are struggling on that, when people are struggling on that, the community comes together to help people out. And if they need something, the community is there. But at the same time, it's so open and so green and some people in Skem don't even realise that the Tawd Valley park’s here and it's such a shame because it's like it's the centre, it's the lifeblood of Skem, of the community and it's great for mental health, it's great for your wellbeing. It's a haven for wildlife.

It's a great community and it can only get better. It's going from strength to strength all the time and we'll get there and I know it's not perfect. It's not perfect but nowhere is perfect but we'll get there.


Rita Newby

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Rita Newby

My name is Rita. When I first came to Skem about 40 odd years ago, I discovered the Tawd. I walked down with my children in buggies and I was blown away by in the middle of a town... You can see weasels within 300 yards of the town centre. There's deer around here. We've got so much wildlife and people don't know yet.

And it's like, come and see, come and see. And just to be able to pay back this incredible place that did so much for me. When I went through a bout of depression and coming down the Tawd kept me sane. It brought me back and I owe this place so much. So what I do down here is just pay back. But I want other people to know about it. I love Skem. I think to have such a green heart in the middle of Skem and I can walk out my my door five minutes and I might not see another person for an hour or so because I'm down the Tawd and watching the the light on the leaves and all the rest of it. So it puts the urban and the rural together and it's just a nice way it matches up.


Terry Lake

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Terry Lake

I'm Terry Lake. I'm the chair of the Friends of Tawd Valley. Well, it's a bit long winded, but the council launched a plan for the Tawd Valley in 2017 because it was a bit of a doss hole. Flytipping, motorbikes, fires, you know, the usual anti-social stuff. And it's such a lovely valley. So they launched a plan to tidy it up, improve the paths, plan for a bikes bumps park down the road, improve the fishing lake, generally make it more suitable and safer for the community to use as a community resource for health and wellbeing.

So that was 2017. 2018, a constitution was created, but nothing happened. 2019 at the AGM the finger was pointed at me. "You'll be a good chair" and I've been chair ever since and I've now got, as you can see around me, people from the community on the committee willing to bend their backs, think things through, do things to make it happen. And as I told you earlier this year, we've done a dawn chorus walk, a bat walk, a wildlife walk and a foraging and fungal forest walk. I've taken four school groups around the valley talking about the heritage of the valley, coal mining, brick making, the paper factory that was down here.

We meet every Saturday, the first Saturday of the month, for a volunteer event. And you've seen what we've done this morning. And another week it could be litter picking. Another week it could be tree planting. We had two Saturdays putting in the picnic benches down in the orchard. We strim, we rake, we do all those sorts of things to keep the park fit for people to use.

I go out for some sort of walk every day. I lead the health and wellbeing walk on a Tuesday morning and it isn't just the physical exercise for me. It isn't just the open spaces and the nature that we see and experience. It's the interaction with other people. And I hope that some of the people that come on that walk get the same thing that Rita and I get out of this. You know, it lifts your spirit. You know, you're exercising. You're doing something useful. And as I've already said to Rita today, I can now go home and watch a recording of a rugby match sitting on my sofa and doing nothing for the rest of the day, because I know I've done something this morning that's useful. Good for me, good for the environment, and just going to make the park that little bit better than it was yesterday. We have regular volunteer sessions once a month. And we have regular Friday mornings with what we call team tours. But I've said in print and in voice many times because people say, “Oh, I can't volunteer, I can't, wheel a wheelbarrow. I can't wield a spade”. You don't have to come and be in a group of like minded people. You can stand and take photographs, you can stand and chat. You can come and make a brew and take it out to the people that are wielding a spade, pushing a wheelbarrow. You can just be part of a group to lift you, to give you fresh air, to lift your spirits. And we want more people to come and join us just to do that.


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