Satnavbirder Pennington Flash Country Park


I'm going to recommend another truly amazing place to visit in the northwest of England and (excepting the £1.00 car park fee) entry is free. I was recommended this reserve by a fellow birder who could not stop ranting about how well run and laid out the area was, and boy was she right!

Stock Dove
Stock Dove, Pennington Flash CP, Greater Manchester (Photo: Neill Carden)

From the minute you park, the views across the 70-hectare lake are spectacular. The lake forms the centre of the 200-hectare country park and there are seven hides which are all wheelchair-friendly, as are the paths to them. This is one of Wigan's premier birdwatching sites and over 230 different species have been recorded at the site, including Nightingale, Spoonbill, Marsh Harrier, the famous Black-faced Bunting and a good variety of seabirds. There is also plenty of other wildlife including butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies, foxes and hares.

The Bunting Hide is fantastic and the feeders have been arranged in such a way that trees and bushes have been left to create a very natural and inviting habitat.

Bullfinch, Pennington Flash CP, Greater Manchester (Photo: Neill Carden)

The last time I dropped in, Johnny Carr, another birder, accompanied me. He had travelled up from Sussex and was in awe at the number of Bullfinches in one spot. A sighting of one in Sussex is a special occasion, but over 20 pairs all within 15 feet with an ideal photographic background made a spectacular day for a southern visitor. So much so that he returned two weeks later.

Great Spotted Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker, Pennington Flash CP, Greater Manchester (Photo: Neill Carden)

If you do make the effort to visit this fantastic site, take your time to walk all the way around. Walk up to the Manchester Ship Canal and watch some of the canal barges coming through the locks; this is easily accessed by following the main walkway until you come to some steps that look like they lead to nowhere. Also take the time to look in the reed beds that run either side of some of the pathways: you will be surprised at what is flitting in and out. Kingfishers are very often heard and can be spotted in the distance, and a Black-necked Grebe in summer plumage was also present for a short time this year.

This is a ideal family hotspot with good park and play areas for children set away from the bird hides.


Off St Helens Road, Leigh
Greater Manchester, WN7 3PA

Tel. 01942 605253

Grid Reference: SJ6499

How to get there

By car: the Park lies close to the A580 East Lancashire Road and is well signposted from it
By bus: From Leigh Bus Station take the 600 to the outskirts of the Park and get off at the Robin Hood pub. For details call 01942 883501
On foot: the Park is only a short walk away from Leigh town centre. There is a footpath entrance into the east side of the Park from St Helens Road, which will take you along the old Pennington Railway line.

Useful web links

BirdGuides site page (Bird News Extra subscribers only)
Manchester Birding
Wigan Borough Council

Related pages

Greater Manchester Greater Manchester

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The information in this article was believed correct at the time of writing. BirdGuides accepts no responsibility for errors, or for any consequences of acting on information in the article. The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily shared by BirdGuides Ltd.

hide section Reader comments (11)

A nice article Neill, but I should point out (being a relative local) that Pennington Flash is also a place that attracts people that you might not want to share your camera equipment with. Last time I was in the Bunting Hide I had to share it with 2 "yobs", 10 cans of larger and a pit bull! It is a great place for birding and photography, but keep your wits about you if you are by yourself.
   Damian Waters, 03/09/09 12:47Report inappropriate post Report 
Hi Damian, Thanks for that, I have also recently heard that a few of the local regulars are getting together and forming a watch group aided by the wardens, Real shame that such a fantastic place has to be ruined by a couple of yobs that have nothing better to do. Maybe they should be made to clean up the litter!
   Neill Carden, 03/09/09 14:40Report inappropriate post Report 
Neill, the Manchester Ship Canal you mention is in fact the Leeds & Liverpool canal. The Manchester Ship Canal runs some 10 miles or so to the south. For the amount of (non) birding visitors Pennington receives, such instances as Damians are rare. After nearly 30 years of birding there I haven't experienced one! Check out the Pennington Flash site guide on my website www.manchesterbirding.com
   Ian Mckerchar, 03/09/09 17:21Report inappropriate post Report 
I do know that there have been a couple of rather unsavoury incidents involving birders but they tended to be either early morning or late in the evening. Weekends can be very crowded, particularly in good weather. If you want to avoid the car parking charges use either the "bottom" car park on your left as you enter the access road (this has a barrier across when the site isn't wardened... again because of anti-social behaviour) or use the Plank Lane Car Park at the far end of the Flash. This side is underwatched and turns up some good birds (often the best place for Black-necked Grebes). Alternatively you can walk along the canal footpath towards the Lightshaw... another good local site
   John G. Baxter, 03/09/09 17:52Report inappropriate post Report 
Hi Neill, As a native "Leig(t)her"now in exile in the Midland I too was suprised that the Manchester Ship Canal has moved. I think this is not even the Leeds/Liverpool but the Bridgewater Branch of the L/L. On a birding note, is the Plank Lane end as good as it used to be for wintering Jack Snipe and are there still churring Nightjars on Chat Moss?
   David Scott, 03/09/09 18:01Report inappropriate post Report 
Nightjars at Chat Moss are a distant memory. Jack Snipes are still occasional at West end but the old colliery site is still good
   John G. Baxter, 03/09/09 19:00Report inappropriate post Report 
I am glad that I am not the only one that is confused about which canal it is, Not being a local but a Southerner who has relocated I was going on information obtained from another birder that I got speaking to.
   Neill Carden, 03/09/09 19:41Report inappropriate post Report 
Great article Neill, I too grew up birding at Pennington Flash,and Chat Moss, my memories of Nightjars there still remain with me, something you dont forget as an eight year old, I retuned to Pennington Flash earlier this year, only to be joined by two youths on the roof of Bunting Hide, after a few words with them, they did see sense and went on their way, fortunately. I too have moved south, No regrets whatsoever, but I do like to go back to Pennington, and who could ever forget the Black Faced Bunting!
   Jon Evans, 04/09/09 08:38Report inappropriate post Report 
As another Leigh emigrant I may as well join in over the name of this canal. I support Ian's view that in the vicinity of Pennington Flash it is the Leeds and Liverpool canal. From memory the Bridgewater canal joins the L&L about 2 miles east of Pennington Flash at the bridge near the former Leigh Grammar School. As pointed out above the Manchester Ship Canal is a few miles to the south. For those birders with a sense of our industrial heritage the Brigewater canal, completed in 1761, was built to carry coal to Manchester and the first canal in Britain to be built without following an existing watercourse. As such it must be one of the earliest examples of transport infrastructure for the industrial revolution. Within two miles south of the flash you can see the first passenger railway in the world and the East Lancashire road was the first purpose built road in Britain.
   Roger Smith, 04/09/09 11:00Report inappropriate post Report 
The Canal at Pennington is the Leigh branch of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal a seven mile stretch of water from Wigan that joins the Bridgewater Canal and was opened in 1820 to provide a link to Manchester. The canal system served the surrounding area, which was rich in coalfields and was still carrying coal from Bickershaw Colliery to Wigan Power Station as late as 1972. The extensive mining in this area resulted in serious subsidence which in turn caused flooding, and the creation of the “Flashes” the likes of Pennington. So our industrial heritage isn’t all doom and gloom as these flashes are now a great habitat for our wildlife, which rather neatly squares the circle back to birding. Thank you Neill for highlighting a wonderful nature reserve.
   David Cookson, 05/09/09 10:36Report inappropriate post Report 
Good article - nice to see less glamorous places getting reviews. As a Sussex birder just a short word about Bullfinches - yes, they are not common on our coast but if you walk the mid-county lanes you'll see plenty. Always a good sight, but not quite a 'special occasion'!
   Chris Seaton, 06/09/09 08:40Report inappropriate post Report 

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