The site is located adjacent to the M6 on the county boundary as you enter Lancashire from the south. It is close to Coppull Moor, to the south west of Coppull and is accessed from the A49. It is 55 hectares in size and owned by Lancashire County Council.
There is some uncertainty about exactly when the Chisnall Hall colliery first opened but it appeared on historic maps in 1908 as an established coal mine with two mineshafts and railway sidings connecting to the mineral railway. At it's height over 1,000 people were employed at the colliery with over 300,000 tonnes of coal being produced annually. It is believed that the colliery ceased coal production in 1967. A restoration plan for the site was prepared in 1977. The site was mostly restored between 1981 and 1983 and opened to the public by Lancashire County Council in 1994.
The site is currently used for grazing and has been split into 10 fields with woodland planting around most of the field boundaries. The highest point of the site is in the central area at the top of 3 mounds formed from the remains of spoil heaps from the previous coal mining activities. There is also public access with a number of footpaths running through the site, these follow field boundaries with access to the main areas of the site currently restricted.
Although some woodland has been established around the field boundaries the very nature of the topsoil, only 0.1m to 0.2m in depth, above compacted colliery shale has restricted root growth and means the trees have not reached a height to be expected of their age. Many of them show signs of poor health and form as well as instability. Due to their shallow root systems many trees have been blown over on site. The shallow layer of topsoil with compacted shale underneath means that surface water has nowhere to go, which also causes drainage issues across the site.
Proposed site improvements
The proposal at Chisnall Hall is to create extensive native community woodland across the site with up to 65,000 trees being planted across the site over the next few years. New access routes and the creation of a viewpoint in the central area of the site also form part of the design. Within the planting areas there is between 20 and 30% open ground with smaller tree and shrub species planted next to the new access routes to retain a feeling of openness within a woodland setting and to increase the ecologically important woodland edge habitat.
Tree planting has already started with 4.5 hectares of new woodland planted to the west of the M6 in March 2012. A trial area has recently been created in the southern part of the site to test different growing conditions for various tree and grass species. .
To improve the existing ground conditions and allow trees to grow healthily, it is essential to break up the compacted colliery shale and mix it with some much needed organic material. In this instance the material to be used will be organic growth medium. This is a compost made from the organic elements of household waste by Global Renewables at their Leyland and Thornton Waste Recovery Parks.
Work and timescales
It is hoped that work will start on site in July 2012. The initial works will be to cultivate the ground by breaking up the existing colliery shale and adding OGM to improve soil structure and drainage. Work will be carried out on a periodic basis lasting approximately 2-3 weeks on site and then a break of 6-8 weeks before the next phase. After an area has been cultivated it will be grass seeded and left to establish for at least 3 months before tree planting.
The first trees planted as part of the main Chisnall Hall scheme will be during the next planting season from November 2012. Works across the site will be phased on a field by field basis and it is currently estimated it will take between 5 to 7 years to complete the cultivation and tree planting across the site.