The exact date is uncertain, but at some point late in the 19th or early in
the 20th centuries, a peat cutting industry began in the mossland, established
by the British Moss Litter Company who took on the tenancy of Risley Moss for
the purpose of extracting peat. The Risley estate had been sold in 1872
to H & R Ainscough, who were noted breeders of horses, and the
tenancy of the British Moss Litter Company began some years after this.
One of the main uses of the peat they extracted from Risley and elsewhere was
in animal bedding and litter, particularly for horses. There is no sign of the peat works on the
Ordnance Survey map of 1893, but it is shown on the OS map of 1908. Peat
cutting on Risley Moss continued until about 1930. After that, the
company began cutting peat from other nearby mosses. One source
indicates Pestfurlong Moss, an area north of the M62, not the
boggy area adjoining Pestfurlong Hill now given that name, but maps of the
time show rails extending into Holcroft Moss. Either way, they continued
to bring the peat to their works and sidings at Risley Moss until the facility
down about 1946.
The woodland area was also used for game hunting. There was a lodge,
marked on maps as Risley Shooting Lodge or the Gamekeeper's Cottage that was
at the end of the old lane that used to run from Warrington Road by Garret
Farm (about where Chadwick House is today). The hunting took place in
the woodland close to the entrance to Risley Moss today. The building
was a well equipped facility built by Richard Watson Marshall Dewhurst (I
wonder if this might be the origin of the name of Dewhurst Road?) who
bought much of the Risley estate in 1853. It included "kennels,
pheasantries and all other requisites for breeding and preserving game". (Ref
In wartime, part of Risley Moss was within the area that was compulsorily
purchased for the Royal Ordnance Factory. It wasn't built on, because of
the soft ground, but there was a large area of railway sidings on the edge of
the moss and it was also used for dumping and possibly some testing.
Afterwards it was left in a derelict and degraded state until the early 1970s.
By 1971, plans were in place to develop the former factory and surrounding
area into the new town of Birchwood. During 1971, several agencies and
individuals began to work together on behalf of Warrington New Town
Development Corporation to determine whether any areas of the new town (not
just in Risley) might be suitable for conservation and possible nature
reserves. A detailed study of Risley Moss was conducted in 1972 by the
newly created Warrington New Town Nature Conservation Group. Risley Moss
Nature Reserve was officially opened in September 1980 by David Bellamy.
In 1989, there was a proposal by Cheshire County Council to close Risley Moss,
but there was a public outcry and a meeting was held (which I attended) which was supported by
David Bellamy. The Moss was saved and RIMAG, the Risley Moss Action
Group, was formed. Since then, there have been efforts to restore the
condition of the peat bog. The water level is being managed, and further
works are planned to enhance the water level. The diversity of
bog and marsh species has been increasing. The woodland area has also
been developed and there are attractive short walks making it an excellent
place to visit at any time of year. We are very fortunate to have such
an important amenity within Birchwood.
Risley Moss is owned and managed by Warrington Borough Council
Ranger Service in partnership with RIMAG, the Risley
Moss Action Group. It is also the home of the Mersey
Forest and is both a Local Nature Reserve (LNR) and Site of special
Scientific Interest (SSSI).
Ref 1: "Risley Moss: a
conservation study", Warrington New Town Conservation Group, December
1972, including an article "Risley - The Historical background" by H
Henshaw. Some, but not all, of the other historical notes on this page are also taken
from this publication.