Spring into World Wildlife Day

Water Vole

United Utilities shares its wild side for World Wildlife Day

United Utilities is celebrating World Wildlife Day, Sunday 3 March by spotlighting places and partnerships across the region proactively protecting and supporting endangered species, by improving habitats and promoting biodiversity across rivers and reservoirs.

As the largest corporate landowner in England, the water company works with wildlife charities and key environmental partners across the 56,000 hectares of the countryside around reservoirs being maintained across the North West. As well as supplying 1.8 billion litres of clean water to 3 million homes and 800,000 businesses these sites cover some of the most vibrant and diverse natural environments in the region.

A team of experts including river rangers, woodland officers and catchment controllers work alongside land managers, tenants, environmental partners, and volunteers across five counties of Lancashire, Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, and Merseyside to continue to improve water quality and protect and promote wildlife. A key part of the Natural Assets team is to protect the natural environment and wildlife, and work with partners and visitors to ensure our beautiful North West landscapes are protected for generations to come.

As the days get longer and new life begins in nature here are just some of the successful places and partnerships that are of special interest to anyone who is wild about wildlife:



The Trentabank Nature Reserve in Macclesfield Forest, partly in the Peak District National Park, has stunning views and tranquil waters.  The species rich coniferous plantation on the banks of the reservoir is managed by Cheshire Wildlife Trust and boasts a large heronry. Trentabank is also home to pied flycatchers. These summer migrants return in early April and make use of the nestboxes provided on site. Keep an eye out for the striking black and white plumage of the male, as he flies from a low perch catching flies, with the two-tone colours and this feeding behaviour giving this species their name. In winter, flocks of crossbills can be seen as they dart overhead from one woodland block to another. The name comes from the bill which has the unusual feature of the upper and lower parts crossing over each other. The birds use these oddly shaped beaks to prise open pinecones to eat the seeds inside.


United Utilities supports the salary of an RSPB officer in the Forest of Bowland’s National Landscape in Lancashire where, in a few weeks’ time, a breeding population of hen harriers will be displaying their amazing sky dancing skills. Satellite trackers enable the RSPB to monitor survival and movements of hen harriers throughout the country, and the good news is that the population on the Bowland estate has increased to previous levels seen in the 1990s.

In Lancashire, United Utilities are working with the Lancashire Wildlife Trust and Lancashire Peat Partnership to restore degraded peatland on Darwen Moor. So far, the partnership has worked to install 1,000 ditch blocks and over 5km of bunding to re-wet the peat and have planted 25,000 plugs of precious sphagnum moss - the keystone species for a healthy peatland.

If you take a walk up Darwen Moor in the spring you are likely to encounter some amazing bird life including ravens, skylarks, meadow pipits, kestrels, peregrine falcons, and red grouse. Or look closer into the vegetation around your feet and you could spot a fox moth or northern eggar caterpillar, the nationally rare bilberry bumblebee, or a common lizard basking in the sun.


Set within the Peak District National Park, the area around Dove Stone Reservoir is a dramatic landscape that's home to an array of wildlife. United Utilities works with the RSPB to protect Curlews, Golden Plover and Mountain Hare on the open moorland and blanket bog, or Peregrine Falcons and Ravens soaring over the old quarry cliffs.


In Cumbria, United Utilities works with the Cumbria Wildlife Trust on a range of projects including the Cumbria Peat Partnership to deliver a biodiversity plan for the area. Spring brings seasonal transformation to the Lake District National Park where habitats include upland heath, alpine meadow, ancient woodlands, river corridors, fens and blanket bog, harbouring relict, and isolated populations of special and rare species.

The badger hides at the RSPB site at Haweswater Reservoir will soon be reopening to the public to enjoy intimate views of one of Britain’s most enigmatic mammals. Meanwhile rare red squirrels are successfully breeding in the woodlands around Thirlmere Reservoir.

As a result of a partnership project between Eden Rivers Trust, The Environment Agency and the Cumbria Connect programme, last year over 360 water voles have been settled into new homes on the Lowther Estate and at Wild Haweswater managed by the RSPB, working in partnership with the landowner, United Utilities, in a bid to re-establish this small, yet vital part of the ecosystem in the Lake District.


As water quality improvements are made, habitats and species are recovering with a record number of fish species being reported in the Mersey Estuary. In February 2024, the Mersey Rivers Trust reported that Cod, rays, scorpion fish, different types of eel, herring, stickleback, as well as edible species like bass, sole, and place were all identified by volunteer anglers in the estuary during 2023. This is part of Mersey Rivers Trust’s citizen science programme supported by United Utilities’ collaborative monitoring project.

It’s all in a day’s work for Jason Robinson who is one of a team of ten river rangers working for United Utilities, across Cumbria and Greater Manchester. He enjoys capturing glimpses in his day-to-day work alongside rivers and lakeshores, protecting and monitoring the environment around United Utilities’ treatment sites.

Jason said: “I’m just naturally curious! When I see something interesting, I can’t resist taking a quick snap on my mobile phone so I can understand how people get into wildlife photography. I started my career as a groundsman and love walking in the countryside, so this was the perfect move for me. It’s a real privilege to be out in the fresh air in some fantastic countryside and to be able to spot so many beautiful, rare, and illusive creatures.

For more information about countryside parks and reservoir sites go to https://www.unitedutilities.com/my-local-area/parks-and-reservoirs/acres-of-nature/

Photographs: RSPB