Woolston Eyes covers an area of 220 hectares, and is composed of four large deposit grounds, one to the east and three to the west of Thelwall Viaduct. It has been used for many years by the Manchester Ship Canal Company for depositing dredgings from the Ship Canal, although now only one is in regular use.
The site is excellent for passage migrants. Marsh Harrier, Peregrine, Merlin and Hobby are recorded annually. There are large numbers of Teal (up to 3,000), Tufted Duck (up to 700) and Pochard (regularly up to 750) in the winter and a Black-headed Gull colony with an estimated population of 4,000 birds in spring.
The ‘jewels in the crown’ are the Black-Necked Grebes as the site is currently the most important in the UK for this species. There are probably no more than 50 pairs breed in the whole of the country.
You can reach the Eyes via Thelwall Lane, Latchford or by crossing Woolston Weir. You do, however, require a permit and key to gain access to the sensitive No 3 bed. Grid Ref : SJ 649883.
The Woolston Eyes Conservation Group, formed in 1979, manages the site as a nature reserve with access by permit only. The rather strange name for the site is from Anglo-Saxon, ees meaning the land near a loop in a river. The reserve is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (S.S.S.I.).
Close by is Thelwall Eye Nature Reserve which covers an area near to the M6 motorway at Thelwall Viaduct.
For more information about Woolston Eyes, and an account of the history of the area, visit their website.