Nature reserve status for former Kinneil pit site

Kinneil Coalmine - Bo'ness general view
Kinneil Coalmine - Bo'ness general view

IT’S already a hotspot for wildlife and now it’s hoped officially-designated Kinneil Local Nature Reserve will become even more of a magnet for visitors and attract extra funding with its new enhanced status.

On Tuesday it was revealed the stretch of foreshore from Bo’ness harbour in the east, to Snab Lane 
beside the former Kinneil Colliery in the west had gained the distinction.

The status, conferred by Falkirk Council after consulting Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), makes it only the district’s second local nature reserve, after Bonnyfield.

Dominated for almost two centuries by heavy industry, it is now public open space of grassland, wildflower meadows and woodland, with a path network.

The mudflats and ‘island’ off the foreshore are internationally important for seabirds and already have special conservation protection.

Councillor Adrian Mahoney, leisure, tourism and community convener, welcomed Kinneil foreshore’s new status.

The closure of the area’s last pit in 1983 had been a ‘terrible blow’ for the local community, he said, but from that bad situation had arisen a chance to create a new space for townsfolk and visitors to enjoy.

He said: “Thirty years on, there’s very little trace of the mine-workings, apart from a cap on the pit shaft. The site has been transformed with trees and shrubs and become a haven for local and visiting wildlife.

“I’m delighted the site has been formally designated a local nature reserve. At the request of the community, it will be called ‘Kinneil Nature Reserve’ and hopefully attract even more visitors – and new funding – to this regenerated site in the years to come.”

New signage at Kinneil Halt, a stopping point for the steam railway which attracts 60-70,000 visitors annually, would hopefully tempt people to visit the new nature reserve or nearby Kinneil Estate, said Councillor Mahoney.

He encouraged responsibility from users of the ‘important natural site’ regarding litter.

Neville Makan, SNH operations officer, said: “We’re delighted that Falkirk Council have designated a new local nature reserve at Kinneil during the Year of Natural Scotland.

“This new nature reserve is a special place for birds such as shelducks. The reserve is in walking distance of Bo’ness, so folk really will have a chance to enjoy nature on their doorstep.”

A steering group (now part of Friends of Kinneil) comprising people from the community and council has helped manage the site since 2010.

Projects have included litter picks, cleaning scrub, and improving car parking and links between the foreshore and Kinneil Estate.

Footpath creation and management, wildflower meadow management and woodland thinning are among future plans and the area’s industrial heritage and wildlife will be described on information panels.

External funding applications could potentially be made to SNH, under its local nature reserve small grants pot, as well to other bodies.

The area also falls within a wider £1.9m Heritage Lottery Fund Inner Forth project, currently in the planning 
after getting HLF backing in principle last summer.

This could enhance key wildlife sites as well as celebrate industrial and cultural heritage.