Rixton Claypits Local Nature Reserve

Once a clay extraction site, Rixton Claypits is now a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a local nature reserve.

The claypits include a diverse range of habitats and is a wildlife haven where both the keen naturalist and casual visitor will find things of interest. Easy to follow paths will take you to ponds, wildflower meadows, quiet corners and woodland.

Download the Rixton Claypits map [pdf]

Nature reserve code

The claypits are a fragile habitat and some of the wildlife is particularly sensitive to disturbance. As the reserve is a SSSI, it is our duty to protect its flora and fauna from undue stress. We ask visitors to observe the following rules:

  • keep to the footpaths 
  • observe instructions and notices 
  • take litter home or deposit in bins 
  • keep noise down 
  • no cycling, camping, boating, swimming, shooting, hunting, poaching, plant collecting, ball games or any unauthorised activity.     

Please respect the nature reserve and its wildlife.

Footpaths

Almost all parts of the reserve can be reached by a network of routes. The paths shown in continuous yellow on the reserve site plan are safe to walk along – please keep to these paths and do not stray onto wildflower meadow areas or conservation zones.

Footpaths are continually being upgraded and improved. Occasionally footpaths will be closed when works are taking place or where other management activities on the site pose a risk to visitors. Please follow diversion instructions should you come across them during your visit.

Gateway to the countryside

The wider countryside and the public rights of way network is easily accessible from the claypits. From 2km to 14km long, direct or circular, there are several routes to choose from. It is even possible to reach Pennington Flash in Leigh from the reserve with few tarmac stretches.

If you would like to find out more about the country footpaths around Rixton then why not join one of the ranger-led guided walks that take place throughout the year.

Visitor safety

To help you enjoy your visit to the nature reserve, please take extra care and consider the following:

  • the ground is uneven in many places with steep slopes and drops throughout the site, several steep flights of steps and ponds and water bodies (some deep) close to some paths
  • paths are prone to flooding, especially in winter months, and some can become slippery
  • pieces of old rusty ironmongery from the reserve’s industrial past can be sometimes be found
  • poisonous plants grow on the reserve
  • during the summer months visitors are advised to wear insect repellent
  • geese with goslings can be aggressive so please give them space.

Rangers are continually working on the reserve with machinery.

Management work

The site requires a substantial amount of management work which can be dangerous. Contractors, rangers and volunteer groups work regularly on the reserve. This work sometimes involves plant machinery, tractors, lawn mowers and chainsaws. For your safety please observe any notices you may come across.

Conservation zones

Conservation zones are to be created where access is strictly controlled. This is because, as the site has become more popular, recreational pursuits are damaging the wildlife which we are trying to protect. Access to these areas will be limited to ranger-led walks and for scientific and educational purposes. Please respect the wildlife and scientific work taking place in these zones.

How to find us

By car from Warrington - follow Manchester Road (A57) out of Woolston, across both M6 roundabouts for a approximately mile. Continue past the transport café. About 400 yards on the left is the turning for the visitor centre, 120 yards further along on the left is the car park.

From Cadishead- follow Liverpool Road (A57) through the traffic lights at Warburton Bridge and continue for another 420 metres. The car park is on the right just after Chapel Lane.

By bus - the no.10 bus from Warrington stops on Manchester Road near Moat Lane

Angling 

Warrington Angling Association have the exclusive fishing rights to the north pool in area 1. For membership information telephone Frank Lythgoe on 01928 716238.

Please note fishing is strictly forbidden elsewhere on the reserve.

Wildlife at the claypits

The wide range of habitats and micro climates found at the reserve result in a large diversity of plants and animals, all finding particular niches for their own individual and exacting needs.

Insects

Twenty species of butterfly now breed on site with the arrival of purple hairstreaks in 1996 and holly blues in 1998. Five rare beetles and a saucer bug have been noted. A huge population of dragonflies occur on the site and 18 species have so far been observed including the black darter, ruddy darter and the broad-bodied chaser.

Mammals

Bats include daubentons, noctule and pipistrelle. Evening counts have revealed 10, five and 45-50 of each species using the site, respectively.

Water voles remain elusive as do water shrews.

Foxes are present all year and several weasels have been observed. Stoats are uncommon, hedgehogs are frequent visitors and roe deer have occasionally been seen.

Fungi

The fungi list is currently being updated. 180 species have been identified so far including two rarities – Leccinum holopus and Lyophyllum fumatofoetens.

Lower plants

Ferns are abundant on the site and include several species. Some 50 species of moss have been identified along with a dozen or so liverworts including Metzgaria fruticolosa – a first for Warrington.

Plants

Important species include marsh orchids, yellow wort, white melilot, adders tongue, lesser marsh wort and slender spike rush. Recent additions include water figwort, perennial flax, biting stonecrop, creeping jenny, feverfew, black horehound, bay willow and the grass squirrel tail fescue.

The latest discoveries are plicate sweet grass, common polypody, blunt-leaved pondweed and brooklime.

Special wildlife

The great crested newt is the country’s largest and rarest newt which is now in decline. The claypits are of national importance for this species as it holds one of the largest breeding populations in the country.