Hatch Mere Nature Reserve, on the edge of Delamere Forest, is one of the most important nature sites in the county, being recognised for wildlife both in the UK and internationally. However, in recent years the water quality has declined, with high levels of nitrates, phosphates and ammonia leading to algal blooms. This has resulted in a significant loss of important wildlife in and around the lake, as well as in increasing risks to human health. The mere is a popular bathing spot, but the algal blooms during summer 2019 led to the tragic death of a dog which swam in the water.
Hatch Mere is suffering many of the impacts on water quality brought about by modern land use and recreation. Naturally, nutrients such as nitrates and phosphates settle and are stored in the sediment of a lake. However, disturbance to this sediment releases the stored nutrients which then becomes suspended within the water. Over the coming winter work will begin to try and address some of these issues.
As a part of the efforts to help nature to recover at Hatch Mere and to keep people safe, a decision has also been made to no longer allow access to the lake for swimmers, bathers and dogs. On hot days during summer 2019, over 100 swimmers were regularly recorded entering the mere. The physical movement of many feet disturbing the sediment . in addition to other chemical inputs from inflatables, sun cream and urine introduced by swimmers further pollutes the water.
A decrease in the diversity of birds using the lake, and increases in litter and reports of anti-social behaviour have all reinforced the decision.
Charlotte Harris, Chief Executive of Cheshire Wildlife said: “The Trust fully acknowledges the cultural importance and history of the site for wild swimming. However, the protection of wildlife and the public on our nature reserves is our number one priority.”
Cheshire Wildlife Trust will be making improvements to the viewing area on Delamere Road that is currently used to access the lake, making it an ideal and safe spot for picnics and bird watching. There are also plans to improve the circular footpath running through the nature reserve.