Birchwood

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Birchwood is a civil parish in the north-eastern part of Warrington, Cheshire, England with a population of 11,395 (as at the 2001 census). Historically a part of Lancashire, it is the easternmost part of the Warrington urban area. It was built during the time of much expansion in Warrington as it became a “new town”. Birchwood is separated into three residential estates: Gorse Covert, Oakwood and Locking Stumps, with all the main facilities centred around the centre.

The area east of Birchwood is mainly birch forests and Risley Moss, part of the Mersey Forest. Risley Moss is a site of special scientific interest. The bulk of Birchwood is built on the site of the former ROF Risley Royal Ordnance Factory, with Birchwood Forest Park lying in the centre, in which the old bunkers from the factory form part of the landscape.

“The surface, at a distance, looks black and dirty, and will bear neither horse nor man….. What nature meant by such a useless production ‘tis hard to imagine, but the land is entirely to waste” are the words of Daniel Defoe as he rode through Risley in 1724. (Later part of the Risley area was renamed Birchwood as the Warrington ‘New town’ development).

In the past travellers avoided the Risley (Birchwood) area because it of its dangerous mossland, however gradually over time much of the fertile mossland was reclaimed and turned into farm land. With the advent of the Second World War, 927 acres (3.8 km²) of agricultural land was changed into a massive Royal Ordnance Factory, ROF Risley. The location was chosen because the low lying mist and cloud helped camouflage the factory from the air; according to a local builder: “It was very lonely and misty at night, and that’s why the factory was constructed there … it was usually covered with a mist or cloud. It was hard to see it in the day time, you know”. Although the location of the factory was known by the German Luftwaffe, the factory was bombed only once during the war.

A number of bunkers were also built (some can still be seen today) to house the munitions, to protect them from potential bombing, and also to segregate the site and reduce the consequences of any accidental explosions during manufacture or storage. Although these bunkers are on the surface, they are covered with soil and turf and so give the impression of being underground.

However after the war the factory no longer had a purpose other than as a storage depot and so in 1956 the north west of the factory was sold to UKAEA with the entire disused area being put on the market in 1963. No buyer was found for it until 1968, when the Warrington and Runcorn Development Corporation bought the site and turned it into the new town of Birchwood.

The area’s principal shopping needs are serviced by Birchwood Mall, a recently renovated mall with many shops and a large Asda store, two pound stores and a Greggs. There are also a number of smaller shops in each village of the town. Each one has a local convenience store that sell instant needs such as bread and milk. There are local milk and vegetable delivery services that supplies houses in the area, as well as the delivery services from the large supermarkets. There are a few farms in the area that sell small quantities of eggs and other local produce directly to local shoppers.

Birchwood Station is a mainline station with trains stopping bound for Manchester, Liverpool and Warrington Central, and surrounding areas, as well as long distance services to Scarborough, Leeds, Newcastle and York. Trains pass through three times an hour (two operated by Northern Rail on the hour and half-hour, as well as a train operated by TransPennine Express, all trains will operate the Manchester-Liverpool via Warrington line, while the transpennine trains go on to further afield.

Birchwood is very close to Junction 11 of the M62, providing access to Liverpool (22 miles/35 km) and Manchester (15 miles/24 km). Junction 11 is notable for the Encounter statue (also known as the Angel of Birchwood). Birchwood is close to Junction 21 of the M6, giving access to Birmingham (80 miles/128 km). Birchwood is approximately 5 miles (8.0 km) from Warrington town centre (via Birchwood Way) and Leigh (11 miles/18 km) (via Warrington Road).

To the north of the Royal Ordnance Factory (ROF), Risley, was the site chosen for the design offices and headquarters of the Department of ATomic ENergy (DATEN) after the Second World War. Later to become the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), the offices were charged with the manufacture of the nuclear reactors and process plants at Windscale to help build the UKs atomic defence. Following on from the weapons program, the Risley offices were responsible for the building of the Magnox and AGR designs of reactor in the UK. In 1971 BNFL was set up from the production division of the (UKAEA), and until 2003 its headquarters were based at Risley, near Warrington. BNFLs headquarters are now at Daresbury Park industrial estate, also near to Warrington.

BNFL (now represented by Sellafield Ltd and Nexia Solutions) maintains a large office of the site, which is something of a nuclear nexus, with AMEC (Formerly NNC), WS Atkins Design, Environment & Engineering, Nuclear Technologies plc, Serco and Assurance Quintessa (among others) based on Birchwood Park.

WS Atkins has one office in Birchwood, Warrington – Chadwick House (containing various business units including Water, Highways and Transportation, Design Solutions,Rail and Nuclear).

It is in the Birchwood ward of Warrington borough. There are three councillors. Birchwood has a total population of 11,220 residents.

Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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