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Parkgate marsh fire destroys birds' habitat

Fire at Parkgate
Image caption The fire spread quickly across the marshes

A fire that broke out on marshland in Cheshire has destroyed the the habitat of many nesting birds and local wildlife, the RSPB has said.

The blaze began near The Anchorage in Parkgate, near Neston, on Sunday afternoon and spread across a large area towards The Parade.

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service said crews used beaters and hosereel jets to put the fire out by about 17:50 BST.

Police said the fire was believed to have been started deliberately.

A spokeswoman said: "Cheshire Police are keen to speak to anyone in the local area who may have witnessed anything that may assist the investigation, to contact Ellesmere Port and Neston Neighbourhood Policing Team."

Colin Wells, RSPB site manager on the Dee Estuary Reserve, said conditions on the marsh were very brittle and dry, meaning the fire spread quickly.

"Part of the reed bed had been burnt and there were substantial areas of rushbeds and saltmarsh vegetation," he said.

"It's always a problem at this time of year if we have a dry spell, and the cold easterly winds had dried the vegetation out."

He added: "The area is important for nesting birds like reed warblers, reed buntings and water rail. They have lost their nesting areas.

"We have also got harvest mice, so they have lost their habitat and probably a lot of them have been burnt or killed."

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