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The Burgies

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The Burgies (or Burgy Bank) are a set of two slag heaps located in the Laffak area of St Helens, Merseyside. The two are divided by Islands Brow road and are bordered on the west side by the rail line connecting Liverpool Lime Street with Wigan North Western. They are on the site of the old Rushy Park coal mine noted as the first mine to use the revolutionary Anderton shearer-loader. The slag heaps were created by the dumping of toxic chemical waste from the manufacture of glass by the towns Pilkington company. The exact composition of the slag heaps is unknown but a land study showed it to contain various poisonous elements such as Arsenic, Lead and Cadmium. Technically the land is private property belonging to Pilkington but the public have access and regularly use it for various activities. The exact age of the Burgies is unknown, however it is understood that the second burgies is actually the oldest. This older one is sometimes referred to as "the dry Burgies" with the newer first burgies referred to as "the wet Burgies". These terms are used by older residents who remember the actual construction, as the first one is a drier waste with the second one being a thick liquid. This liquid was pumped through a pipe from Pilkington’s across the second Burgies to the site of the first Burgies. Boards were erected as moulds to hold the liquid until it dried and then moulds were built on top of these to allow more liquid to be placed on top.

Contents

Origin of Name

It has been suggested that the name came from a thick brown liquid oozing from the slag heaps shortly after the waste had been dumped that resembled Burgoo - a kind of porridge eaten in the 17th century by sailors. It is speculated that an ex-sailor may have noticed the resemblance and corrupted the word to "Burgy". The red mud present on top of the Burgies is also occasionally referred to as Burgoo, due to its viscous appearance.

Physical Appearance

The first Burgy is approximately 0.16 square kilometres (0.062 sq mi) and the second is approximately 0.17 square kilometres (0.066 sq mi). On the north side of the first Burgy there is a small lake (which is actually flood water over a horses field) near the meeting of Hinckley Road, Laffak Road and Chain lane, often referred to as the "Burgy Pond", surrounded by an area of flat land referred to as the "Corn Field" due the long grass which grows here. The Burgies are characterised by very steep sides on all sides of both heaps except for a path on the north side of the first heap, which has a shallower gradient, allowing for access. The tops of each are, for the most part, uniformly flat. The waste has been capped with around 1.5 metres of top soil and possibly clay beneath this but, at parts, there is exposed soil which has a red colour to it and has been given the name "Burgy Mud". This red colouring is one of the main characteristics of the Burgies. Although it has been capped, there is still a lot of run off of an unknown composition probably due to water soaking in and absorbing the chemicals within and then seeping out at the bottom.

Wildlife

Although it is a chemical dumping ground, the top soil placed on the top has allowed the whole of the first Burgy to be covered in woodland and grass with the second smaller one mostly covered in tall grass and small parts of woodland. This, as expected, has allowed populations of various mammals and birds to thrive . One notable example of a thriving population is the one of the wild rabbit. There have also been reports of magic mushrooms, such as the liberty cap, growing on the Burgies. This environment has provided a pleasant woodland area for the local people and is a favourite dog walking area.

Burgie sports and activities

The Burgies are very popular with people who own off road motorcycles and BMX bikes. There are many tracks, on both Burgies, that have been built by off road motorcycle racers to race their bikes. A notable site on the first Burgies is "The Jumps". This is a series of bike ramps and jumps built using logs and sand. Other notable sports include Burgy Surfing and Extreme Burgy Climbing. These are usually done on the second Burgies. Burgy Surfing involves surfing down the steep sides on various objects including sleds, boxes and car bonnets amongst other things. Extreme Burgy Climbing involves racing to the top of the steepest side, which is near vertical in parts. This is made very dangerous because the side is almost always slippery and the fact that most of the trees used to help climbing are dead and are easily uprooted resulting in very nasty falls. Death Sliding is one of the more popular activities and again is done on the second Burgies. This involves climbing to the top of the highest tree and tying a rope as high as can be tied. The other end of the rope is then anchored to the bottom of a tree some distance away, thus creating a death slide. Participants will then climb the tree with a crude sliding device, usually a V shaped stick, and place this over the rope enabling them to slide down the rope towards the ground at high speed like Snookerpool.

Burgy Action Group

There have been many plans to build houses on the site of the first Burgy by companies such as Barratt and more recently Woodford. However, concerns have been raised because construction on the land would require drilling into the core of the Burgies subsequently releasing dangerous chemicals into the atmosphere. The Burgy Action Group, a local action group made up of the people living close to the site, have successfully challenged the construction of homes on the land citing the dangerous nature of any chemicals released during construction. Another argument is the issue of wildlife. As of 2007 there are no other plans by other companies to build on the land.

References

The Burgies Wikipedia


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