VILLAGERS fear that children’s lives are at risk after a mine shaft collapsed in the middle of a nature reserve.
The crater left by the sunken works is now full of water and residents fear it may prove fatal to youngsters playing nearby.
Now cordoned off by coal chiefs after lying undetected for at least a week, the hole, at the Saltersford Valley Picnic Area, off Measham Road, Oakthorpe, is flooding the neighbouring reservoir with contaminated water.
The wetland is home to birds such as swans, moorhens and ducks, and is an integral part of the National Forest, an area renowned for its biodiversity.
Neighbour Nina Wood, who alerted the Mail to the collapsed shaft, said she discovered the hole while walking her dog.
The beautician, of Stretton View, Oakthorpe, said: “I saw a big puddle and orange water was just bubbling out of it. There was chicken wire around it and a sign saying ‘caution, mineshaft’.
It was also evident that although attempts have been made to dam the discharge, water from the hole continues to flow into the reservoir.
The site is surrounded by chicken wire attached to wooden staves and there is a sign which reads ‘The Coal Authority apologises for any inconvenience caused by these works’ and gives an emergency contact number.
Another notice says ‘danger, mineshaft; no entry no smoking’.
The Coal Authority was unable to comment, but a Leicestershire County Council spokesman said: “We are aware of an issue with a mine shaft at Saltersford Valley Picnic Area.
“The water coming out of the mine shaft contains iron oxide, which is not harmful to people or wildlife or, in its current levels, to fish or aquatic plants.
“We have been on site with the Coal Authority to give advice on how to contain the problem, and how to secure the area to ensure it is safe for people walking nearby.
“We are continuing to work with the Coal Authority to find a solution.”