It was Heritage Open Day, a chance to see inside buildings that are usually private. From the bus stop in Tuebrook we walked up Green Lane in a fine drizzle, past my old primary school. In the corner of the lawn of Stoneycroft United Reform Church was a Hazel tree, bearing just a few sparse poorly-formed hazelnuts. I have been told that the nuts don’t develop in Liverpool, the soil is wrong, but this Hazel is trying!
We were heading for Lister Drive library, the public library that my brother and I went to every week when we were children in the 1950s and 1960s. It’s one of the libraries donated by the millionaire philanthropist Andrew Carnegie and it opened in 1905. It was wonderfully ornate, and is a Grade II Listed Building. Sadly, by 2006 it had deteriorated due to underfunding, and was closed. Now, with the help of a grant of £3.9 million from the National Lottery (with additional funding from Liverpool City Council, the Hornby Trust and the Eleanor Rathbone Charitable Trust) it has been leased to the community group “Lister Steps” and is being renovated for use as a children’s nursery and Community hub.
We headed to the nearby Newsham Park for lunch. The small boating lake was being used by some members of the model boat club, who were driving their model battleship about. Happily, they were careful not to disturb several Mallards, a family of Coots with three young ones, and three Mute Swans, one with a blue Darvic ring 4DCP on its right leg. It was reported to Steve Christmas of the NW Swan Study, who replied that 4DCP was ringed as a male cygnet on 19 Sep 2018 at Sefton Park and was also recorded at Newsham Park on 13 Jun 2019.
Then we walked along Gardner’s Drive. There was a call of a Ring-necked Parakeet and then we spotted a couple of them flying overhead. That’s the first time we’ve seen them in Newsham Park, although they are spreading rapidly through Merseyside. A Robin was singing from the shrubbery. Is it starting to establish a territory already? There was a dark-backed gull on the grassy verge, stamping its feet to bring up the worms. Most of us were sure it was a Lesser Black-backed Gull but our expert John was adamant that if it had pink legs and a red spot on its beak it was a Herring Gull, darkish back notwithstanding.
There were a few young trees which had been planted two or three years ago in fencing cages. Such protective cages prevent normal mowing of the grass around the trees, so they get ragged, untidy weeds filling the inside space. To our surprise, each of the six young trees seemed to have different plants growing around them. One looked like it had had yellow Rapeseed flowers, while another was still blue with Borage. The others were different again, but we couldn’t tell what they had been from the gone-over remains. Is this guerrilla planting? A project by the Friends of the Park?
It is turning out to be a very good year for the autumn berry crop. Several Swedish Whitebeams were heavy with berries, which were still orange, not yet red. A nearby tree was thickly covered with red berries like Haws, but the leaves were wrong for Hawthorn, not lobed at all. Each fruit had a single large seed. I think it was probably a Broad-leaved Cockspur Thorn Crataegus persimilis ‘Prunifolia’.
Then we made our way back over the big field to the bus stop. A flock of about 30 Starlings flew up into the trees and made a lot of twittering and whistling. Several dozen Black-headed Gulls loitered in the open field, and there was one Common Gull standing off on its own, as is typical for the species.
Public transport details: Bus 15 from Queen Square at 10.01, arriving West Derby Road / Green Lane at 10.15. Returned from West Derby Road / New Road on the 12 bus at 1.38, arriving Liverpool City Centre at 2.05.
Next few weeks:
23rd September, Calderstones Park and Strawberry Fields. Meet at Liverpool ONE bus station at 10 am
Anyone is welcome to come out with the Sunday Group. It is not strictly part of the MNA, although it has several overlapping members. We go out by public transport to local parks, woods and nature reserves all over Merseyside, and occasionally further afield. We are mostly pensioners, so the day is free on our bus passes, and we enjoy fresh air, a laugh and a joke, a slow amble in pleasant surroundings and sometimes we even look at the wildlife!
If you want to join a Sunday Group walk, pack lunch, a flask, waterproofs, binoculars if you have them, a waterproof pad to sit on if we have to have lunch on the grass or a wet bench (A garden kneeler? A newspaper in a plastic bag?), and wear stout shoes or walking boots. We are usually back in Liverpool City Centre by 4pm at the latest.
If you are interested in the wildlife of the north-west of England and would like to join the walks and coach trips run by the Merseyside Naturalists’ Association, see the main MNA website for details of our programme and how to join us.