Calderstones Park holds one of the finest tree collections in the North West, and is perhaps the best park for trees in Britain. Today we hoped to see a rarity in flower, the Golden Rain tree, also known as the Pride of India, Koelreuteria paniculata. We walked up Ballantrae Road, across Allerton Road, and entered the park at the south east edge, where I spotted my first Yew berry of the year. There’s a Davidia tree (Dove tree or Handkerchief tree) at the south end of the Text Garden, and a Tulip tree in the middle. The Text Garden was designed with low hedges spelling out words. They are now hard to make out on the ground because some bits are missing, but try it on Google Earth! It spells out the names of flowers (Lord and Ladies, Love in a Mist, Lilly of the Valley and another unreadable one). We also spotted a Speckled Wood here, and a neglected nest box, lidless and squirrel-chewed.
Behind a fence in a shady corner just before the café at the corner of the Mansion House is a tree that has been identified to me as the infrequent Moosewood, Acer pensylvanicum, but I’m not quite sure. The leaves are more like the commoner Grey-budded Snake-bark Maple Acer rufinerve, and Mitchell says “A Snake-bark with grey and pink bark is always this species”.
On the path approaching the ladies’ and disabled loos is a Black Walnut in fruit, and the Golden Rain tree is along there too, almost against the wall. It is supposed to be a small-to-medium tree, but this one is hemmed in by dark Yews and has bolted for the light. It needs binoculars to see the canopy properly, even while standing right under it. It is supposed to flowers in mid-August, and we were right on time, but Golden Rains only flower in some years, and this one hasn’t performed this year. It needs a chainsaw to be taken to the Yews to give it more light!
On the lawn outside the Coach House and Gallery is a small multi-trunked tree with large leaves that we thought was some sort of Lime until we saw the nuts with their floridly spiky cases, tucked coyly beneath the leaves. It’s clearly some sort of Hazel. It has to be a Turkish Hazel Corylus colerna.
Beneath the Ivy on the wall by the Gent’s we found about three shoots of the parasitic Ivy Broomrape. There’s an old Gingko beside a path in the Old English garden, sprouting from its base. There are grape vines there too, with tiny bunches of grapes, no bigger than petit pois. We lunched around the fishpond, attended by a boisterous gang of Grey Squirrels and a rather scruffy-looking Robin, who clearly knew all about lunch.
Near the café corner, behind the City Bike rack, is a Snowbell tree in early fruit. At one point there were four of us under it.
On the lake we noted only Canada Geese, Coot and Mallard. Some fishermen said it was stocked with Roach, Perch and big Carp, one making the classic fisherman’s gesture, indicating fish of about 18-24 inches. There is Water Figwort along the rails and a huge stand of Purple Loosestrife.
In the Bog Garden was a variegated Tulip tree, and what may have been a Lime-leafed Maple Acer distylum. I didn’t look at it properly, and I ought to come back for it sometime.
I was being distracted by a wonderful Caucasian Wingnut Pterocarya fraxinifolia with its masses of hanging seeds.
It seems to be a very good year for tree seeds. There were heaps of immature Alder cones and both kinds of Walnut were in fruit. I didn’t notice much in the way of acorns, although it might be too early yet. The Beeches are covered with brown seed cases which aren’t open, but they feel a bit flat.
Corpse of the Day was a dead Wood Pigeon, probably a Sparrowhawk kill, but there weren’t many feathers about. In the rockery we noted a Paper-bark Maple, and a bit further we admired what was probably a Silver Pendent Lime Tilia petiolaris. Then we were stopped in our tracks by a tall Swamp Cypress Taxodium dischitum.
Right next to it was a mature Tulip Tree with just a few late flowers. We thought we’d missed them this year, so this was a bonus.
Then we headed back past the Allerton Oak and home the way we came, via Ballantrae Road.
Public transport details: Bus 86 from Liverpool ONE bus station at 10.15, arriving Mather Avenue / Ballantrae Road at 10.50. Returned on 86A from Mather Avenue / Storrsdale Road at 3.03, arriving City Centre 3.35.
Next few weeks:
21st Aug, no Sunday walk, MNA coach to Blacktoft Sands.
28th Aug, Hilbre Island. Meet 10.20am Central Station for the 10.35 train.
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, 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.