Today we walked the first stretch of the Wirral Way, Hooton to Hadlow Road and back. It’s a linear path, the former route of the old Hooton to West Kirkby line of the Birkenhead railway. It closed in 1962, anticipating the Beeching cuts of 1963, and re-opened as the Wirral Way in 1973.
It was cool and shady under the trees, and very quiet. We encountered a few cyclists and walkers, but often there was nobody but us. There were hardly any birds, either. Once or twice we heard a Blackbird chipping its muted warning from the deep hedgerow, a young Robin crossed the path and we had a glimpse of a Buzzard passing overhead. The greatest wildlife interest was the flowers. The banks were lined with Meadow Sweet, Red Campion, Rosebay Willowherb, Hogweed, Great Willowherb, Bindweed, Tufted Vetch, Red Clover, Nettle and Goosegrass.
In one spot there were a couple of bushes of the alien Japanese Rose, Rosa rugosa, with its purplish flowers, but which ecologists are keeping an eye on in case it turns out to be invasive. The Brambles are in their second flush of blooming, and some of the flowers were pink instead of the usual white.
Less usual flowers were Hedge Woundwort and the delightfully-named Enchanter’s Nightshade. We also spotted many climbing vines of Black Bryony with big bunches of unripe green berries, looking almost like young grapes. They have had a very good year. It’s usually later when we notice it, after the berries have turned red.
Under the larger trees were several small trees or bushes, looking fairly uninteresting, but I bet these are the important native food plants for butterflies, like Buckthorn and Spindle. I must get better at identifying them. The only butterflies we saw were a few Large Whites and a Gatekeeper. There were also a couple of dragonflies, probably Common Hawkers. We stopped to look at a narrow path down the bank on one side which appeared to join up with one in the undergrowth on the other side. It was too narrow for kids to have made, so did it belong to a fox or a badger? Both are said to live around this area.
Hadlow Road is a preserved railway station near Willaston, operating as a visitors’ centre with picnic tables and loos. There are House Sparrows there, hopping about and hoping for discarded crumbs.
Then we retraced our steps back to Hooton. Behind the sign near the steps up to the road there is an uncommon Orange-berried Rowan.
Public transport details: Train from Central Station at 10.15 towards Chester, arriving Hooton at 10.45. Returned from Hooton on the train at 1.58, arriving Central Station at 2.30.