Reynolds Park, 5th August 2018

Yet another hot and sunny day, so we ambled slowly down Woolton Hill Road and Church Road, past the water tower on Reservoir Road. That’s the highest point in Liverpool at 292 feet (89 m).

On that corner is a pair of old township boundary markers or “mere stones”. They are of unknown date, but probably ancient, and are now very hard to read. They show Much Woolton on the left and Little Woolton on the right.

Reynolds Park in Woolton in south Liverpool was once the private 14-acre garden of the wealthy Liverpool cotton traders, the Reynolds family. The last owner gave it to the city in 1929 and it is now a very well-manicured little public park. There is a published tree trail, and we spotted many of their signposted trees as we went around – Common Walnut with lots of seeds, an elegant Black Walnut, some oaks and an Italian Alder. At the eastern end they have planted a wildflower meadow, and we noted Cornflower, Toadflax, Teasel, Ragwort, Corn Marigold, Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Ragwort, Wild Carrot and a new one on me, Sneezewort, also known as Bachelor’s Buttons.



Several butterflies were flitting about over the meadow, including some whites, a probable Common Blue and this lovely Small Copper on a Ragwort.

At the far eastern end are the splendid Queen’s Jubilee gates, installed in 2012 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of her reign.

Overhanging the Jubilee gates is a big old Poplar tree. Is that a rare native Black Poplar, or the more common hybrid?  In 18th century France the Black Poplar met the American Eastern Cottonwood, and now there are very few pure Black Poplars left. The hybrid is said to be taller and straighter than the native, and this tree was definitely low and spreading, suggesting a native. The other distinguishing feature is that the hybrid has no burrs on its trunk. Sadly, we didn’t look that closely, so we can’t be sure which it is.

We lunched in the magnificent Walled Garden, a sun-trap of roses, dahlias and a colourful herbaceous border. There are several notable trees here, including a Tulip Tree, a Chinese Dogwood, a huge Judas Tree by one of the gateways and a young Indian Bean. Outside, on the sunken lawn below the ha-ha there is a collection of specimen trees, including several Sweetgum Liquidambar styraciflua and a wilting Persian Ironwood Persica parrotia. It is known for its magnificent bronze autumn colour, but it’s hard to tell if this one is just suffering from the drought or starting to turn for the autumn.

There was a young Pin Oak Quercus palustris in an upright cage. The leaf is obviously oak-like, but deeply indented with points or pins at the ends of the lobes. I’ve never seen or heard of an upright or “fastigiate” variety, as this one appeared to be, and there are none mentioned in my tree books, so maybe this one will grow outwards as it matures.

The final tree tick for the day was an Antarctic Beech Nothofagus antarctica, with tiny leaves about an inch (2.5 cm) long and seed cases only a quarter of an inch (7 mm) across. It appears to have fruited well in this hot summer.

Then we walked down Church Road to Woolton Village for the bus. We often see hordes of “Beatle” tourists about in Woolton, but there were none today.

Public transport details: Bus 75 from Great Charlotte Street at 10.06, arriving Woolton Road / Rockbourne Road at 10.30. Returned from Woolton Village on the 75 at 2.05, arriving City Centre at 2.25.

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Southport, 29th July 2018

Well, that’s the heatwave broken, and it was pouring with rain. We had planned to go to Freshfield  but we stayed on the train to Southport, where there was a least some chance of shelter. The rain had reduced to a drizzle by the time we arrived at the southern arm of the Marine Lake. No exciting birds, just lots of fed-up-looking ones loafing on the edge – Mallards (including two tall black ones), Canada Geese, Herring Gulls, Black-backed gulls and Black-headed Gulls – and a large flotilla of Coots out in the middle. Over 50 Mute Swans were clustered and preening, so we recorded all the Darvic ring numbers we could see, all blue on the right leg: 4BUA, 4CHU, 4CSF, 4CLH, 4CSJ, 4CLI. They have been reported to the North West Swan Study.

We greeted a large party of Asian mothers (many in saris) who had brought their children on a day out from Birmingham. Not a good day for the seaside!  The Swan and Flamingo pleasure boats and the water bikes were moored and unwanted on the other side of the lake.

It started raining heavily again so we huddled in a shelter to eat our lunch. A Heron and two Swifts flew over. As the clouds started clearing from the south we crossed the Venetian Bridge and noted that one of the supporting islands had a few Greylag geese which were sitting amongst Ragwort and Burdock. One Moorhen bobbed about and a Swallow flew past. There were more Greylags around the Ocean Plaza retail park, a Dunnock, flocks of Starlings and one chirpy Pied Wagtail.

To our surprise, the tide was in. You don’t often see the sea at Southport!  The Spartina grass is spreading, and the beach might be a salt marsh soon.

The best birds were a small whirring flock of Dunlin. Then it started raining again, so we called it a day.

By the way, some of us had heard an item on Radio Merseyside in the week about the planting of a rare tree in Speke Hall, that the report called only “the dinosaur tree”, saying there were only 12 of them left in the world. I looked the news up, and it was about the Wollemi Pine. There are only 12 in the wild, but since they were discovered in Australia in 1994 they have been widely propagated world-wide. It’s still a pretty rare tree, though. Speke Hall’s website says it is in the “secret garden” through a tunnel off the North Lawn.

Public transport details: Train from Central at 10.23, arriving Southport 11.15. Some returned to Liverpool on the train but three of us got the X2 bus from Lord Street at 1.44, which got me home at about 2.45.

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Eastham, 22nd July 2018

Our bus took us past the Cammell Laird’s shipyard and from the top deck we got a good view of the new polar research vessel Sir David Attenborough being fitted out in the dry dock.  Eastham is on the west bank of the river Mersey, opposite Liverpool John Lennon airport. It was the site of the ancient first ferry, which ran until 1928. My mother remembered going to the pleasure gardens there. Since 1973 it has been a Country Park, with 100 acres of broadleaf woodland containing some of the largest mature trees in Merseyside, especially Oak, Beech and Sweet Chestnut. It also provides spectacular views across to Liverpool.

We walked alongside the Leverhulme Sports Ground but at the junction we didn’t go straight ahead to the Visitors’ Centre, as we usually do, but cut diagonally into the open field. We stopped to inspect the piles of wood chippings on the corner, hoping for fungi. There was a large ring of slim white gilled mushrooms on the top of one of the piles – they smelled like edible mushrooms but I bet they weren’t!  Our route then took us into the southern part of the woods, following a path which looped northwards alongside Ferry Road. Considering it’s only July, there were many interesting fungi popping out all through the woods, which I’d usually expect to see in more autumnnal months. The bracket fungus with the chestnut top and white underside is Artist’s Bracket Ganoderma applanatum, I think, and we also saw Chicken of the Woods Laetiporus sulphureus and what appeared to be a Stinkhorn Phallus impudicus, which a previous forager had pulled up and carefully laid on a stump.

Chicken of the Woods


We also noted an unusual rounded red one growing out of the roots of an oak tree. It didn’t have gills, but felt spongy underneath. I think it’s the Beefsteak or Ox Tongue fungus Fistulina hepatica, which is said to infect oak.

Other signs of autumn included the first red berries of Rowan trees on sunny roadsides, conkers growing on Horse Chestnut trees and ripening blackberries.

Although the heatwave goes on, today started cooler. It was shady in the woods, but when we came out into the open area to have lunch on the picnic tables, we felt the strength of the sunshine. On the river side of the car park there is a notable tree, a Western Hemlock Tsuga heterophylla. The leaves are rather Yew-like, but scattered randomly along the twigs and it has little woody cones rather like Alder. The new green cones of this year were also amongst them.

We popped into the Visitor’s Centre to check out the birds. They come to feeders, set out behind a big picture window in the back room. Today’s visitors were nearly all Great Tits, Blue Tits and a few Coal Tits, either fledglings or scruffy-looking adults. I was told there had been a Siskin but I missed it!  But if the birds were disappointing, we made up for it in butterflies. On the young oak scrub by a  dead tree stump overlooking the river we spotted two or three Purple Hairstreaks. This one sat obligingly to be photographed, but wouldn’t open its wings to show the dark purple upperwings.

We have talked about Purple Hairstreaks before, and sometimes gone to where they were reputed to be, but this is the first time most of us have ever seen one. A lifer! They seem to be increasing locally – just in the last few days I have seen reports of them newly colonising Ainsdale Dune Heath and the footpath between Little Crosby and Ince woods. Other butterflies seen today included Small White, Speckled Wood and a Comma by the gate into the industrial estate. When I arrived home my Buddleia was hosting a shy Gatekeeper and a magnificent “in-your-face” Peacock.

Public transport details: Bus X8 from Sir Thomas Street at 10.20, arriving New Chester Road / opp Woodyear Road at 10.50. Returned from New Chester Road / Allport Road (outside Christ the King RC church) at 2.35, arriving Liverpool 3.10.

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Newsham Park, 15th July 2018

Another hot and sunny day, no surprises there! The main fishing lake in Newsham Park was clogged with an algal bloom, which uses up the oxygen available for other life. There were two dead birds in the water, one was probably a Coot, the other a young Mallard. There weren’t many live birds on the water, no Mallards, just a few Coots and Moorhen, and a small family of Canada Geese which appeared to be munching on the algae.

Otherwise there were only the ubiquitous Feral Pigeons, Wood Pigeons and several Grey Squirrels. A Speckled Wood butterfly flitted past and a large, fast Dragonfly might have been an Emperor. On the other side of the bridge we had more bird variety with a Mute Swan and we were surprised to see a Heron above it, perched on a Weeping Willow.

One Horse Chestnut tree was showing an early infestation of the leaf miner, but another tree further on was almost free of it.

Swifts were flying over the model boating lake, which is much more wildlife-friendly than it used to be, with patches of reed on the eastern side, interspersed with Great Willowherb and Purple Loosestrife. There was a Common Blue Damselfly poised on a dead reed.

A tree next to the fence had a dead trunk and crown, but new growth was sprouting from the base, and it looked like Wych Elm. There was a Jay on the parched grass at the junction of Lister Drive and Orphan Drive.

By the entrance to the boating lake, opposite the café, is a small flower garden. There was a huge numbers of bees on the Lavender and one of many Large White butterflies on the Lace-cap Hydrangea.

Last week in my garden I saw one each of Red Admiral, Peacock and Painted Lady, but there have been dozens of Large Whites. It’s a good year for them. After lunch we walked through the streets of Fairfield, impressed by the superb avenue of mature Common Lime trees lining Elm Vale.

We finished the day at St Sebastian’s church barbeque and garden party in Lilley Road, where a friend was manning the plant stall.

Public transport details: Bus 13 from Queen Square at 10.05, arriving West Derby Road / Windsor Road at 10.20. Returned from Prescot Road / Lilley Road on the 10A at 2.35, arriving Liverpool 2.50.

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Coach Trip Conwy Valley Change of Time


Sat 14th July Coach. Cwm Penamnen – Blaenau, Conwy Valley.

Type: Coach Trip

Where we are meeting: 8.30 Rocket (Crimpers), 8.45 William Brown Street, 9.00 Conway Park Station, 9.15 Bromborough Village.

Cost: £20

Do I need to book? Yes with Coach Secretary Seema Aggarwhal Tel: 07984 231059 or if no answer with Christine Barton Tel: 07854 776421

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Tam O’Shanter Urban Farm and Flaybrick Cemetery, 8th July 2018

It’s been hot and sunny for several weeks, and we are apparently going through the longest dry spell since 1976. From the bus stop we walked through a shady woodland along King George’s Way. (King George V and Queen Mary opened the pathway to Bidston on Wednesday 25th March 1914, the same day they visited Port Sunlight.) The woods were oddly silent, with hardly any birds heard or seen. There was the odd cooing of Wood Pigeons, the distant cackle of a Magpie, the brief call of a Great Spotted Woodpecker and we found a blue barred Jay feather on the path. We saw only a pair of Dunnocks in a tree and a Gull flying lazily over a meadow. There were lots of Large White butterflies on the wing, though, and we have all seen plenty of them in our gardens. A large Dragonfly went past, possibly an Emperor. All the trees were looking droopy and parched, with the younger saplings shrivelling up to a premature autumn. The Brambles have set plentiful seed, but if there is no rain soon the blackberries won’t be able to swell.

Tam O’Shanter Urban Farm started life as an old cottage, thought to be about 300 years old, built by a heath squatter. It was destroyed by fire in 1954 and 1975, then restored. Its name comes from a carving set into the wall showing Tam O’Shanter (from the Robbie Burns poem) escaping a witch by crossing water.

The farm now has goats, pigs, guinea pigs, ducks, turkeys and geese.

There is also a model cow with fake udders and a piped water system, designed to show children where milk comes from.  Not from bottles in a supermarket!

We lunched at their convenient picnic tables, where a Robin was hanging around for crumbs. Another of the farm buildings is an old Nissen hut, with an amazing white blossomy dome over it. It’s some sort of Rose, apparently, and this hot weather is really suiting it.

Flaybrick Memorial Gardens started life as a prestigious High Victorian cemetery for the merchant classes of Birkenhead. It was designed by Edward Kemp, a leading designer of parks and gardens, who was also responsible for Castle Park in Frodsham, Anfield Cemetery, Grosvenor Park in Chester, Newsham Park, Stanley Park and Hesketh Park in Southport. It is Grade II listed.

It is now treated as a nature reserve and has an active Friends group who have been planting interesting trees in the last few decades, turning it into a mini-arboretum. The current Conservation Management Plan has a guide to the trees in “Volume 4 Appendices“. Go to Appendix C, which has a comprehensive tree survey from page 29 onwards, with a useful map. We walked a different way than we usually do, heading towards the north end. We had a fleeting glimpse of a Comma butterfly. One of their signature tree species is the Silver Pendent Lime Tilia tomentosa ‘Petiolaris’, with many examples around the chapel end. One is the County Champion for girth.

Other notable trees were several Pyramidal Hornbeams and the Pear tree which produces copious edible fruits later in the year. There were plenty of baby pears on the tree, but many had fallen and some were quite shrivelled up.

There is a rare Orange-berried Service Tree by a large war grave, a Champion Tibetan Cherry and a young Swamp Cypress. The pair of Cut-leaved Beeches at the main crossing have produced a bumper crop of small seed cases, but will the drought allow them to develop?

On the way home I had another look at the mystery tree in Queen Square next to New Look. I once  thought that it might be a Pagoda tree, but now I think it’s a Honey Locust Gleditsia triacanthos ‘Sunburst’. This week it was putting out stalks of small red flowers and some of them appeared to be developing into pods.

Liverpool buys new street trees from Barcham’s tree nursery, and I recently bought myself a copy of their catalogue, reasoning that any unidentified newly-planted tree in Liverpool ought to be shown in it. ‘Sunburst’ is a new variety of Honey Locust, with no spines, yellow young leaves and is said to do well in a hard-surfaced area with lots of glare. That sounds right, and we will be keeping an eye on the developing seed pods later in the year.

Public transport details: Bus 437 from Sir Thomas Street at 10.19, arriving Upton Road / Boundary Road at 10.41. Returned on the 437 from Upton Road / Boundary Road at 2.17, arriving Liverpool 2.40.

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MNA Coach Trip Miller’s Dale Derbyshire 23rd June 2018

A wildlife packed day walking the Monsaldale Trail along Miller’s Dale – the third in our series of Derbyshire Dales. Some of our long standing members mentioned that we had in fact visited here before – way back in 1994! Good views of an adult and juvenille Dipper and Grey Wagtails on the River Wye. Woodland birds are now singing less but we did hear Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Garden Warbler along with a Sedge Warbler in a reedy area. A really extensive wildflower list, butterflies including Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Common Blue, Speckled Wood and even Brown Argus. Insects were enjoying the sunny glades and umbellifer heads with Ichneumon Wasps, Sawflies and gazzilion Hoverflies.

Dyers Greenweed

Greater Knapweed

Bloody Cranesbill


Devil’s-bit Scabious

Rust Fungus Puccinia poarum on the leaves of Colt’s-foot Tussilago farfara

Blue Bottle Calliphora vomitoria

Sawfly Tenthredo livida

Lime Green Sawfly Tenthredo mesomelas

Red Legged Shieldbug Pentatoma rufipes – final instar nymph

Drone Fly – Eristalis tenax – female

Tachina fera

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.

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MNA Coach Trip South Stack 9th June 2018

Fabulous visit to South Stack RSPB reserve with some lucky members viewing Orcas! As well as the tiers of nesting Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittewakes, Fulmars etc. there was plenty of activity from Choughs and a whole host of minibeasts and wildflowers. Here’s a few pics from the day.

The Lackey Malacosoma neustria

Leaf Beetle Cryptocephalus aureolus

Harry & Les examining a Rose Chafer Cetonia aurata

Rose Chafer Cetonia aurata

English Stonecrop Sedum anglicum

Yellow-tail Euproctis similis


Corpse of the Day – Common Shrew Sorex araneus

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.


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Port Sunlight and New Ferry Butterfly Park, 10th June 2018

On another wonderfully warm and sunny day we went to Port Sunlight with yet more trees in mind. Port Sunlight is a model village built for the workers at the Sunlight Soap factory by William Hesketh Lever from 1888 onwards. It is now a conservation area with a wonderful stock of Arts and Crafts houses and the Lady Lever Art Gallery. Near the south end of the estate is a small valley called The Dell, with some fine specimen trees. There is a Gingko and a very large Tulip tree, which we were delighted to see was in flower. Amazingly, the flowers smell of chocolate!

Two adjacent Lime trees appeared to be from different species. The one with the sprouting, twiggy trunk and flower stalks hanging down was a Common Lime Tilia x europaea while the one with a clean trunk and sticky-up flowers was a Small-leaved Lime Tilia cordata. Limes are very hard to distinguish, but they are easiest at this time of year.

Small-leaved Lime with flowers sticking up

Near the bridge was a small Swamp Cypress, with a Dawn Redwood on the opposite bank. By the side of the path was the only surviving puddle in the area, which was a magnet for a bathing Blackbird, a family of Blue Tits, a Chaffinch and a Goldfinch. Beyond the bridge was a Honey-Locust Gleditsia triacanthos with long, fierce spines on its trunk.  The Antarctic Beech, which we remember well from previous visits, was nowhere to be found (has it died?) and we have never spotted the Wollemi Pine, which is rumoured to be here. One tree, which we had never noticed before, is something of a mystery. It’s not much more than a rounded bush yet, bearing “ace of spades” leaves with red tinges and reddish stalks. The branches were notably smooth to touch and the leaves appeared to be arranged in threes. There was no sign of any flowers or fruit to give us a clue. It could be something quite unusual, because it’s in a place where they plant interesting specimens. I have an idea that it might be a young Dove Tree / Handkerchief Tree, which is just the sort of thing they would plant there, but we will need to keep an eye on it in the future.

As we were passing Christ Church we spotted a very large-leaved tree. Blow me, I think it was the very rare Moose-bark Maple Acer pensylvanicum! It’s by the fence off Church Drive, with a sign saying it was planted by the Women’s Institute. There were no visible seeds to confirm the ID, and the bark didn’t look like it belonged to the snake-bark group, but the large three-pointed leaves were very characteristic.

The churchyard had several Weeping Ashes, each with big bunches of forming seeds called “ash keys”. It seems to be a bumper year for Ash seeds. Were the Weeping Ashes all planted at the same time? They look similar to each other, but perhaps they aren’t as old as the church, which was built 1902-1904. William Hesketh Lever was a member of the congregation and both he and his wife are buried in “The Founders Tomb” attached to the church.

We lunched in the Rose Garden at the south end of the central drive. All along towards the Lady Lever Art Gallery is a double avenue of Limes. They weren’t twiggy at their bases so they weren’t  Common Limes, but the seeds were all hanging down, so they weren’t Small-leaved Limes. The leaves were dark green and dull, while the forming seeds showed signs of five ridges. Could they all be Large-leaved Limes?

In the sheltered central courtyard of the Garden Centre there is an old Olive tree in a huge planter, which may be the only Olive on Merseyside. It won’t fruit in this climate, though. There is also an Indian Bean Tree at the exit, near where they sell the garden sheds. The leaves are huge, and it is just showing early flower buds.

By the War Memorial and along The Causeway are five False Acacia trees Robinia pseudoacacia. They blossom like Laburnum, but all white. Their flowers are sometimes only thinly-produced, but they are having a spectacular year, and look magnificent just now.

Then we wandered along Greendale Road to the Judas Tree between numbers 32 and 31. It is an unusually big tree for its species, but sadly it looks like it is in some distress. There were some late flowers still hanging on, though.

The New Ferry Butterfly Park occupies some old railway sidings just over the road from Port Sunlight. They have planted all the food plants required by our native butterflies, on the principle of “build it and they will come”. It seems to be working.

They also have a pond containing many Smooth Newts, which are regularly netted by kids doing pond-dipping, before being returned to the water. The poor creatures must be used to it by now. Two species of Damsel Fly, the Common Blue and the Blue-Tailed, were there in good numbers, some mating, and all moving far too fast for a picture. There were also several individuals of the dragonfly Broad-bodied Chaser, with blue males and brown females. Then our first butterfly, a Meadow Brown.

Dog roses were out, both pink ones and a dark red variety.

The meadows held both Marsh Orchids and this one, which some thought was a Pyramidal Orchid, but which might be one of the Spotted species.

Several Brimstone butterflies were seen in rapid flight, and we identified a small tree that is one of their food plants, the Alder Buckthorn. The leaves are wider near the tip and the flowers are clustered against the stem. Just as we had decided what the tree was, a Brimstone flew over and landed at the top, confirming our ID.

Wild flowers included Hogweed, Bramble, Valerian, and this lovely Viper’s Bugloss.

There were Speckled Woods in the shady areas, and our best find of the day was this splendid male Large Skipper, sunning itself on Bramble and hoping to attract a mate.

Public transport details: Train from Central at 10.15 towards Chester, arriving Port Sunlight station at 10.32. Returned on the train from Bebington Station at 2.52, arriving Liverpool Central at 3.07.

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Childwall woods and fields, 3rd June 2018

Childwall is a suburban village in south Liverpool, mentioned in the Domesday book and older than Liverpool itself. We wondered if Childwall Woods were ancient woodland, but the nature reserve signboard says they were planted in the 1700s as part of the garden of Childwall Hall. On a hot and sunny day we welcomed the cool shade with its continuous birdsong – Robin, Chaffinch and probably lots of other we couldn’t identify. The woods are mostly a mix of tall Beech and Sweet Chestnut trees, with an understory of Rhododendron and Privet. The leaves of the Rhododendrons were all clean, with no sign yet of the Cushion Scale Insect infestation Pulvinaria floccifera, which makes the leaves black and sticky. There was a lot of it about when we were last there in June 2015 and we have often seen it since when we were out and about, and some of us have had it in our gardens. The edges of the paths had lots of Wood Avens, also known as Herb Bennet Geum urbanum, with small yellow flowers and round heads of hooked seeds.

Then we emerged into the sunny open fields, which were covered in Buttercups.

The damp patches had clumps of Goat Willow and Yellow Flag, Brambles were starting to flower, and the drier parts had masses of Ragged Robin.

In amongst the tall grass and flowers were several orchids. The flower heads were purple and conical and some said they could see spots on the lower leaves. The signboard said the meadows supported both Common Spotted and Southern Marsh Orchids, and we thought they were probably the latter.

This is the sort of place where we would expect to see Swallows, Swifts or Martins zipping about for the insects over the meadows, but there were none. Are they still all held up by bad weather on their migration route? They are very late!  The Elder flowers were coming out, but they hadn’t started producing their scent yet. We thought that one of the small wayside trees was a Downy Birch Betula pubescens, with upright branches and brown bark. The Hogweed and Cow Parsley lining the paths made a marvellous display.

There are said to be 16 species of butterfly here, but all we saw was a small white one, whose underwings looked like it was a Green-veined White, but which had dark spots on the upper wings, so was probably a Small White. A Chiffchaff was calling, and we stopped to listen to a loud bird call from the trees below. It was repeating in threes and fours, but it wasn’t very inventive or melodious. Surprisingly, we heard the same kind of song in the same place three years ago, and thought it might have been an unskilled young Song Thrush. Could it be the same bird three years later, who has learned nothing, or a younger generation with the same poor taste in song, or is it something else altogether?  From that spot there is a good view north-eastwards over to Huyton Church tower in a wooded dip and Prescot Church spire on the skyline.

We lunched in the Garden of Remembrance behind Childwall All Saints church. It’s Grade 1 listed and the only mediaeval church in Liverpool, with a 14th century chancel and a 15th century south aisle and porch.

The Bird Cherry tree there was just past its flowering, but in late June 2015, nearly 3 weeks later in the year, it had just been coming out. We looked at several trees in the churchyard. A purple-leaved one seemed to be an obvious Sycamore variety, but the new seeds had their wings straight out, just like a Field Maple. The leaves were far too big for that, and there is no suggestion in any of my tree books of a purple form of the Field Maple, so I guess it was just an aberrant Sycamore.  Another tree had us foxed. It had narrow shiny green leaves, alternate, with pale undersides, and a few dangling strings of pale brown woody-looking catkins. We thought it was something from a hot climate, and at home I looked up things like Olive, Bay and Portuguese Laurel, but now I think it was just a Holm Oak, looking untypical because it was spring-fresh. Our third interesting tree was some kind of young Fir near the War Memorial. The upright fat cones near the top of the tree were covered in bracts and looked unstable, as if they were about to disintegrate. The needles were all upswept. Those cones suggest one of the Silver Firs, genus Abies, while the upswept needles mean it was probably the common Silver Fir Abies alba. However, all those conifers are still a bit of a mystery to me!

We headed up past the Childwall Abbey pub, with a Buzzard soaring overhead, and re-entered the woods by a different entrance. A pair of Speckled Wood butterflies were courting in a patch of sunshine. A Jay flew into the top of a nearby tree.  On the trunk of a fallen Beech was a couple of slimy yellow patches, each about 2″ (5 cm) across, probably the unpleasantly-named Dog Vomit Slime Mould, Fuligo septica.

Near the Woolton Road roundabout there used to be two huge and overgrown Leyland Cypress trees, a hazard to traffic when one fell, and its twin has now been cut down. They have recently been replaced by two much smaller and daintier trees, still with their nursery labels attached. One is a pink-flowering Cherry Prunus ‘Accolade’, while the other is a white-blossomed Pear Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’. According to “London’s Street Trees” by Paul Wood, the Chanticleer Pear is now much-planted in London and is one of the most common street trees in New York City. The “survivor tree” from the 9/11 attacks is a Chanticleer Pear. Finally, we hoped to “tick” Laburnum, which we have unaccountably failed to note for the last few weeks while it was flowering magnificently, and we still didn’t see any on our walk today, but there were plenty in the suburban gardens, spotted from the bus on the way back into town.

Public transport details: Bus 75 from Liverpool ONE bus station at 10.25, arriving Woolton Road / Childwall Park Avenue at 10.50. Returned from Woolton Road opposite Cabot Green on the 78 bus at 2.20, arriving City Centre at 2.45.

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