Eastham Woods, 4th December 2022

It was a cold and murky day with a penetrating north-east wind and odd spots of rain, but it was calm and sheltered in the woods. The last time we were here was almost a year ago, on 12th December 2021, in the wake of storms Arwen and Barra. Many trees had come down. They have tidied them up a bit, but many logs and stumps have been left to rot, the brash has been collected into woodpiles and there are now large glades which will be open to the sun (and new growth) in the years to come.

Down by the shores of the Mersey, outside the Eastham Ferry Hotel, we found out how sheltered the woods had been. It was cold! There were just two Mallards in the water, and a few Redshanks flew in with their piping calls. We were almost end-on to the runway at Liverpool John Lennon Airport and visibility was so poor that they had put all their landing lights on.

The Visitors’ Centre was still not open. It seems to have been closed for at least a year. We were looking forward to being inside and looking out at the birds in their garden. We wondered if the birds were still being fed, and so we went around the back, peered through the fence and hedge and were disappointed to see everything looking neglected, and the feeders hanging empty. What a shame. There were fallen leaves of a Tulip Tree on the ground back there, but we couldn’t find the tree itself. We had seen the leaves on the display board in the Visitors’ Centre in previous visits but had never found the tree. Perhaps it is in the ranger’s neglected garden or the adjacent Café garden.

The big stone steps there are a relic of the old Victorian Pleasure Garden. There is an interesting sign up about it, and a blue plaque to the high-wire superstar of the day, Blondin, who performed here in his heyday.

We walked north almost as far as Riverwood Road then doubled back along the northern path. This is supposed to be a bluebell wood, so we should come again in spring to see that. The woods are all Beech here, and have a darker, more coppery look, especially with the low midwinter light.

Public transport details: All Wirral buses were moved to Queen Square because today’s Santa Dash was to run down Sir Thomas Street.  Bus 1 at 9.58 towards Chester. During the journey this bus changed its route identity to an X1, but it arrived in any case at 10.35 at New Chester Road / opp Woodyear Road. Returned from New Chester Road / Allport Road on the number 1 bus at 1.30, arriving Liverpool 2.05.

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 www.mnapage.info for details of our programme and how to join us.

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West Kirby, 27th November 2022

We expected that going to West Kirby would be like a trip to the seaside, but we found lots of  digging along South Parade, both north and south of the Dee Lane slipway. The whole walk along the promenade was blocked off by barriers, as part of the flood protection works. The nearest we came to it was a small part of the Marine Lake by the watersports centre. On the pontoon, amongst the Black-headed Gulls, was a single Turnstone, but then about forty more flew in and they began to pick along the seaweedy edge.

We almost missed the LittleEgret, which was fishing right by the sea wall. There was nobody walking along the lake side, so there were no gawkers hanging over the railing to look at it and it could hunt undisturbed.

We walked inland to Ashton Park and its small ornamental lake. It’s a good place for those sorts of urban birds, with Canada Geese, Mallards, a Moorhen, a few Coots, lots of Black-headed Gulls and also lots of Herring Gulls, brown-feathered juveniles, grey and white adults but also some in-betweeners, sub-adults with a mix of brown and white feathers (middle bird below). It takes them several years to become old enough to breed.

At one end of the lake is a lovely Atlas Cedar of the “Blue” variety.

On the opposite side of the bowling green I think there is a Cedar of Lebanon on the edge of the shrubbery. There aren’t many in Merseyside, as many of the old park specimens have grown old and died. It’s the flat-topped tree with the level branches.

To be sure, I needed to see the cones, as the ones from Cedars of Lebanon are said to be pointed. However, they don’t fall from the trees like pine cones do, so it’s hard to see the tops of them. The ones above me on the trees seemed to have pointed tops, not dimpled tops (as Atlas Cedars have). The needles were all the same length and short. (Deodar Cedars have some long needles in the bunches).

We lunched in the so-called Secret Garden, although it is well-signposted. Half a dozen grey squirrels were around our feet, cheekily hoping for crumbs. We returned along the lake, admiring the old and straggly Weeping Willow on the island, sheltering the duck nesting boxes.

To our surprise, there was a Heron roosting high in the tree, with its head tucked under its wing.

An even greater surprise was to see a Little Egret up there. I’ve never seen one in a tree in a park before. It might have been the same one as we saw earlier in the day, but there could be two of them in West Kirby at the moment. Not so many years ago it would have caused a big twitch! (= A gathering of hardcore birdwatchers, some of whom have travelled halfway across the county, all hoping for a big new tick on their species lists.)

We went back into the town centre via the last bit of the Wirral Way, which was looking beautifully golden and autumnal.

Dead stems bore black seeds, apparently from some sort of umbellifer. We guessed they were from the seaside plant Alexanders, and I have since confirmed it. Foragers’ guides say they are edible, not straight off the plant, but when ground or chopped they are peppery and can be used as a spice. Some foragers put them in bread.

There was lots of new foliage of Alexanders nearer the ground, and amongst them lots of Harlequin ladybirds moving sluggishly, but not hibernating yet. Below that were occasional flashes of red-orange berries from Stinking Iris.

The confusion of nature by this mild autumn continues. Bramble was in bud and flower.

In the tiny Sandlea Park, we didn’t find lots of seeds under the Walnut trees. Unlike Oak and Black Walnut, they don’t seem to have had a good year. But the edible vegetables in one of the flower beds were flourishing, with Swiss Chard looking particularly fine, and one very late flower on a strawberry plant. The roses in the other bed were still budding and flowering profusely.

Public transport details: Train from Central at 10.05, arriving West Kirby at 10.35.  Returned from West Kirby Station at 2.01, arriving Central at 2.38.

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Botanic Gardens, Churchtown, 20th November 2022

On the way through Churchtown we stopped in the small Civic Garden (also known as North Meols Garden). We found this winter-flowering Viburnum x bodnantense blooming already, which is quite early. The tree variety originated in Bodnant Gardens in 1935 as a cross made by their head gardener.

The Botanic Gardens were having their Christmas Fair, and the place was packed! A local choir were singing carols by the entrance, and there were various stalls, some goats on display to raise funds for the Woodlands Animal Sanctuary, donkey rides, and the Fernery was taken over for Santa’s grotto. Meanwhile, one of Santa’s lady stand-ins was helping children to write a letter to Father Christmas. More pictures on their Facebook page, including the lovely grotto in the fernery which we didn’t see.

We found seats for our lunch by the bowling green, and managed to eat most of our sandwiches before the mist and rain roiled in and we had to take shelter under an awning. The bowling club continued their game through it all.

There is a beautiful Maple tree there, possibly some kind of Japanese Maple, with glowing autumn foliage.

The tree next to it was bearing huge pears, many of which had fallen. They were hard as nails (we couldn’t squash them with our boots) although the birds seem to have managed to get into some of them.

On the lake were Mallards, a Coot or two, and a Mute Swan family with four big cygnets.

Then we had another torrential downpour, and we all had to shelter under the awnings. As soon as it eased off we headed for the bus. The Salvation Army Band played us out. We had terrible weather last time we were here (28 Nov 2021) so I am now banned from suggesting it again at this time of year!

Public transport details: Train from Central at 10.23, arriving Southport 11.13. Then bus 44 from Hoghton Street at 11.21, arriving at Marshside Road / Cambridge Road at 11.33. Returned on bus 49 from Botanic Road / Botanic Gardens at 1.36, arriving Southport Monument at 1.50, then on the train at 1.55, due Liverpool 2.45.

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Sefton Park, 6th November 2022

Sefton Park is lovely in the autumn. It has been awarded the Green Flag quality standard again for the 2022/23 season, the trees are colouring up (if not quite to New England standards), and the sun was shining. What’s not to love. The usual crowds of birds were on the mooch for handouts at the south end of the lake. Hundreds of Black-headed Gulls, several juvenile Herring Gulls and one Common Gull; Coots, Moorhens and Mallards; the ubiquitous Feral Pigeons and a few Canada Geese. Near the island were a few male Tufted Duck, two Mute Swans and just one Little Grebe. The Model Boat Club were putting their vessels though their paces.

Floating by the launch step was this model duck. We thought about suggesting it was a Green-headed Wigeon (I just made up that name, there’s no such thing) to set the twitchers a-flutter, but it doesn’t quite look like a living bird.

Further along was a single male Gadwall, this one a genuine semi-rarity, and one we’ve never seen here before. It looked a bit lost. Had it come from the currently-closed WWT Martin Mere?

The avenue of old Cherry trees was looking wonderful.

The champion Black Walnut tree opposite the bandstand was bare of leaves, but seems to have fruited very well this year. There were very many round green fruits on the ground and on the path beneath it. We looked at two very pale trees nearby, across the field. They had an airy open shape and yellow pointy leaves which were almost white underneath. A few of the fallen ones had turned red. I have seen these leaves often but not identified them, so I looked it up at home. I think it’s Silver Maple Acer saccharinum.

There is usually some sort of demo or political action near the Eros statue, and today it was the anti-vaxxers, trying to convince the passers-by that we are all being lied to.

Inside the Oasis café was an exhibition of bird photographs.  We had expected there to be more than eight of them, but that’s all there were on show. There are over 70 of them apparently, and they will be changed every month. Each had a little slogan attached. For instance, the Mandarin Duck said “Show your true colours”, and they had the feel of new-agey motivational posters. The pictures are by Tana Corps “swan whisperer, photographer, film maker, writer and poet” and the blurb goes on to say Tana “senses the mood and personality of individual birds … it’s as if the birds have come to have their photo taken, not the other way around.” You’d think nobody had ever photographed a bird before!

Over the big field, one of the old sandstone houses with tall chimneys looked a bit like a fairy-tale castle, surrounded by misty autumnal trees. You wouldn’t guess it was only about three miles from the city centre.

Along the path past the old aviary we looked for any sign of the Kingfishers, which lived here not long ago, but there was no sign, just Magpies, Crows and Blackbirds. Two of the trees had small labels attached, just typed on small white cards, laminated and stuck on with map pin. They were numbered 17 and 18, but we didn’t see any more of them. They weren’t robust, and could easily have been taken or vandalised. One labelled tree was a Hornbeam and the other was a Dawn Redwood.  Dawn Redwoods are conifers which turn colour and lose their leaves in the autumn, and the ones in the park had just turned to rusty red and were looking gorgeous.

We had been hearing Parakeets squawking all day, but didn’t se them. Along the path near the Fairy Glen we saw a Treecreeper and heard a Nuthatch. In the quiet glade around the south side of the Palm House, where bird feeders have been put up, we waited quietly, but no birds came. So we headed back, but went around the south end of the lake to the side where we started. I had seen a tree on the bank earlier in the day and wondered if it had been a young Swamp Cypress. They are another deciduous conifer (the only other is Larch) and I wanted to compare its leaves with those of the Dawn Redwood.  Yes, I think it is a Swamp Cypress, as the leaves were all arranged “opposite”, whereas the Dawn Redwood is “alternate”, and this is one of the ways of telling them apart. When you have a chance to directly compare them, you can see that the tree shapes are quite different, and also that the SC’s colour change is later, and subtly beautiful. I love Swamp Cypresses.

Public transport details: Bus 82 from Elliot Street at 10.02, arriving Aigburth Road opp Ashbourne Road at 10.19. Returned on 82 from Aigburth Road / Jericho Lane at 1.45, arriving city centre at 2.15.

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Calderstones Park, 30th October 2022

This was a chance to look at some of the rare trees I was shown on the Friends’ walk on 27th May this year, as well as some old favourites.  Near the Text Garden we checked out the Aspen, although there wasn’t much to see after most of the leaves had fallen. The breeze was also blowing down the Tulip Tree leaves onto the clipped tops of the letter-shaped hedges made of Box and Yew. The words spell out the names of flowers, but they are hard to read from ground level. They show up better on Google Maps Satellite View, where you can see the names Love-in-a-Mist and Lords-and-Ladies at one end, and reading in the opposite direction with some letters missing, Forget-me-not and Lily-of-the-Valley.

We could hear Ring-necked Parakeets, but caught sight of only one.  By the time we got to the Rose Garden, it had started to rain quite heavily, so we sheltered under a spreading Beech tree.

One of the young trees on that lawn was a fiery red. Was it a Cherry? The bark didn’t look right although the leaves were simple enough. One for another time.

We also hoped to definitely identify the Pecan Nut sapling. Was it one of the weedy ones, or was it this flourishing one with the sucker coming from the base? No idea, but we hope it is the good’un.

A small shrub or bush that we previously though was some kind of Pieris turned out to be a Strawberry Tree, Arbutus unedo. The round red fruits are about 1.5 cm across and are edible but unpalatable.

They are easily confused with the round red fruits of the Chinese or Strawberry Dogwood Cornus kousa, but the dogwood fruits have a dark-spotted skin, are all singletons and grow on very long stalks.

The Golden Rain tree had lost all its leaves in the last couple of weeks, but there were still some seed cases high up. We were more interested in another exotic-looking shrub with strange blue berries surrounded by fuchsia-coloured bracts. I looked it up at home, and it appears to be Harlequin Glorybower Clerodendrum trichotomum.

We headed through the rain for the shelter of the Manor House, spotting a large-leaved young tree in an unassuming corner. We will have to look at it again, but it might be a Butternut.  I was also collecting wet fallen Beech leaves with odd green patches. Last week Autumnwatch did a piece about leaf miners leaving green sections in brown leaves.

On closer inspection at the lunch table, we could see that one of them definitely had a wee beastie in it, which was likely to be a larva of a moth called Stigmella and probably Stigmella tityrella. The moth is called the Small Beech Pigmy, common and widespread, apparently. The sun came out, so I was able to hold the leaf to the light for a good look. The egg seems to have been laid at the bottom of the green area and the grub then ate its way upwards, leaving frass behind it. It wriggled a bit at the point, then broke through to another leaf segment.

I went on Richie the Ranger’s Calderstones walk last Tuesday. On the radio at the weekend he had mentioned he would be leading people to a ”Sausage Tree”. However, on the day, he said he had found on his recce that it was gone, and it had probably died since he was last there. I think I remember seeing it with him a couple of years ago, in the Old English Garden. If the tree he had in mind was Kigelia africana, it’s an African tree, and so rare that it isn’t on the Tree Register’s list, suggesting there are none at all in the British Isles. I’m sorry I didn’t take more notice last time Richie mentioned it!  However, he did take us to a lovely shrub in the Old English Garden, the Beauty Berry, Calicarpa bodinieri, which bears amazing tiny purple berries in the autumn. Naturally we snaffled some to try and grow at home.

The Japanese Garden is fantastic at this time of year, even in the rain, especially with the Maples putting on their best autumn performance.

Towards the Allerton Oak two trees were spreading carpets of lovely leaves. In the foreground are the red and gold leaves of the Sweet Gum Liquidambar styraciflus, while further back are the yellow leaves of some sort of Lime.

A yellow Persian Ironwood was peeping out from behind a dark Holly.

The famous Allerton Oak is said to be 1000 years old. It was the 2019 English Tree of the Year and it was awarded a grant from the People’s Postcode Lottery to pay for the new supports under the old spreading branches.

We took a quick look at the Chinese Cow-tail Pine Cephalotaxus fortunei and the Spur-leaf Tetracentron sinense, neither at their most photogenic at this time of year, then made our way back to the south side of the park for the bus.      

Public transport details: Bus 86A from Elliott Street at 10.15, arriving Menlove Avenue / Ballantrae Road at 10.55. Returned on the 86 bus from Mather Avenue / Storedale Road at 2.10, arriving Liverpool 2.40.

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Croxteth Country Park, 23rd October 2022

It was raining gently this morning, with thunderstorms forecast for later. We headed for Croxteth Park with some trepidation, imagining ourselves getting soaked on the way back. But it cleared up by lunchtime and the sun even came out occasionally.

In the damp fields on either side of the long walk to the Hall were a few scattered Magpies, Crows, Common Gulls and Lesser Black-backed gulls. The herd of Highland cattle were sheltering on the edge of their woods and clustering around a great mound of hay.

One of the old Park lodges, Croxteth Lodge, was nestling prettily into the side of the path, enhanced by the shrubs trimmed into a cluster of low mounds.

We wandered through the woodland path, where we had found lots of small birds feeding on Larch seeds during previous visits, but it was all quiet today. A passer-by said he often sees a flock of about two dozen Ring-necked Parakeets on the far side of the Hall, but we didn’t see any ourselves. An occasional Robin called from a hedge, and our best bird was a Mistle Thrush churring quietly in the shrubbery. On the bank of the algae-covered lake called the Statue Pond (no statue now!) was a Norway Maple in bright yellow leaf, showing beautifully against a dark conifer behind it.

A magnificent Beech tree graces the lawn west of the Hall.

Also on this lawn is a rare hybrid Oak, a Lucombe Oak Quercus x hispanica ‘Lucombeana’. It is a cross between a Turkey Oak and a Cork Oak. The acorn cups were “hairy” like Turkey Oak, but were a bright pale green. The acorns had white bases and greenish tips.

A Turkey Oak nearby had no acorns at all but an English or Pedunculate Oak had so many fallen acorns that it was impossible to walk beneath the tree without standing on several at each step.

A Pin Oak had just some undeveloped squibs, but their leaves are very pretty.

On the other side of a hedge there was a Narrow leaved Ash Fraxinus angustifolia ‘Raywood’ with its spectacular gold and purple autumn foliage.

We returned on the other side of the Highland cattle’s pasture. The bull was attended by lots of Magpies, and he was standing quite still for them with his head lowered. The Magpies must be getting something, so do the cattle have ticks or fleas? Is this a husbandry or animal welfare issue?

Public transport details: Bus 12 from Queen Square at 9.55 arriving Mill Lane / West Derby Village at 10.17.  Returned on bus 13 from Mill Lane / Town Row at 1.59, arriving Liverpool 2.28.

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Flaybrick Memorial Gardens, 22nd October 2022

Swamp Cypress and Tibetan Cherry in section CE12

This was a Saturday walk organised by the Friends of Flaybrick called “Flaybrick Autumn Tints” and led by Flaybrick and Bidston Ranger Neil Mutch and the Friends’ founder and secretary John Moffatt.  Flaybrick Memorial Gardens is the best-preserved of designer Edward Kemp’s landscapes and is Grade II* listed by English Heritage. Many of the 650 trees in the garden are Kemp’s original plantings from the 1860s. The old cemetery became overgrown and vandalised in the 1990s, but has since been restored and opened up as a safe place to walk. The canopies were raised to provide longer lines of sight throughout, and much Ivy was removed from the taller trees, to help preserve them from the “sail-effect” during high winds. Despite this, Storm Arwen of November 2021 took out 11 mature trees of Kemp’s planting. The Arwen winds came from the north, an unusual direction, and took down trees inured to the normal south-west gales.  The Friends are now planning shelterbelts of Sweet Chestnut. The walking tour highlighted the Coast Redwood Sequoia sempervirens in section NC6A south of chapel, planted on 1997. It is now 40 feet tall and may grow to 90 or 100 feet eventually.  Our attention was also drawn to a young Red Oak, planted in memory of Steve Titley, the former ranger of Flaybrick

Neil Mutch and John Moffatt under Steve Titley’s Red Oak

On the corner near the Ranger’s Office is a Père David’s Maple Acer davidii, one of the snake-bark maples, which was laden with marvellously copious seeds.

Spectacular autumn colour was provided by the Sweet Gum Liquidambar styraciflua in section CE15.

At the far north end of the cemetery is the last section to be restored, the gated RC7. It contains previously-neglected communal RC graves which were badly overgrown with bramble, trees shrubs. It has now all been cleared and was recently re-dedicated by two local Catholic priests. The grave areas are edged with stones and logs, four wildflower plots have been established, and there is an emphasis on nature, with a pond, bird boxes and habitat piles. It is usually kept locked but will be open on Open Days or by request.

This end also contains a supposed Cedar of Lebanon, which for many years was badly hemmed in but has now been given some room. I managed to get a look at the cones, and they have dimples in the top, whereas Lebanon cones are pointed. The shoot tips droop and the needles are uneven lengths and quite long. I don’t think it is a Cedar of Lebanon at all, and is more likely to be a Deodar cedar.

There is some new planting at this end, too, including a young Judas Tree and a young Mulberry.

The young Mulberry

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Bidston Moss Park, 16th October 2022

Bidston Moss was originally low-lying wetland marsh at the head of Wallasey West Float Dock. From 1936 to 1995 it was a landfill site for residential, commercial and industrial waste, then Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority and the charitable trust Groundwork Wirral undertook environmental restoration work to landscape the site. Since then Bidston Moss has been transformed into a thriving community woodland. It is managed by the Forestry Commission, part of the Mersey Forest and is designated a Local Nature Reserve.

It is many years since we have been there, and access is from Wallasey Bridge Road, just next to the household waste recycling centre. There are tarmacked or mown paths which climb through the young woodland, reaching open meadows near the top. The young trees are all natives: Oak, Alder, Birch, Willow, Field Maple, Rowan and the occasional Ash and White Poplar. We saw very few Sycamores. The middle storey has Hawthorn, Hazel, Guelder Rose, Dog Rose, Bramble, Nettle and the non-native Buddleia. There also seemed to be two kinds of Dogwood. The native shrub Common Dogwood Cornus sanguinea has black berries, which we didn’t see, but I think it may have been the one flowering late, or turning autumnal purple without flowering.  The other one had white berries and I think was the North American Gray Dogwood or Northern Swamp Dogwood Cornus racemosa.

White flowers – Common dogwood?
Purple leaves – Common Dogwood?
White berries – Gray Dogwood?

All along the edges were wild flowers, with a surprising number still in bloom: Dandelions, Toadflax, Evening Primrose, Ragwort, Michaelmas Daisies, Purple Loosestrife, Scabious, Yarrow and Bird’s foot trefoil. Low yellow flowers rather like Buttercups were Creeping Cinquefoil Potentilla reptans.

There were patches of low round leaves, apparently newly-emerging, with the largest ones about 10 cm (4 inches) across. We considered Coltsfoot and Butterbur, but I think they were Winter Heliotrope, as the leaves were smoother than those of Butterbur.

A tall yellow branching plant had us racking our brains for a while, but I think it was either Ribbed Melilot or Tall Melilot, which are almost indistinguishable.

A few birds were about. Crows flew over, and Goldfinch, Robin and Dunnock were twittering or calling from the hedges.  A Buzzard cruised overhead and once we though we heard a Jay. There were a fair few small flying insects. We thought we glimpsed a dragonfly, otherwise unidentified, and some of us definitely saw a Comma butterfly sunning itself on a broad leaf. When we came to gaps in the trees, there were wonderful views. To the north west we could look out over Wallasey Golf Club to Liverpool Bay with its rows of wind turbines. To the south we spotted the sails of Bidston Windmill peeping above the trees on Bidston Hill.

Near the top we rounded a corner and saw the best view of all, Liverpool City centre, framed by the trees.

Also of interest were the seed heads and berries. There were lots of Hawthorn berries and Rose hips, of course.  In one spot we found a dried stalk of Giant Hogweed, about 7 feet tall. The Guelder Rose leaves were turning, and its berries were luminous.

The dried-out heads of Wild Carrot and Teasel were marvellously geometric.

Public transport details: Train from Central at 10.20, arriving Birkenhead North 10.35. We attempted to return from Birkenhead North at 14.19, but station announcements advised that all Wirral trains were at a standstill because one had broken down at James Street. So we walked to Laird Street / Miriam Place and got the 38A at 14.40, arriving Birkenhead Bus Station at 14.50. We met some refugees from the MNA Dibbinsdale walk there, and we all got on bus 423 and were back in Liverpool at 15.00. A bit late, but we made it!

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Rock Park, 9th October 2022

Today we combined a “tick” for another of the anti-slavery globes with a walk along a part of the eastern edge of the Wirral that we have never been to, although we have looked at it and wondered. The sixth Globe was outside Birkenhead Priory and is called “Weh You From? Weh Yuh A Go?” and is by Jiono Warner.

Then we took the bus along the Rock Ferry Bypass and New Chester Road and walked down Rock Lane East.  Rock Park was an area of wealthy merchant houses built in 1836 next to the old Rock Ferry pier and affording the privileged classes easy access to Liverpool city centre while having gardens on the river frontage. Many of the houses on the inland side of the road were  demolished when the bypass was punched through, but we detoured to see if one famous house had survived, number 26, once the home of the American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne. He is best known for his book “The Scarlet Letter”. He was appointed United States Consul to Liverpool from 1853-1857, and used the ferry for his daily commute to the Liverpool Consulate. Unfortunately, his house was one of the ones that had been demolished, and only a gatepost survives.

Rock Lane East continues as a bridge over the bypass and leads down to New Ferry Waterfront, now the location of the Tranmere Oil Jetty and the old ferry café, now a pub and restaurant called the Refreshment Rooms.

From here we could have walked southwards along Rock Ferry Promenade, but we chose to enter Rock Park itself. It is now a conservation area with stringent contractual restrictions on the use of the properties: residential only and no alteration to the appearance. All the houses are listed as being of architectural and historic importance. It is probably a very pleasant place to live, but it is quite enclosed and defensive. Doberman dogs barked at us from behind garden gates, and we felt we were being covertly watched.  We didn’t linger or take pictures of the houses, just one of this lovely old Black Walnut tree.

At the southern end Rock Park meets the Rock Ferry Promenade again, and there is a car park with wonderful views over to Liverpool. It’s an interesting vantage point from which to see Liverpool’s two Cathedrals side by side.

There was another ferry terminus here, old New Ferry Pier, built in 1865, which reached 850 feet out into the river. Another interesting historical association is with the ship the CSS Shenandoah which was the last Confederate ship to surrender at the end of the American Civil War. She sailed from the North Pacific to the Mersey and surrendered to the British Government near New Ferry Pier on 6th November 1865. The crew, many of whom were British, swam ashore here rather than be extradited to the US and tried as pirates. The historic pier lasted until 1922, when it was rammed by a drunk Dutch steamer captain, irreparably damaged and was demolished in 1929. Now all that is left is a tiny beach.

Southward from New Ferry pier is a short Esplanade, but it doesn’t run all the way to Shorefields (our destination) or further to Port Sunlight River Park. There is a muddy, rocky beach when the tide is out, and it is possible to walk on it, but the tide was in today. Even if it had been out though, there are often wading birds feeding in the mud which shouldn’t be disturbed. So we walked through the residential streets to Shorefields Nature Park.  It is just a big open field at the top of the shallow Shorefields cliffs. We looked down to the water but there was still no beach, just a few gulls paddling in the shallows. When the tide is out it is a nationally important feeding site for wading birds like Pintail, Black-tailed Godwits, Redshank, Shelduck, Knot, Dunlin and Turnstone. Around the edge of the field we noticed the remains of trees which had been windthrown in last winter’s storms.  New ones have been planted, including Sweet Gum (Liquidambar), Rowan, Cherry and Himalayan birch. Some of the older trees were turning for autumn, including this lovely Norway Maple.

As the tide fell and the mud was exposed, 8 or 10 Curlews flew in, calling as they did so. They are declining nationally but are common here.

Public transport details: Bus 437 from Sir Thomas Street towards West Kirby at 10.07, arriving Hamilton Square / Westminster House at 10.15. After our detour to Birkenhead Priory we went back to the same stop for bus 1 at 10.47, arriving New Chester Road / The Hawthorns at 10.55. Returned on bus 464 from its terminus at Shorefields / Pollitt Square at 1.32, arriving Liverpool 2.05.

Posted in Sunday Group | Comments Off on Rock Park, 9th October 2022