Heritage Open Days gave us a treat: not only was Croxteth Hall open, but also the old walled garden, which used to provide flowers, fruit and vegetables for the Great House. An old photo on display showed a posed group of 28 gardeners about 100 years ago. Now there are only the students from Myerscough College to keep it under minimal control. Some areas had been tidied up for the occasion, but most are very overgrown.
One old bed had been planted some years ago by the Henry Doubleday Research Association to save traditional vegetables. This patch was also badly overgrown but there may still be some gems hidden under the wildness.
The dilapidated greenhouses hold a remnant of the Liverpool Botanical Collection, which was founded by William Roscoe in 1802 and long kept in Calderstones Park. It was one of the oldest botanical collections in the world. The radical local government of Derek Hatton had the Calderstones greenhouses demolished, and the botanical collection was broken up. Some of the remnants are now here but not on display.
There were a couple of well-tended beds of bright pink Dahlias, variety ‘Fascination’. They were hugely attractive to insects, and most of the open flowers had two bees competing for the pollen. We also spotted a new-looking Red Admiral butterfly and a day-flying moth, too quick to catch on camera, which was grey-white, broader than deep, and possibly one of the carpet or wave moths in the geometrid group.
After lunch we toured the house, from the wine cellar and the old kitchens, to the drawing room and the Earl and Countess’s bedrooms. The volunteer in charge of the huge pedigree scroll of the Earls of Sefton, which was laid out on a table, was diverted to talk about the estate’s wildlife. He said there were now lots of Ring-necked Parakeets, which he had seen competing with Jackdaws for tree holes. As we made our way out along the main drive we saw some of the interlopers in the trees, being mobbed by Crows.
Public transport details: Bus 13 from Queen Square at 10.03, arriving Mill Lane / West Derby Village at 10.25. Returned on bus 13 from Mill Lane / Town Row at 2.58, arriving City Centre at 3.22.
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.