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.