Eastham Woods, 12th December 2021

What a surprise! A clear, calm, dry day, and the sun even shone. Right off the bus, on the busy New Chester Road, I noticed that the severely trimmed Hawthorn hedge was full of lichen. Despite all the traffic, the air must be cleaner than expected.

All through Eastham woods there were trees down, the legacy of storms Arwen and Barra.  A superseded sign on the gate said “Attention keep out. Unsafe storm-damaged and windthrown trees ahead. Footpath closed for storm clear up works and your protection.” The gate was open, though, and most of the path blockages had been cleared.  Some trees had snapped clean off, while some had failed at ground level and the whole root-plate was upended.

Snapped tree
“Windthrown” tree

At one spot, where an old poplar had fallen across a wall and the path, there was an interesting chainsaw cross-section of the multiple trunks and the stems of the Ivy.

All was quiet and still in the damp air.  We could hear the distant rumble of the New Chester Road behind us, the bell of Christ the King church striking 11 and a rugby coach shouting instructions to his young players. On the lawn by the Leverhulme Sports club were three Blackbirds, a Robin and a Song Thrush, all pecking about. One of the Blackbirds kept running at the thrush as if to see it off its territory.

The songbirds were all quiet and furtive, but we spotted plenty of Magpies and Wood Pigeons. One broken tree had a Wren clinging to it, and a Jay flew in to have a look at us.

We stopped to look at the remains of the massive old Beech tree. It was once Wirral’s tallest tree at 80 feet high, but it may have been down for 20 years, now. It has been left to rot and enrich the woods. There isn’t much of it left, but it supports lots of mosses and fungi. We were able to recognise and name Jelly Ear and Candlesnuff, and also admired this pretty one which we don’t know.

On the way back we spotted a little mouse darting around the “mouth” of the old tree, although it moved too fast to be photographed. Yet another gift from the old tree to the woodland community.

In sheltered areas some trees were still in leaf. Hazels and Sycamores still had some yellowing foliage, while the retained autumn leaves of the young Oaks and Beeches glowed when the sun caught them.

The Ranger’s office was closed so we had no special views of the birds on the feeders in the garden at the back. We sat at the picnic tables and thought there was a Redwing in the undergrowth, but couldn’t see it clearly. The tide was well out, leaving sandbanks in the river Mersey. There were a few gulls on them, and an Egret, but they were all too far out to identify. This is the view up the river south-eastwards, towards Helsby and Frodsham.

We walked northwards a bit along the Wirral Circular trail, as far as Job’s Ferry. A sign there says it is 2.5 miles to Port Sunlight station, so maybe we will try that one day. We were also looking for winter wildflowers, but all we found were one solitary Dandelion and a couple of Gorse bushes.

There will be no more Sunday group walks now until 23rd Jan, although I may be out and about in local parks, weather permitting, looking for signs of spring. Happy Christmas and New Year to all

Public transport details: Chester bus 1 from Sir Thomas Street at 10.12, arriving New Chester Road / opp Woodyear Road at 10.50.  Returned on the X1 from New Chester Road / Allport Road at 2.50. arriving Liverpool 3.20.

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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Calderstones Park, 5th December 2021

At last, a dry day, although it was cold, dark and overcast.

As always in Calderstones, it was the trees that drew our attention. Four or five were down, and there were many more broken branches, the results of last week’s Storm Arwen. There were more high winds yesterday, and Storm Barra is due on Tuesday! This broken Lawson’s Cypress had been growing through and around an iron fence so must have been weakened at that spot.

But most trees were still standing, of course. The largest we noted was this veteran Sweet Chestnut, while the smallest was a tiny Yew only a couple of inches tall, growing about three feet off the ground in a mossy angle of a Cherry tree.

We went to look at the Golden Rain tree, now leafless, but still with some papery seed cases hanging on, and we found some seeds for home planting.

Beneath it is a Hazel shrub, with lots of seed cases on the ground. Something had been breaking into them. According to my Hamlyn Guide to Tracks, Trails and Signs, broken Hazel shells with no gnawing marks around the edges are the work of Grey Squirrels, not mice or voles. No surprises there, as Grey Squirrels are ubiquitous in the park.

The Handkerchief tree near the English garden has fruited well this year and the ground beneath it is littered with its red-stalked nuts. Nothing seems to have been chewing them!

The usual park birds were puttering around. Gangs of Feral Pigeons, Wood Pigeons, Magpies, Crows and an alert Robin who had staked out our lunch spot. The lake had the usual urban water birds: Mallard, Coot, Moorhen, Canada Geese and Black-headed Gulls.  The best bird of the day was this Treecreeper, near the old greenhouse that used to house the Calder Stones.

Elsewhere, there were some cheering signs of spring. Catkins were forming on Hazel and the Silk Tassel Tree, a Forsythia had one flower out, while the winter-flowering Mahonia and Viburnum bodnantense were blooming. Under the trees the early shoots of Snowdrops were just showing through.

Although some trees have fruited well, according the Woodland Trust this has been a very poor year for acorns. There is a beautiful big Turkey Oak near the Allerton Road exit, and last autumn Margaret saw 8 or 10 Jays at a time gathering acorns from beneath it. Today there were no Jays, no acorns underfoot, and not even any empty acorn cups.

On the way back to the bus, in a garden in Ballantrae Road, I spotted this beautiful ornamental Maple in a garden. Not all the good trees are in the park!

Public transport details: Bus 86 from Elliot Street at 10.03, arriving Mather Avenue / Ballantrae Road at 10.30. Returned on 86A from Mather Avenue / Storedale Road at 1.47, arriving city centre at 2.15.

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Botanic Gardens, Churchtown, 28th November 2021

We haven’t been lucky with the weather this year, and to top it all, this week we had snow when it isn’t even December!  To be fair, it was only a light dusting of sleet in the aftermath of Storm Arwen, but it was really cold with it.  We had a long bus ride from Liverpool, almost an hour and a half through Crosby, Formby, Ainsdale and Southport, seeing several trees down along the way.

The sleet started as the bus passed through Birkdale and persisted for a couple of hours, later turning into an almost-freezing drizzle. We trudged to the Botanic Gardens, which was putting on its Christmas “Lavender Fayre”. The few stalls that were braving the weather did very poor business, I’m afraid, as very few locals wanted to come out while the sleet was dusting the paths and bare flowerbeds.

We headed straight to the nice warm Fernery for lunch.

They grow lovely ferns and many tropical plants in there, including “Christmas Cactus”, unseasonal orchids and this lovely thing, no idea what it is, whose flowers are only about an inch long.

Outside, a few hardy souls were walking their dogs while the Black-headed Gulls huddled miserably on the bridge railing.

Below the other bridge were the remains of a Mute Swan nest, with a sign from earlier in the year  asking visitors not to disturb it.

And then enough was enough, and we headed home.   

Public transport details: Bus 47 from Queen Square at 10.15, arriving Cambridge Road / Marshside Road at 11.40. Returned on the 47 from the opposite stop at 1.45, due in Liverpool about 3.15, although I was home earlier.

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New Brighton, 21st November 2021

It was a very bright and sunny day, but with a chilly north wind. The last of the leaves of the street trees are coming down. Just outside Wallasey Grove Road station we spotted a Buzzard being mobbed by crows.  Then we walked down to the water, and northwards along the sea wall and King’s Parade towards New Brighton. That’s just off the northern edge of the North Wirral Coastal Park, which is an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and a Ramsar site for wading birds.

The tide was coming in strongly, and the few remaining bits of beach started to disappear. South-westwards were views along to North Wales with a glimpse of Hilbre Island, while north-eastwards were the red cranes at Seaforth docks, leading northwards to Crosby beach.

Then the waves started to crash against the wall, throwing up spray and spume. There are broken cockleshells in abundance here, since both Herring Gulls and Crows have learned the trick of collecting live, closed cockles from the shore, flying in with them and dropping them on the concrete or paving stones to break them open. They have been doing it for years, and the walkway is crunchy underfoot with broken shells. Here’s one that fell on the parapet of the sea wall and broke open, but either the owner couldn’t find it there, or the onshore breeze was too strong for it to perch and retrieve it.

It was “bracing” to say the least, walking into the cold wind. It wasn’t much warmer in Marine Park where we had our lunch. So we popped into the Floral Hall where there was a Christmas Fair and craft sale but it was really just for a warm up. Then to the Marine Lake looking for birds. The whole Marine Lake has recently been turned into the “Wild Shore” water adventure park, and we feared that the waders which usually huddle there on the pontoons would be spooked. But there were a few – about a dozen Redshanks and four or five Turnstones, huddled together against the wind.

There was also one lonely Sanderling. This was the first time any of us had seen a Sanderling on its own, they are always in little groups and clans, pottering busily along the tideline. They seem to always be in motion anyway, but it was hard not to imagine this one was scurrying about because it was anxious and panicky to be alone. In fact it looks as if, like “Tit Willow”, it is about to throw itself, headlong, into the billowy wave!

Public transport details: New Brighton train from Central at 10.20, arriving Wallasey Grove Road at 10.40. Returned on the bus 433 from King’s Parade / Morrisons at 2.10, arriving Liverpool 2.40.

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St James’ Gardens, 14th November 2021

This morning we went to the Service of Remembrance at Liverpool Cathedral. In previous years the service has been held at the Cenotaph in Lime Street, but it’s still all blocked off with road works. The Cathedral site was a success, I think, and the event might stay there for the future. The dignitaries and military personnel were inside, while the rest of us stood outside, looking at a big screen. It was a lovely sunny day, with just a bit of a chilly wind. Before the service a Buzzard soared high overhead and when the gun went off, marking the two minutes’ silence, it startled the resident pair of Peregrines, which circled near the tower, observing the crowds below. We had no inkling of the serious incident outside the Women’s Hospital, although later in the day there was a police helicopter flying back and forth over the area.

We had lunch in St James’ Gardens, below the Cathedral. The sun-warmed stones were swarming with Harlequin ladybirds, looking for crevices to hibernate in. A Jay flew across the path. It has been a very poor year for acorns, says the Woodland Trust, so I don’t know how Jays will manage this winter.

We rummaged around the south end of the gardens looking for champion trees. There are only two here, and they haven’t been checked or recorded since 2004. One was supposed to be a Golden Ash, but we found no sign of it. There WAS an old gnarled Ash, but its remaining leaves were green, not yellow. In 2004 its girth was listed as 220 cm, and we measured this old tree at 260 cm, a plausible increase in 17 years. So has the champion Golden Ash been felled, or is this the actual tree which has reverted from gold to the more usual green?

The other was a rare thorn, the Dotted Hawthorn or White Haw Crataegus punctata. It is said to have light grey bark, a thorny trunk and 3-5 seeds in the haw. The champion tree in St James Gardens is the girth and height county champion of Lancashire, 141 cm girth in 2004, with an extra stem at 1.5 meters. We found a tree which looks possible. There were no thorns on the trunk, and it wasn’t particularly light in colour, but it was definitely some kind of hawthorn with multiple seeds in the fruit. We measured the girth, which was 159 cm, another plausible increase from 2004.

We walked back to the city centre via the small plantation of Dawn Redwoods at the junction of Upper Duke Street and Gt George’s Street, on the pavement opposite the Chinese Arch and the old church known as “The Blackie”. There are eleven of them, now with their needles turning rusty red and looking stunning.

Public transport details: We walked in and out of the city centre today

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Newsham Park, 7th November 2021

It was a bright sunny autumn day, but with a bitter north wind.

The lake had the expected Canada Geese, Mallards, Black-headed gulls, a few Herring gulls, Coots, Moorhens, a pair of Mute Swans and, to our surprise, a single Little Grebe. We have never seen one here before, so they appear to be increasing in Liverpool.

On the path around the lake we found this bivalve shell, quite a big one. There are several common species of freshwater mussel which grow to that size and live in lakes and ponds. I think it was probably the Duck Mussel Anodonta anatina, but it might have been the Swan Mussel Anodonta cygnea. Both are long-lived, sometimes to over 100 years.

There is a plantation of new young native trees west of lake, extending the existing woody margins: Oak, Rowan, Hazel, Birch, Spindle, Field Maple and Cherry. Some of the older trees are being felled, and nowadays they leave the cut trunks to rot down. We weren’t on the look-out for any champion trees today, assuming there weren’t any, but I should have checked. There is just one in the park, a Broad-leaved Whitebeam Sorbus latifolia, also known as the Service Tree of Fontainbleau. It’s the height county champion of Lancashire at 16 m, last measured 2004. It’s said to be “S, one of several in N boundary strip by houses”. If that’s the south side of Gardener’s Drive, we probably walked right past it!

After lunch we walked along the woodland strip between the eastern edge of the park and the railway line. It is supposed to be a nature area, and there are plenty of Hawthorn and Hazel along the path, but among the trees there were no birds, just lots of litter and empty beer cans. The big field had lots of remains of fireworks, big boxes that had held 30 or 36 tubes of things with names like Crack of Doom. After setting them off, the revellers had just dumped them. Yet more festive dumping  was in evidence, with little heaps of pumpkin skins scattered amongst the trees. It seems to be an urban myth that the birds and squirrels will like them, but we saw no wildlife activity near them at all, not even the unfussy Pigeons or Magpies.

The diagonal path across the big field has some newish young ornamental trees lining it. We noticed that one with orangey-grey bark had been marked on its support post with the watering dates in summer 2020. Was that a special tree or had the man with the council bowser watered them all and noted it once? Probably. There were no leaves left to identify the tree, but it might have been a Tibetan Cherry, or some kind of ornamental birch.

The park redeemed itself as we were leaving, with a pair of Jays near the rose garden, rootling in the leaf litter, and nowhere near any of the old pumpkins!

Public transport details: Bus 13 from Queen Square at 10.25, arriving West Derby Road / Dorset Road at 10.40. Returned on bus 12 from West Derby Road / New Road at 1.40, arriving Queen Square at 1.55. 

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Sefton Park, 31st October 2021

Oh heck, another wet and soaking day! It started well enough, mild and sunny at the south end of Sefton Park lake. The trees were on the turn and the usual birds were there, although not in great numbers – Mute Swans, Canada Geese, Mallards, Coots, Moorhen, Black-headed Gulls and a scattering of Little Grebes and Tufted Duck.  We climbed up the bank to look at the large green Cedar that Richie the Ranger thinks is a Cedar of Lebanon and I think is more likely to be a green-form Atlas Cedar.

We wanted to look at the cones to see if they had a dimple in the top, which is diagnostic of an Atlas Cedar, but it is very hard to get a view of a cone from above, and they very rarely fall. The clincher were the little fallen sausages on the path beneath. I have never thought about cedars having male flowers or catkins, but that must be what they were. Mitchell says the male flowers of the Atlas Cedar are pink-yellow, 4cm and curved, while those of the Lebanon are pale grey-green, 5cm, and erect. They look like Atlas Cedar male flowers to me.

I had a list of some of the champion trees of the park, several well-known to us already, but none have photos on the TROBI database. The plan was to “bag” some.  The first was the girth champion Narrow-leaved Ash ‘Raywood’ Fraxinus angustifolia with its lovely gold-and-purple autumn foliage.

Then the Hybrid weeping willow Salix x sepulcralis ‘Salamonii’ which is has strikingly orangey-brown bare twigs in mid winter, but still beautiful in its autumn leaves.

Then the Lancashire girth and height champion Black Walnut Juglans nigra opposite the bandstand.

Listed as “remarkable” is this Cut-leaved Beech Fagus sylvatica ‘Asplenifolia’ on the bandstand island and sweeping down to the water.

We could hear the Ring-necked Parakeets screeching and occasionally glimpsed them in flight.  On one of the corners near the Oasis café was a very red-leaved tree with an amazing mixture of fallen leaves on the ground beneath. Could they all be from one tree? Some kind of oak? We rootled around in the shrubbery beneath it but could only find one trunk bearing those bright red leaves. There were no acorns, either, to identify the species. I think it must have been a Red Oak. Mitchell says “leaf very variable in size and lobing”, so that must be it.

After lunch we headed north looking for another rare tree which I have never seen before. The Golden Ash Fraxinus excelsior ‘Jaspidea’ is a variety of the normal Ash, and looks the same for most of the year, but in autumn it turns a uniform yellow all over. The listing said “west side of stream in west valley, above upper bridge”, so we walked north from the café, keeping to the left of the stream. This is Kingfisher territory, and to our delight, one flashed past us but was soon lost in the reeds.  And there was the Golden Ash, leaning over the path, its yellow leaves contrasting nicely with the dark Scots Pines planted near it.

On the way back we looked over the big field towards the obelisk, and were amazed to see a circle of birds all scattered around a fellow sitting on the ground. They were Gulls and Crows, all sitting still and calm and many were looking away from the man in the middle. Was he feeding them, was he talking to them, a bird whisperer? It was very strange.

Then the heavens opened and it was a long wet walk back to Aigburth Vale for the bus.

Public transport details: Bus 82 from Elliot Street at 9.55, arriving Aigburth Road / Ashbourne road at 10.15. Returned on the 60 bus from Aigburth Vale at 2.35.

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New Ferry, 24th October 2021

We really ought to come here more often. The terminus of the 464 New Ferry bus is at Shorefields Nature Park, south of Rock Ferry, which has been an SSSI since 2002. A grassy open space overlooks an area of Mersey mudflats which are a nationally-important feeding site for wading birds. Adjacent southwards is Port Sunlight River Park. The two sites combined give stunning views over the river to Liverpool and the chance of some pretty good birds.

It was a windy day, but mild and sunny. This stretch of foreshore is where Brunel’s huge ship, the Great Eastern was broken up in 1888, but now is home to feeding birds. The tide was out, so there were lots of Black-headed gulls, a few dozen Lesser Black-Backed Gulls of the dark Baltic race, hundreds of Redshank along the tideline and a handful of Curlew, which occasionally made their evocative bubbling calls.

It is a wonderful place for views of Liverpool, showing the waterfront almost side-on.

At the south end of Shorefields there used to be an Isolation Hospital, to cater for sailors returning from abroad with tropical diseases like cholera, smallpox and leprosy. It was in use from 1875 to the early 1960s. It had to be destroyed by fire after contractors refused to demolish it in case they caught something. The site is now covered by a small woodland. We saw Magpies flying in with sticks, so they are nest-building already. Two Ravens flew past, cronking.
Down steps then up again, and we were at the north end of Port Sunlight River Park, planted up over an old tip about a decade ago. There is a sheltered lake there, and much of the surrounding vegetation has now grown up so high that it is difficult to see what birds are there. We definitely saw a small flock of Shovellers, some Teal and Widgeon, a Redshank and several Black-tailed Godwits. The paths are lined with native trees and a surprising variety of wildflowers were still in bloom. We noted Dandelions and their lovely seed heads or “clocks”, Hogweed, some kind of Hawkbit, Michaelmas Daisies, Bindweed, Red Campion, Herb Robert, some kind of yellow crucifer, Tansy, Evening Primrose and a white Buddleia still flowering.

Dandelion clock
White Buddleia with Michaelmas Daisies behind

At the picnic area we spotted a Kestrel hovering over the higher ground. We decided not to climb to the summit in view of the strong winds, but to go around the sheltered woodland side of the hill and back the way we came. There were Coltsfoot leaves in abundance, very large red berries of Black Bryony and early Hazel catkins. One Ash tree had lots of the seed clusters called “keys”, but we haven’t seen many other Ashes that have fruited so well this year. There was also a native Spindle tree with its distinctive lobed red fruits.

Ash keys
Spindle tree fruits

There were occasional very big bumble bees gathering the last of the flower nectar. Probably fertile queens stocking up for their winter sleep. They were either White-tailed or Buff-tailed, which are very hard to tell apart.  We also spotted a very small Ladybird on some Hogweed. It was red with black spots, about 4 mm, and were there 16 spots? 19? At home I looked at the FSC leaflet, and decided it was possibly the 24-spot Ladybird (which most commonly has 20 spots), as it was about the right size and colour, is said to live on low vegetation, and is common and widespread. However, these small native species are becoming rarer due to the competition from the thuggish invasive Harlequins.

Public transport details: Bus 464 from Sir Thomas Street at 10.15 arriving Shorefields / Pollitt Square, New Ferry at  10.55. Returned from same place on the 464 at 2.32, arriving Liverpool at 3.05.

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Freshfield, 10th October 2021

From Freshfield station we turned towards the sea, down Formby’s “Millionaire’s Row”, Victoria Road.  It was a fine warm autumnal day, with the leaves beginning to fall and to rustle underfoot.  We were aiming for the National Trust Formby Pinewoods reserve, hoping to see Red Squirrels.

There was an ominous sign saying that four dead squirrels have recently been found showing signs of Squirrel Pox. People should report any sick or dead, red or grey squirrels, and we are asked not to leave food.  We had a good look around, but didn’t see any red squirrels at all. More worryingly, there were no squirrel-chewed pine cones. There were thousands of cones underfoot, but all were untouched.

Nearer the beach we found just one that had been slightly dismantled, but it wasn’t typical of the damage caused by a healthy animal. This looks like very bad news for the current population of red squirrels. Are they all sick and dying?

The other claim to fame of this area is its history of asparagus farming. Pioneering farmers like Jimmy Lowe of Pine Trees farm started growing asparagus here in about 1925, and Formby asparagus is now exported to top restaurants all over the world.

We hoped to see some late butterflies today, but there were none, just a few distant dragonflies including a mating pair. The only flowers in bloom that we could find were Common Cranesbill and Evening Primrose. Not many birds either, just Crows, Wood Pigeons and various gulls, with a flock of Jackdaws in the woods, and a single Curlew seen from the train in a farmer’s field.  We made the hard climb over the soft sandy dunes to the beach, coming out just north of Formby Point.

The tide was coming in and was near its top. The storm last week had thrown lots of shells and other bits of sea creatures up to the top of the beach and we made a small collection.

There were plenty of Razor shells, possibly of three species. The dark bivalves are Mussels, while the pale triangular shells are probably Rayed Trough Shells. There were a few broken whelks, and surprisingly few Cockles. The odd big one was broken, and only the tiny ones (half an inch, 1.5 cm) were intact. What kind of heavy sea would leave the thin Rayed Trough Shells untouched but break the tougher Cockles? One small Cockle at the middle right of the picture appears to have a “driller killer” hole in it.  We also found a piece of coal (there was a coal ship wrecked off here once upon a time), a very small flattened Sea Potato and some oddments with Barnacles attached. Some of the Barnacles might still have been alive, so we made sure they went into the water.

Public transport details: Train from Central at 10.23, arriving Freshfield at 10.55. Returned from Freshfield on the train at 2.40, arriving Liverpool 3.10.

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Port Sunlight, 3rd October 2021

We had planned to go to Gorse Hill Apple Festival but we found that there were engineering works on the Ormskirk line, and since there was to be a big football match later in the day, the rail-replacement buses coming home would be full. We made a spur-of-the-moment decision to go to Port Sunlight instead.

Port Sunlight is a model village on the Wirral, built by the Lever brothers for the workers in the Sunlight soap factory. Building started in 1888. The houses are all in Arts and Crafts style, and the whole village is a conservation area and potential World Heritage site. Even the railway station and the Tudor Rose tea rooms reflect the prevailing style.

We headed straight down to the Dell, which separates the factory from the housing. We are familiar with many of the specimen trees there – Brewer’s Spruce, Honey Locust, Dawn Redwoods, and two huge Tulip trees, although we were a bit early for their famous autumn colour. We suspect one young tree is a Dove or Handkerchief tree, but it is some years off producing its distinctive flowers.

A wooden bench was full of multi-coloured Ladybirds and some of their larvae. Going by their size and the variety of colours, they were almost certainly all the invasive Harlequins. The distinctive feature is that Harlequins have brown legs, whereas our natives have black legs. This is hard to see in life, in dappled shade, but I can see brown legs on my photos. I am not quite sure about the red one, which may be a native 7-spot.

On the bank around the eastern end of the Dell we noticed the Rowan trees for the first time. They appear to be a planned group of several different varieties, with cream, orange or red berries.

The rain was holding off, and the sun even came out.  In the graveyard of Christ Church United Reformed Church (where the Lever family worshipped) there is the grave stone of Mabel Beatrice Cooper who died in 1969 aged 81, noted as “One of the first, and a life-long employee of Lever Brothers”. The stone also commemorates her son John, a Flight Sergeant in the RAF, who was killed in action in 1942, aged only 22, and buried in Germany. He was probably piloting a bomber that was shot down.  We had really come to the church to see a notable tree just inside the railings. A sign says it was planted by the Women’s Institute, but doesn’t say what it is. It has huge leaves and is probably a Foxglove tree, although we couldn’t see any gone-over flower spikes. They are easily confused with Indian Bean trees, especially when young, but there weren’t any beans either. We took a leaf over to the garden centre, where there is a definite Indian Bean and laid one leaf of each side by side. The one on the right is definitely an Indian Bean leaf, about 1.75 pens wide (9 inches, 23 cm) and I’m pretty sure the one from the church (on the left) is a Foxglove leaf. The clincher is the short but sudden fine point on the Indian Bean leaf (short accuminate).

The garden centre is a convenient pit stop, and it has a wonderful old Olive tree in a pot in the restaurant courtyard.

We lunched in the Hillsborough memorial garden overlooking the War Memorial and the Lady Lever Art Gallery. A young Blackbird was digging a hole on the edge of shrubbery. Was it excavating an ant nest?

Then we walked along the rose garden. Many were still in bloom and most were scented and lovely.

There was no sign that the New Ferry butterfly park was open, so we headed back to town.
Public transport details: Train from Central towards Chester at 10.15m arriving Port Sunlight 10.31.  Returned on train from Bebington at 1.58, arriving Liverpool 2.15.

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