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.

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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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
Tansy

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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Calderstones Park, 26th September 2021

We had another opportunity for a rummage around the trees of Calderstones today, because our leader (who loves to identify fast-moving birds and butterflies but is bored by sedentary trees) was recovering from a family celebration. Our first discovery was a surprise – the original Golden Rain tree, which we had thought had been cut down a couple years ago, is still there! For anyone looking, it is near the gates to the private garden at the back of the Mansion House. The tree is still hemmed in by a Yew, but the leaves are visible high in the canopy, reaching for the sun.

Then we headed into the Harthill area of the park and the triangular field which old maps call the Rose Garden. There are some interesting young trees there, and it’s good that the park is being renewed. Two young saplings next to each other were a Judas tree and a Foxglove tree, and nearby was one of about the same age which still had its nursery label attached, saying Carya illinoinensis. I racked my brains, knowing I’d seen the genus Carya somewhere, and guessed it was a Wingnut by the pinnate leaves. But now I look it up I see that it isn’t a Wingnut, it’s a Hickory, and not just any old Hickory but a Pecan nut tree! I think it’s another gamble with climate change, similar to the planting of olives and vineyards in the south of England. Maybe as the seasons get warmer, it will produce nuts. I haven’t even taken a picture of it, but it’s near the Judas and the Foxglove.

Young Foxglove tree (centre) and young Judas tree (right)

Then we had a look at the Golden Rain tree near the pony paddock. The seed-bearing lanterns are developing but aren’t pink yet and none appear to have fallen.  We tried to gently pull some down with a hook and string, but only got one. They clearly aren’t ready yet and we’ll have to try again later in the year.

On our way to lunch we stopped to admire a shrubby tree with clusters of small bell-shaped flowers, each with a very narrow opening at the bottom. Despite that, the bees were on them, so their tongues must be long enough to reach the nectar and pollen. I haven’t identified it, but it looks like some kind of Pieris to me, although all of them flower in Spring, not late summer.

After lunch at the north end of the picnic field we rambled slowly back towards the Mansion House, continually distracted by interesting trees. These lovely little red and purple fruits are Korean Spindle Euonymus oxyphillus.

A huge old evergreen tree is a Coigue or Dombey’s Beech Nothofagus dombeyi. It’s the height and girth champion of Lancashire at 16.5 m (54 ft) and 267 cm (8 ft 8 in).

Another pretty little fruit belonged to the Japanese Snowbell Styrax japonicus.

Thick ivy grows on the wall opposite the side of the Mansion House, and over it was growing this lovely late-flowering white Clematis, covered with insects and bees. It must be a cultivated form of the wild Old Man’s Beard Clematis vitalba. It is said to be common in central and southern England “but records quickly diminish as you go north”. Another species on the march northwards, perhaps.

Near the 1000-year-old Allerton Oak the Virginian Witch Hazel was looking sick but the Persian Ironwood was starting to put on its intense autumn colour.

We were intrigued by this lopped knobbly tree trunk, with one or two good branches surviving. Some sort of Maple by the look of it.

Then, after noting a yellow-berried Holly, we headed back to the bus.

Public transport details: Bus 75 from Gt Charlotte Street at 10.10, arriving Menlove Avenue / Compton’s Lane at 10.32. Returned on 75 from Beech Lane / Crompton’s Lane at 2.35, arriving Liverpool 3.00.

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Flaybrick Memorial Gardens, 19th September 2021

On a fine sunny morning we got off the bus at the southern corner of Bidston Hill Nature reserve and threaded through King George’s Way. It’s a footpath through the woodland, part of which climbs to Bidston Hill, but our section skirts the allotments and comes out by the car park of Tam O’Shanter’s urban farm. It’s a little bit of old woodland in a busy suburb.

Flaybrick Cemetery is just across Boundary Road. During the pandemic they have been doing lots more research on their historic graves, and signboards are popping up everywhere. We go there for the trees, of course. They have over 140 species, more than anywhere else on the Wirral after Ness Gardens. Many of them are original plantings from 1864, probably including their huge Chilean Pine (Monkey Puzzle), now fruiting magnificently.

As we were some of the earliest visitors on their Open Day we were accosted by the Bard of Flaybrick, Terry Briscoe, who recited some of his Wirral poems to us.

He also drew our attention to the grave of the first burial in the cemetery, of Francis Morton, a wealthy iron and steel manufacturer, whose company had provided all the ironwork on site, and who had laid the foundation stone. He died six months before the cemetery was consecrated and officially opened, so he was actually buried there twice, being the first and the second burial. His grave is now marked with an obelisk.

We looked at some of our favourite trees, and were relieved to find that the old Horse Chestnut by the Rowan avenue was still standing. It had been deemed diseased and dangerous a couple of years ago, but the park staff disagreed, and so they have compromised by lopping just the branches that overhang the path.

The labels on the trees themselves are evolving. Some have small QR codes pinned to them, saying “Scan me”, but since I didn’t have my smartphone with me, I have no idea what they lead to. A very few have proper tree labels, including one on the Fern-leaved Beech, fixed at a strange angle, but giving its scientific name, its origin, and the mysterious “TROBI Class 2”. TROBI is the Tree Register of Britain and Ireland, so I guess class 2 means it isn’t a champion, but just “remarkable”.

The third type of sign was more frustrating. Little blue plaques are popping up, probably issued by the Tree Register, saying the tree is a County Champion, but not giving the name of the tree or the reason for the designation. I suspect this is more likely to annoy visitors, rather that interest them, and it looks like a cheap and unsatisfactory project by the Tree Register.

In late morning it started to drizzle, then it came down more determinedly. What is it with Wirral lately? We hurried past some of our favourite trees, pausing only briefly at the rare Oregon or Big Leaf Maple Acer macrophyllum.

One other signboard caught our attention, marking a tragic grave. A man called Lock Ah Tam was attacked and beaten in 1918 by a gang of Russian sailors. He survived, but underwent a personality change and became a violent alcoholic. Eight years later he shot his wife and two daughters, was convicted of murder, and executed in Walton jail. Here is the grave of his murdered family.

We had another wet lunch, then a quick tour of the cemetery chapel (no shelter there – it’s roofless).  As the rain eased we looked at the animals in Tam O’Shanter urban farm, goats, sheep, and a few little fat Kunekune pigs.

Just behind the farm buildings Bidston Community Archaeology are digging the site of an old cottage, trying to find when the area was first occupied. Bidston village has pre-mediaeval origins, and some farmsteads in the area date back to the early 1500s. Finds so far include prehistoric flint tools, 17th century pottery and evidence of metal forging.

Public transport details: Bus 437 from Sir Thomas Street at 10.04, arriving Upton Road / Boundary Road at 10.28. Returned from the opposite stop on the 437 at 2.45, arriving Liverpool 3.05

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Parkgate, 12th September 2021

What a wash-out! I think Parkgate has a micro-climate all of its own, a wet one! It wasn’t supposed to rain until later in the day, and it was warm, dry and overcast in Liverpool, but while we were crossing Wirral on the bus its windscreen wipers started to swipe back and forth ominously. By the time we arrived at Parkgate it was raining hard.

In an attempt to find some shelter we walked up Coastguard Lane and Brooklands Road towards the Wirral Way. We noticed how the rain had highlighted all the spiders’ webs in the garden hedges.

The rain seemed lighter along the Wirral Way, although it was rather puddly and drippy.

We had to make way for cyclists quite often, but there was still a chance to look out for autumn fruits including these damp Rose Hips.

We walked north as far as the footpath leading to the Old Baths picnic area. The rain seemed to be going off so we made for our favourite picnic table, with a great view out over the marsh, but found it was being swallowed up by a Tamarisk tree.

The only birds in sight, except for a few crows, were about a dozen Swallows over the car park trees, probably juveniles. They will be leaving for Africa soon.

It started to rain again while we were eating, making our sandwiches rather soggy.  There was going to be a good high tide in mid-afternoon, and if the weather had been better, we’d have stayed a bit longer to see the little voles and shrews pushed near to the road by the rising water. However, the return buses run only every two hours, and it was too wet to stay for the 3.30, so we headed back for the one at 1.30. As we walked along the quayside, there was nothing much to see over the marsh, although the hidden birds were beginning to shift as the water rose. We glimpsed a possible flight of a Great Egret, several strings of Canada Geese going north, what might have been Mute Swans on the edge of one of the distant pools, and two definite Herons flying quite close in, looking for small mammals near the old quayside wall. We were very wet and dripping naturalists as we boarded the very welcome bus to take us back.  As we suspected, it wasn’t raining in Liverpool when we arrived, and the pavements were quite dry. 

Other hedgehog news from my garden. On Saturday afternoon my left-hand neighbours Dave and Ann said they had just seen three small hoglets wandering on their lawn in broad daylight. Babies! I didn’t see them myself, and I haven’t yet caught them on the trailcam. They will need to feed up if they are to attain 600g in time for hibernation.

Public transport details: Bus 487 from Sir Thomas Street at 10.29, arriving Parkgate Mostyn Square at 11.25. Returned on the 487 from Mostyn Square at 1.30, arriving Liverpool 2.20.

Posted in Sunday Group | Comments Off on Parkgate, 12th September 2021