Norris Green and Newsham Parks, 14th July 2019

Norris Green Park is a new venue for us, inspired by Channel 5’s “Great Garden Challenge”, shown on 2nd July. Last autumn, two teams of designers and their helpers made small competing gardens in this run-down public park, which have since been maintained by the Friends. Both areas were still flourishing, and we thought that the winner is still the best one. Although the planting scheme has been altered from the original plan, it is still lovely in shades of purple and yellow, with Lavender, the tall waving Verbena bonariensis and some clumps of a yellow variety of Red-hot poker.

We noted the young Katsura tree in the losing garden, then we headed off to look at the rest of the  park. There was originally a grand 17th century mansion on the spot, built by the Norris family of Speke Hall. It was rebuilt in 1830 and demolished in 1931. The last owner was Lord Derby, who gave the land to the city in 1933, to be used as a public space. The only bit of the 1830 building remaining is a single wall, said to be of the stable block, and which is now Grade II listed and can’t be removed.

Its history as a great estate explains why some of the trees are far bigger, older and more interesting than you would expect from a small municipal park. There were several large Beeches, a huge Small-leaved Lime and an unexpected and elegant Cut-leaved Beech.

On the north edge, in the wild area behind the old stable wall, we stumbled on a grove of uncommon Caucasian Wingnut trees, with their long dangly seed clusters. I have seen single trees elsewhere, but here there were at least six of them, maybe ten. What a find!

They were surrounded by a wild tangle of Buddleia, Bramble and Bindweed, over which a pair of Speckled Wood butterflies were doing their mating dance. The blackberries are ripening and the Brambles are putting out a second flush of flowers.

Then we took a short bus ride along to Newsham Park, greeted at the northern entrance by a pretty wild-ish flower bed, which included a budding spike of Great Mullein, right by the main road.

It was really hot now, and the sun brought out a Painted Lady, several White butterflies, many Common Blue damsel flies on the boating lake and what appeared to be an Emperor Dragonfly. The main fishing lake had lots of algae on the surface, but it wasn’t as bad as last year. A pair of Coots was feeding five chicks, and another pair was nest building for a second (or third?) brood. A Coot and then a young Moorhen stood on a barely-submerged log just below the bridge and let us have a good look at the differences in their feet.

By the bridge were the first red Hawthorn berries we have spotted this year.

In the water under the bridge we got a good look at a really big fish, about two feet long. One of the many fishermen on the banks said it was a Carp. The fishing lake is artificially stocked, of course.

Public transport details: Bus 18 from Queen Square at 10.15, arriving Muirhead Avenue East / Lorenzo Drive at 10.30. Then from Muirhead Avenue East / Almond’s Green on the 18 at 12.50 to Newsham Park, alighting at 1.00.  We all went home in various ways: I got bus 18 at 2.20, arriving City Centre at 2.30.

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