I was at Allerton Towers on my own on 9th August 2020, so you can read about it in my previous post, but this was the first time five of us had been together since 8th March, and we chose the park as the easiest place for Olive, as it is near to her home. It was a wonderfully warm and sunny day, and overhead a Sparrowhawk was harassing a Buzzard. The park has very many Sweet Chestnuts, and they were all looking very healthy, green and glossy with copious spiky nut cases.
My goal was to find and photograph the champion Tree of Heaven Ailanthus altissima. At 21 meters and 247 cm around the trunk, it is the Lancashire girth champion (but not the tallest, that one is in Alexandra Park, Whalley Range.) We found it in the shrubbery between the walled garden and the main path.
In the same area we spotted a mystery shrub with leaves like Persian Ironwood, but flowering like Witch Hazel. The experts on the Facebook group “British and Irish Trees” suggest it is Virginian Witch Hazel Hamamelis virginiana. The RHS website says the flowers “appear from mid-autumn to late autumn, emerging while the leaves are still green and remaining as the leaves turn golden yellow and fall. H. virginiana is the species from which medicinal witch-hazel extract is made.”
Two other minor adventures to report. Last Friday the local female Sparrowhawk was in my garden again. She had the leg bone of something, which she was picking clean. She became aware of me behind the patio window, so she flew off into the Camellia and gave me one of those stares, before making herself scarce. When I looked later there were no remains, and no scatter of feathers, so she had killed elsewhere and taken her leftovers away with her.
In the week Margaret and I went to Gorse Hill Nature Reserve to find the Wayfaring Tree, Viburnum lantana. It’s a British native, and common in the south of England on the chalk, but far rarer in t’north. The Cheshire Wildlife Trust ranger told us a few years ago there were none at all in Cheshire. In February 2019 we spotted a labelled one at Gorse Hill, where they have a policy of planting native trees and shrubs. Of course, there had been nothing to see then, on a winter’s day, so we went back last week and found it again. It’s an unassuming small multi-stemmed tree, with plain leaves, and you wouldn’t look at it twice, usually. Its unique feature is the bunches of berries that ripen at different times, so you get red and black ones in the same cluster. And there they were! Hooray. It MIGHT be the only one in Lancashire, so it’s a good tick for tree-spotters. (It’s a “lifer” for me, the first one I have ever seen.)
Public transport details: 76 bus from Queen Square at 10.02, arriving Menlove Avenue / Cheddar Close at 10.39. Returned from Woolton Street / Mason Street (Woolton Village) on the 75 bus at 2.10, arriving Liverpool at 2.40.