Stanley Park is a purpose-built city park, designed by our favourite landscape architect Edward Kemp (Flaybrick Cemetery, Grosvenor Park Chester) and opened in 1870. It’s located between Liverpool and Everton football grounds, which are less than half a mile apart across the park, one to the north and one to the south.
The park contains three trees listed by the Tree Register, and the first is our old friend the Weeping Wych Elm (Ulmus glabra ‘Pendula’) in the circle of Plane trees in the roundel at the northern end. It isn’t a champion, simply listed as “remarkable”.
The second is Grignon’s Thorn, Crataegus x grignonensis, which we weren’t able to find. It’s the height champion of Lancashire at 6 meters, and is said to be on the north bank of the lake. Unfortunately its leaves look just like those of ordinary Hawthorn, and it is distinguished by its large flowers and masses of dark red fruit. We are looking at the wrong time, of course, between the spring and the autumn, so we will have to look for it another day. We think we DID find the third tree, and it’s a real rarity, an Altai Thorn Crataegus wattiana. It is said to be by the path on the north of the lake, and we found it (probably) around the new lake path, by a bridge. The leaves look right, with deeply-cut lobes, distinctly different from normal Hawthorns. To be really sure we need to see the fruit, which is said to be yellow, with five stones. Again, we’ll have to look again.
There was a sign on the railings confirming that this lake, too, has blue-green algae. The water wasn’t looking too bad, but it was a bit luridly green in some quiet corners. It didn’t bother the birds, though. There were plenty of Mallards and Coots and an occasional Moorhen. A Great Crested Grebe put in an appearance, but most of us missed it while we were looking at the trees. The only land birds were Magpies, Crows and Feral Pigeons. Some of the Rowan berries have already turned red, and the berries of the Guelder Rose are just on the turn. It’s autumn!
Last year they planted wild flowers at the edge of the football field and this year they have used that land to plant young native trees, while moving the wildflowers further out.
The trees were mostly Oak, Birch and Willow, with some others that were too small to identify. Several white butterflies were flitting over the flowers, but nothing else. John was in the park nearly every day during lockdown last year, and said he saw 11 species of butterfly on the meadow (not all at once, of course) but this year is very poor. The flowers were lovely, with a mix of Poppies, Cornflower and Marigolds, with the occasional huge Sunflower.
Swallows were flying low over the grass near the terrace and the formal beds. Several had nested under the roofs of the pavilions, and some were still lurking inside.
This marvellous shrub was near the Conservatory, and it looks like Smoke bush Cotinus sp., possibly the dwarf variety ‘Young Lady’.
Then we crossed into Anfield Cemetery. Earlier this year a Sparrowhawk nested in the spire of the old chapel, but there was nothing to see today. Other birds were scarce here too, with just the usual Magpies and Crows.
The Cemetery has many mature Silver Pendent Lime trees, filling the air with a lovely scent.
A recent addition is a number of signboards put up by the Friends, drawing attention to notable graves. One lists “Victoria Cross Heroes”, another is about the Chinese revolutionary Sou Zen Young, who drowned himself at Crosby beach after being exiled, and a third is about Michael James Whitty (1795-1873), who was a very important Victorian Liverpool worthy. He was Superintendent of the Night Watch in Liverpool’s first police force, later becoming the Head Constable of the Liverpool Fire Brigade and the Police (1836-1844). In about 1850 he founded the Liverpool newspaper, the Daily Post.
We were hoping to see a sign about James Maybrick, who was supposedly murdered by his wife Florence and is buried in this cemetery. She was the victim of a miscarriage of justice but escaped hanging. We did see the grave of William and Julia Wallace. The nearby sign is headed “The Perfect Murder?” and goes into some detail about why William was suspected and convicted of Julia’s murder. Only at the very end does it say that his conviction was quashed, and the tone implies he “got away with it”. Now we know that he was innocent and was the victim of another miscarriage of justice.
Finally, we visited the grave of Norman Alexander Milne, 1924-1963, who was a famous British singer in the late 1950s and early 1960s under the name of Michael Holliday. You may remember him from “Starry Eyed” 1959 or the theme to the TV show “Four Feather Falls”.
Public transport details: Bus 19 from Queen Square at 10.04, arriving Walton Lane / Bullens Road 10.25. Returned on the 19 bus from Walton Lane / Priory Road at 15.10, arriving Liverpool City Centre 15.30