Otterspool, 15th August 2021

On a warm and humid day with the threat of rain, we went down to Otterspool promenade on the banks of the Mersey to see the carpets of wildflowers we had been told were there.  And so they were, masses of them, quite pretty, mostly yellow, but not the best we have ever seen.

The predominant flowers were yellow Corn Marigolds, interspersed with a few Cornflowers, Poppies and Wild Carrots.

In amongst them were occasional clumps of something pink-and-purple. I think it was Viper’s Bugloss, but it was very pink. There seemed to be clumps of a white variety too, which doesn’t occur in the wild. You get some odd things in some wildflower mixes. But there were lots of bees and hoverflies enjoying them.

The tide was well out, exposing the mid-river sandbanks. There weren’t many birds loitering there, just a motley sprinkling of gulls and crows, one Greater Black-backed gull, a Common Tern with a fish, a Cormorant flying down river and a single Swallow. There were great views south eastwards to Garston, north westwards to Birkenhead and Cammell Laird’s shipyard, and way off to the south, Stanlow oil refinery with the Helsby and Frodsham hills behind it.

South to Garston
Birkenhead and Cammell Laird’s

We had a good look at the rocky mud at river’s edge. Picking about were the usual gulls, a few Oystercatchers, and also some autumn visitors – Redshanks and Turnstones, which have arrived very early.

Oystercatcher (left foreground), Herring Gull (the big one) and Turnstone (right, on the edge of the pool)

There is an old sewage outfall opposite Eastham. The river has now been cleaned up, but years ago, when the pipe was spewing out untreated sewage, this stretch of the Mersey was said to be the best place in the country to see large numbers of the uncommon duck, the Pintail. (Yuk!)

Walkers and cyclists can only go as far south as Grassendale, but a continuation of the prom can be seen past a fence and a gap. Rumour has it that the posh folk in Cressington and Grassendale didn’t want the public path joined up because they didn’t want all and sundry walking past their houses.

A squall of fine rain came up the river, so we took refuge under some trees, then headed up the  sheltered Beechwood Road South, past newly-built detached houses and up-market apartment blocks, north along the footpath by the cricket field, onto Riversdale Road and back down to the prom. The weather had cleared up in just those ten minutes, so we sat and ate lunch overlooking the Mersey with the tide coming in strongly, hoping for seals, porpoises or even a Killer Whale! No luck (although all those have occasionally been seen in the river.)

We retraced our steps back along the prom. During another heavy shower we sheltered under the awning of the Otterspool Adventure Centre café. Then, even though the sun had come out, we decided not to push our luck any further and call it a day.  On the way back to the bus we spotted some new plantings of Oak and Bird Cherry saplings and an orange-berried Rowan.

The most surprising tree was a Tamarisk in the centre of the busy roundabout at the bottom of Jericho Lane, leaning at an alarming angle. Its pink autumn flowers were starting to show and it will be splendid when it gets bigger, as long as it manages to stay upright.

Public transport details: Bus 500 (the airport bus) from Liverpool ONE bus station at 9.59, arriving Jericho Lane / Riverside Drive at 10.20. Returned from the opposite stop on the 500 at 1.25, arriving Liverpool ONE at 2.05.

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