Calderstones Park, 5th December 2021

At last, a dry day, although it was cold, dark and overcast.

As always in Calderstones, it was the trees that drew our attention. Four or five were down, and there were many more broken branches, the results of last week’s Storm Arwen. There were more high winds yesterday, and Storm Barra is due on Tuesday! This broken Lawson’s Cypress had been growing through and around an iron fence so must have been weakened at that spot.

But most trees were still standing, of course. The largest we noted was this veteran Sweet Chestnut, while the smallest was a tiny Yew only a couple of inches tall, growing about three feet off the ground in a mossy angle of a Cherry tree.

We went to look at the Golden Rain tree, now leafless, but still with some papery seed cases hanging on, and we found some seeds for home planting.

Beneath it is a Hazel shrub, with lots of seed cases on the ground. Something had been breaking into them. According to my Hamlyn Guide to Tracks, Trails and Signs, broken Hazel shells with no gnawing marks around the edges are the work of Grey Squirrels, not mice or voles. No surprises there, as Grey Squirrels are ubiquitous in the park.

The Handkerchief tree near the English garden has fruited well this year and the ground beneath it is littered with its red-stalked nuts. Nothing seems to have been chewing them!

The usual park birds were puttering around. Gangs of Feral Pigeons, Wood Pigeons, Magpies, Crows and an alert Robin who had staked out our lunch spot. The lake had the usual urban water birds: Mallard, Coot, Moorhen, Canada Geese and Black-headed Gulls.  The best bird of the day was this Treecreeper, near the old greenhouse that used to house the Calder Stones.

Elsewhere, there were some cheering signs of spring. Catkins were forming on Hazel and the Silk Tassel Tree, a Forsythia had one flower out, while the winter-flowering Mahonia and Viburnum bodnantense were blooming. Under the trees the early shoots of Snowdrops were just showing through.

Although some trees have fruited well, according the Woodland Trust this has been a very poor year for acorns. There is a beautiful big Turkey Oak near the Allerton Road exit, and last autumn Margaret saw 8 or 10 Jays at a time gathering acorns from beneath it. Today there were no Jays, no acorns underfoot, and not even any empty acorn cups.

On the way back to the bus, in a garden in Ballantrae Road, I spotted this beautiful ornamental Maple in a garden. Not all the good trees are in the park!

Public transport details: Bus 86 from Elliot Street at 10.03, arriving Mather Avenue / Ballantrae Road at 10.30. Returned on 86A from Mather Avenue / Storedale Road at 1.47, arriving city centre at 2.15.

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