Eastham Woods, 12th December 2021

What a surprise! A clear, calm, dry day, and the sun even shone. Right off the bus, on the busy New Chester Road, I noticed that the severely trimmed Hawthorn hedge was full of lichen. Despite all the traffic, the air must be cleaner than expected.

All through Eastham woods there were trees down, the legacy of storms Arwen and Barra.  A superseded sign on the gate said “Attention keep out. Unsafe storm-damaged and windthrown trees ahead. Footpath closed for storm clear up works and your protection.” The gate was open, though, and most of the path blockages had been cleared.  Some trees had snapped clean off, while some had failed at ground level and the whole root-plate was upended.

Snapped tree
“Windthrown” tree

At one spot, where an old poplar had fallen across a wall and the path, there was an interesting chainsaw cross-section of the multiple trunks and the stems of the Ivy.

All was quiet and still in the damp air.  We could hear the distant rumble of the New Chester Road behind us, the bell of Christ the King church striking 11 and a rugby coach shouting instructions to his young players. On the lawn by the Leverhulme Sports club were three Blackbirds, a Robin and a Song Thrush, all pecking about. One of the Blackbirds kept running at the thrush as if to see it off its territory.

The songbirds were all quiet and furtive, but we spotted plenty of Magpies and Wood Pigeons. One broken tree had a Wren clinging to it, and a Jay flew in to have a look at us.

We stopped to look at the remains of the massive old Beech tree. It was once Wirral’s tallest tree at 80 feet high, but it may have been down for 20 years, now. It has been left to rot and enrich the woods. There isn’t much of it left, but it supports lots of mosses and fungi. We were able to recognise and name Jelly Ear and Candlesnuff, and also admired this pretty one which we don’t know.

On the way back we spotted a little mouse darting around the “mouth” of the old tree, although it moved too fast to be photographed. Yet another gift from the old tree to the woodland community.

In sheltered areas some trees were still in leaf. Hazels and Sycamores still had some yellowing foliage, while the retained autumn leaves of the young Oaks and Beeches glowed when the sun caught them.

The Ranger’s office was closed so we had no special views of the birds on the feeders in the garden at the back. We sat at the picnic tables and thought there was a Redwing in the undergrowth, but couldn’t see it clearly. The tide was well out, leaving sandbanks in the river Mersey. There were a few gulls on them, and an Egret, but they were all too far out to identify. This is the view up the river south-eastwards, towards Helsby and Frodsham.

We walked northwards a bit along the Wirral Circular trail, as far as Job’s Ferry. A sign there says it is 2.5 miles to Port Sunlight station, so maybe we will try that one day. We were also looking for winter wildflowers, but all we found were one solitary Dandelion and a couple of Gorse bushes.

There will be no more Sunday group walks now until 23rd Jan, although I may be out and about in local parks, weather permitting, looking for signs of spring. Happy Christmas and New Year to all

Public transport details: Chester bus 1 from Sir Thomas Street at 10.12, arriving New Chester Road / opp Woodyear Road at 10.50.  Returned on the X1 from New Chester Road / Allport Road at 2.50. arriving Liverpool 3.20.

Anyone is welcome to come out with the Sunday Group. It is not strictly part of the MNA, although it has several overlapping members. We go out by public transport to local parks, woods and nature reserves all over Merseyside, and occasionally further afield. We are mostly pensioners, so the day is free on our bus passes, and we enjoy fresh air, a laugh and a joke, a slow amble in pleasant surroundings and sometimes we even look at the wildlife!
If you want to join a Sunday Group walk, pack lunch, a flask, waterproofs, binoculars if you have them, a waterproof pad to sit on if we have to have lunch on the grass or a wet bench (A garden kneeler? A newspaper in a plastic bag?), and wear stout shoes or walking boots. We are usually back in Liverpool City Centre by 4pm at the latest.
If you are interested in the wildlife of the north-west of England and would like to join the walks and coach trips run by the Merseyside Naturalists’ Association, see the main MNA website www.mnapage.info for details of our programme and how to join us.

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