Gorse Hill Snowdrop Sunday, 13th February 2022

We disembarked at a deserted Aughton Park station on a damp and dreary day. The platforms are in a deep cutting, and the gothic atmosphere was enhanced by the cawing of Carrion Crows. We had some time to kill before arriving at Gorse Hill for their noon opening, so we did a detour around some of the well-tended front gardens in the streets off Long Lane. Our rewards included a Mimosa tree just coming into bloom and a beautiful early pink flower of Camellia.

On the MNA trip to Ellesmere on Saturday, one of the things that had drawn our attention was the male Yew trees, now covered with their little pollen sacs. There were more of them today.

We stopped to look at a Kestrel over the fields surrounding the pumping station. It always headed into the strong southerly south wind as it hovered, but it managed to hold position despite the blustery gusts. We arrived at Gorse Hill Nature Reserve just after it opened, and took the Cabin Wood trail, lined with clumps of Snowdrops.

We lunched at the picnic tables overlooking Seldon’s Pond. There are hanging bird feeders there, and we spotted fast-moving Blue Tits, Great Tits and Coal Tits but nothing more exotic. The pond was covered in green weed today, but it supports three species of Newts (Smooth, Palmate and Crested) as well as many dragonflies.  All along the trails are minibeast hotels and small mammal  habitats, made from waterproof “roofs” like carpet tiles, covered in twigs and branches.

We looked at the Wayfaring Tree Viburnum lantana, a rarity in Lancashire, although common enough further south. There is nothing to see on it at this time of year, it’s just bare twigs, but we plan to come again in May to see it flowering.  However, the first leaves of Hawthorn were sprouting by a sheltered hedge.

We headed home the easy way down Holly Lane and Gaw Hill Lane, admiring the displays of Hazel catkins in the hedgerows. We noticed that different trees develop at different rates. Some have young half-open catkins and no female flowers, while others have female flowers but spent catkins. Necessary for avoiding self-fertilisation, of course.

Next to the deep steps to the southbound train platform, the cutting is shored up by walls of wire cages (gabions) full of loose stone. Life finds a way even there, and we spotted a few pioneering shoots of Herb Robert.

Public transport details: Ormskirk train from Central at 10.17, arriving Aughton Park station at 10.45. Returned from Aughton Park station at 2.40, arriving Central 3.10.

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