Hooton to Hadlow Road, 3rd April 2022

We walked another section of the Wirral Way today, from Hooton to Hadlow Road Station and back. There was a chilly breeze when we started out, but it is sheltered in the sunken, tree-lined path, so once the sun came out it was lovely.

Much of the Hawthorn foliage is now well out, but other trees are slower. Some were still grey and bare. The Oak buds were just breaking, the first Sycamore leaves were out, but other trees are harder to identify when the foliage is new. There were lots of young saplings that we were calling “Hornbeam”, but now I think they might have been young self-seeded Birch of some kind (and later realised were Hazel, of course. )

Lots of birds were in song. Robins trilled everywhere, Blackbirds scuttled across the path, one or two Jays swooped past, Great Tits and Chaffinches were singing (as well as a distant rooster) and we counted eight singing male Chiffchaffs, one about every 350 – 400 yards. The Pussy Willow flowers were still out, full of pollen, and we spotted a small black wasp or bee foraging among them, although it was too fast-moving to catch a picture of.

There wasn’t much storm damage to see, just one or two snapped trees which were cut up and left as log piles. There has been lots of hedge trimming and clearing carried out this winter, so the path was wide and airy. Flowers were coming on well. We spotted Dandelions and Forget-me-Nots, Lesser Celandine and Dog Violet. The few Coltsfoot were closed, the Garlic Mustard and the Green Alkanet were only leaves yet, but higher on the bank some Yellow Archangel was in bloom.

Several white-flowered trees were out. This is Blackthorn, of course, which was a magnet for Bumble bees.

This was Wild Cherry, I think. Prunus avium.

This one must surely be Bird Cherry Prunus padus. My books say it isn’t supposed to flower until late May, so this must be just one aberrant tree. (By the way, look at those Latin names of the cherries, guaranteed to confuse. “Avium” means “of birds”, so what was Linnaeus thinking when he named those two?  The only lame excuse I can think of is that it must have been different in Swedish!)

Along the way we noticed that the Horse Chestnuts varied in their spring progress. Some had only breaking sticky buds, some had very droopy newly-emerged leaves, while the one by the steps at Hooton had abundant erect flower buds.

Hadlow Road was a station when the Wirral Way was a working railway line. It has been preserved in its 1950s condition as a handy stopping place, with café and loos. We ate our sandwiches there, at a picnic table well-patrolled by Robins, and with a well-fed House Sparrow colony in the adjacent hedge.

During the return walk to Hooton the sun shone, and there were far more people about. A Wren was in a low branch and we thought we glimpsed a Treecreeper. Some early butterflies put in an appearance – a Speckled Wood and this rather slow-moving Comma.

Public transport details: Train from Central towards Chester at 10.15, arriving Hooton 10.48. Returned from Hooton on the 2.29 train, arriving Central 3.00.

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