Festival Gardens, 10th April 2022

The gardens are what remains of the Liverpool Garden Festival of 1984. By 1997 they were derelict, but a part was re-developed in 2010 and called “Festival Gardens”. It was sunny, but with a cold breeze. As soon as we got off the bus we spotted a Song Thrush rummaging in the road’s green verge, and we later heard it singing in the Japanese garden, along with Greenfinches and a Chiffchaff.

We found more building work going on. In the formerly inaccessible northern section, 28 acres are now deemed a Development Zone, where Liverpool hopes to build 1500 new eco-homes in the next few years. However, there is a big remediation job needed first, because this land was once a tip. Lots of machines are digging down to the rubbish layer. The progress report on the noticeboard by the entrance says they are “excavating to remove all landfill waste for processing and to expose areas of subformation.” This is fifth section of seven, with four sections already completed.

South of the gardens is an area called the “Southern Grasslands”, where they are building a new Landscape Mound. Perhaps this will be an extension to the park.

The overall standard of the current park is quite mixed.  The grassy areas are being mown and there isn’t too much litter, but the water in the lake is quite low, and everywhere Bramble is emerging from the shrubberies. There seems to be basic maintenance but no proper “gardening” going on. Of course, this is ideal for wildlife. The little ponds had Mallards, Moorhen and Coots. There were Magpies, Wood Pigeons and Carrion Crows. Two Goldcrests were busy in a Scots Pine and we thought we heard a Jay in the woods. One pair of Coots had four little red-headed chicks, the first young birds we’ve seen this year.

As well as the ubiquitous Dandelions and Daisies, the untended flights of steps were sprouting with all sorts of plants, including this Red Dead-nettle.

The wilder pond edges had clumps of Marsh Marigolds.

We climbed the steps up to the woodland area. The first Bluebell of the year was nearly out, and the Hawthorns were covered in buds. From the top there are good views of Moel Fammau in North Wales, and the Port Sunlight River Park just across the Mersey.

We lunched in the warm and sheltered sunshine near the bottom of the main steps. A Heron flew in and studied one ornamental pond, had no luck, so tried the shallow edge of the bigger one.

Then we headed north along the promenade into Liverpool. It turned out to be a longer walk than we remembered (we are all older now, of course), and the day’s overall tally became five miles or more.

The inland side of the walkway has mowed lawns, then long banks of Bramble scrub in front of the backing trees. We decided this would be great habitat for Nightingales, although their arrival seems extremely unlikely!  However, it is known to be a good area for foxes, and we saw some foot-high “doorways” that could be entrances to their trails.

It was low tide, exposing several bits of stony foreshore, but we looked in vain for waders. There weren’t even gulls for the first mile. But once we got to the area of warehouses near Brunswick station both Herring Gulls and Lesser Black-backed Gulls were pairing up and behaving aggressively to others. These two LBBs are very dark and I wonder if they are the Baltic subspecies?

Our final bit of airborne interest was the Coast Guard helicopter circling over Wallasey Town Hall and Seacombe Ferry.

Public transport details: Bus 500 from Liverpool ONE bus station at 10.29, arriving Riverside Drive / Festival Gardens at 10.50. Returned to the city centre on foot, arriving Albert Dock at about 3.15.

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