Birkenhead Park, 18th September 2022

Although we have been to Birkenhead Park many times recently, we chose it again because it is near a church that was to be open on a (second) Heritage Open Day. In the park we mostly looked at trees, especially those from the booklet “The Unusual Trees of Birkenhead Park”.  We thought this was their tree G, said to be their oldest tree from 1760. After checking the map, I don’t think it was after all, but it’s a wonderful old Oak.

The Cucumber Tree (tree C) at the west end of the lake didn’t appear to be putting out its little upright pink fruits, and there were no berries on the Mulberry either (tree E), although they may all have been foraged already. One neatly-cut tree stump was sprouting a big wavy fungus, which I think was Giant Polypore aka Blackening Polypore Meripilus giganteus. It is said to appear on stumps and at the base of broadleaved trees, especially beech. This stump doesn’t look like Beech, though.

The birds were mostly quite ordinary. There were Crows on the cricket field. Swans, Mallards, Canada Geese, Coots, Moorhens and Black-headed Gulls on the lake and a Robin on the fence. The most interesting were two Cormorants opposite the boat house, who sat together, then squabbled and sat apart.

Cyclamen was naturalising near the Swiss Bridge.

Michaelmas Daisies were out and we also saw Purple Loosestrife still flowering well. There were odd bits of very red autumn foliage. Could this be a Cherry?

After lunch we walked through an unfamiliar bit of the park, the Alfred Holt Garden beside Park Road North.  There is a huge old Monterrey Cypress there, with cones about an inch across.

Their best rarity is the clump of Hybrid Strawberry trees Arbutus x andrachnoides, with characteristic ruby red peeling bark. They are K in the booklet and are on the corner of Park Road North and Ashville Road.

We spotted three pines with a round crowns and bunches of two needles. (Some have three or five needles, so it’s a useful identification feature.) Could they be Stone Pines? The cones underneath them were too squirrel-chewed to be useful but one from further away confirmed our guess.

The open church we were heading for was the RC Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception on Cavendish Street, designed by the architect Edward Welby Pugin. Like Walton Church last week, this one also had a story of wartime bombing. As well as severely damaging the church, one of the bombs intended for Birkenhead docks hit the presbytery, killing the priest and his two housekeepers. The church was rebuilt and reopened in 1951.

Public transport details: Train from Liverpool Central at 10.05, arriving Birkenhead Park Station at 10.15.  Returned from Birkenhead Park Station at 2.51, arriving Liverpool 3.05.  

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