Croxteth Park, 19th March 2023

It always seems to rain when we go to Croxteth Country Park, but it wasn’t forecast for today, although it was grey and overcast. Instead of entering from the West Derby end, we took a different bus to the furthest entry point, the Kirkby Drive Gate, which leads to a large woodland area.  A Great Tit was calling and a Robin was singing. The woods were mixed Scots Pine, with tall bare twisty Oaks and a lot of straggly Rhododendrons, some being cleared. John, who used to be a volunteer warden here, said the Rhododendrons were originally planted when it was a shooting estate, to give cover to the baby pheasants.

The pale green Hawthorn leaves were coming out. We noticed several tall Lime trees next to the main path, with twiggy untrimmed (“epicormic”) growth around the bases of the trunks. Had this been a Lime avenue once upon a time?

It’s definitely spring now. In the gardens near me, the Magnolias are starting to flower, and also Forsythia and Camellia. In the woods we came cross a patch that had been a bit “gardened” as well, with patches of daffodils, primroses, spent snowdrops and some lovely blue Glory-of-the-Snow.

There was Dog’s Mercury at the edges of the paths, but not obviously in the woods themselves.  The Woodland Trust says it is “A poisonous coloniser of ancient woodland, quick to sweep over the wood floor, sometimes outcompeting more delicate ancient woodland species.” I didn’t know until today that there are separate male and female plants, and these are the male flower spikes. I didn’t notice the females.

The main tarmacked paths were well-used by dog walkers, but when we headed into the muddy and little-frequented area, we had it to ourselves. It all seemed very silent. Then we heard a woodpecker drumming, quite close. John used a stick on a log to drum back, and it worked. The bird drummed again in answer and came closer, inspected us from behind a tree, then flew off in disgust. No rivals here! There was a Tree Creeper dodging around the trunk of a tall tree and a Buzzard flew over. Evidence of the storms of a couple of years ago was still about, including this snapped and fallen oak.

We emerged from the woods opposite the Gamekeeper’s cottage near the old kennels. Daffodils and Primroses were scattered over the grass, making it as pretty as a chocolate box.

After a visit to the loos by the café block, we noticed a Monkey Puzzle tree in the shrubbery. The weak sunshine was catching what appeared to be new female cones at the ends of the branches, and making them look bright yellow. We knew that Monkey Puzzles come as separate male and female trees (dioecious), so we assumed the browner hanging structures further back were older female cones. However, I see on the Wild Flower Finder website that male cones look exactly like that. The website says “occasionally it is possible to find individual trees bearing both types of cone”, so that tree appears to be a special and unusual one.

There were Wild Garlic leaves sprouting by the Long Pond, and also this early Wild Cherry.
Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

There were Primroses on the bank by the way out to West Derby village, and Summer Snowflake on a corner near the car park.

The Highland cattle have had a productive spring, and we spotted five calves in a field with three adults, so there are probably two sets of twins. One of the calves was very pale-coloured.

The patch of wet grass near the village now looks almost like a proper pond. We looked for frogs or spawn, but no joy.

Public transport details: Bus 18 from Queen Square at 10.12, arriving Oak Lane North / Abbeyfield Drive at 10.35. Returned from Mill Lane / Town Row (West Derby village) on bus 12 at 2.33, arriving Liverpool at 2.55.

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