The Dream, 11th June 2023

After a rather circuitous bus journey from St Helens we arrived at the entrance to Sutton Manor woodland, created by the Forestry Commission on the old colliery spoil heap, now part of Bold Forest Park. Sutton Manor Colliery opened in May 1906 and closed in 1991, leaving significant coal reserves underground. The gates are now an historical landmark.

It was still very hot and humid, with the possibility of thunderstorms. Probably not the best day to be climbing a hill, although there were some shady sections. In a couple of wooded places we found tall pipes emerging from the ground, well fenced off. Are they letting out methane from underground? One such pipe seemed to be a shrine, with bunches of flowers tied to nearby trees.

A wayside sculpture said
Beneath us there’s a labyrinth
A tangle of forgotten pathways.
We walk alone in dreams
Among the twisted rusted shapes
That litter memory’s lanes.

We came upon a Goat Willow shrub whose leaves were covered with bright orange patches. We assumed they were some sort of caterpillar eggs. However, now I look at my close-up picture I can see it looks like fluffy fungus. It must have been Willow Rust caused by Melampsora caprearum.

At the top of the spoil heap, 200ft above sea level, is the sculpture called “The Dream”. It’s by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, unveiled in May 2009. It’s a giant girl’s head, 20m high, made of pre-cast concrete and Spanish dolomite. The M62 passes close by and over 100,000 people pass by daily and glimpse it over the trees.

We thought we would see lots of butterflies today, but our tally was one Common Blue and two Meadow Browns, plus the occasional more distant flutterings. Maybe it is still too early, but this seems to be a very low number.  There weren’t many birds in evidence either – a Chaffinch at the top of a conifer and some loud and varied birdsong coming from some thick shrubbery which I think might have been at least two duelling Song Thrushes. Flowers included Buttercups, Birds Foot Trefoil, Hop Trefoil, Fox and Cubs, Meadow Cranesbill, White Clover, Dog Rose, Bramble, Elder, Dogwood and a lot of Pendulous Sedge. There were occasional orchids peeping out of the verges.

Fox and Cubs
Pendulous sedge

Public transport details: Train from Liverpool Lime Street towards Blackpool at 10.15, arriving St Helens Central at 10.45. Then bus 17 from the bus station towards Widnes at 10.54 which, by a very roundabout route arrived at Jubits Lane / Tennyson Street at 11.40. Returned on the 17 from Jubits Lane / Chandler’s Way, arriving St Helens bus station at 2.20, then bus 10 at 2.25, arriving Liverpool 3.20.

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