Childwall Woods, 1st October 2023

Despite its twiggy base (suggesting Lime), this appeared to be a Sycamore

Childwall Woods and Fields is a Local Nature Reserve, originally the woodland garden of local  lawyer Isaac Green, now one of the best semi-natural woodlands in Liverpool. Isaac planted young Beeches and Sweet Chestnuts about 300 years ago, and now some have survived to become recognised “veterans”. They also have a very rare tree, a Variegated Oak, described below.

Newly-sprouting leaves of the rare variegated oak

We spent the morning walking the paths in the fine drizzle and heavier, drippy showers, trying to avoid the muddiest areas. Not many birds around, but we spotted Nuthatch and Robin and heard a Buzzard. The Sweet Chestnuts have had a good year, and the fallen seeds and spiky husks were thick on the ground.

After lunch two of us stayed for a guided walk led by the Friends of Childwall Woods and Fields.   We covered much of the same ground, but learned more. The sun came out, too. Childwall woods aren’t old enough to qualify as ancient, but they have been largely undisturbed for centuries. The 300-year-old Beeches and Sweet Chestnuts are reaching the ends of their lives, but there are many younger trees growing amongst them, including Sycamore, Ash, Lime, Horse Chestnut, Holly Yew, Rowan and Hawthorn.

The woods are rich in fungi, with many puffballs underfoot, bracket fungi all over the dead and fallen wood, and this pretty pink one which might be very small young growth of Purple Jellydisc Ascocoryne sarcoides

The area has long been on my wish list because they have a pair of very rare trees. Variegated Oak Quercus robur ‘Variegata’. There are said to be only 68 of them in England. The Friends think they were planted about 100 years ago as prestigious garden features, bought as grafted trees. Sadly, one was blown over in Storm Arwen in  November 2021. It had been the Lancashire County Champion, but now the other one, still standing next to a path, has taken over that honour. Happily, the fallen tree has started to re-sprout, so isn’t quite dead. See the special page on the Friends website

The standing variegated oak, leaves too high to inspect
The fallen variegated oak, whose new leaves are pictured earlier in this post

This is the oldest veteran Beech, now hollow and shedding branches.

And this is their largest veteran tree, a 300-year-old Sweet Chestnut, 4.6m in diameter.

Public transport details: Bus 75 from Gt. Charlotte Street at 10.02, arriving Woolton Road / Childwall Park Avenue at 10.27. I returned on bus 81 from Childwall Abbey Road / Taggart Avenue at 3.55, then another bus north from Bootle. Long day.

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