Canal Towpath – Bootle to Waterloo, 15th October 2023

It was a lovely bright and sunny day, with the first feel of autumn. From Bootle Strand we took the canal towpath northwards, with the sun behind us.  John’s Weeping willows were looking good after their severe pruning a few years ago.

Canal birds were Coots, Mallards, Canada Geese and Moorhens, just the usual, with none of the surprises we sometimes see. We were amazed at all the new house along the east side, which have sprung up since last time we were along here. Many of the occupants have taken advantage of the canal at the bottoms of their gardens by making decks to catch the afternoon sun. Overhead, we were riveted by the sight of five blokes painting the tall radio mast at Marsh Lane, swinging from ropes. Eeek!

Apart from occasional cyclists and a few dog walkers, we had the towpath mostly to ourselves. Near Linacre Lane bridge there were big billows of Ivy coming into flower, attracting lots of hoverflies and three or four Red Admirals.

All alongside Mellanear Park were lots of kids games painted onto the towpath surface, like hopscotch and other counting games.  There are no new houses on THAT area because it is contaminated land. From the 1930s to the 1950s it was the site of what was known locally as the Arsenic Factory – the William Harvey & Co Ltd Mellanear Tin Smelting Works. The firm originated in Cornwall, but when the tin mines gave out they moved to Bootle and started importing tin ore from Bolivia. There was arsenic in it and several local workers died from Arsine (arsenic trihydride] Poisoning.

Just past the 4 miles marker (measuring from Liverpool) a brambly hedge on the opposite side was the source of a cacophony of bird cheeps and whistles. It really was noticeably noisy. We suspected a thriving House Sparrow colony, and we saw some of them hopping about within the hedge, but I have never heard them whistle before, so maybe there were Starlings in there too.

We had our lunch break on the terrace at Tesco Litherland. It is built on a the site of the old lead works. Other noxious businesses formerly lining the canal in the area were Litherland Tannery, the Sausage Factory and the Liquorice Toffee Factory. Happily those days are gone, and now the Canal and River Trust proudly advertise their Green Flag award. The fishermen say they catch Perch, Roach and Pike and we even saw a dragonfly speeding through the reeds, but we didn’t identify it.

After lunch, we carried on along the canal, spotting a pair of Mallards which head-bobbed then mated. What season do they think it is?  A dying Dragonfly was caught on the surface of the water. It was still alive, vibrating occasionally, and once we saw it struggle hard to break the surface tension. I think it was a female Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta. They are said to be found in “well-vegetated aquatic habitats, and on the wing July to early November”. That looks right. It used to be a migrant to UK before the 1940s (hence the name), but is now a well-established resident south of Scottish border. We looked for a long stick, hoping to rescue her, but she was too far out to reach so was destined to be Corpse of the Day, sadly.

We left the canal at Brook Vale, crossed Rimrose Valley Country Park to St Mary’s Road in Waterloo Park and came out by the Five Lamps on Crosby Road South.

Public transport details: Bus 47 at 10.14 from Queen Square, arriving Stanley Road / Bootle Strand at 10.35. The others returned to the city centre on the 47 bus at Crosby Road South / Great Georges Road (Five Lamps) at 1.37 while I took a bus homewards in the other direction.

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