West Kirby, 10th March 2024

Back to West Kirby for a quick tour of several favourite spots, starting with the northern end of the Wirral Way. It has a fancy new gateway, opened last year for the 50th anniversary of its inauguration in 1973. The top of the arch has a steam engine on it, marking the path’s previous existence as a railway branch line.

Although we had drizzly rain on and off all day, we were sheltered from the wind along the path, although it was occasionally wet and muddy.

A Wren dived for cover, and two Collared Doves watched us from above. A pair of Mistle Thrushes flew off from a tree fork. Were they nesting? There was the normal complement of Robins, Blackbirds and Magpies, and also an odd trilling call which we couldn’t place, perhaps from some streaky thrush-sized birds who might have been Redwings.  The path was lined with the coastal plant called Alexanders. There was no Cow Parsley that we could see, but I spotted my first flowers this year of Green Alkanet.

Green Alkanet

We crossed the top of Ashton Park and entered the churchyard of St Bridget’s. The graves were surrounded with Primroses. To my delight, one of the two old cherries overhanging the path was in bloom. I have always hoped to be there when they flowered, and I feared today would be too early, but I was lucky.

It’s the first flowering cherry I have seen this year. It’s possibly the variety ‘Accolade’, said to be a low-crowned tree with pink semi-double flowers and red buds. And very early.

We  returned by the lower reach of Ashton Park, next to the lake. The resident birds were present and correct – Herring Gulls, Mallards, Canada Geese, Coots and Moorhens, Feral Pigeons. Something less boring was this juvenile Cormorant, preening peacefully. Look at the hook on its beak!

In the residential streets the garden shrubs were beginning to parade their finery. Forsythia, Quince, Magnolia, Camellia and Flowering Currant. We lunched in Victoria Gardens then headed for the seafront. The tide was an hour or two past the top, and people were walking on the path around the Marine Lake. They appeared to be walking on water, but there is sand behind them, and the shorebirds were beyond that. Apart from some low flights of Knot, they were otherwise too far out to identify.

Nearby were Herring Gulls, Turnstones on the boat club pontoons and some paddling Black-headed Gulls. The Rangers had put up a banner about this year’s Hilbre open days.

On the way back to the station we meandered though Sandlea Park. There was a white spring flower, clearly from a bulb, that we didn’t know. It appears to be Spring Starflower, Ipheion uniflorum. A new one on me.

In a sheltered corner was a young blossom tree which I assumed was another Cherry. I took a quick couple of pictures, but later decided it didn’t look like a Cherry at all. Was it Plum? Almond? Peach?

I think it’s a Peach tree. Cherry blossom has long stalks and comes in clusters. The bark is stripy, too. Not a Cherry. Plum blossom has no stalks, it comes straight off the wood, and the flowers are usually individuals.  Peach blossom is said to have very short stalks and to usually come out in pairs. This looks like Peach to me. How marvellous! It’s the only one I have ever come across on Merseyside, and it deserves checking every time we pass it. (Added 19th March. This tree caused some discussion on the Fb group “Trees of Britain and Ireland”, some saying peach, some saying almond. Today a poster called Dan Pugh said he had supplied that very tree and so he knew it was a hybrid Almond, variety ‘Ingrid’. It’s the only Almond I know about on Merseyside, so still worth keeping an eye on.)

Public transport details: Train from Central at 10.05, arriving West Kirby 10.35. Returned on train at 2.00, arriving Central 2.35.

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