Gorse Hill, 9th June 2024

It was a day of dark skies, blustery winds and sharp showers, just a typical June day!  We saw two notable trees today. The first was in a Long Lane garden, a Red Snake-bark Maple Acer capillipes. It has a distinctive leaf, dark green, with those small lobes on either side. The pale green stripy bark is equally distinctive and the long strings of small “helicopter” seeds clinch the ID.

The main area of Gorse Hill reserve was closed until 1pm so we took a public path northwards, through the painted gate off Holly Lane. There are tall hedges on either side, casting shade good for Foxgloves and Hogweed.

We could hear lots of birds – Blackbirds, Robin, Song Thrush, Chiffchaff, but we didn’t see any of them. This area of shrubby farmland is known for the now-uncommon Yellowhammer. The Merlin app on my phone heard one a couple of times, and also a Whitethroat, but all were invisible.
After lunch we looked at the main reserve’s new 5 acre wildflower meadow. They use it as a crop, cutting it in July or August to sell the sweet meadow hay in the local area. To stop it being trampled, they have cut paths in it to discourage off-piste wanderings.

It isn’t the showy “poppy and cornflower” municipal planting, but a quieter and more natural assemblage of Buttercup, Yarrow, Knapweed, Yellow Rattle, Common Sorrel, Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Restharrow, Common Vetch, Scabious, mixed grasses, and many more.

Yellow rattle
Common Sorrel

Just inside the gate shown on the photo above, on the edge of the woodland, was our second Tree of the Day, a Wayfaring Tree Viburnum lantana. It is a British native, found most often in the south of England on chalky soils, and quite rare in Lancashire and Cheshire. There are two or three clumps of it on both sides of the woodland path.  It isn’t particularly pretty, but in autumn the berries ripen at different times, showing both red and black fruit in the same cluster.

Wayfaring tree – immature berries
Wayfaring tree leaves

We supported their café by having tea, and bought some freshly-harvested veg from their kitchen garden, then headed back to the train.

Public transport details: Ormskirk train from Central at 10.17, arriving Aughton Park at 10.45. Returned from Aughton Park at 3.10, arriving Sandhills 3.32.

Anyone is welcome to come out with the Sunday Group. It is not strictly part of the MNA, although it has several overlapping members. We go out by public transport to local parks, woods and nature reserves all over Merseyside, and occasionally further afield. We are mostly pensioners, so the day is free on our bus passes, and we enjoy fresh air, a laugh and a joke, a slow amble in pleasant surroundings and sometimes we even look at the wildlife!
If you want to join a Sunday Group walk, pack lunch, a flask, waterproofs, binoculars if you have them, a waterproof pad to sit on if we have to have lunch on the grass or a wet bench (A garden kneeler? A newspaper in a plastic bag?), and wear stout shoes or walking boots. We are usually back in Liverpool City Centre by 4pm at the latest.
If you are interested in the wildlife of the north-west of England and would like to join the walks and coach trips run by the Merseyside Naturalists’ Association, see the main MNA website www.mnapage.info for details of our programme and how to join us.

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