Walton Hall Park, 25th June 2023

And another hot day ! We started our walk along the southern edge of the park, where the shrubberies are fronted by bright red exercise equipment.  Several Buddleias were flowering, but there were no butterflies on them. Some of the ornamental cherry trees seemed to be developing real cherries.

A Wood Pigeon was eating some different red berries from the low shoots of a tree. The berries looked Hawthorn-ish, and about that size,  but they were soft and juicy, and had at least 6 seeds within. The leaves definitely weren’t Hawthorn, either, and there were no thorns in evidence. One of the rarer Thorn trees?

We last came here in September last year, and I noted that the Friends website talked about its wildflower verges. This time they were out, all along the eastern edge. Very nice !


We came around to the fishing lake and ornamental lake on the north side. They were quite littered, and full of algae, but neglect seems to be good for the wildlife. This is a great haunt of Canada Geese, which we have seen breeding here in the past. It’s also good for Coots, and we were amazed to see a pair with EIGHT youngsters. I think the most we have seen before is four. These chicks all looked to be the same size, so they can’t have been two merged broods.

Eight chicks, one adult (and the other adult was out of shot)

It’s also a good place for grebes.  One Great Crested Grebe appeared to be fishing for a juvenile, and a distant pair of Little Grebes were feeding four chicks.

Canada Geese at the back, Great Crested Grebe and chick in foreground
Little Grebes (Dabchicks) with four young

The perimeter of the lake was sprouting with Ragwort, Great Willowherb and low patches of Scarlet Pimpernel, a flower we don’t see very often.

We sat on the lakeside for lunch and noticed a dragonfly zipping past. As we got our eyes in we could see there were lots of them, probably all males holding territories along the lake edge. The one nearest us came to rest on the stone edge, and it appears to be a Broad-bodied Chaser.

Towards the western edge the water must be shallower, as we spotted out first Mallards, one with six ducklings, and a Moorhen with a single chick.

There were spots of rain, and the sky looked like it was about to deliver the promised thunder and lightning. After a pit stop in Sainsbury we got the bus back to town and by the time we got there the rain was pelting down, dancing in the puddles.

Public transport details: Bus 19 from Queen Square at 10.04, arriving Walton Hall Avenue / Walton Hall Park at 10.25.  Returned from Rice Lane / Cavendish Drive on the 310 bus at 1.25, arriving city centre 1.45.

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Georgian Quarter gardens, 18th June 2023

On another hot and muggy day, with thunderstorms promised later, we planned to visit five gardens near the Cathedral, opening for charity under the National Garden Scheme. They didn’t open until 1pm so we browsed around St James’ Garden until then. The site was a quarry in the 1700s, and the stone was used for many of Liverpool’s 18th century buildings. Between 1825 and 1936 it became Liverpool’s main cemetery and is now a public park. The Anglican Cathedral towers overhead. In the centre is the domed Huskisson Monument, commemorating William Huskisson 1770-1830, MP for Liverpool and the first person in the world to be killed by a passenger steam locomotive during the Rainhill railway trials won by the Rocket.

At the northern end are some early graves of mariners, including some American sea captains. One was for Captain William Wildes, born Arney Town, New Jersey who died 1835 and here is Captain Elisha Lindsay Halsey of Charleston, South Carolina.

There was a Wood Pigeon on a nest in a Weeping Ash, and a Blackbird on the path with a worm in its beak. The rough edges contained a variety of wild flowers, including this clump of Feverfew.

The gardens are now much less “managed” then they used to be, with lots of thickets of Bramble and Nettle. We saw the obvious benefits to wildlife, including sightings of several Large White butterflies, our first Red Admiral of the year and two Speckled Woods.

The Lime trees were flowering and full of aphids, which were supporting a large number of ladybirds and their larvae. We also saw a tiny orange one, only 3-4mm with many spots. I think it was the 24 Spot Ladybird, which rejoices in the Latin name Subcoccinella vigintiquattuorpunctata. It lives on grassland and meadow and is widespread but not particularly common. Our star insect was a bright copper-coloured beetle with a green head, about twice the length and width of a ladybird. Later identified as a Garden chafer, Phyllopertha horticola.

After a brief rain shower we headed off to the open gardens. On the wall of the oratory was a bright red plant. Is that Shining Cranesbill? No, the red colour doesn’t make it “shining”. The shape of the leaves means it is common Herb Robert. When it grows in dry exposed places, such as in crevices in walls and stone bridges, the leaves and stems turn red during dry weather.

Our first open garden was at 27 Canning Street, a small north-facing walled garden. The owner had lots of espaliered apple trees, a Morello cherry, a fig, and a grapevine.  The rest of the space is planted with herbs and spices and some more unusual plants such as Woad and the Turk’s Cap Lily.

Turks Cap Lily

In Back Canning Street another homeowner had made a lovely “doorstep” garden, and we spotted our second Red Admiral butterfly of the day. Like the first, it was smart and bright, but flying rather confusedly. Newly-emerged?

The second garden was ‘El Jardin de la Nuestra Senora’, the garden of Our Lady, next to St Philip Neri RC church on Catharine St. It is a Spanish-style garden created in the 1950s and is rarely open to the public. We noted the Tree of Heaven as an appropriate planting for a religious garden, and also the lovely roses.

Then we went to The Grapes Community Food Garden in Windsor Street. It has been developed over the last 10 years by local residents and community members, who grow a large variety of fruit trees and bushes, herbs, vegetables and flowers and run weekly gardening and cooking sessions. Their greenhouse was a marvellous domed affair.

Further down Windsor Street was The Squash Café Garden. The café is a community-designed eco building and they have a garden behind it where they grow produce for their menu. Their piece in the NGS leaflet mentioned “raised and moveable beds” which turned out to look something like supermarket trolleys. What a good idea! One was full of strawberries.

Finally, we crossed Princes Avenue to the Pakistan Association Liverpool Wellbeing Garden, right next to the Mosque on Mulgrave Street. It is the front garden of the community centre, described as “a beautiful inspirational space for the members to enjoy, grow vegetables, herbs and flowers”. Their Sweet Peas were lovely.

The Mosque

We were all quite tired by then. It felt like a long slog in the heat of the afternoon, but it was probably only about 2 ½ miles. We were happy to set off home, about an hour later than usual.

Just to add, I found a lovely moth roosting on my shed in the week, well-camouflaged on the old wood. It’s probably a Grey Dagger, Acronicta psi. It’s a medium-sized moth about an inch (2.5 cm) long. The ID guides say “Without close examination the Grey Dagger is indistinguishable from the Dark Dagger and identification is generally only possible by minute examination of the genitalia.” However, the Grey Dagger is commoner north of the Midlands.

Public transport details: Bus 82 from Elliot Street at 9.55, arriving 10.02 at Great George Street / Upper Duke Street at 10.02.  Returned on the 86A from Upper Parliament Street / Mulgrave Street at 3.30, arriving City Centre 3.40.

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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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Reynolds Park, 4th June 2023

Reynold Park is a jewel, tucked away in Woolton, near the official residence of the Bishop of Liverpool. Its walled garden is now one of the only places in Liverpool where there is still a proper old-fashioned display of roses and dahlias between neatly-mowed lawns and herbaceous borders, and where they make an effort with the topiary. We, however, went in by the back gate.

Their wildflower meadow is here, planted by the Friends about ten years ago. Our late friend Olive was one of the team putting in the plug plants. It wasn’t the showy just-planted display of colour which you sometimes see on roadsides, and not very exciting-looking, but it is probably evolving into a proper wildflower-rich meadow. We spotted Meadow Cranesbill and Buttercups, and lots of different grasses, and there will be more flowers to come later in the season. We thought we would see some butterflies there, but sadly not.

We walked along the north edge of the main field, looking at the trees lining the path. The Beeches are having another great fruiting year, and we thought we spotted some early fruits of the Sweet Chestnut.

Developing Beech mast
Developing fruits of Sweet Chestnut?

One small tree out on the grass looked newly-planted, and didn’t seem to have many leaves out. It still bore its nursery label, and it was Alnus glutinosa ‘Imperialis’, a new one on me. It’s a Common Alder, but extremely “cut-leaved”. Some nursery websites call it the Royal Alder and say it is very light and airy, with an elegant pyramidal crown of feathery green foliage.

Just before the Walled Garden is a sunken lawn where they have interesting trees. There was no sign of the Oriental Plane or the fastigiate Pin Oak that we have looked at before, but the Sweet Gum (Liquidambar) was growing well. There is a new yellow-foliaged Honey Locust “Sunburst”, and a snake-bark Maple near to the path that I haven’t noticed before. Could it be a Moosebark Acer pensylvanicum? It has the stripy bark and large three-pointed leaves.

The sunken lawn – possible Moosebark on the left, yellow Honey Locust in the middle

We sat in the walled garden in the hot sun for our lunch. It seems ages since we had any rain.

Then we strolled around the herbaceous border. We still didn’t see many butterflies, just an  occasional white one, but the border was buzzing with Bumble bees. We saw Buff-tailed and Red-tailed. We also admired the flowers. There were Triliiums, both white and purple, some marvellous yellow-brown Irises of the variety ‘Rajah’ and a brilliant little red flower that might be an ornamental strawberry.

Iris ‘Rajah’
Strawberry flowers?

They also have some special trees. The Judas tree was flourishing around the entrance tunnel, although its flowers had gone over. The Tulip Tree was in flower, and we were able to reach one to smell it. Yes, they DO smell of chocolate, specifically warm and melting Cadbury’s milk chocolate!

The Indian Bean tree was doing well, although it is late to leaf, so was only just out. And there is a beautiful Chinese Dogwood Cornus kousa with its lovely flowers.

Not may birds today. The usual Wood Pigeons and Magpies, Robins singing and a Long-tailed Tit in a dead tree. On the ground in the walled garden were Blackbirds, Sparrows and Dunnocks. Then we headed down Church Road and popped in to St Peter’s churchyard to see the gravestone of Eleanor Rigby. We were just commenting that it was unusual not to see any Beatles tourists about, when a guide appeared with two of them in tow, running through his spiel about “Father Mackenzie”. Parked outside was their “tour bus”, a magnificent Rolls Royce, painted up like a gypsy caravan or a canal boat and said to be a replica of John Lennon’s roller. I looked up the company, Beatstours, and they offer a very extensive three-hour tour, stopping at all the statues, landmarks and birthplaces, at £70 per person. 

Public transport details: Bus 75 from Liverpool ONE bus station at 10.00, arriving Rose Brow at 10.30. Returned from Woolton Village on the 75 at 2.20, arriving Liverpool 2.45.

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Hightown, 28th May 2023

It was, as they say, a day of two halves. We were in Hightown for the afternoon openings of four private gardens though the National Garden Scheme, but we spent the morning wandering along the muddy Alt estuary.

The northern side of the estuary is an MOD firing range, and today there was an occasional crackle of gunfire, probably coming from the Army Cadets who do target practice on a Sunday. The guard box had its flag flying, indicating danger.

The southern side has tall reeds, a small beach and muddy gullies at low tide. A scratchy two-note birdsong was coming from the reeds. Swallows flew overhead and House Martins were collecting mud for their nests. In the water or on the banks were Shelduck, a Moorhen, Herring Gulls, Black-headed Gulls and an Oystercatcher flying inland. On the mixed mud-and-sand edge was a large colony of Marsh Samphire Salicornia europaea, each shoot about 3 inches (8 cm) tall.

To our surprise, a Lancaster Bomber flew northwards overhead, going home from Liverpool’s Battle of the Atlantic Festival on Saturday. We walked southwards along the beach as far as this wind-blasted tree then turned inland at the Blundellsands Sailing Club.

The path leads up though old sand dunes, and we spotted a Linnet flying from a tree. There was typical dune flora including Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Poppies, and these Yellow Bush Lupines, Lupinus arboreus on the edge of the car park. It’s a plant from California, rapidly spreading in the UK.

We lunched on a picnic table in a children’s playground then headed for the open gardens. The best was the first, at 75 Blundell Road. It has taken the owner 27 years to convert it from old sand dunes, starting with the import of 170 tons of topsoil. It was a pretty garden with meandering paths, sweet music playing and a literary theme. The “Narnia” area “where it’s always winter”, was planted in white, there was an “Alice in Wonderland” tea party corner, a Holmesian “Study in Scarlet” area and lots of wonderful roses.

Rose “Eye of the Tiger”

Two of the other three were large gardens with shrubberies and extensive lawns, where tea and cakes were being served, and the fourth was a narrow path around three sides of a house, absolutely crammed with plants. I was rather taken with this Thalictrum “Nimbus white”.

Here are some other lovely flowers from the day.

Public transport details: Southport train from Central at 10.08, arriving Hightown at 10.32. Returned on the train at 14.46.

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Wirral Way, 21st May 2023

On a lovely warm and sunny day we set out on a simple, straight, flat walk along the Wirral Way. Its full length is 13 miles from Hooton to West Kirkby, but we only walked from Hooton to Hadlow Road and back, 1.7 miles each way. We met some walkers and cyclists, but it wasn’t busy, just a cool green tunnel.  The billowing Cow Parsley wasn’t fully out yet, but there were plenty of other flowers, including May (Hawthorn) blossom, Forget-me not, Speedwell, Wood Avens, Dog Rose, Red Campion and Buttercups.

Red Campion
Some kind of Speedwell
About a week too early for the best billowing Cow Parsley

The Elder was in bud, but not yet flowering, while the Hogweed was sending up strong shoots. By contrast, most of the Dandelions are over, and here is half-blown seed head showing how it is made.

The female Goat Willow trees were shedding their fluffy seed everywhere, and looked like they were covered in blossom.

Seed fluff, not white blossom
Goat willow seed heads, one with the fluffy seeds emerging, one yet to open

All through the tangled hedgerows were the winding and climbing tendrils of Black Briony, with tiny new leaves and panicles of male flower buds. We are used to seeing the red berries in autumn, but I don’t think I have noticed it at this time of year before.

We spotted some Alder leaves with yellow bumps on them, which appear to have been caused by one of the Alder Gall Mites, possibly either Eriophyes laevis or Eriophyes inangulis. Pictures online seem confused, and neither of those species’ galls show the pale yellow margin on the leaves we saw.  Maybe the culprit is something different.

We remarked on how young Horse Chestnut saplings often put out huge leaves next to paths, presumably to capture maximum light as they attempt to get up to the canopy.

Talking of Horse Chestnuts, I had speculated last year that the two huge trees near to Hadlow Road station might be the special variety called Baumann’s Horse Chestnut. They have double flowers and are sterile, producing no conkers or their spiky cases. This is very useful when the path beneath is used by horses and bikes. This time I had had a good look at the flowers and I am sure they ARE Baumann’s. There is no natural way they could have got there, so they must have been deliberately planted when the path was laid out in 1973. They are now 50 years old and are magnificent towering specimens.

Along the way we heard several Chiffchaffs. There were Robins singing, Blackbirds on the path and at one point we could hear a loud and complex song, probably made by some sort of warbler. We looked at all the trees in the direction of the song but we couldn’t find the bird. As for mammals, the verges had some narrow trails which might have been badger or fox paths.  Further on I spotted a movement low down and was rewarded by the sight of a small Field Mouse scurrying away into the undergrowth. We also spotted two Corpses of the Day – a dried-up Grey Squirrel and a recently-dead Hedgehog on which flies were settling.

We lunched at Hadlow Road station, preserved as would have been in about 1952, complete with old ticket office, timetable and old money!

On the way back, it turned out that Sheena had a plant photo-ID app on her phone and it identified Cock’s Foot grass. I was still a bit sceptical so we tried it on the immature and unpromising-looking tendrils of Black Bryony, and it got that right, too. Maybe we should get a birdsong app to help with mystery warblers.  Several butterflies were on the wing, including three Speckled Woods competing for space in a sunny glade (probably all males), an Orange Tip, and this Speckled Wood which sat still for its portrait.

Public transport details: Train from Central towards Ellesmere Port at 10am, arriving Hooton 10.25. Returned from Hooton at 14.14, arriving Liverpool 14.45.

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Allerton Cemetery, 7th May 2023

There was no rain today, it was warm and sunny for a change. In Allerton Cemetery all was calm and ordered, with manicured lawns, neat shrubberies and pretty flower beds outside the gate lodges.

The Cherry blossom is falling.

There were Blackbirds about, a Robin and this smart and alert Mistle Thrush.

We saw one or two white butterflies, and a single blue, but all were distant and fast-moving, so we couldn’t identify them. It was the flowering trees that were easier to examine.  Hawthorn, Oak, Sycamore and Hornbeam, as well as some lovely Rhododendrons and Azaleas. The Red Horse Chestnut, the Judas Tree and Laburnum were following closely behind. In a corner is a grafted  Manna Ash, with its white frothy flowers.

We also looked at the Bauman’s Horse Chestnuts,  a variety with double flowers. This interferes with their reproductive apparatus, meaning they are sterile and produce no conkers. They are favoured in town plantings because there are no messy conkers and cases for the council to clear up.

Along the path leading to Springwood we were surprised to see copious Oak Apples on the ground, much mashed by the passing cars. We haven’t seen them so abundantly before. They are caused by a tiny female wasp of the species Biorhiza pallida, who lays her eggs in the developing leaf buds of several species of Oak. The oak itself produces the spongy “apple”, which may contain quite a few developing wasps.

Springwood Avenue is lined by magnificent Copper Beeches.

Over the road is the main crematorium for Liverpool, and its gardens are very beautiful. We sat by the rose beds for lunch and found we were seated under a tree we had looked for earlier in the year without success. It was a Box Elder / Ash-leaved Maple Acer negundo. The male tree puts out clusters of bright pink tassels before the leaves. They have all gone dull and brown now, of course,

Behind the gardens is a small wild woodland called the Eric Hardy Nature Reserve. What a contrast to the neat lawns and shrubberies of the cemetery and crematorium! The woods are mainly Oak, Cherry and Hawthorn, with Bramble and Elder below. This is a young wood, so the floor is colonised by prolific “weeds” like Nettles, Goose Grass, Green Alkanet, Spanish Bluebells, Garlic Mustard, but also Wild Arum (= Lords and Ladies) and Cow Parsley.

A Jay flashed past, and as we emerged at the north end of Clarke Gardens we heard some Ring-necked Parakeets squawking. We walked along the edge, looking at the new trees planted amongst the daffodils. Some have been vandalised and snapped, some are completely gone with just the stakes to show where they had been, and the best survivors seemed to be the unstaked tiny “whips”. Then we headed back for the train. It was full of revellers heading for the Eurovision events in town, so we made the right decision to avoid the buses, which were all being re-routed!  

Public transport details: Train from Central at 10.14, arriving Liverpool South Parkway 10.28. Returned from Liverpool South Parkway station at 14.46.

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Eastham Woods, 30th April 2023

Yet another wet and drizzly Sunday: the rain does seem to be seeking us out this year. Off to Eastham to check if the signposted bluebell wood lived up to its promise.

It did indeed, with large areas carpeted with the rarer native English Bluebells. They are an indicator species for ancient woodlands, which suggests Eastham wood has been undisturbed for at least 400 years. Half the world’s bluebells are found in the UK, and the English species can be distinguished by having their flowers just on one side, a nodding stem, curled-back petals, white or cream pollen and a sweet smell.

The bluebells in most gardens, including mine, are from Spain or Portugal, and have been imported for centuries, preferred because they were bigger and more upright. In a familiar sequence of events the Spanish bluebells have been out-competing and hybridising with our native bluebells. You will know the interloper by its tall straight stems, flowers all around, blue pollen and absence of scent.  There were a few clumps of them near the path edges, but the depths of the wood seemed to have the proper English Bluebells throughout.

All was green and growing, with that lovely fresh colour of spring. Lots of Garlic Mustard was flowering beside the paths and the Cow Parsley was just starting to bloom. The Hawthorn or “May” blossom was just coming out.

Another plant near the edge was Yellow Archangel with variegated leaves. This is a garden escape and the Wildlife Trusts say it is an invasive plant and should be removed from wild areas. We also spotted a few patches of Wood Anemone and a couple of clusters of Three-cornered Leek.

A fenced-off area was reserved for wildflower and (hazel) coppice restoration, and a single yellow flower was visible. Buttercup? Some kind of Poppy?  No, it was Greater Celandine, a member of the Poppy family, and no relation to the Lesser Celandine. It is thought to have been introduced to Britain by the Romans as a medicinal herb – its orange sap was used to treat warts.

Robins were singing everywhere. We saw both Song Thrush and Blackbirds on the path and heard the call of a Nuthatch, but we couldn’t see it. As we approached the Ranger Station we were shocked to see the yard gates closed and locked. We had been relying on using their loos. Happily the biker’s pub next door, The Tap, was happy to accommodate us. It looks like Eastham is another place we will have to delete from our list of suitable places to go on a Sunday.

There were no dry places to have lunch, but we found a Holly den which had suitable logs for seats but was a bit drippy!

As soon as we had finished eating, the rain stopped. It’s always the way. As we walked back out to the road we noticed logs and woodpiles everywhere. It’s the aftermath of storms Arwen and Barra in December 2021, when dozens of trees fell or snapped. I think there’s now a massive experiment going on. None of that old wood has been removed, it’s all being left as logs, branches, brash piles and woodchip to see what happens as it rots.

Public transport details: Bus 1 from Sir Thomas Street at 10.05, arriving New Chester Road opp Woodyear Road at 10.45.  Returned on the X1 from New Chester Road / Allport Road at 1.55, arriving Liverpool at 2.30.

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Otterspool Park, 23rd April 2023

The Otterspool area was once the home of fishermen, and of dissident Puritans (who named the little stream “River Jordan” and the lane “Jericho”). Later, a wealthy merchant built a snuff mill near the shore and a large house for himself. It was demolished in 1931 and all that remains are the gateposts and carriage drive.

We took the new Woodland Walk path, which climbs the right-hand bank and winds through Beech and Hornbeam, Sycamore and Norway Maple. Someone has been planting (Spanish) Bluebells, Daffodils and Narcissi. In this sheltered valley we saw our first Horse Chestnut flowers and the first May blossom. All the new leaves are a delicate green.

A Nuthatch was dodging about in the tree branches and we heard Great Tits and Blackbirds. A Jay flew over. At the base of one tree were some small excavated holes which we think were made by mining bees. They weren’t quite as big as bumble bee nest holes, the width of a pencil rather than a finger. Unfortunately we didn’t see any of the residents, and since there are over 60 species of mining bees in the UK we can’t even guess who made them.

The woods aren’t completely native. The carriage drive must once have been lined with specimen trees. There is some kind of Redwood, a tall thin conifer, and a magnificent pair of Cut-leaved Beeches flanking the path. On the corner by the railway bridge we noted a small tree that we couldn’t identify. It had masses of small hanging buds, and what looked like black fruits or empty seed cases from last year, all turned up like little chandeliers. The good folks on the Facebook group Trees of Britain and Ireland promptly named it as the shrub Enkianthus campanulatus known as Red Vein Enkianthus. It is native to the open woodlands of Japan. Those little buds will become pink bells, and it has wonderful autumn colour, they say. Interestingly, there is a Persian Ironwood immediately opposite it, a tree also famed for its autumn display, so this is clearly a planned pairing.

We emerged from the woods near the skatepark. There are newly-planted trees on the lawn there, some still with their nursery labels. Two were Weeping White Mulberries, there were some lovely cut-leaved birches and multi-stemmed Hazels, one a purple variety. These are unusual plantings for a busy public park.

Nearby was a sign calling it The Otterspool Orchard and saying that it is part of an Urban GreenUP research project on climate change. They also mention one of the plantings was a pecan, a rare tree we have also recently seen planted in Calderstones Park. Is that part of the same experiment? Whatever is produced is free to harvest in any case.

We lunched overlooking the river, watching a group of yachts with colourful sails.

With dark clouds threatening we returned along the path on the south side of the carriage drive, designated a Nature Reserve. There were lots of wild flowers out including Wild Garlic, the first Cow Parsley, Garlic Mustard, White Dead-nettle and Marsh Marigolds on the banks of the Water Retention Ponds.

Marsh Marigold
Wild Garlic

We also admired many of the tree flowers, Hornbeam, Cut-leaved Beech, and thickly growing Elm seeds.  The books are never very clear about how to distinguish English Elm from Wych Elm by the position of the seed in the wing, but this is very probably Wych Elm because of the abundance of the seeds, and the unlikelihood of an English Elm of that size surviving to flower and fruit so copiously.

Early seeds of Elm
Hornbeam early seed tassels and some brown developed ones from last autumn
Flowers and emerging leaves of Cut-leaved Beech

Public transport details: Bus 82 from Elliot Street at 9.55, arriving Aigburth Road / Lisburn Road at 10.15. Returned from Aigburth Road / Jericho Lane on the 82 at 2.05, arriving city centre 2.25.

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Gilroy Nature Park, West Kirby, 16th April 2023

It was grey and damp as I set out, and it settled into a persistently dismal drizzle all day. Our plan was to walk across the fields from Hoylake to Gilroy Nature Park, near West Kirby.  Along New Hall Lane there were plenty of wayside “weeds” doing well at the edge of the pavement – Shepherd’s Purse, Green Alkanet, Goose Grass, Mallow, Scarlet Pimpernel, many of them not in  flower yet, but there was a gorgeous crimson Crab Apple tree blooming near the entrance to New Hall Farm.

We passed Whitegate Animal Sanctuary and stopped to gawk at the pigs and poultry. Then along the path between the fields, the route we had attempted on 18 December last year, but had been defeated by the ice.

A Wren dived out of sight into a ditch as we approached and seven or eight Shelduck flew over in a tight flock, heading south. All the Dandelion flowers were closed up tight in the cold rain, but there were large patches of Red Dead-nettle, the Elder flower buds were well formed, and the earliest flowers of Garlic Mustard were just showing.

It had been cold and bleak between the open fields, but as we approached Gilroy we were at last sheltered by overhanging trees and the path was lined with the coastal plant known as Alexanders.

A huge carpet of Lesser Celandine stretched right back into the woods.

Inside the Nature Park bluebells were coming out under the trees. A Chiffchaff called, and there were a few Mallards out on Gilroy Pool, but then we spotted a fast-moving bird – a Swallow over the water.  But the rain was dripping down our necks, so we knew that one Swallow definitely doesn’t make a summer! (It was too fast to be in this picture, in case you are squinting.)

Around the edges of the pool were clumps of a grass-like tussocky plant, with black flower buds opening to yellow. It appears to be Black Bog-Rush Schoenus nigricans, a native plant. It is said to be common in Scotland and East Anglia, but the NBN Atlas doesn’t show any records of it between Formby and North Wales.  The Freshwater Habitats Trust says “Black Bog-rush is not a rush but a sedge! This beautiful species can be recognised for its almost 1m in height and its dense tufts with dark fruiting heads. Black Bog-rush flowers from April to June, and it is the host plant for various moths and flies, and food for mammals such as rabbits.”

The last section of the path to West Kirby runs next to some allotments, and is bordered by an avenue of newly-planted Apple trees of many varieties, some with legible labels. We could read the ones for Egremont Russet and Laxton Fortune. They were all starting to blossom.

A sign for “Incredible Edibles” says “When it’s ripe, feel free to pick some fruit” and adds “This apple avenue is an invitation to consider where our food comes from”.

By then it was nearly noon, but with no shelter in sight we got the bus a few stops into West Kirby, dropped into Morrison’s for the loos, then had a late lunch in the shelters in the ornamental gardens at the corner of Victoria Drive.  It was still raining, and we were getting cold and bedraggled, so it was time to go home. We had time to look into Sandlea Park on the way to the station.  It’s only a tiny park, but pretty. There were more Bluebells coming out, a mix of blue and white, and they looked lovely, especially against some old beech leaves.

A pink tree was just coming into leaf, probably an otherwise-ordinary Sycamore, but of the variety  ‘Brilliantissimum’, in which the green chlorophyll is late to develop.

Finally, a lovely white Cherry with its characteristic hanging blossom.

Public transport details: Train from Central towards West Kirby at 10.05, arriving Hoylake 10.30. Returned on the train from West Kirby at 2.30, arriving Liverpool at 3.10.

Posted in Sunday Group | Comments Off on Gilroy Nature Park, West Kirby, 16th April 2023