Landican Cemetery, 14th April 2024

We got off the bus a bit earlier than usual and entered Landican by the footpath at the northern end, off Woodchurch Road, just past the bus stop. It was a rough farm lane, with horses in the fields to the left. Along the edges the first Garlic Mustard, was in bloom, also early stands of Cow Parsley, some bluebells staring to flower and some Herb Robert. There was a bumble bee with a ginger thorax, which I guessed was a Carder Bee, but it’s too early for them, so it must have been a Tree Bumblebee Bombus hypnorum. It’s a species which was new to the UK in 2001, and has been spreading northwards.

Early Cow Parsley

A pair of Dunnocks was investigating a thick hedge, and as we entered the cemetery we could hear a Song Thrush, high up and quite close, but we couldn’t find it in the tree we were sure the sound was coming from. All around were the calls of Robins, Blackbirds, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Blue Tits and Great Tits  A Rowan tree was about to bloom.

The main attraction of Landican at this time is the Cherry trees. Large pink ones everywhere, and some with white blossom. They have also planted lots of ornamental Crab Apples with red flowers.

The whole place appears very neat and tidy, mowed and weeded, with just Dandelions and Daisies in the lawns.  However, the eastern edge is far less manicured. Some areas are marked as “Biodiversity Buffers”, where they mow far less often, and signs explain that it might look less tidy but provides. homes, shelter and food for wildlife.

Another spot is the re-burial ground for St Mary’s Birkenhead, whose graves and markers were moved in the 1950s when Cammell Laird’s expanded their dry dock. This area is now designated as a wildlife conservation area. There were several butterflies speeding about –  a couple of Orange Tips and a grey-brown one, which might have been a Speckled Wood, maybe a moth.  A Pheasant called from the edge, and we saw him later, walking with a pronounced limp.

We were hoping for Hares, but we didn’t see any. However we fell into conversation with two fellows walking about, who said they see lots of them in the evening when they are in their cars, and sometimes the Hares are just sitting in the roadways. They also said the area is regularly used by Green Woodpeckers in the summer, who nest in Arrowe Park but come onto the cemetery lawns for the ants.  There was a Pied Wagtail on the chapel roof, and Greenfinch and Goldfinch on the feeders at the back.

We walked around the far southern end, now an active burial area, and a bit open.  New young trees are being planted here, including a young Tulip Tree. By the natural burial area, there was a young oak tree, hardly in leaf, but bearing last year’s marble galls.

Public transport details: Bus 472 from Sir Thomas Street at 10.14, arriving Woodchurch Road / Arrowe Park Road at 10.40. Returned from Arrowe Park Road / opp Landican Cemetery on the 471 bus at 2.25, arriving Liverpool 3.00.

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Botanic Gardens, Churchtown, 7th April 2024

Our first treat this morning had nothing to do with wildlife or the gardens, it was a crocheted post box topper on the corner of Preston New Road and Marshside Road showing Postman Pat, his cat and his van. The attached label said it was by crochet group, the Southport Hookers. Brilliant!

At the entrance to Botanic Gardens the border was an eye-popping mix of primulas and tulips in shades of red, yellow and orange.

Around the edge of the Fernery lawns some young trees with bronze leaves were in white flower. I guessed Snowy Mespil, Amelanchier spp. It’s a North American tree, very often recommended for small gardens, and also named Juneberry or Serviceberry.  The ID was confirmed by the memorial labels. Usually such tributes just name the deceased friend or relative, but these had the tree species name as well. Most commendable. It was strange that two apparently identical trees were said to be of different species. One was Amelanchier lamarckii, said to be the most sought after kind, spreading and multi-stemmed, with pendulous flowers.  The other was labelled Amelanchier canadensis, said to be a shrub with more upright blossoms. They looked the same to me.

Tree labelled as Amelanchier lamarckii
Flowers of A. lamarckii, said to have pendulous flowers
Flowers of A. canadensis said to have “more upright” flowers

It had been gusty in the morning, with Storm Kathleen just passing over, but the high winds eased off after lunch. The lake had a pair of Mute Swans, some Mallards and Moorhens, and about a dozen Tufted Duck, all apparently coupling up. Do they breed here? I don’t think I have ever seen Tuftie ducklings.

Horse Chestnut trees spread branches right over the water, and I spotted my first flower of the year.

Near the northern gate is an open area with some unusual conifers planted there. On the southern edge of that area we spotted what appeared to be a tree signboard, but we had to duck below overhanging branches to reach it. Amazingly it was a Paperbark Maple Acer griseum tucked away close to some other trees and overshadowed by Rhododendron. It is growing tall and thin, high up into the canopy, trying to get some light. We never saw any leaves.

Why on earth would it be planted there? It can’t be an accidental germination. On Countryfile this weekend they showed a scientist at Westonbirt saying germination of Acer griseum is so low they have to X-ray the seeds to see which ones are viable. To further add to the mystery, there is a large sign below it, implying it’s number 11 on a Tree Trail. On the way out we asked in the café if they had a tree trail leaflet, but the staff looked quite mystified at the very idea!

Also on the way out we looked over the racks of plants for sale, There are always bargains to be had. I came home with an unusual Aubrietia ‘Blue blush bicolour’, while another of the group got eight Primulas for a pound.

Public transport details: Train from Central towards Southport at 10.24, alighting Hillside at 11.01. Bus 47 from outside Hillside Station at 11.18, arriving Preston New Road / Marshside Road at 11.36. Returned from Botanic Road opp Gardens on the 49 bus at 2.05, arriving Lord Street / Monument at 2.19, just in time for the 2.27 train to Liverpool.

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Greenbank Park, 31st March 2024

Greenbank Park is on land formerly belonging to the Rathbone family, Liverpool philanthropists for nearly 200 years. Their residence, Greenbank House is nearby, and bears a blue plaque.  Liverpool Corporation bought some of their land in 1897, with the stipulation that it should be maintained as an open space for the public.

It was a bright and sunny Easter Sunday, with Norway Maple starting to bloom on Smithdown Road, and more Willow catkins in the park.

There were Pied Wagtails on the lawns, Canada Geese sleeping on the edge of lake, Mallards, Moorhen, and Coots.

A Blackbird and two Blue Tits were rummaging on a chippings pile, which must have had worthwhile insects to forage for.

A pair of Ring-necked Parakeets were seeing off an interloper, and then they returned to their inspection of a hole on the side of a large Plane tree overhanging the lake.

Nuthatches were calling, but we didn’t see any of them. However, there was a very alert Mistle Thrush on the open playing field next to the park.

In the Old English Garden, a lady was “hiding” egg-shaped toys for a toddler’s Easter Egg Hunt later in the day. They were really in plain sight at toddler’s eye level, so none would be disappointed. The garden has been smartened up recently, but still has some filling-out to do.

After lunch we headed down Greenbank Lane to Sefton Park. The old Cherries are blooming well.

On the MNA short walk to Sefton Park on Tuesday 12th March we stood and watched a juvenile Swan being pursued around the boating lake, probably by its father, who was urging it to go away and start a new life. It may be the very same young bird which is now hanging about on the small waterway between the William Rathbone Statue and the Palm House. It is still being harassed. As we watched, a Canada Goose flapped at it, and even a Coot made an aggressive rush at it. Poor cygnet, not one of life’s adventurers, obviously.

There were two Great Crested Grebes on the main lake, a few Tufted Duck, and a couple of  Coot’s nests.

The great masses of Daffodils up on the banks at the southern end were looking terrific, and some young people were looking for Instagram moments.

Public transport details: Bus 75 from Elliot Street at 10.02, arriving Smithdown Road / Borrowdale Road at 10.20.  Returned from Aigburth Road / Jericho Lane on he 82 bus at 1.55.

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Wirral Way, Hooton to Hadlow Road, 24th March 2024

We were at the West Kirby (northern) end of the Wirral Way a couple of weeks ago, but the southern end starts next to Hooton station. We have never walked the whole length in one go, it’s 12 miles, but we dip in and out at various places. It was dry today, with occasional sunshine and a cold wind. There was a notice on the access path, saying rangers will be doing work on the trees during the year. We saw cut scrub and piles of wood chippings, but work has now stopped until the birds have finished nesting. Later in the year they will be renovating and widening the path surface. Several tree species are already bursting into bud and flower, including this lovely Blackthorn.

The Hawthorn is greening and in a sheltered spot one tree had produced very early buds. Those shallowly-lobed leaves suggest it’s a Midland Hawthorn, but that isn’t supposed to be flowering this early either.

There was gentle birdsong all along. We stopped to listen to one and couldn’t decide if it was a Great Tit (tea-cher, tea-cher) or a Chiffchaff. We know both, but it could have been either. I had just loaded the Merlin birdsong app onto my phone, and it said Chiffchaff. There were some other unmistakeable Chiffchaffs during the day, so no idea why this one was singing with an accent!  Merlin also correctly ID’d Great Tits, Blue Tits, Robin, Long-tailed Tits, Greenfinch and Goldfinch, and it also detected the song of a Blackcap that we were completely unaware of.

Wildflowers included Lesser Celandine and Coltsfoot, and a single patch of Wild Garlic, not yet in flower. A shy little Violet was nodding on a bank, which I think was Early Dog-Violet, but everything is early nowadays!

There were occasional groggy bumble bees, zig-zagging erratically. More tree flowers – I think these three are Wild Cherry, Cherry Laurel and Bird Cherry.

Wild Cherry Prunus avium
Cherry Laurel Prunus laurocerasus
Bird Cherry Prunus padus

Hadlow Road station, now preserved as a relic of the past, was packed with people having coffee and cake. On the other side were some lovely Flowering Currant bushes.

On the way back we spotted a Brown Hare running through a field on the southern side. There were Buzzards over Hooton Station and the Horse Chestnuts were just breaking their sticky buds.

Public transport details: Train from Central towards Chester at 10.15,  arriving Hooton at 10.40. Returned from Hooton at 3.00, arriving Liverpool 3.35.

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Kew Woods, 17th March 2024

Kew Woods is a former landfill site off Town Lane, Southport, planted up by the Forestry Commission in 2001 as a community woodland. We came here in February 2017 and January 2018, before the pandemic, when there was a direct route by the 300 bus. That bus has since been re-routed, so we tried a different way, via Formby Station and the 44 bus. It took a bit longer but at least it gave us an opportunity to admire the spring shrubs at their peak in suburban gardens – Magnolia, Forsythia, Camellia and early Cherry blossom. It’s a lovely time of year.

Dobbie’s Garden Centre is right next to the woods, and as we passed we looked at this lovely clump of Snake-Head Fritillaries in the beds by the entrance.

The woods are a mix of open grassland and woody edges, and were planted with native trees such as Birch, Pine, Holly, Hazel, Goat Willow and Blackthorn. They still have plenty of growing to do. Some of the Hazel was multi-stemmed and planted in rows, looking as if it was intended for coppicing.

There are still some farm fields at the northern edge, and a couple of male Pheasants were strutting along.

Despite the occasional brief shower, the day was mostly sunny, encouraging the little birds to flit about their business. We spotted Blue Tits, Great Tits, a Greenfinch, some Long-tailed Tits, a few Robins, a Blackbird bathing in a puddle and this Dunnock in a prominent position on a bramble. Dunnocks usually skulk in the undergrowth all year round, except when they are forming territories and attracting a mate.

Early flowers included carpets of Lesser Celandine and several clumps of Coltsfoot.

Lesser Celandine

There was lots of “Pussy Willow” (Goat Willow Salix caprea) in late flower but we realised we were a bit perplexed about all the apparently different structures. Some were clusters of green spiky things, earlier ones are grey silky buds (the strokeable “pussies”), while others were obviously bedraggled pollen-bearing tufts. We had forgotten (if we ever knew) that Goat Willow is dioecious, meaning it has separate male and female trees. The spiky structures are the female flowers, which form the seeds. The silky ones are the male flowers before the yellow stamens emerge.

Female “flowers” of Goat Willow. The little brown tips are the styles where the pollen lands.
Male “flowers” of Goat Willow. On the left is a silky immature one with pollen anthers emerging.
On the right is one gone over and bedraggled by the rain.

On the northern edge, opposite a Blackthorn hedge, there was a carpet of Lesser Celandine on a north-facing bank next to Fine Jane’s Brook.  Surprisingly, several butterflies were on the wing. Two were Peacocks and two were Commas. Amazing what a bit of sun brings out!

Comma butterfly

On the way back to the bus we passed three old and rotted Giant Puffballs (Calvatia gigantea) under a small Hawthorn tree. Fresh ones emerge from June to September and are edible when they are white all over and all through. These were brown and weathered, although they still produced spores when kicked.

Public transport details: Southport train from Central at 10.23, arriving Formby at 10.53. Up the stairs and across the road to the bus stop at Formby Bridge for the 44 bus at 11.10, arriving Town Lane Kew/Bentham’s Way (outside Dobbie’s) at 11.35. Returned from the same bus stop on the 44 at 2.31, arriving Eastbank Street, Southport at 2.45, in time for the 2.57 train to Liverpool.

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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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Stanley Park, 3rd March 2024

We are holding off visiting the main parks until the spring blossom is out, but we came to Stanley Park for the daffodils. In 1991 the cancer charity Marie Curie planted half a million daffodil bulbs as a Field of Hope.

Although they aren’t quite at their peak yet, John said we’d better see them today because by Mother’s Day (next week) they will all be gone. Of course, the flowers aren’t supposed to be picked by the public, but while we were there we saw a little girl of about 7 clutching three or four blooms, following her Dad, who wasn’t bothered. We also watched a pair of young Mums on the far side, helping themselves to large bunches.

The lake was flooded with bright and dazzling sunshine. Scattered birds included Mallards, Coots, Moorhens, Canada Geese and a Mute Swan. A few Black-headed Gulls were lingering, one with a fully black head. A Great Crested Grebe idled about. They do breed here, and this one behaved like a male on the alert, guarding a nest.

Great Crested Grebe
Black-headed Gulls

The Pigeons were courting and some little birds were flitting about – Great and Long-tailed Tits, in the trees, Dunnocks and Blackbirds on the ground. A few Grey Squirrels crossed the paths, and when we put food on some of the bridge pillars it attracted parties of Magpies and Crows.

Some of the ornamental shrubs were flowering, like Forsythia and Quince. One Rhododendron bore a couple of flowers.  The orange flowers of Berberis darwinii were opening.

One blooming Mahonia bush was attracting nectar gatherers including a couple of honeybees and this Buff-tailed Bumblebee.

The Cherry Plums are still flowering, although they are going over. The Alder has all its catkins out, punctuated by the black spots of last year’s cones. One “weeping” tree wasn’t a Willow, its thin pointy buds identified it as a Weeping Beech. You don’t see many of those.

Leaf buds of a Weeping Beech
Cherry Plum
Alder catkins

We walked towards the Liverpool football stadium on the south side of the park along an avenue of trees planted as a memorial to those who died at Hillsborough. There only seem to be about 40 of them, not 96 or 97, but there are said to be more around the edge of the field. They were planted in 2016, so are less than 10 years old. They were hard to identify, possibly cherries, so we will have to look at them again when they are in leaf or flower.

Nearer the stadium were parties of schoolboys being shepherded towards the “guided tours” entrance. The area around the Hillsborough Memorial is now called Paisley Square, and there are some small flowerbeds. A signboard urges the readers to plant pollinator-friendly plants in their gardens and lists the ones they plan to use in the adjacent beds. They are mostly garden-type plants, not wild ones, and the only ones in bloom were these, which look like pink Cowslips.

Public transport details: Bus 19 from Queen Square at 10.10, arriving Walton Lane / Bullen’s Road (by Everton FC) at 10.27. Returned on 19 bus from Walton Lane / Priory Road at 2pm, arriving city centre 2.20.

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Birkenhead Park, 25th February 2024

There was a frost last night, and the day was still, cold and misty although the sun came out in the afternoon. We went a different way than we usually do, halfway towards the cricket club then left. In the clumps of trees there we could hear a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming, then another and then a third one in the distance. The first one was right over our heads but we still couldn’t find it. Then it flew ahead and we finally glimpsed it, doing an acrobatic upside-down walk along a horizontal branch. It appears to be a female as it has no red patch on the back of its neck. I thought it was only the males that drummed, but I was surprised to discover that both males and females do it.

Also among the trees were Magpies, Wood Pigeons, Crows, a Blue Tit, Grey Squirrels and Feral Pigeons. The daffodils are coming out, there were Primroses in the grass, and we puzzled over this twiggy Lime tree. They usually sprout profusely from the base, and you can see this one has done that, although the gardeners have trimmed it back neatly. But what’s that huge twiggy mass higher up? I have not seen a Lime tree do that before.

At this time of year the Yew trees are flowering in their idiosyncratic way. All the male trees bear clusters of tiny pollen sacs along the twigs, each about 2-3mm across. I thought they just broke open to release their pollen but now I see from my close-up photo that a sort of cauliflower-on-a-stalk emerges.

On the Lower Lake were Mute Swans, Coots, Mallards, Tufted Ducks and lots of resident Canada Geese making a racket and engaging in territorial fights.

Birkenhead Park has suffered recently from the storms, as have so many other parks. There were several trees down and tidied into piles of cut logs. We were shocked to see that the old Mulberry had disappeared from its well-foraged spot, up a bank on the northern side of the lower lake, about 50 yards east of the Rockery. No sign of the remains, so that one had been taken away. The ranger said they are planning to plant another, but probably not in the same place.  We did note that some fallen trees had made big dents in the railings as they fell.

On the bank opposite the Boat House we re-visited the tree planted for the late Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022, not long before she died.

In a flower bed outside the Visitors’ Centre was a pair of small Camellias with mostly white flowers, but occasional red, pink or variegated ones. That’s quite special.  I think it’s variety ‘Angela Cocchi’.

After lunch we looked for the Paxton tree, planted in November 2022. It is a Chinese Tulip Tree Liriodendron chinense, one of a trio planted here, at Liverpool Princes Park and at Chatsworth by the Duke of Devonshire, to commemorate Joseph Paxton. He was head gardener at the Duke’s seat at Chatsworth and also designed Princes Park and Birkenhead Park, which had their 180th and 175th anniversaries in 2022. 

Around the Upper Lake one Horse Chestnut bud was just breaking, the Turkish Hazel was dangling its brown catkins, Rhododendron and Laurustinus were in flower and I spotted my first Lesser Celandine of the year.

More lovely trees. This clump reminded me of one of David Hockney’s first Yorkshire paintings.

The lakeside weeping willow was a beautiful golden yellow in the sun, with the buds just breaking.

The booklet “The Unusual Trees of Birkenhead Park” features their striking clump of Purple Cherry Plums Prunus cerasifera ‘Pissardi’. We had never seen them in early spring before, and of course they aren’t purple yet, but covered in small white flowers. They are lovely in any season.

Public transport details: Train from Central towards West Kirby at 10.05, arriving Birkenhead Park station at 10.15.  Returned on the 437 bus from Park Road North / Asquith Avenue at 2.10, arriving Liverpool 2.25.

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Southport Crematorium, 18th February 2024

This is a place we had never been to before, but we had recently heard it was a haunt of Red Squirrels, so worth checking. It isn’t a large cemetery, just the chapel building itself flanked on the south-west side by a little maze of cremation memorial stones, marked by bright flowers, some of them plastic.

But there were live plants in pots, such as Hellebores and Hyacinths, and lots of Snowdrops. Some of them had their feet in large puddles.

To the north, little paths lead to memorial glades and each has a central stone “ziggurat”, with more memorial name plates attached. Benches are nearby for quiet contemplation. The glades are mossy underfoot, not very grassy, as they are shaded when the trees are in leaf.

There are bird feeders dotted about all over the place, but most were empty. At the two stations where they had been refilled, there weren’t many birds. We saw a Blue Tit, a Great Tit, Coal Tits. Robins and Blackbirds. A couple of Wrens darted across a path, and there were Wood Pigeons high in the trees. There wasn’t even the sound of a Woodpecker. I think there must be too many people coming to leave flowers and tidy their plots.

There was one groggy Bumblebee which nearly hit me in the face. I waved it away and it disappeared before I could look at it properly. It was probably a queen Buff-tailed, which are known to emerge early on mild, sunny days. The best tree of the day was this one, absolutely covered in fat buds, probably a Magnolia. It will be magnificent when it blooms.

And what about the Red Squirrels? There was a road sign on the way in, warning drivers to go slowly in case they hit one.

We asked some of the other visitors about them. One said they were seen around the chapels quite a lot, but another said they hadn’t seen so many lately. We didn’t see any except a possible fleeting glimpse at a distance which might have been imagination. Someone had put fresh monkey nuts (peanuts in shells) on a tree stump but they seemed undisturbed as we left.

The Crematorium and its memorial gardens are only small, hardly enough for a day’s visit,  but it has good transport connections, the bus stops right outside, there is a covered area for lunch and  decent loos, so it’s definitely going on our list. North of the memorial area there are 20-odd acres of pathless woodland, which may be worth exploring when it is less soggy underfoot.

Public transport details: Train from Central at 10.17, arriving Ormskirk 10.47. Up the connecting path to the bus station and then the 375 bus at 11.01 towards Southport, arriving Carr Cross, outside Crematorium, at 11.25.  Returned on the 300 bus northbound (from the same stop as we arrived) at 1.30, getting off at Eastbank St, Southport at 1.40, then to the station for the southbound train at 1.57.

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Port Sunlight, 11th February 2024

Port Sunlight, a model village built to house the workers at the Sunlight Soap factory, is a good place to go in chancy weather, as it has several warm and dry places to retreat to if necessary.  We walked along the Dell first, as it has several interesting specimen trees, and even the bare winter trees are lovely, such as this shapely Oak.

Near the Dell Bridge we could hear various twitterings and cheepings, including the long ‘wheeps’ which may have been a Nuthatch. Other birds were Crows, Wood Pigeons, Blue Tits and Long-tailed Tits, but something was making an unusual chattering and beeping noise, which was almost electronic. There were no Starlings about, so maybe it was three Jays, roosting deep in a tree, and perhaps exchanging subdued contact calls.

The recent storms have done some damage. An old Lombardy Poplar had lost a large branch, and a whole tree was down at the top of the bank.

Dotted around were patches of Snowdrops, Crocuses and not-yet-out Daffodils. They are excruciatingly neat, in well-defined colour groups, with barely a bloom out of place!

The garden around Christ Church has a Cherry Plum tree which was just breaking into blossom. It is the first of the Prunus group to flower, usually beating Blackthorn by at least two weeks. There were also the first flowers of Forsythia and Quince.

Cherry Plum

When we were here last year, on 26th March 2023, we noticed that they had recently felled a row of tall Lombardy Poplars at the junction of Church Drive and The Causeway.  On the lawn behind the stumps there has been new tree planting – the ones with labels were Rowan, Pin Oak, Red Oak and Downy Birch, and there were many other without labels.  But the stumps of the original trees, which were just sprouting last spring, have grown great bushy crowns of new shoots, all in just a single summer.

It had been warm in the occasional sun, but penetratingly cold when the heavy clouds came over and threatened rain. We visited the garden centre, lunched in the Queen Elizabeth Memorial Rose Garden, popped into the Lady Lever Art Gallery for a warm up, then took the train home. It was too cold to be lingering.

Public transport details: Chester train from Central at 10.15, arriving Port Sunlight at 10.33. Returned from Bebington station at 1.42, arriving Central at 2.05.

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