New Brighton Street Art, 25th September 2022

1930s Art Deco building on Marine Point, trying to look like Miami Beach.

New Brighton, once a popular seaside resort, became run-down in the 1960s and 1970s. As part of regeneration work it has become the venue for open-air street art, centring on Victoria Street near the station. We spent the morning touring the residential streets, looking at the marvellous murals.

“I [heart] NB”, (I love New Brighton) by Fanakapan.
This is flat paint on a flat wall, but the 3D effect is startling.
Mike Jones of the RNLI by SMUG
“Torn but not Broken” by Mr Penfold
“Pride” (Martin Luther King) by Art by Alexander
“The Wallasey 79” by Art by Alexander. A representation of an old Wallasey tram.
Sitting in the window are local war hero Ian Fraser and the WWI poet Wilfred Owen.
“New Brighton Beatles and the Tower” by Art by Alexander. It shows old posters from the Tower Ballroom of the Sixties groups who played there, including the Beatles, who played 27 times.
That’s meant to be them, running across the bottom.
“The Black Pearl” by Art by Alexander. The words say “Go and retrieve that horizon”

They love the children’s driftwood pirate ship, the Black Pearl here, and someone has crocheted a Post Box topper of it. Notice the shark fin!

We didn’t look at much wildlife today. On the front, a group of Starlings were closely attending some Pigeons, which were trying to break into plastic rubbish bags.

Since they built the Wild Shore waterpark on the Marine Lake there have been far fewer waders sheltering on the pontoons, and today there were just five Redshanks and three Turnstones amongst the Black-headed Gulls.

On the seafront there was a cold north wind and the threat of rain so we headed home.  

Public transport details: Train from Central at 10.20, arriving New Brighton 10.42. Returned on bus 433 from King’s Parade / Morrisons at 2.10, arriving Liverpool 2.45,

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Birkenhead Park, 18th September 2022

Although we have been to Birkenhead Park many times recently, we chose it again because it is near a church that was to be open on a (second) Heritage Open Day. In the park we mostly looked at trees, especially those from the booklet “The Unusual Trees of Birkenhead Park”.  We thought this was their tree G, said to be their oldest tree from 1760. After checking the map, I don’t think it was after all, but it’s a wonderful old Oak.

The Cucumber Tree (tree C) at the west end of the lake didn’t appear to be putting out its little upright pink fruits, and there were no berries on the Mulberry either (tree E), although they may all have been foraged already. One neatly-cut tree stump was sprouting a big wavy fungus, which I think was Giant Polypore aka Blackening Polypore Meripilus giganteus. It is said to appear on stumps and at the base of broadleaved trees, especially beech. This stump doesn’t look like Beech, though.

The birds were mostly quite ordinary. There were Crows on the cricket field. Swans, Mallards, Canada Geese, Coots, Moorhens and Black-headed Gulls on the lake and a Robin on the fence. The most interesting were two Cormorants opposite the boat house, who sat together, then squabbled and sat apart.

Cyclamen was naturalising near the Swiss Bridge.

Michaelmas Daisies were out and we also saw Purple Loosestrife still flowering well. There were odd bits of very red autumn foliage. Could this be a Cherry?

After lunch we walked through an unfamiliar bit of the park, the Alfred Holt Garden beside Park Road North.  There is a huge old Monterrey Cypress there, with cones about an inch across.

Their best rarity is the clump of Hybrid Strawberry trees Arbutus x andrachnoides, with characteristic ruby red peeling bark. They are K in the booklet and are on the corner of Park Road North and Ashville Road.

We spotted three pines with a round crowns and bunches of two needles. (Some have three or five needles, so it’s a useful identification feature.) Could they be Stone Pines? The cones underneath them were too squirrel-chewed to be useful but one from further away confirmed our guess.

The open church we were heading for was the RC Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception on Cavendish Street, designed by the architect Edward Welby Pugin. Like Walton Church last week, this one also had a story of wartime bombing. As well as severely damaging the church, one of the bombs intended for Birkenhead docks hit the presbytery, killing the priest and his two housekeepers. The church was rebuilt and reopened in 1951.

Public transport details: Train from Liverpool Central at 10.05, arriving Birkenhead Park Station at 10.15.  Returned from Birkenhead Park Station at 2.51, arriving Liverpool 3.05.  

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Walton Hall Park and Walton Church, 11th September 2022

It is about seven years since we were last in Walton Hall Park, no idea why we have neglected it for so long. We noticed many more interesting trees this time than last, as our interest has grown. Near the entrance where we started, by the Children’s Play Area, were two Norway Maples with engraved stones at their feet saying they had been planted in 1935 for the Silver Jubilee of George V and Queen Mary. Further east were two specimen trees in a shrubbery alcove, a Tree of Heaven and a Persian Ironwood. The number of park staff has been much reduced in recent years, so the formal edges are getting wilder, with rambling roses and bindweed growing abundantly over ornamental shrubs and a huge proliferation of the low growing wildflower/weed Black Nightshade. The wildlife is quite happy about that, of course, and one little Scots Pine was home to three or four Garden Spiders with their neatly-wrapped prey.

One large Buddleia bush was supporting a white butterfly and four or five Red Admirals.

This warm summer has promoted an amazing abundance of autumn seeds and fruit. One small Sycamore seemed to have no leaves at the top, just hundreds of bunches of helicopter seeds, while there were so many small crab apples they were weighing down the branches of their tree.

An old tree stump was sprouting vigorous growth which was hard to identify. Was it a Large-leaved Lime? A Mulberry? The chunky leaves were arranged alternately, so it could have been either. It had been very well chewed by a variety of insects, and one leaf had been rolled up. When opened it revealed a brood of spiderlings with the mother keeping guard on the left. There are several species of leaf-curling spiders in the UK, but none of the pictures I looked at seem to be of this one. 

Along the northern path the verge was full of planted wildflowers, now going over, but it would have been lovely earlier in the year and we were sorry to have missed it. It was still alive with insects.  All along the north-eastern edge of the great field there are thousands of new young trees, fenced off to help them survive. We spotted Oak, Holly, Hawthorn, Hornbeam, Cherry, Elder, Birch, Hazel and Alder. By the fence were three with little black berries and simple leaves whose shape was “weighted” towards the front. The berries had more than two seeds in each. I assume all the saplings were provided free of charge by the Woodland Trust, and so they must be a mix of native trees. So what were these young trees with berries? One of our rarer native species, surely. I am leaning towards Alder Buckthorn, although all their berries seem to be on single stalks, and these are sometimes in clusters.

The boating lake had Canada Geese, eleven Mute Swans and around 50 Coots. There were a few Mallards on the main lake, a late Coot chick with its mother and a probable hybrid Greylag/Canada goose that may be the same one we saw in 2015. The stars of the show were a Great Crested Grebe with four little stripy chicks. Lovely!

It was Heritage Open Day, so we crossed the main road and went to Walton Church. There has been a church on this site since Saxon times, and the city has grown up around it. They have the carved shaft of a stone cross thought to date from the 700s and a Saxon font. The list in the porch of all their Vicars and Rectors starts with “Stephen” in 1174. Amongst their treasures on show was a Bible printed in 1640.

Saxon font
1640 Bible

The church itself isn’t so old. The older church had a direct hit by a bomb during WWII and was severely damaged. The bells fell and broke the Saxon font, which has had to be repaired. The church was rebuilt on the same foundations, and I see that the avenue of old Plane trees seems to have survived.

They had a Book of Condolence for the Queen, which we all signed.

Public transport details: Bus 19 from Queen Square at 10.01, arriving Walton Hall Avenue opp. Stanley Park Avenue North at 10.30.  Returned on bus 310 from County Road / Church Lane at 3.25, arriving Liverpool 3.40.

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Halewood Triangle, 4th September 2022

This was our first Sunday walk since 24th July, the interruption having been caused by the bus strike, then by one of us having a mild case of COVID, and then another of us having a week away. Our plan today was to see a large-scale land art installation in Halewood Park, created in early August by the artist James Brunt and called The Knowsley Mandala.

Drone picture from the initial press release

The initial description of it said it would only last for about four weeks, and so it proved. It had been made by “painting” the grass with the same stuff that is used for the markings of football pitches, and it soon washes or wears away. There were only a few fragments of the design still visible around the edges.

The rest of the area is mixed woodland, mostly Oak and Birch. The trees weren’t looking autumnal yet, but the hedgerow fruits were all ripening.

It’s been a good year for Acorns and this one, on a long stalk, shows that the tree is a Pedunculate or English Oak Quercus robur. The other common oak, the Sessile, has its acorns growing straight off the twigs.

The undersides of many of the oak leaves were sprinkled with tiny growths called Spangle Galls. Each one contains a single larva of the Spangle Gall Wasp Neuroterus quercusbaccarum. All through the summer the larva feeds and the gall matures, then they all drop off into the leaf litter in autumn. In the spring, asexual wasps emerge and lay eggs on the male catkins of the Oak, causing a different gall, the Currant Gall. In the following spring those larvae emerge as male and female, mate and lay eggs on the leaves which turn into Spangle Galls, and the cycle begins again. The wasps are said to cause little damage to the oak.

There are two large ponds in Halewood Park, but the one called The Ratty had dried right out. The bigger one, known as Ducky Pond, was still fine, and we sat by it for our lunch. There had been a few drops of rain earlier, but the sun came out at noon, so we could enjoy the young Moorhens clambering about in the Water Lilies. A small silver fish jumped and splashed.

There was a small red damselfly flitting about, or was it a dragonfly?  When it came to rest on the bank it spread its wings to either side, so it must have been a dragonfly, probably the widespread Common Darter. The brick-red ones are the males.

There were very few birds about. The signboards said they have resident Chaffinches, Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Treecreepers, Bullfinches and Robins, but none were showing themselves, just Magpies and the Moorhens on the pond. We thought we had heard a Buzzard over the Meadow but we didn’t see it. Tree of the Day was this Manna Ash Fraxinus ornus on Abberley Road, with a perfectly even shape. The foliage was clearly Ash-like, but finer and narrower, and the bunches of seeds were more delicate than those of the Common Ash.

Outside the Jenny Wren Nursery on Yew Tree Road these bright and cheerful Sunflowers were peeping over the fence.

Public transport details: Train from Central at 10.14, arriving Hunts Cross 10.30. Returned from Hunts Cross at 14.06 on train towards Liverpool Central.

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Port Sunlight and New Ferry Butterfly Park, 24th July 2022

New Ferry Butterfly Park doesn’t open until noon, so we strolled through Port Sunlight looking at some familiar trees. Many of them seemed very dry and drooping following the extreme heat earlier in the week. There were hardly any birds to be seen, just a brief Blackbird, the odd Wood Pigeon and Magpie and a few gulls passing overhead. We saw only one butterfly there, a white one patrolling up and down the rose beds. The effects of the heatwave were also showing in the  Butterfly Park, where the pond had dried to a small puddle. I hope the Newts are all OK!

We walked along the mown path through the tangle of grass and wild flowers. A sign asked us to keep to the path to avoid the butterflies breeding in the grass. The flowers were supporting a great variety of insects. The Wild Carrot had the usual “bonking” Soldier Beetles.  A Red-tailed Bumble Bee was visiting a Teasel and a clump of Tansy had an unidentified slim black beetle (on the left) and many tiny insects like wasps on the developing flowers.

Bonking soldier beetles on wild carrot
Red-tailed bumble bee on teasel
Insects on tansy

There were signs of autumn too. The Blackberries had ripened in the sunnier spots, the Guelder Rose berries were reddening up and an oak bore many immature acorns.

Guelder rose berries
Immature acorns of pedunculate oak

There were butterflies about, but not very many of them. However, in comparison to their almost complete absence elsewhere, this was a bonanza. Because it was so warm they were all very active, and refused to sit still to be observed.  Three dark ones were either Gatekeepers or Skippers. There was one Large White, several Common Blues and one Meadow Brown. Two Speckled Woods were flying around each other, and now I know they aren’t courting couples but males fighting for territory. One of them did eventually sit still for a few seconds.

We were surprised to see a clump of Mistletoe growing on a Hawthorn.

Then it started to drizzle so we made a quick stop at the plant sales table then headed back.

I should also give news of the Swifts that visit the area near my house in Crosby each year. This year they arrived on 14th May, and there seemed to be only two. They never screamed low past my rooftop in the evenings so I assumed they weren’t breeding. However, on 18th July there were seven or perhaps eight flying fairly low over my garden. I can only assume that there were two nests nearby, that the Swifts I had been seeing during the summer had both been males foraging for their confined mates, and that three or four chicks had fledged. Another successful year, apparently.    

Public transport details: Train from Central at 10.30 towards Ellesmere Port, arriving Port Sunlight 10.48. Returned on train from Bebington at 1.42, arriving Liverpool just before 2.00.

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Shakespeare North Playhouse, Prescot, 17th July 2022

Not much wildlife this week, as we went to see the new Shakespeare North Playhouse on their “come and see us” opening weekend. Their centrepiece is the 470-seat Cockpit Theatre built of English Oak, by craftsmen using hand tools, to a design of Inigo Jones.

Their outdoor performance space is called the Sir Ken Dodd Performance Garden, with seats like steps. The risers of the steps have quotations from both Shakespeare and Doddy.

Tangential wildlife interest was given by a series of animal sculptures dotted about the theatre and the town. In Prescot itself there are fourteen creatures featured in the Witches’ Chant from Macbeth. (“Eye of newt and toe of frog, Wool of bat and tongue of dog, Adder’s fork and blindworm’s sting, Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing.”) In and around the theatre we spotted some other creatures from Macbeth.

“Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined”
“The raven himself is hoarse, that croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan under my battlements.”

We walked over to the church, spotting another animal reference, part of a series celebrating Knowsley as the Liverpool City Region’s Borough of Culture this year. This is the “Midsummer Night Owl” in front of what claims to be a native wildflower area, but nothing much was growing in that dry shade.

Sunday had been the first of three days with a red weather warning of a heatwave, but it wasn’t too bad on the bus out or in the theatre, although it got quite uncomfortable on the bus home.
Public transport details: Bus 10A from Queen Square at 10.08, arriving High Street Prescot / Atherton Street at 10.52. Returned on bus 10 from High Street Prescot / Church Street at 1.45, arriving Liverpool 2.35.

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Everton Park, 10th July 2022

On a hot and sunny day we went looking for wildflower meadows in Everton Park. Many areas have been left unmowed and there are many bright patches of yellow, complementing the marvellous views over the city and beyond.

There were some Poppies, Ox-eye Daisies, Cornflower and Corncockle in the mix, but the flowers in other areas were more interesting. There were patches of Viper’s Bugloss, mostly going over, some Mallow, and this Wild Carrot with its distinctive upstanding central floret in dark reddish purple, almost black.

There were very few butterflies, just a few Large Whites and about a dozen Meadow Browns, which were very active in the warm sunshine, never settling down. This Scabious was being visited by what I think is a honeybee.

On a shady bank was a single orchid, which I think is a Pyramidal, even though it was about 18 inches (45 cm) tall. They can be up to 55 cm, and the early pyramidal shape turns to oval as they mature.

We noted that the Horse Chestnut trees were mostly clean of the leaf miner which has prematurely browned the leaves of trees in other areas of the city. Overall the tree planting was quite imaginative, with Red Sycamore, Variegated Sycamore, Turkish Hazel and Cut-leaved Alder in amongst the commoner tree species. We came to the spot where there is a parking area and a wonderful viewpoint. The top of the sandstone ridge is 245 feet above sea level, making it the highest point in Liverpool. There is an almost 180 degree panorama from the city centre on the left, past the docks, Wirral, the Welsh mountains and Snowdon, the Great Orme, New Brighton, and out to the mouth of the Mersey. The sign marking the view adds a jokey marker at that point saying “Turn left here for New York 3305 miles”.

New Brighton lighthouse and Fort Perch rock on the right, and leftwards almost to the Black Pearl
Bidston windmill

There were very few birds about in the heat. We saw the usual Magpies, Crows, Herring Gulls and Wood Pigeons, but nothing else. Corpse of the day was a mystery dead bird, dry and well-decomposed, all feathers and bones.  There were no feet or head, just rich brown wings and a white breast and back. The wings appear to have been cut off short. This isn’t a British wild bird, there is nothing that size or colour. Is it some sort of pet hawk, pinioned?  Was it a domestic fowl decapitated by a fox, or had the wing ends been chopped off by a mower?  No idea.

There is a “portrait bench” with cut-out metal images of three local heroes, chosen by the local community. The man is a generic dock worker, a vital labourer in the port’s heyday. On the right is Molly Bushell, founder of the celebrated Everton Toffee Shop. In the centre is Kitty Wilkinson, a public health pioneer. She was an Irish immigrant, wife of a labourer.  In 1832, during a cholera epidemic, she had the only boiler in her neighbourhood, so she invited those with infected clothes or linens to use it, thus saving many lives. This was the first public washhouse in Liverpool. Ten years later her efforts resulted in the opening of a combined washhouse and public baths, the first in the United Kingdom. She became known as the Saint of the Slums.

As it was the nearest Sunday to 12th July, the local Orange Lodge marching bands were planning to parade into the city. We heard them forming up and drumming. We decided not to risk the buses, which would be all over the place, and walk back into town, downhill all the way. On North Heyworth Street we spotted an overhanging Eucalyptus tree which was in flower. We haven’t seen that before.

Down Roscommon Street and along St Anne Street. There were lots of wild Buddleia bushes in flower, but no butterflies. The unkempt verges were full of Bramble and Poppies.

Near the corner of Mansfield Street we spotted two old business signs, possibly painted over in grey but still clearly legible. One said “Wedding Equipages, Broughams, Phaetons, Private Omnibuses, Waggonettes”. The other said “Funeral Carriages and All Requisite Appointments of a Superior Description”. These sound like horse-drawn carriages, although when my mother married in 1941 her big wedding cars were referred to as “Broughams”.

I should just add here some further thoughts on the mystery pines in Royden Park which I puzzled over on 26th June and thought might be Table Mountain Pines Pinus pungens. The experts on the Facebook group British and Irish Trees were also mystified (not just me then!) and wondered if one could be Lodgepole Pine, which also has spines on its cones. However that tree is very tall and thin, not like the ones I saw. They asked if there was evidence of them having been taller trees which had been lopped or broken.  I went again to look, and no, these look to be in their natural proportions. That rules out Lodgepole, I think.

I have also been consulting the US website the Gymnosperm Database. Some other identification points. (1) The crushed leaves of the Royden pines didn’t smell of anything. Although I haven’t seen any information about it, you’d think something named “pungens” would smell distinctive. This is a point against it being Table Mountain Pine.  (2) Table Mountain Pine has needles in pair, but sometimes in threes. I could find no triplets at all. Another point against Table Mountain Pine. (3). The needles of Table Mountain Pine are said to be a maximum of 8cm long, but I found lots on the Royden trees up to 11cm. A third point against Table Mountain Pine.  The Royden trees clearly aren’t either Lodgepole or Table Mountain Pines. They are still a mystery.

Public transport details: The bus station at Queen Square was temporarily closed so we went to Victoria Street, temporary stop 4, for the 14A at 10.13, arriving Heyworth Street / opp Lloyd Close at 10.24. Walked back.

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Royden Park and Frankby Cemetery, 26th June 2022

Just past Frankby village is a bridleway which passes to the south of Frankby Cemetery, heading straight for Royden Park.  By the side of the path we spotted the protective tent of a nursery web spider, enclosing several Bramble leaves and a brood of young spiderlings.

There were young Swallows flying above the road called Montgomery Hill, and at the gateway into Royden Park, on the trunk of an old cut-down Sycamore, we saw an amazing stalked bracket fungus. I think it’s a Dryad’s Saddle Polyporus squamosus. This is an old one, starting to dry out, but fresh young ones are edible and recommended in forager’s guides. They are said to smell of watermelon!

It had been cloudy and breezy but the sun came out briefly as we wandered around an open grassy area. Lots of Meadow Brown butterflies took to the wing and a Song Thrush started calling.  By the path we spotted a Hawkweed flower covered in tiny beetles. They were probably Pollen Beetles, and there are dozens of species. They breed in the flower buds of brassicas, the larvae pupate in the soil, then the adults emerge from the ground in July and August and feed on flowers. They particularly like yellow ones. The RHS website says they are harmless in gardens, “just shake them off”, but one species is an important pest of Oil-seed Rape (Canola)

The park itself wasn’t looking its best. It was badly hit by the winter storms, and the remains of fallen trees were everywhere. Some fell onto the walled garden, damaging the walls. They had to get cranes in to lift out some of the dangerous trees, and the garden is still closed.

We lunched at the picnic benches near the miniature railway. There are two pine trees growing there on the grassy field, not crowded by anything else, and they definitely weren’t Scots Pines, because they were small, rounded trees. The needles came in twos, so they weren’t any of the unusual 3-needle or 5- needle pines. They had distinctive spiny cones, coloured a rich brown, and clusters of many female flowers. The bark was brownish, too, reticulated into small plates. Although I haven’t learned to identify many conifers, I though this one ought to be possible. However, I have studied the pines in all my books, and I’m none the wiser. (Added later: thanks again to Google Images, I think it might be Table Mountain Pine Pinus pungens, native to North America and the “Lonesome Pine” of the song. It isn’t in any of my tree books, which explains why I couldn’t find it. It must be quite rare!) (Added even later: see last two paragraphs of the blog for 10th July 2022 Everton Park, which adds more info but doesn’t solve the identification.)

We were charmed by a tiny Moorhen chick apparently stranded on a floating duck house in Roodee Mere. Then we saw that it and its siblings were perfectly able to jump off and climb on again. But was this one brood or two? There appeared to be more than two adults feeding them. Our highest count was four adults and five chicks, and we wondered if they were combining into crèches like some geese do. However, the website of Birds in Cheshire and Wirral says “Moorhens usually raise two broods of chicks, sometimes even three, and adopt an unusual breeding strategy in which the first-brood chicks help to feed their younger siblings from the second nest, thus helping to relieve the burden on their parents and giving themselves some practice for their own breeding attempts in the next year.” That was probably what we were seeing.

On the way back to Frankby we went to see their prize rare tree, a Madrona, Arbutus menziesii. It has evergreen leaves with finely serrated edges and red bark which peels off.

We went through Frankby Cemetery on the way back to the bus. We heard a lot of squawking of young Jays, just fledged, which were scrambling around in a dark hedge. The fine old building there was once Frankby Hall, centre of an estate which was acquired for the cemetery by Wirral Corporation in 1933. It was once home to a woman called Maude Royden, suffragist and campaigner for women’s ordination, and there is a recent blue plaque commemorating her.

Public transport details: Bus 437, the West Kirby bus, from Sir Thomas Street at 10.04, arriving Frankby Road / opposite Frankby Stiles at 10.45. Returned on the 437 from Frankby Road / Frankby Green at 2.15, arriving Liverpool 2.50.

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Pickering’s Pasture, 12th June 2022

We had a long run on the bus, almost to Widnes. It was an interesting ten miles or more, through Aigburth, Garston, the airport and Hale Village with its thatched cottages. The sun shone most of the day, but there was a strong cold breeze. Pickering’s Pasture Local Nature Reserve was originally a saltmarsh, but it was used as a tip by Halton Borough Council from the 1950s to the 1980s, until it was reclaimed. Now it is mostly a huge wildflower meadow, edged with native trees, which looks out over the River Mersey and the Widnes-Runcorn bridges.

Most of the interest today was in the flowers. Their meadow isn’t a showy “poppies-and-cornflower” type, but one that has been slowly maturing for several years. At first glance it was simply Clover and Buttercups, mixed with Yellow Rattle and patches of Ox-eye Daisy, Bird’s-foot Trefoil and Meadow Cranesbill, but more was revealed as we ambled slowly along the western edge. There were hundreds of Orchids scattered through the tangle. I make no attempt to identify the commoner ones, and they are all said to hybridise anyway.

Our best find was a little crimson pea-flower with leaves like grass. I think it was Grass Vetchling Lathyrus nissolia. It’s a native annual, said to be scarce, and it’s on the Rare Plant Register. Some websites say it seems to be on the increase, possibly because it is included in wildflower seed products.

A low-growing red flower was probably Red Bartsia Odontites vernus. It thrives on low-fertility soils and like Yellow Rattle is partly parasitic, gaining extra nutrients from the roots of its nearby host grasses.

We puzzled over this long yellow flower head. These tall yellows always confuse us. It wasn’t Melilot, Weld or Mignonette and I looked it up at home, deciding it was Agrimony Agrimonia eupatoria.

There was a single patch of Lesser Stichwort, with its tiny white flowers, less than a centimetre across.

The western edge is mostly Brambles backed by Field Maple. The maples were setting seed already, and the wings on the pairs of seeds stick straight out to either side, like arms spread wide.

There is a patch of Aspen here,and I’m sure there wasn’t as much of it a few years ago. It reproduces by suckering, and seems to be spreading rapidly, now stretching about 30 meters (90 feet) along the edge of a copse.

The Bramble was supporting several butterflies. We spotted a Speckled Wood, possibly a Gatekeeper, a Large White, a very ragged Small White, and this Meadow Brown, identified by the single white “pupil” in the black eye-spot. (Gatekeepers have two).

Meadow Brown
Small White

Both Swallows and Swifts were feeding over the meadow, but there were no birds of note viewable from the bird hide at the southern end. Nothing in the pool at all, but on the grassland beyond was a large flock of grazing Canada Geese. A few Shelduck, a couple of Greylag Geese and two Lapwings which flew over. Amongst the Canadas was one white goosewhich looked like it had escaped from a farmyard.

We returned along the river front. They had lit a beacon here for the Jubilee weekend, and the fire basket was still standing on its pole.  Much of the shrubbery here was Japanese Rose Rosa rugosa, which is considered undesirable and invasive on the Sefton Coast, but is unobjectionable here.

These lovely Foxgloves were in a wildflower garden area by the visitors centre.

Public transport details: Bus 82A from Liverpool ONE bus station at 10.14, arriving Halebank / Mersey View at 11.15. Returned on the 82A from the opposite stop at 2.54, arriving Liverpool ONE at 3.50. 

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Birkenhead Park, 5th June 2022

We were hoping to attend the Picnic in the Park, part of the Big Jubilee Lunch, organised by the Friends of Birkenhead Park to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and the 175th anniversary of the opening of the park. Sadly after three days of lovely weather, on Sunday it rained nearly all day. There was no sign of any gathering, and we were later told it had been officially cancelled that morning, and clearly nobody would be lounging on the grass with bubbly in that weather! But it was interesting to visit the park at a different season and see things we had never noticed before. One was by the obelisk called the Jackson Memorial. An unassuming pair of bushes turned out to be Chinese Dogwoods with their gorgeous flowers.

There were no interesting birds on the lake, just Mute Swans, Canada Geese, Mallards, Coots and Moorhens. At the west end of the lake, near the rockery, the Cucumber tree was in subdued flower.

On the opposite side of the lake a pair of Moorhens were building a nest about 10 feet (3 meters) above the water on an overhanging branch of a Deodar cedar. It will be fun when the chicks have to jump!

The drizzly rain became heavier, so we sheltered in the Visitors’ Centre where there was an art exhibition.

“Magic Forest” by David Venables
Photograph “Puddle Duck” by Roger Ellison (with reflections on the glass, sorry)

When the rain eased off, we headed back out.  Near the Swiss Bridge was a yellow-flowered ground-cover plant on the lakeside, with the rain beading prettily on the leaves. It’s Garden Lady’s Mantle Alchemilla mollis, not strictly a wild flower, but a “neophyte”, which has naturalised in the last century. The Victorians kept it in their gardens, and it escaped in WWII. This has probably been planted in the park, rather than arriving at random.

The trees flowered early this year and good numbers of seeds are already forming. We noted both Sycamore helicopters and Horse Chestnut conkers growing well, and this Beech was getting heavy with seed cases.

Another example of us previously overlooking something was a modest small tree on a path corner. It was blossoming rather like Hawthorn, but the flowers were bigger and later than hedge mayflowers. I think it might be Hybrid Cockspur Thorn Crataegus x lavallei. The leaves are the right shape (not broad-leaved) while Mitchell’s tree book mentions the prominent red disc in the centres of the flowers as a key identification feature. No thorns, though.

After lunch in the Boat House (the only available shelter) we went around the Upper Park, where a Song Thrush was singing. We had seen Crows, Magpies and Wood Pigeons, but all the little birds were hiding away. Grey Squirrels seemed to be very hungry, because they gathered around us, three or four at a time, whenever we stopped to look at something.  Something brown flashed across the path in front of us. A Stoat? Or was it just a Rat? Through the thick shrubbery a tall Laburnum tree was blooming magnificently. It’s rather late, so maybe the shady position has held it back.

Across the big field the clump of Purple Cherry Plums Prunus cerasifera ‘Pissardi’, were floating serenely in the slight damp mist. They feature in the Friend’s big leaflet “The Unusual Trees of Birkenhead Park”.

We returned on the train from  Birkenhead Park Station, where the railsides were lovely with wild flowers. The westbound side was all dainty white, with white Dog Rose, Ox-Eye Daisy and Cow Parsley, while the eastbound side was more dramatic. I can’t identify most of this, and at first I thought the lowest plant was Shining Cranesbill because it was so red, but it is probably just Herb Robert, reddening under the influence of all that limestone ballast.

Public transport details: Bus 437 from Sir Thomas Street towards West Kirby at 10.19, arriving Park Road North / Park Road East at 10.32. Returned on the train from Birkenhead Park Station at 2.21, arriving Liverpool Central at 2.34

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