Sunday, 24 March 2019

Port Sunlight River Park Heritage Centre Opening

The new heritage centre at Port Sunlight River Park will be officially opened on Tuesday 2nd April at 1 p.m.

There will be a variety of family fun activities, including a nature trail, seed planting and wildlife recording.

If disabled access is required please phone Anne Litherland on 07587 550 060 or email her.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Spring Is Here!

From the unrolling of bluebell carpets to the dawn chorus of birdsong, migrant birds returning to babies being born - spring is the time for new beginnings. You can feel it in the air.

But you can also see, hear and smell it if you know where to look.


From mid-April onwards, bluebells set our woodlands ablaze with their bright blue flowers. The UK is home to more than half the world’s population of bluebells, making it our unofficial national flower. The presence of native bluebells, (as opposed to their Spanish cousins sold in garden centres) is a sure sign you are in a very old and special woodland.

Where to see bluebells

Poors Wood, Northwich
Pumphouse Wood, Northwich
Owley Wood, Weaverham
Swettenham Valley, Holmes Chapel

Wildflower meadows

Whether it's a blaze of yellow from meadow buttercups, the buzz of grasshoppers and crickets or the amazing perfume given off by the combination of flower – the colours, sounds and smells of a wildflower meadow are truly something to experience.

It then makes it a terrible fact that in Cheshire we've lost 99% of our special wildflower meadows since the 1960s. But there are still special places you can go to experience them.

Where to see wildflower meadows
Swettenham Valley, Holmes Chapel

Migratory birds

Whether it be flying from the south to breed in spring or simply passing through on their journey, bird migration is one of the UK’s most impressive natural events. You can witness the comings and goings of flocks over the year, while remembering to look out for those preferring to fly solo.

In spring cuckoos fly from Africa, swallows fly from Africa, Arabia or India and chiffchaffs fly from Africa or the Mediterranean. Choosing to spend their winters in warmer climates, these birds all return to the UK for breeding.

Where to see migratory birds
Red Rocks, Wirral
Marbury Reedbed, Northwich
Gowy Meadows, Ellesmere Port

Celebrate spring at an event near you

Whilst wildlife spotting on your own is fabulous, if you ever fancy an escape from the day-to-day and to learn a little more, we have lots of events to help you connect with wildlife. Learning birdsong at our ID walk, taking a bluebell walk or seeing the spring migrants that have arrived - we have some great events for everybody.

Take a look to see what sparks your interest.

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Love Where You Live, Hail To The Grafters

Laid hedge. Photo: Steve Yandel

Thanks to a grant from the Wirral South ‘Love Where You Live’ fund, Wirral Countryside Volunteers have laid 400m of hedgerow at New Ferry Butterfly Park. These hedges are dense for smaller birds whilst retaining a fair proportion of flowers for insect and later berries for birds. The volunteers have gone one step further by increasing the biodiversity of the hedge bank of the recently laid hedges by plug planting 50 each of primrose, greater switchwort, hedge bedstraw and foxglove into the hedge banks.

Paul plug planting. Photo: Kerry Loughnane

Paul Loughnane, honorary secretary of Wirral Countryside Volunteers, said “These flowers, whilst adding colour and interest to the bottom of hedgerow, will be useful for wildlife. “In the coming years the primrose will produce an early nectar source for early emerging butterflies such as the brimstone and later in the season orange tip butterflies will nectar on the greater stitchwort flowers. Hedge bedstraw is the larval food of the common carpet moth and bumble bees will climb right into the purple spikes of foxglove flowers in search of nectar. So many hedge banks have become dull with low biodiversity, but not here.”

The grant also enabled the Volunteers to host on the same day an apple grafting workshop at the park, in conjunction with David Ellwand of Wirral Tree Wardens. Here participants could make their own apple tree of a defined final size with a variety of their choice, which is not the case by growing from seed.

David talked about explained the about the 40 or more local Cheshire and Lancashire apple varieties on offer, whether the variety was cooker, desert or dual, its appearance, its flavour, storage properties and whether it was an early or late cropper. Pencil size diameter tree cuttings called scions were collected in November. David you must have a big fridge! Then David explained about the different dwarfing root stock you can use to determine the final size of the fruit tree.

Despite the weather with vicious hail, 13 people under the shelter of a gazebo grafted apple and pear trees, and about 40 trees were grafted on the day. First we practiced on hazel sticks and then on to grafting scions to the root stocks. Grafting of the scions to the root stock was achieved using the whip-and-tongue groove method and then firmly bound with tape making sure the cambium layers of both knit together so there is a free flow of sap.

The newly created fruit trees will be planted at the park, in local gardens, a new community orchard at Claremont Farm, Clatterbridge and at Christ Church Higher Bebington where they are making the church grounds more ecological. The south Wirral area will be brightened up in a few years time with apple blossom in May. The blossom is good for honeybees and maintains local apple varieties. With 25 participants in total there was certainly a buzz about the park that day.

Friday, 15 March 2019

Award for Chairman of Wirral Wildlife

Many congratulations to our chairman, Stephen Ross, who has been presented with the Wirral Award for his work for wildlife and for being Chairman of the Wirral Women’s Refuge until 2017 when he was made Patron.

This Award confers civic recognition upon individuals in Wirral for distinguished service to the borough over a period of 20 years or more.

Stephen joined Cheshire Wildlife Trust in 1997 and became chair of Wirral Wildlife in April 2004. He was a trustee of Cheshire Wildlife Trust from 2005 until 2013 and a member of Dee Estuary Conservation Group from around 1999 and was later Chair until around 2014.

Monday, 4 March 2019

Primroses for New Ferry Butterfly Park

Primroses from Spital station. Photo: Richard Ash

We have been talking to Merseyrail about arrangements for the Butterfly Park Opening Day on Sunday 5th May. Dave Kyle, their Facilities Manager, kindly invited us to collect some wild primroses from a bank at Spital Station. They are very likely Dibbinsdale stock. So Richard and Hilary went along and collected a few dozen and planted them in the newly-coppiced Brick Pit Coppice at the Butterfly park.

Primroses planted in the coppice. Photo: Richard Ash

Some of them are now out in flower!

Primroses in bloom at New Ferry Butterfly Park. Photo: Hilary Ash

There were so many we passed some on to Port Sunlight River Park, where they are starting to plant woodland flowers under their young trees. Thank you, Dave!

Dave also gave us some plants for the Plant Sale at the opening day. Reminder all gardeners - time to start preparing plants for that, especially pollinator-friendly ones.

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Join the Greenspace Challenge

“2019 will be a year of green action across Liverpool City Region where people from all backgrounds will have the opportunity to be involved in projects that improve the natural world. Our aim is to leave a better environment for the next generation to inherit and make our area one of the best places in the country to live, work and flourish.”

Register for the Greenspace Challenge at:

Register your pledge for the Liverpool City Region Year of the Environment:

Have you seen wildlife such as Hedgehog, Squirrel, Rabbit, Sparrow or perhaps something more unusual? If so we would like to know and you could be part of the Liverpool City Region Greenspace Challenge.

As a part of the Year of the Environment the Greenspace Challenge is being launched to learn more about wildlife across the region, register your favourite greenspace, pledge to visit it and record sightings of wildlife.

There will be events across the region throughout the year advertised at:

Or maybe you would like to register your own event?

“Cleaner, Greener, Well Together’

The 2019 Year of the Environment is a fantastic opportunity for individuals and organisations to get involved and come together to promote the existing, extensive and excellent work being undertaken across the region as well as forging new and lasting cooperative partnerships to better engage and communicate with new audiences.
The Aims of the Year are to:
  • Support the National Year of Green Action
  • Help deliver the Greenest UK city region
  • Highlight the economic contribution the environment provides
  • Increase children and young people’s connection to nature
  • Showcase outstanding blue green assets of the Liverpool City Region
  • Celebrate and promote the range of environmental organisations
  • Encourage a range of practical actions that inspire
  • Use 2019 as a catalyst for ongoing positive environmental behaviour
Under eight environmental themes:
  • Air Quality
  • Climate Change and Resilience
  • Green Spaces, Habitats and Biodiversity
  • Connecting and Engaging with Nature
  • Health and Wellbeing
  • Sustainable Energy
  • Reduce Waste
  • Water

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Winter 2018-19 at Cleaver Heath

Cleaver Heath sunset

Visitors continue to come to Cleaver Heath in all weathers. Many come regularly to exercise their dogs and others stumble across it while exploring the rural delights of west Wirral. All enjoy the stunning views which vary according to the weather, light conditions and tides in the Dee Estuary. The sunset photo here is just as it came out of my camera – no funny business, I swear.

The fine new interpretation board, whose installation I highlighted in the Autumn Newsletter, has been joined by strategically placed arrowed way markers.

Cleaver Heath noticeboard


As you can see, the noticeboard has now been baptised with snow as well as rain.

Reassuringly, the newly stoned path has stood up very well to rain/sleet/snow and heavy usage. This was another key part of the Tesco Bags of Help scheme (more later).

Path on Cleaver Heath

Snow on heather

Fewer visitors are finding it necessary to deviate from the main path. The close-up photo of the heather covered in snow was taken from the official path now signed through the north-east section of the heather panel. Likewise, the sunset view photo was taken from the path without resort to trampling across the heather.

Nevertheless, we do have to venture off-piste when carrying out our main conservation work.

Woodcock. Photo: Mark Hamblin/2020VISION

This year, I have to confess to disturbing a Woodcock on 3 occasions this winter. Two were down in the lower heathland panel - labelled B in the habitat/working area map shown below. These lovely winter visitors resemble a snipe in general shape and come from Eastern Europe. They lie low during daylight and feed after dusk. The third occasion on which I disturbed one was when collecting piles of dog waste in the woodland edge of area G. It shot out on its typical 20° flight path, weaving between the trees until it got to Oldfield Road where it swerved sharply and shot up the road. You can easily see that this fine photo is not one of mine, as usually featured in these newsletters, but is a professional one from the Wildlife Trust’s stock (c. Mark Hamblin/2020VISION).

On the topic of dog waste, the presence on the main noticeboard of a sign about keeping dogs on a lead has been very helpful, but there are still regular users failing to pick up. In an 8-day period last week I collected an unbelievable 34 piles. I have put up a temporary notice drawing dog owners’ attention to the nearness of a regularly emptied litter bin just outside the new northern entrance. My volunteers deserve to have clear paths and verges from which to work and the heather deserves a quiet life on unenriched soil.

Winter work parties have gone well this year. I like to think that the systematic cutting and stump treatment really is having an effect. In years gone, by it took us until the end of the cutting season to complete our work. This season we had completed it before Christmas. The regrowth was much reduced. This was a direct benefit of the Trust’s Natural Futures programme which paid for herbicide training and the purchase of related equipment. As a result, we have been able to make use of volunteer effort on more varied tasks! People who want to get a better idea of what work is done where may find the following map helpful.

Map of Cleaver Heath

The main manual work removing birch, bramble, bracken and European gorse is in the heathland panels labelled A and B. In these areas saplings are pulled (sometimes with the ‘Tree Poppers’) or cut and painted with glyphosate. The ‘scrub’ areas such as D and F are coppiced selectively i.e. we cut the older/taller birch and gorse. The aim is to hinder the natural succession which would take place in this small heathland area while keeping good low-level shelter for wildlife. The nest boxes in the woodland areas C, I and G have now been given a final clear-out ready for spring. We hope to get help again this year with removing the bracken litter from area E (listed as ‘Restoration?’. This has been sprayed twice and raked twice. It would be a shame if we don’t manage to keep on top of it. Natural England has been very keen that we try to extend the heathland areas. We know from the soil sampling that this is feasible - in principle.

Volunteers at Cleaver Heath

Finally, I should offer a big thank you to Tesco for their ‘Bags of Help’ scheme and to all of you Tesco shoppers who put their blue tokens in the correct box. The Trust’s Living Landscape Officer Kevin Feeney, in particular, put a lot of effort into leading multiple bids to the Bags of Help Scheme for several Trust reserves and then leading the installation.

Tesco Bags of Help

Putting the noticeboard in place at Cleaver Heath

Notice the attention to detail here – not just one spirit level but two. Community Conservation Coordinator Fiona Megarrell (on the right here) will be back later in February to welcome some staff from Tesco to check out the reserve and perhaps also help with some suitable practical work.

Cleaver Heath sign

Alan Irving
Volunteer Reserve Warden for CWT
Cleaver Heath
February 2019