Monday, 17 June 2019

Recognition for New Ferry Butterfly Park and its Volunteers

Hilary Ash, Linda Higginbottom and Ian Jones with Wirral Mayor, Councillor Tony Smith.

New Ferry Butterfly Park won the Liverpool Echo Environment Award in the Community Impact category (see blog post on May 3rd).

All the Echo Environment Award winners from Wirral with the mayor

Three representatives (Hilary Ash, Linda Higginbottom and Ian Jones) attended the Mayor’s Parlour on 5th May for tea and cakes, along with the other award winners from Wirral, to be congratulated by the current mayor, Councillor Tony Smith.

Certificate awarded to the volunteers at New Ferry Butterfly Park

The first week in May was also National Volunteers Week and a celebratory event was held at the Town Hall by Community Action Wirral. A certificate was awarded to all the volunteers who run New Ferry Butterfly Park as recognition that they make a difference to Wirral.

Volunteer Conference

11th August

A thank you event for Cheshire Wildlife Trust volunteers. A nice mixture of talks, workshops and networking opportunities.

The volunteer forum will be at Bickley Hall Farm.

The day will involve a catch up with the Cheshire Wildlife Trust staff and an opportunity to hear about up and coming projects. It will also provide you with some time to take part in an interactive activity, whether that be a walk around the reserve, getting stuck into some gardening or creating a craft item.

To register your interest for any of these, please email

Monday, 3 June 2019

Woad You Believe It!

Woad in the Eastham Rake station car park. Photo: Hilary Ash

Have you heard of woad, the blue dye with which the Romans said the Picts painted themselves?

Since the invention of chemical dyes it has ceased to be a crop plant and become a rarity in Britain. To our surprise it turned up in Eastham Rake railway station car park a few weeks ago, and has now formed its distinctive seeds, like little paddles. It is growing round the bases of two lamp-posts. The ground round the lamp-posts and some of the car park edges have been sown with a wild flower mix (well done Merseyrail). Ox-eye daisy, bacon-and-eggs and red clover are flowering and being much enjoyed by the local bumble bees.

Woad in the Eastham Rake station car park. Photo: Hilary Ash

Hilary Ash

Monday, 20 May 2019

Are you ready to go WILD?

30 Days Wild

The latest news from Cheshire Wildlife Trust…

30 Days Wild is the UK’s biggest, month-long nature challenge organised by The Wildlife Trusts, and it’s back for its fifth year. A celebration of everyday nature, an excuse to wallow in the wonderful wildness we encounter at home, at work, at leisure and everywhere in between.

The challenge is simple – can you do one easy and exciting wild thing a day, every day in June?
30 days + 30 wild things = 30 Days Wild!


We call these wild moments Random Acts of Wildness: you could eat your lunch outside and watch the butterflies flutter by.

Or stop, close your eyes, and listen to the birds singing, see how many you can identify.

Or if it’s a rainy day, you could challenge yourself to learn something new about nature.

Whether you can spare a few seconds or devote a whole day - all that matters is you make time for nature.

Random Act of Wildness

We’ve worked with the University of Derby over the past four years and have proved that taking part in 30 Days Wild and spending time in nature can make you healthier and happier, and this effect can last for months after, too. Building a stronger bond with nature also makes us even more determined to protect it; to paraphrase Sir David Attenborough: ‘we only look after the things we care about’.

Every Random Act of Wildness brings people closer to nature, and over the last four years of 30 Days Wild more than 10 million have been done! That’s 10 million times people have made space in their day to enjoy nature, to watch a bee bumble from flower to flower or a buzzard trace lazy circles in the sky.

The 30 Days Wild pack

You can sign up for 30 Days Wild on our website and get a pack to help plan your wild June. You’ll receive a wallchart to write down your wild ideas and a poster to inspire you; a booklet full of Random Acts of Wildness; a sticker sheet; and a packet of wildflower seeds to brighten up your garden or window box!

You can sign up as an individual, a school, an organisation or a care home, so there's no reason why you can't join in.

Are you up for the challenge?

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

iNaturalist App For Biological Recording

Taking a photo to upload to the iNaturalist app.

New Ferry Butterfly Park has welcomed students from Liverpool John Moores University every year. Now they have welcomed an intern from LJMU, in partnership with the Lancashire Wildlife Trust and the Merseyside Biobank, for the Greenspace and Biodiversity Challenge to carry out some biological recording using the iNaturalist app!

Smooth newt (Lissotriton vulgaris) found in the pond at the Butterfly Park

It may have been a bit of a grey day on Thursday 9th May but that didn’t stop students from LJMU Conservation Society joining the intern, Vicky Handby, and the volunteers to have an evening BBQ and wildlife recording session. The event started off with a pond dip, to search out the smooth newts and various other aquatic life like water boatmen, mayflies and diving beetle larvae. Once that fun was over we enjoyed a nice sausage or two from the BBQ before heading off on a tour given by Paul Loughnane, honorary secretary of Wirral Countryside Volunteers.

Paul showing the LJMU students around the Butterfly Park

We started the tour with Paul explaining some of the plants found within the acid grassland and around the pond and why these are vital for different species such as sheep sorrel which allows the small copper caterpillars to thrive within the area. Following Paul further into the park we found lots of common species like hawthorn, broom, cowslip, mistletoe and alder buckthorn, to name a few. Checking under the logs for mini beasts it was lovely to see some saproxylic invertebrates like woodlouse and centipedes further the decaying wood which has a vital role in the ecosystem. It was then over to the little herb garden area to guess the various types of herbs that had been planted like lemon balm, rosemary and thyme. In previous years the Conservation Society at LJMU have helped with the making of hedgerows so it was nice to see that hedgerow still thriving with dogwood, field maple and spindle.

Bogbean (Menyanthes trifoliata), found at the edge of the pond at the Butterfly Park 

The tour was a wonderful success at achieving what we set out to do: gain more observations of species and learn more about our local green space. With the help of New Ferry Butterfly Park, the Greenspace and Biodiversity Challenge managed to gain at least 80 more observations on that day. The species seen on this day were all added to the iNaturalist app for biological recording data. This is vital for record keeping, research, protection of our greenspaces and conservation efforts. With this knowledge we can ensure our local wildlife is protected and monitored for future generations to enjoy. Currently there are over 26,000 observations within the Liverpool City Region with 222 individuals adding to this growing number. The Wirral has contributed to over 2,000 of those observations. It is a brilliant opportunity to showcase what Liverpool City Region has to offer!

Columbine (Aquilegia), also found at the Butterfly Park

So, if you want to get involved with the challenge, download the iNaturalist app on your phone, get outside, take a picture of what you see and upload it. Or join us on one of the many events going on in the region which can be found via our Facebook page:

Link to the iNaturalist app:

Vicky Hanby

Monday, 13 May 2019

Spring 2019 at Cleaver Heath


On the first Sunday in May each year, I get up well before the lark for our annual Dawn Chorus Walk starting at Cleaver. A 4:30am start is not for everyone but, once you are out there, you are usually glad you did make the effort. This year, a group of 12 brave souls shivered in the cold. As always, the Robins and Blackbirds started the ball rolling closely followed by the Wren.

Blackbird (left) and wren (right)

We heard and/or saw some 20 species in our 2 hour walk through Cleaver Heath and Heswall Dales. As the light came up, we started to hear more from the visiting summer warblers; first Blackcaps then Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Whitethroat (shown in that order clockwise from the top left).

Blackcap, chiffchaff, willow warbler, whitethroat (clockwise from top left)

Of course, some of these are very hard to spot in the leafy spring trees, so it is very good to get to know their distinctive songs. For example, the Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler are clearly very similar to look at but their songs are totally different. If you have a smart-phone and point the camera at the QR code shown here, your phone will take you to a web page where you can play the bird song. We used this trick to help visitors to our ‘Spring in Heswall Dales’ Open Day on May 11 identify what they were hearing.

The arrival dates of various migrant birds at Oldfield this year were not too different from usual: Chiffchaff (March 1), Blackcap (April 6), Willow Warbler (April 7), Swallows (April 11), House Martins (May 2). The Chiffchaff singing on March 1 was a bit early but it might have flown only from its wintering grounds in scrub beside Heswall water treatment plant rather than from Africa! Target Road Heswall is a well-known home to Blackcap and Chiffchaff over winter.

Buff-tailed bumblebee (top) and wasp (bottom) on bilberry

Compared with Heswall Dales, we have quite small amounts of Bilberry in Cleaver but our bushes are now being well used by insects such as the Buff-tailed Bumblebee and Wasp shown above.

Scarce Fungus Weevil (Platyrhinus resinosus)

In early April, we had a group of entomologists from RECORD doing an invertebrates study on Cleaver and, I am told, they found a Scarce Fungus Weevil (Platyrhinus resinosus). The photo above (© Leanne Dixon) is taken from page 4 of the RECORD Spring Newsletter. It certainly is a strange-looking creature. The adjective ‘Scarce’ is not out of place as this was in fact the first record for Cheshire. The group tell me their visit was very productive and they will re-visit in May.

Stumps at Cleaver Heath

Speaking of insects and fungus, we often neglect the importance of leaving dead wood lying about our gardens and reserves. At Cleaver, I am regularly disappointed to find that a lot of the wood which has either fallen down or been coppiced over winter has gradually disappeared by spring, presumably into people’s wood burning stoves. On one occasion a few months ago, we interrupted someone systematically loading sections of birch trunks and branches into the rear of his SUV. Following a brief introductory course on the value of dead wood to a reserve and on theft from private land, we left him returning the wood to precisely where he found it. He seemed genuinely ignorant on both counts. The photo above shows a couple of stumps remaining after we dropped the rotting trunks overhanging the path following a storm. There were a dozen segments of birch trunk of which only one remained by spring when this was taken.

Rotten wood

If left, the pieces of birch rot down into something like that in the picture above where it provides a rich environment for insects, birds and other wildlife such as badgers. Let’s hear it for rotting dead wood.

Orange tip butterflies: male (left) and female (right)

This year’s butterfly transect from Cleaver to Thurstaston has begun. This will be the first year we will have missed at least 1 week out of the 26. There has been some very cold and/or wet and windy weather recently. However, things are looking up again. Initially on the wing were a few species that over-winter as adults such as Red Admiral and Peacock. Numbers have been quite low. Now we are starting to see the whites led, as usual, by the Orange Tip. Most of us instantly recognise a male Orange Tip. The clue is in the title. However the female, shown alongside here, can be easily mistaken for a Small White or Green-veined White which are also starting to be on the wing. The secret to identifying these is to look (much good luck and presistence required) at the underwing.

Small White (left) and Green-veined White (right) butterflies

The two shown together here are Small White (left) and Green-veined White (right). Notice the relatively bland yellowy-green underwing in one and the heavy green vein markings of the other. The photo below is of the underwing of the female Orange Tip which is actually rather like the underwing of its male partner – a quite attractive green on white pattern. So, you can see that we have our work cut out trying to identify the small white things as they flash by. These are the analogues of the ‘little brown jobs’ in the bird world.

Underwing of  female Orange Tip butterfly

The next guided walk starting in Cleaver will be the summer one on August 11 this year – our annual Heathland WalkThe Beauty of Heswall’s Heathland’ which takes in both Cleaver and Heswall Dales Nature Reserves. It is timed to take full advantage of the purple Heather and yellow Western Gorse which sould be in full bloom. Bookings for this are taken at the Cheshire Wildlife Trust web site:


It is several years since I have seen a (non-flattened) hedghog. Since there is quite a lot of badger activity in my garden and in the Reserve, I have been consoling myself that this is because hedgehogs and badgers are not best friends. So, I was pleasantly surprised the other day to find this large hedgehog walking through my garden. After watching its rather unsteady progress for a bit, we realised that it was probably not in good health. However, I am pleased to report that the creature is now recovering well in expert hands at the Hog Centre at Larton. Cilla (they apparently all get names) is one of 20 patients currently in their hedgehog infirmary.

Pipistrelle bat

Another mammal starting to wake up to spring is the pipistrelle. If you look closely at the bottom right of this photo you will see one of a pair of bats feeding in the ex-carpark area of the reserve at dusk the other evening. You are almost certain to see bats there at dusk right through the summer. Just stand by the new interpretation board and enjoy. Combine it with a late sunset view over the estuary.

The entrance and interpretation board at Cleaver Heath

Alan Irving
Volunteer Reserve Warden for CWT
Cleaver Heath
May 2019

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Emerging From Hibernation at the Butterfly Park

Mayor Cllr Geoffrey Watt and Mayoress Mrs Anne Watt with members of NFBP committee -
Paul Loughnane (Secretary), Hilary Ash (Conservation Officer) and Howard Gibson (Treasurer).
Photo: Carole Ross.

New Ferry Butterfly Park has recently received a Liverpool Echo Community Impact Award, appropriately sponsored by Merseyrail and Arriva who both provide public transport services to the Park. The Park’s 10th Opening Day event, which marks the start of the season, was attended by Mayor Cllr Geoffrey Watt and Mayoress Mrs Anne Watt , who opened the event and launched an new art trail leaflet. As a thank you for being guests of honour they were presented with matching ‘#loveNewFerry’ mugs decorated with the imaginary butterfly featured as an excellent piece of graffiti art on a wall in New Ferry district centre. The Butterfly Park’s impact over the last 24 years has spread out to the rest of New Ferry which sees itself as a Butterfly Town. After quarter of an hour the Mayor and Mayoress had to depart to another engagement but promised like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s terminator, that they would ‘be back’.

“Art has had a great role in the park adding interest to the park, especially on inclement days, when no butterflies are flying. The art works encourage you to look a bit more closely at the nature around you at the park. This leaflet brings the collection of art works started in 2006 by Vicky Hose and most recently the Welcome Board in 2018 by Pam Sullivan together giving them some unity. We are grateful to Jo Patterson of Bebington for her brilliant design” explained Paul Loughnane, the Park’s secretary.

Mayor and Mayoress with Jo Patterson, who designed the new Art Trail leaflet, and James (and their daughter).
Photo: Hilary Ash.

Merseyrail put up their own poster about the Community Impact Award adjacent to the gates of the park and put up a temporary pedestrian barrier to separate cars and pedestrians on the access road to the park making it safer. “We were delighted with the support from Merseyrail. 1,000 people had a very good day out in decent weather, enjoying flowers and a few real butterflies. We reckon about a tenth arrived by train - a figure we should try to increase,” commented Hilary Ash, Conservation Officer.

We had nearly 40 self-motivated and self-organised experienced volunteers on the day who each knew their role and made such a large event run smoothly. It was a most successful opening day event in terms of fundraising especially important as we look to do something special for the 25th year of the park being open to the public in 2020. John McCaw was so pleased with his cache of spiders caught at the Park he asked if we could rename the place ‘New Ferry Spider Park’.

The Mayor and Mayoress returned as promised and stayed for over two hours enjoying the various attractions: tombola, homemade cakes, making plant pictures, identifying spiders, pedal powered smoothies, potting up plants, bee display and honey from the park, butterfly crafts and maypole dancing. The Mayoress was particularly interested in the wonderful Wirral Wildlife plant stall and a herb garden planter was readily made up for her by the apply named botanist, Barbara Greenwood.

Friday, 3 May 2019

Butterfly Park Wins Liverpool Echo Environment Award

Butterfly Park team being presented with the award. Photo: S. Lyus

Last night, at an award ceremony at Stanley Park in Liverpool, our reserve, New Ferry Butterfly Park, won the Liverpool Echo Environment Award in the Community Impact category.

Butterfly Park team with the award. Photo: S Foley

Liverpool Echo Environment Award. Photo: Hilary Ash

Liverpool Echo Environment Award certificate. Photo: Hilary Ash

Nominees in the Community Impact category. Photo: S Foley

Congratulations to everyone involved in this wonderful urban nature reserve. It's the Open Day on Sunday 5th May from 11 am to 4 pm so do come along and join in the fun.

Butterfly Park team at the award ceremony. Photo: S Foley

Congratulations also to the other Wirral winners:

Green School of the Year - Heswall Primary School
Carbon Champion Award - Wirral Metropolitan College
Young Environmental Champion - Elizabeth Gadsdon - The Little Collector
Environmental Champion - Emily Gleaves - Waste Not Want Not

See the Liverpool Echo website for a full report and photo gallery.

Friday, 26 April 2019

Wirral Walk for Wildlife

Thurstaston beach

Local conservationist Marcus Drummond has organised the Wirral Walk for Wildlife.

Saturday 11th May 10:00 am - 3:00 pm

We will walk along the Wirral Coast line from New Brighton to Wirral Country Park Thurstaston…in silence. The walk will be part bold statement of the silence of nature, part peaceful protest, healing meditative walk to observe and reflect. Participants are encouraged to make or bring banners so there is a message to the public to show who are the organisations representing and supporting each other as well as facts with impacts relating to this topic. This event will be open to the public to be involved. The more the better.

The event will be twofold: Firstly, the purpose of the silent walk is to make a bold statement about the loss of habitats, the lack of biodiversity of our countryside, the impact human activity is having on wildlife. The silence represents the effects of species decline and die-offs (nod to Silent Spring by Rachel Carson), extinction rates, of which is largely due to anthropological impacts.

The second is to create and develop more unity, cohesion and solidarity among the organisations involved with tackling these issues, those finding solutions, sharing good practice, and inevitably improving our green spaces and habitats for wildlife.

At the end of the walk I would like for as many organisations as possible to take a few minutes to share a few words about relevant data and how their organisations are working to find solutions and what we can do to help. This will take place outside, weather permitting, at the Wirral Country Park Thurstaston, and inside the lecture hall if the weather doesn’t look so good.

If you are interested in attending please register via

Marcus Drummond

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Spring In Heswall Dales

Open Day Saturday 11th May 11.00 am - 3.00 pm

Come and experience ‘Spring in the Dales’ - enjoy woodland walks, rare lowland heath and stunning views over the Dee estuary, surrounded by the sights and sounds of spring.

  • Self-guided walking routes with information boards
  • Quiz sheets and species tick-lists
  • Bird song via QR/smart phones
  • Refreshments and toilets available at Dale Farm

Join in outside the Ranger’s Cottage next to Dale Farm off Oldfield Road - families and children welcome

Stout footwear and suitable outdoor clothing is recommended.

For more information check the Friends’ website:

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Planning With Wildlife In Mind

Woodland at Dibbinsdale SSSI. Photo: Linda Higginbottom

In 2016, Cheshire Wildlife Trust ran a survey asking members what they felt the Trust should focus on. One priority raised was planning, but please don't leave it all to our small staff.

There are three levels of planning development. At national level, there is the National Policy Planning Framework, revised in 2018. The draft, put out for public consultation, did not include any protection for Local Wildlife Sites, the backbone of regional nature conservation. Many organisations and people made representations, and the final version reinstated protection for LWS, along with better protection for ancient woodland and ancient trees. If enough people shout, things can be changed!

The second level is the "Local Plan", so-called even when it applies to an area as big as Cheshire East. These are drawn up by local authorities, with a series of stages and public consultations. In Wirral we are still going through this process, after years of disagreement about how many houses Wirral really needs. High estimates for numbers needed led last autumn to a Green Belt Review over releasing land for building. No-one likes losing Green Belt land, so this has generated much heat and confusion. Green Belt is not a nature conservation designation, but in Wirral, with 46% land already built up, the green areas hold much of our remaining wildlife. Impacts would be felt even by protected sites such as Dibbinsdale SSSI and LWS (eg Prenton Dell, Harrock Wood). Wirral Wildlife has done its own planning comments for 44 years, since Wirral Borough was separated from Cheshire. So we put together a 35-page document, commenting on every parcel of land, about its value (or otherwise) for wildlife conservation, wildlife corridors, flood control, air quality, food production, and its value for people to experience wildlife. We await the next stage, when the planning officers and councillors have managed to digest the 3000+ submissions (they have our sympathy). Because we have a long record of considered, evidenced comments on planning matters, we do know our document will be taken seriously. (Those of you in other areas whose Local Plans are decided or nearly so, do not relax too much - they are subject to 5-yearly review!)

The third level of planning is development control, decisions on applications to build, made using the Local Plan, NPPF, and other "material considerations". Wirral Wildlife rarely needs to object outright, but we often ask for further surveys e.g. bats, and for conditions on the planning permission e.g. to protect trees or wildlife. Our standard badger conditions include "no hole to be left open overnight without a means of escape provided". Some years ago a builder turned up one morning to find a very irate badger in his foundations, which took much time and several skilled people to release.

You can help in 3 main ways:

1) You know your local area best, including where the wildlife is. So keep an eye on your local development control applications, through the press, websites and word of mouth. Write to comment or object, or alert CWT staff to do so.

2) Keep an eye on Local Plan and other consultations. Sometimes CWT will ask for people to write in on such matters; please do so. It may feel like a waste of time, but the ultimate decisions are made by politicians - and they depend on our votes.

3) When development is permitted in your area, look up the conditions on the local authority website, and check to see if they are observed e.g. have the retained trees been protected by fencing? In Wirral we have a good success rate of getting the conditions we want, but Enforcement is our next big challenge.

Hilary Ash,
Hon Conservation Officer

Thursday, 18 April 2019

The City Nature Challenge

This year, the Liverpool City Region is taking part in the 2019 City Nature Challenge, in which the city will compete against other cities, globally, in what has been described as the ‘premier league’ of wildlife recording.

City Nature Challenge is organised on a global scale by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and the California Academy of Sciences.

Between the 26th and 29th April, over 150 cities worldwide will be competing to find urban and record wildlife. We will be pitting our wildlife spotting skills against the likes of Athens, LA, London and Manchester.

There are two ways to get involved with this fun and friendly competition. You can take part independently using the iNaturalist app to record any wildlife you spot over that weekend. You could record the ladybirds living on your balcony, the birds in the local park or the mushrooms you’ve seen on a walk in the countryside. The app is available to download at

You can also get involved by joining us at one of the many recording events taking place that weekend in parks and greenspaces across the Liverpool city Region held by Liverpool’s amazing local and national conservation organisations.

On Friday the 26th April, Croxteth Park Volunteer Group will be kicking off the Challenge with a Wildlife Walk and Recording Session. On the same day, a Wildlife Recording Day will be taking place at Royden Park organised by RECORD at 10am. On Saturday 27th Heal Earth are hosting a Family Foraging Walk at the North Wirral Coastal Park. And on Sunday 28th to round off the weekend we will be hosting a Wildlife Bring and Share Picnic at Freshfield in Formby, recording wildlife at the Lunt Meadows, Seaforth Nature reserve and Freshfield Dune Heath.

Anyone is welcome to come along and have a go. More information on the recording events taking place that weekend can be found by heading to and searching for 'Greenspace and Wildlife: LCR Year of the Environment’.

Anyone who joins in will be helping to make a difference, mapping where wildlife lives in the city. The information from this weekend will be added to the UK’s biodiversity database, becoming part of the data used to protect nature.

Ben Deed, Lead Environmental Records Officer for Merseyside Biobank said “The City Nature Challenge is a global competition where the Liverpool City Region will join together and go toe-to-toe with the rest of the world to showcase it’s incredible wildlife. We need your help to do this but It’s really easy to take part. Just download the iNaturalist App, get outdoors and upload photos of the wildlife you see. By taking part will help you to discover plants, animals and fungi that make our parks and greenspaces their home and the information you send in will be shared with a range of organisations to help improve our knowledge of wildlife across the region, promoting and protecting important places for wildlife and aiding conservation and scientific research..”

Records also help owners and organisations manage land for all species, and track how climate change, habitat management and other changes affect biodiversity over time – locally and nationally, as our records feed into the national NBN database.”