Tuesday 16 July 2024

Cutting With The Best at Poulton Hall

Caroline and Scirard Lancelyn Green of Poulton Hall, Bebington, hosted an open walled garden and parkland event to allow others to see the quirky features and biodiverse meadow which is enclosed by a species rich hedge, laid by Wirral Countryside Volunteers. This was a fundraiser event for Wirral Wildlife and New Ferry Butterfly Park.

The cream tea team relaxing after making 120 cream teas
The cream tea team relaxing after making 120 cream teas

Caroline rang the night before to see if the cream tea making team could come early due to a sizeable number of pre–booked ticket sales. Caroline was impressed that the volunteers prepared 120 cream teas in about an hour and a quarter. That is 120 scones, sliced, buttered, jammed and creamed. It was a five-person team, a gofer, a scone slicer, a butter spreader, a jam dispenser and a cream topper. For those of you wondering about helping in future you often start as a gofer and gradually move up the ranks until you become the cream topper.  This top job was entrusted to Linda Higginbottom. Caroline had it all set out for us with special jam spoons and broad spreading knife to ensure each scone was buttered to its very edges.

With the event being brought forward this year, the mighty tulip tree in the centre of one of the walled gardens was in flower. A wonderful spectacle, which make it easy to see why it has its given common name.

Andrew Clough and son brought a demonstration beehive full of honeybees. Hunting out the queen bee amongst all her workers was quite a challenge, despite being marked with a fluorescent green marker. Interestingly the pair had a collection of bee stings, extracted using strips of Sellotape from the gloves that were used when they were dealing with a swarm.  They also had an Asian Hornet display so people know what to look out for. The hornet looks very black with a wide orange strip on the 4th segment of its abdomen and its legs look like its been dipped in yellow paint. These hornets are a new threat for native bees having arrived in the UK in 2016.  

Wirral Archaeology CIC came with fascinating finds, all found within three miles of Poulton Hall. Two meadow tours were given by Hilary Ash. The marsh orchids were particularly impressive - one species that has enjoyed the wet weather this year. Despite the showery weather, meadow brown butterflies were on the wing.

The Wirral Countryside Volunteers stall in the meadow at Poulton Hall
The Wirral Countryside Volunteers stall in the meadow at Poulton Hall

Frank from Poulton Estate was impressed when he saw the mock hedge ‘grow’ on Friday, be laid on the Saturday and removed on Monday. Thanks must go to the Wirral Countryside Volunteers who were there on Friday putting up the mock hedge, then on Saturday delivering gazebos, hedgelaying, sharpening tools and growing cuttings, and coming back to collect gazebos left for the Samaritans fundraiser on the Sunday and returning on Monday to disassemble the hedge. On the Monday the volunteers used their new brash cart for gathering the hedge debris and clearing all the hedge, and two builder’s bags of offcuts in three easy loads. It was certainly quicker than the numerous trips of previous years when we used Poulton Hall’s trolley. Half the costs of the new brash cart was met by Wirral Wildlife. Great to see it in action.

For many there was the pleasure of meeting up with acquaintances you see at such events and taking tea while watching the world go by. Thanks to Caroline, Scirard and the Poulton Estate Team for hosting the event. The staff and owners looked smart in their new dark green Poulton Hall blazers with the family crest on. These are used for hosting weddings at the hall and for gardening openings. Thanks to the twenty Wirral Wildlife/ Wirral Countryside Volunteers who made this event work so smoothly. Caroline said we are the most organised group she works with for the garden openings. So not only are our tools sharp, so are our cream tea making skills!


Paul Loughnane

Tuesday 18 June 2024

A Tribute to Gill Norton


Jill Norton

We send our sympathy to the family of Gill Norton. Gill was a botanist by training, though she worked mostly as a taxonomist: her specimens can be found in Liverpool World Museum. In later life she became of of our wildlife recorders, active for some 15 years starting in the late 1990s. She was also a regular attender at our monthly talks. The photo, from her funeral leaflet, shows Gill as we often saw her, in the outdoors.

Gill had a particular fondness for Wirral Wildlife. Her daughter Sarah and the family have kindly donated the collection at her funeral to Wirral Wildlife. Thank you, Sarah.

Thursday 9 May 2024

Record Breaking Crowds Attended New Ferry Butterfly Park Open Day


Some of the visitors to the 2024 New Ferry Butterfly Park Open Day
Some of the visitors to the 2024 New Ferry Butterfly Park Open Day

Record breaking crowds attended New Ferry Butterfly Park Open Day on 5th May. The sun came out, the butterflies were flying, and crowds of local people came flooding in. 1,400 altogether, which was the highest attendance to date. Several species of butterfly were on the wing: Brimstones, Orange Tips, Speckled Woods, Holly Blues and Commas to name a few. The best turnout of butterflies on an opening day ever.

Left to right: Nigel Lanceley, Deputy Lord Lieutenant for Merseyside; Freya Levy, artist who drew the gate plaques; Stephen Ross, chair of Wirral Wildlife; Charles Neame, Vice chair of Cheshire Wildlife Trust; Paul Loughnane, Honorary secretary of New Ferry Butterfly Park Committee

Left to right: Nigel Lanceley, Deputy Lord Lieutenant for Merseyside; Freya Levy, artist who drew the gate plaques; Stephen Ross, chair of Wirral Wildlife; Charles Neame, Vice chair of Cheshire Wildlife Trust; Paul Loughnane, Honorary secretary of New Ferry Butterfly Park Committee 



The new feature unveiled this year was a series of six bespoke tiles on the brick pillars of the silver jubilee entrance gates. Nigel Lanceley, the Deputy Lieutenant of Merseyside unveiled the tiles and spoke about the dedications behind each tile. Tiles were dedicated to individuals or groups who have significantly helped the Park. The tiles artworks were created by Freya Levy and as well as being turned into tiles, the art works are also available as greeting cards.

Nigel Lanceley DL, was most impressed, as was Dr Charles Neame, the Vice-Chair of Cheshire Wildlife Trust. Both commented that it was a most engaging community event which reached out to all people of all ages and circumstances, bringing them into contact with wildlife and environmental issues in an appropriate and accessible way. Charles said that it is what Cheshire Wildlife Trust is all about. The new tiles, which add such a final touch to the Silver Jubilee Gates and history of the park, are splendid and so appropriate. For details about the gates design, the tile dedications and the broad arrange of sponsors who enabled this project to happen, see the Silver Jubilee Gate leaflet especially created for the day.

The Silver Jubilee Gate leaflet
The Silver Jubilee Gate leaflet
An explanation of the dedications for each tile on the gate
An explanation of the dedications for each tile on the gate

There was an array of displays from slow worms via spiders to owls and even a skunk, together with Girl Guides, jewellery, a wonderful plant sale, investigating plant pollinators, smoothies by bicycle, RECORD, children’s activities, homemade cakes and a BBQ. Being the early May Day Bank Holiday weekend, there was Maypole dancing. Guests all left with the smiling faces of having had a good day out.

Mike Maher, who grows most of the plants for the plant sale
Mike Maher, who grows most of the plants for the plant sale

Wirral Amphibian and Reptile group featured newts from the Butterfly Park pond
Wirral Amphibian and Reptile group featured newts from the Butterfly Park pond


For the rest of the spring and summer, come and enjoy the Park’s wildlife at a more tranquil pace. The Park is now open every Sunday 12 noon - 4pm until the second Sunday in September. The Wirral Wildlife plant sale continues weekly whilst stocks last; new stocks are being propagated.


Paul Loughnane
New Ferry Butterfly Park Reserve Manager

Friday 3 May 2024

An Assembly of Tiles: Part 6 - The Peacock Butterfly


Wirral Countryside Volunteers with the peacock butterfly tile and cards
Wirral Countryside Volunteers with the peacock butterfly tile and cards

The Peacock Butterfly tile is dedicated to Wirral Countryside Volunteers (WCV) who have been regularly involved in the park since April 1995 and relocated their base to the Park in 2002. WCV provide a sizable group of talented and enthusiastic volunteers who coppice, lay hedges, scythe grasslands, host corporate workdays and take on many structural jobs around the park. The volunteers provide some fantastic support for the Park’s Opening Days.

New Ferry Butterfly Park workdays are on the second Sunday of the month from September to March starting from 9.30am onwards - do join them. Good company, tea and homemade cakes are provided. Follow them on Facebook or check the WCV website for more details
. On each event there are a good variety of jobs to suit different aptitudes. The WCV host some mid-week events which are more impromptu, tackling any problems that arise and helping keep up the momentum of various Park projects.

Pictured above are the Wirral Countryside Volunteers with the tile and cards by the lower pond.
 This is from the April workday when they installed bamboo chimes for the Elastatone, completed a new leaflet dispenser, spread clay over some uncovered edges of the lower pond, mowed bays for stalls for the forthcoming opening day, turned the compost and cleaned the road of vegetation debris that had accumulated over the last two years. Dr Hilary Ash, the Park’s Conservation Officer said, “WCV are the mainstay of volunteers who carry out the practical habitat management at the park. Their varied skills are vital to the wildlife value of the park and its smooth running, we were delighted to acknowledge this by dedicating a tile and card to them.”

The new leaflet holder by the park entrance
The new leaflet holder by the park entrance

Bamboo chimes for the restored Elastatone
Bamboo chimes for the restored Elastatone

The Peacock butterfly is a familiar butterfly and unmistakeable with its spectacular eyes on their wings, like those on the bird peacock’s tail. The caterpillars are nettle feeders. The caterpillars form a communal web at the top of a nettle plant. They are easily spotted being black, spiny and usually seen in large numbers. In a good year they can cause extensive damage to nettle patches, helping to keep the plant in check. Sunny nettle beds at the park are fed with potash from the BBQs and compost from our bins to keep the nettles vigorous for the Peacock butterfly populations.

Peacock caterpillar enjoying munching the nettles at the park.
Peacock caterpillar enjoying munching the nettles at the park


Paul Loughnane
New Ferry Butterfly Park Reserve Manager

Friday 26 April 2024

An Assembly of Tiles: Part 5 - The Speckled Wood Butterfly

The speckled wood butterfly tile for the Butterfly Park's Jubilee Gates
The speckled wood butterfly tile for the Butterfly Park's Jubilee Gates

The Speckled Wood butterfly tile is dedicated to the late Mel Roberts, the founder of the Park and the Park’s first secretary from 1993 until 2002.  Mel, a neighbour of the park since 1975, had the vision and confidence to get the Park going when its value as an urban nature reserve was less obvious than it would be today. At the time it was a site of antisocial behaviour and a problem to the community. In 1991 Mel produced a substantial booklet entitled “A proposal for the re-development of the Old Alma Street Goods Yard at Bebington and New Ferry Station.”  This was a 20-page booklet plus appendices, printed on card with photographs physically pasted in with glue. This booklet showed determination and that Mel meant business.

The front cover of Mel Robert's booklet with the proposal to create New Ferry Butterfly Park
The front cover of Mel Robert's booklet with the proposal to create New Ferry Butterfly Park

The front cover of the booklet illustrated diagrammatically a railway line hitting the buffers of light industry and a branch line continuing on unimpeded into a nature reserve. Mel would be delighted by how the Park has developed and how the Opening Day is a regular feature of the New Ferry community calendar. Mel, with the considerable help of the late Frank Cottrell, convinced Cheshire Wildlife Trust to take the Park on board. With the help of the then local MP and the support of many members of the community it came into being. Mel, along with the first chair of New Ferry Butterfly Park, Gordon Reid, got the tool container installed, which is a key factor in the Park’s management. Mel died in 2002 and an apple tree was planted on the Park in his memory, near to his house and fed by his ashes, so that Mel could be recycled back into the Park. Mel was known locally as the “New Ferry Caterpillock”, though few would know that now.

Mel Roberts with Lyndon Harrison, now Lord  Harrison, and Mel's grandaughter at the grand opening of the Butterfly Park to the public in July 1995
Mel Roberts with Lyndon Harrison, now Lord  Harrison, and Mel's grandaughter
at the grand opening of the Butterfly Park to the public in July 1995

The Speckled Wood butterfly has chocolate brown coloured wings with yellow flecks. Its caterpillar eats tussock grasses in dappled shade. The Speckled Wood has two populations a year and is unique amongst British butterflies in that it over-winters in two forms, both as a caterpillar or chrysalis. As a result, it appears to be constantly breeding and on the wing from March to November, with only a small gap in June. It is therefore an `old faithful’, being consistently present on the Park in good numbers. 

Paul Loughnane
New Ferry Butterfly Park Reserve Manager

Tuesday 16 April 2024

An Assembly of Tiles: Part 4 - the Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly

 

The small tortoiseshell tile for the Silver Jubilee gates
The small tortoiseshell tile for the Silver Jubilee gates

The small tortoiseshell tile is dedicated to the late Frank Cottrell. Frank’s passion was butterflies, but there being no locally active branch of Butterfly Conservation he became chair of Wirral Wildlife (1989 - 1998) and was a trustee of Cheshire Wildlife Trust from May 1992 until June 2005.

Frank was the key person in 1992-3 in getting the Cheshire Wildlife Trust to underwrite the lease of “Alma Street Goods Yard”, as the Butterfly Park was then known. As Chair of Wirral Wildlife, he went over the heads of Cheshire Wildlife Trust staff and got the Cheshire Wildlife Trustees on board. At that time, urban nature conservation was a new idea and a new direction for the Trust. Nearly a quarter of a century later in 2017 Frank retired as a Butterfly Park warden, at the age of 94. Frank was a Sunday afternoon warden because `it was so much fun’. He told visitors what to look out for, whatever was seasonal such as a common blue butterfly or a bee orchid, and visitors would report back to him with delight that they had spotted the wildlife feature. Frank took much pleasure in how the Park has progressed over the years and how it has engaged large numbers of people with wildlife. He gave a substantial donation to the funding of the Silver Jubilee Gates. His family gave the donations collected at Frank’s funeral to the Park. These were matched by Wirral Wildlife to enable the purchase of the industrial history interpretive lectern by the Brick Pit.

The small tortoiseshell is a familiar butterfly. It is a beautiful bright orange and black butterfly; the upper side of both the fore and hind wings are bright orange-rusty red with three black spots interspaced with yellow on the leading edge of the wing. A ring of dull blue spots or crescents line the edge of both wings. The butterfly over-winters as an adult and is often encountered while hibernating in a garage or shed. Adults emerge from hibernation at the end of March or start of April. There are two broods a year, so it is on the wing until September.

Hilary Ash, Frank Cottrell and David Hinde in the early days of the Butterfly Park
Hilary Ash, Frank Cottrell and David Hinde in the early days of the Butterfly Park

Pictured are Frank Cottrell, Hilary Ash and David Hinde (Butterfly Conservation local representative) about 1993 when the park was just getting underway, and nearly a quarter of century later at a presentation by  Alison McGovern MP, marking when Frank stepped down as a New Ferry Butterfly Park warden. 

Frank was presented with a framed print by Alison McGovern MP when he retired as a warden at the Butterfly Park
Frank was presented with a framed print by Alison McGovern MP
when he retired as a warden at the Butterfly Park


Paul Loughnane
New Ferry Butterfly Park Reserve Manager


Wednesday 3 April 2024

Crown Commercial Services Corporate Day at Butterfly Park

Claire Hastewell from Crown Commercial Services has written a blog post for us, following their corporate workday at New Ferry Butterfly Park.


At Crown Commercial Services (CCS) social value and giving something back to our communities is important to us. Supporting and investing in our local communities' health and wellbeing, the improvement of the local environment, and strengthening community cohesion, ensuring the government is getting good value for money for its contracts.

The CCS team at the Butterfly Park
The CCS team at the Butterfly Park

A team of volunteers from CCS came down to New Ferry Butterfly Park at the beginning of March. The local volunteers made sure they got good value from their volunteering. The team of six achieved so much and were a great boost to the park.

Four square meters of turf were removed from over the railway track beds to encourage carpets of bird’s foot trefoil, a key butterfly plant.

104 hedging stakes were harvested from Hogs Head Coppice.

An impressive number of hedging stakes
An impressive number of hedging stakes

15 meters of hedge was laid in Charlie’s Field.

Laying the hedge
Laying the hedge

Hedgelayers at work!
Hedgelayers at work!

A metal frame from a former park sign at the Brick Pit was recycled and relocated to the park’s entrance. This will be turned into a permanent mount for leaflet dispensers (and will be much appreciated by the summer wardens).

The last bit of landscaping at the lower pond was completed with the butterfly bench set back from the pond edge and sandstone blocks and turf used to cover the exposed membrane.

The pond landscaping nearing completion
The pond landscaping nearing completion

A woven hazel picket fence was made from the freshly cut coppice material and was used to secure this area. It is an attractive feature in itself.


Last July we worked on the pond, puddling the protective layer of clay around the edges. We were delighted to see the progress from last time and knowing that the pond will now be open this year to visitors will be fantastic.

The butterfly bench is in place and the turf has been cut for edging the pond
The butterfly bench is in place and the turf has been cut for edging the pond 

On the lunch time tour there was much interest in the mistletoe and a comma butterfly, the park's logo, was seen on the wing - the first butterfly record of the year. Lunch time provided a chance for employees to chat and make new contacts. Some of CCS team delegates did not really know each other as they came from across multiple teams but do now, with this shared experience.


The feedback from the volunteers was great, "fulfilled and amazing achievements all round, working with great volunteers. They all made us feel very welcome and made the day fun as well as a learning experience."

We look forward to returning with a team from CCS towards the end of summer to see the Butterfly Park in full bloom.