Thursday, 6 January 2022

Concerns About Housebuilding Plans on Wirral's Greenbelt

View of greenbelt land from Whitfield Lane in Barnston.
View of greenbelt land from Whitfield Lane in Barnston.

Applications are currently being consulted on for 7 'screening opinions and scoping requests’ submitted by Leverhulme Estates for building houses on Green Belt land in Wirral. NOTE, these are not planning applications (they will come next) but applications to agree with the local authority on what environmental issues and studies are needed to be done before outline planning permission can be applied for. This is purely about environment (in the broad term including heritage) and is not the place to question housing `need’ numbers.

Our concerns are those below, which anyone is welcome to quote in their own comments on the applications.

Links to comment on the applications are below, or you can email quoting the reference number.

The closing date to submit your comments is Saturday 29th January 2022.

Concerns relating to all sites

  • The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) must consider the cumulative impact of these 7-8 proposals on the environment of Wirral, including on biodiversity. Table 6 omits several planning applications in progress for large amounts of housing, especially in Bromborough/Eastham.
  • The EIA should examine whether there are any environmental `very special circumstances’ for or against building on this Green Belt and greenfield land.
  • The EIA must include impacts on all SBIs neighbouring the site. The current documents omit Harrock Wood (21/02384 Irby) and for the two Raby Hall, Raby Mere (21/02383 and 21/02386) omit Plymyard Dale and Bromborough Golf Course. The EIA must include impacts of supplying services to the land (Raby Mere in particular).
  • The EIA must cover suitable hydrological studies to ensure neighbouring ponds are not drained by falling water tables (Irby and Raby Mere).
  • The EIA must consider buffer zones needed to all the SBIs and Priority Habitats.
  • The EIA must consider ecological networks and the risks of breaking these (Irby).

Items that should be scoped in, not out

Climate change
Greenfield land, even under intensive agriculture, emits little carbon. Houses and their associated transport emit far more.  Ask for a well-respected carbon calculator to be used e.g. as used by the Environment Agency.

Drainage in relation to ponds and water tables (Irby and Raby Mere), and the effects on watercourses (Irby for Arrowe Brook, Raby Mere for River Dibbin, Barnston for Prenton Brook.)

Lighting - These are all relatively dark areas where lights will impact wildlife such as invertebrates, bats.

Further ecological surveys needed

  • Breeding birds, including farmland birds and barn owls (Irby, Raby Mere, Barnston).
  • Great Crested Newts as already detected: Raby Mere, Irby.
  • Water voles as there are reports from Arrowe Brook area and Dibbinsdale (Irby, Raby Mere). Otter can be checked in the survey, though risks are low.

Concerns for specific sites

  • 21/02384 Irby
Ecological networks, drainage to brook and of pond network, surveys needed for breeding birds, great crested newts, water voles. Include impacts on Harrock Wood and buffer zone to Arrowe Park. Wayleave for HVDC Western Link cables.

  • 21/02383 and 21/02386 by Raby Hall, Raby Mere
Surveys for breeding birds, great crested newts, water voles. Drainage impacts on Dibbin and on pond network.

  • 21/92377 Barnston Road Heswall
Breeding birds including farmland.

  • 21/021379, 21/02381, 21/02385 all north of Gills Lane, Barnston
Drainage impacts on Prenton Brook, erosion problems in Barnstondale (where existing erosion whenever the reservoirs are cleaned), more surveys for badgers, breeding birds. Effects on ecological networks.

Links to Screening Opinion and Scoping Request Documents

Please submit your comments by following the links listed below.

  • Land East of Dale View Close, North of Gills lane Pensby – up to 100 houses.


  • Land East of Thorncroft Drive, North of Gills Lane, Pensby. – up to 15 houses.


  • Land west of Barnston Road, North Of Gills Lane – up to 160 houses.


  • Land east of Glenwood Drive, Irby. Up to 310 houses.


  • Land east of Raby Hall, Raby Mere. 85 houses.


  • Land west of Raby Hall, Raby Mere. 40 houses.


  • Land at Milner Road/Barnston Road Heswall. 120 houses



Tuesday, 4 January 2022

Transformations by the Route 2 Success Team

Certificates and cake for the Routes 2 Success volunteers
Thank you certificates and homemade cake for the Routes 2 Success volunteers

Over the period of the pandemic and various shut downs, volunteer work parties were initially stopped, then restricted to six volunteers per event as we opened up a little.
 Now we are back to full strength again, but playing catch up.

At New Ferry Butterfly Park it meant that habitat management had suffered neglect.
 Luckily the park has been helped recently by extra volunteers coming from various places, including nine Routes 2 Success (R2S) sessions held for young people who are not in employment, education or in full-time training (NEET). This course is run by an enthusiastic tutor, Jason Savage, from Wirral Metropolitan College. Trips to the park involved four students, two college tutors and New Ferry Butterfly Park volunteers. These students took on small manageable tasks which could be completed in an hour, then a break and then often on to a different project for another hour. They accomplished a multitude of jobs:

  • The damaged mobile allotment was disassembled to make it ready for repairs in the spring.

The damaged imago hut (left) and the repairs in progress (right)
The damaged imago hut (left) and the repairs in progress (right)

  • The scales of the Imago Hut roof were repaired, and a bug house was made and stuffed with bamboo canes.
  • Holly hedge, demonstration garden and Coleridge Glade were weeded.
Coleridge Glade before (left) and after (right) weeding
Coleridge Glade before (left) and after (right) weeding

  • The lime waste railway sidings were re-exposed enabling access. This path was closed during Covid. The new bare ground will be good for invertebrates as the wildflowers re-colonise.
  • Sweet chestnut coppice poles from Eastham Country Park were stripped of bark to make durable stakes to hang signs around park. 
  • The base of the water softening tower was re-exposed making more of this railway feature.
  • A large area of invasive two-flowered honeysuckle was cleared. 
  • Various bramble patches which colonised during Covid shut downs were reduced.
  • Fallen trees across paths and on benches from Storm Arwen were rapidly tidied up by the group.

Bags of woodchip and soil improver filled by volunteers
Bags of woodchip and soil improver filled by volunteers

  • 33 bags of woodchip and 32 bags of ‘soil improver’ were filled for spring sales.

Most weeks homemade cakes were made as thanks for the work completed and to keep energy levels up. On the last day a special cake was made and the students' names were added to a R2S flag on the cake. Students were given a thank you certificate.

Charlie, a volunteer from Routes 2 Success, (left) was asked to raise the new Green Flag. Pictured with Jason Savage, the course tutor.
Charlie, a volunteer from Routes 2 Success, (left) was asked to raise the new Green Flag.
Pictured with Jason Savage, the course tutor.

The park gained its 8th Community Green Flag Award this autumn and who better to raise it than one of the R2S team, as volunteer input like this is the root of the park’s success. Charlie was so chuffed to be asked to raise the Green Flag. Some of the students really came on in their confidence during these sessions. Thanks Hilary for leading the sessions and to other volunteers who guided the groups.

Monday, 3 January 2022

Wirral's Wild 50: January Worksheets

Happy New Year! It may a time for making changes but we hope you will want to carry on with Wirral's Wild 50. In January, become a nature detective by learning to identify birds and spot tracks made by different animals.

January activities

Things to do in January

  • Can you find hazel catkins?
  • Look in the snow or mud for animal tracks and work out what has made them.
  • Learn to identify birds in the garden or school grounds.
  • Take part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch at the end of January.

Common tracks and signs of British wildlife


1. Garden bird detective

2. Craft an owl mask

Thursday, 2 December 2021

Wirral's Wild 50: December Worksheets


Here are this month's Wirral's Wild 50 activity sheets. In December, make your own bird feeder and learn how to identify trees in winter by looking at their twigs.

Download full size instructions and watch a video to help you make the bird feeder:

Things to do in December

Think about how plants and animals survive the winter

Learn how to identify trees when they have no leaves

Make a bird feeder

Look for mistletoe and find out how it survives without roots

Work out how old a tree is

Saturday, 27 November 2021

The High Sheriff, The MP and The Trees

Alison McGovern MP planting a tree
Alison McGovern MP planting a tree

Tree Planting to celebrate Wirral Wildlife’s 50th Birthday

Wirral Wildlife were delighted to celebrate their 50th Anniversary on a fine autumnal day on 20th November at Brotherton Park, part of Dibbinsdale Local Nature Reserve. The High Sheriff of Merseyside, Nigel Lanceley, and Alison McGovern MP kindly attended our celebration.

The High Sheriff of Merseyside, Nigel Lanceley, gives a speech.
The High Sheriff of Merseyside, Nigel Lanceley, gives a speech.

We were heartened by the presence of the Chairman and Vice Chairman of Cheshire Wildlife Trust, so many friends from related organisations and long serving volunteers spanning all the activities in which we engage. The chairman outlined the history of the group and gave thanks for the efforts made by the founders and all current supporters. The High Sheriff stressed how prestigious is the award of the QAVS. The key issue being the way we engage with disadvantaged groups in an inclusive way and seek to assist the cause of wildlife generally.

A female black poplar was planted by the High Sheriff in Brotherton Park. It was he who had processed our nomination for the QAVS, so it was a particular pleasure that he was able to attend. Thereafter we planted six varieties of Cheshire apple trees in the Walled Garden (see details below).

Cutting the cake with a billhook!
Cutting the cake with a billhook!

Then the High Sheriff and Alison McGovern MP cut the anniversary cake with a polished bill hook, before distributing slices on the end of his sword. Tea and cake were enjoyed by all our guests.

Handing out slices of cake on the end of the High Sheriff's sword.
Handing out slices of cake on the end of the High Sheriff's sword.

Thank you to everyone who attended to make the occasion such a special celebration. 

This is a list of the trees we planted and who helped:

  • Black Poplar: (female tree, clone 32, raised by Chester Zoo) planted next to the two male trees planted in Brotherton Park for our 40th birthday). Planted by High Sheriff, Nigel Lanceley.

Bella Smallthwaite planting a traditional apple tree variety
Bella Smallthwaite planting a traditional apple tree variety

  • Six Apple trees were planted in the Walled Garden.

1. Bramley. Cooker. (Donated by Friends of Dibbinsdale to mark Wirral Wildlife’s 50th birthday). Supplied by Morrey’s Nursery, Kelsall.

The Friends told us “Happy Birthday to Wirral Wildlife. We look forward to continue working cooperatively with you in future years”. 

Planted by Alison McGovern MP, Stephen Ross (Chair of Wirral Wildlife), with help from Steve Yandell (chair, Wirral Countryside Volunteers) and Tim Gannicliffe (WW recorder).

2. Millicent Barnes. Dessert.

Planted by Bella Smallthwaite helped by Ron Warne (Friends of Dibbinsdale and recorder) and Paul Loughnane (reserves manager, NFBP and Thornton Wood).

3. Eccleston Pippin. Dual purpose.

Planted by representatives of the Wirral Wildlife recording team: Mike Inger, Sheila Ross, Elina Doss (who also works for Record local records centre).

4. Rival. Dessert.

Planted by David Parker (DECG), Tom McCullough (warden Foxes Wood and Tom’s Paddock) and Steve Lyus (chair, New Ferry Butterfly Park).

5. Bee Bench. Dual purpose.

Planted by young volunteers Mairead Corr and Maddy Green, helped by Pete Miller (chair, Friends of Dibbinsdale).

6. Ashmead’s Kernel. Dessert.

Planted by Elaine Mills in memory of Frank Cottrell (former chairman), helped by Lesley Brockbank (Wirral & Cheshire Badger Group) and Eric Greenwood (retired from Liverpool World Museum and botanical expert).

Trees 2-6 were raised and supplied by Katie Tonge (Heathfield Orchard, Chester). All are varieties traditionally grown in Cheshire.

The High Sheriff of Merseyside with the planted black poplar, a contribution to the Queen's Green Canopy project.
The High Sheriff of Merseyside with the planted black poplar,
a contribution to the Queen's Green Canopy project.

Dr Hilary Ash registered our black poplar and apples as a contribution to the Queen’s Green Canopy project (QGC). This is a tree planting initiative created to mark Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022 which invites people from across the United Kingdom to “Plant a Tree for the Jubilee”.

We received this acknowledgement.

 “We are delighted to confirm your Jubilee tree planting has been uploaded to The Queen’s Green Canopy (QGC) map. Thank you for your contribution to this special initiative, which we hope will inspire countless others. With your support we are creating a greener UK and a legacy in honour of The Queen’s leadership of the nation, which will benefit future generations.

Yours sincerely, The Queen’s Green Canopy”

The High Sheriff also wrote to us.

‘’ I would like to thank you all for the warm welcome and hospitality on Saturday. I was honoured to plant the tree and contribute to the ceremony. I would like to congratulate you again for all the great work that you carry out in Wirral. As residents we all benefit from your commitment. Please pass on my regards and best wishes to the team and if I can help again please do not hesitate to contact me. I think it is a great compliment to the group that you have reached the ripe old age of fifty. This means that you are still very important in our communities and as I said you are vital for the next 50 years.

Thank you again and best wishes,


There is an album of photographs of the event taken by Richard Ash:

Tuesday, 9 November 2021

Butterfly Park Given A Clean Up By Laundry Team

The Unilever team ready for action at the Butterfly Park
The Unilever team ready for action at the Butterfly Park

The Butterfly Park was fortunate to host a corporate event for Unilever’s laundry team who cover packaging!

They all had a great day gardening, repairing a bench, removing water lily from the pond, hedge laying, re-exposing old railway track beds on the lime, bagging up wood chip, removing two-flowered honeysuckle and having a tour of the park.

Fixing the Silver Jubilee bench
Fixing the Silver Jubilee bench

Some of the volunteers went to Screwfix for a few bits and pieces to restore the Wirral Countryside Volunteers’ Silver Jubilee (2010) bench. Whilst doing this a smooth newt was found which Boa thought was dead, but it was just acting dead! We placed the newt elsewhere and it soon made a dart for it. When someone went in the pond with chest waders on to lift out the large water lily his co-workers were around with the camera to catch the moment if he fell in. He did not oblige and the water lily was successfully removed. Four builders’ bags of the two-flowered honey suckle were removed, the most ever removed in a single session. The lime siding was cleared re-exposing some of the railway heritage which underlies the park.

Removing water lily from the pond
Removing water lily from the pond

Wading into the pond to remove water lily (and trying not to fall into the water!)
Wading into the pond to remove water lily
(and trying not to fall into the water!)

The weather was great, tea and homemade cakes were available and for lunch there was a selection of pizzas.

We hope their muscles were not too tired the following day. There was a good team collaboration, some of whom had just recently joined the group and others whom were working from home so we hope it was a good team building exercise too. It certainly helped the park move forward with projects we do not often get around to. Some participants were interested in helping out at our monthly work parties and the profile of the park has been raised. Our new gates arrived on the same day, so it was a real hive of activity at the park.

Thursday, 4 November 2021

Raised Pillars, Raised Gates, Lowered Flag

The new gates at New Ferry Butterfly Park
The new gates at New Ferry Butterfly Park

At New Ferry Butterfly Park the brick pillars have been raised, filled with concrete and left to set for five weeks, and now the new Silver Jubilee Gates are installed. Take a walk or train ride to have a look. Painting of the galvanised gates will be undertaken by Carol Ramsay, who has been Artist in Residence at New Ferry Butterfly Park.

Installation of the Silver Jubilee gates at New Ferry Butterfly Park
Installation of the Silver Jubilee gates at New Ferry Butterfly Park

It was Carol who inspired the Park’s committee to get involved in artworks. She organised the first Open Day in 2010, which pre-Covid became an annual event attracting 900-1000 visitors.  From 2010, our artworks have developed over the years and are very much part of the character of the park. There is a certain pleasing symmetry of Carol being involved in the gates. Pam Sullivan, another artist with a longstanding association with the Park, will be producing six unique decorative tiles for the gate pillars, which reflect what can be found in the Park. There will be a grand opening of the gates on 1st May 2022 at 11am. The Park’s art leaflet will need updating, as the gates are the most ambitious and durable art work installed to date!

The back of the Silver Jubilee gates at New Ferry Butterfly Park
The back of the Silver Jubilee gates at New Ferry Butterfly Park

During the period of the gate construction some temporary gates were installed which were not as secure, resulting in the Park suffering some vandalism. Damage was done to the Imago Hut, which is now being repaired. It just shows you why secure gates are required. We were alerted to intruders on three occasions by local residents and Merseyrail Security, so when the intruders entered and the park’s volunteers arrived 10 minutes later, the culprits knew we were on to them and were soon dissuaded from intruding again. Many thanks to our neighbours for alerting us to these evening visitors. The new gates are more secure as well as being aesthetically pleasing.

The Silver Jubilee gates at New Ferry Butterfly Park, with Green Flag behind at half mast in tribute to Frank Cottrell
The Silver Jubilee gates at New Ferry Butterfly Park,
with Green Flag behind at half mast in tribute to Frank Cottrell

Frank Cottrell recently donated £1,000 toward the Silver Jubilee Gates. That generous donation is similar to what is raised on a bustling Open Day, or from the Crowdfunder appeal to raise funds for the gates. In 1993, Frank was instrumental in getting the Cheshire Wildlife Trust to underwrite the lease of “Alma Street Goods Yard” as the Butterfly Park was known then.  As Chair of Wirral Wildlife, he went over the heads of Cheshire Wildlife Trust staff and got the Cheshire Wildlife Trustees on board. At the time, urban nature conservation was a new direction for the Trust. Frank retired as a Butterfly Park warden in 2017, when he was 94. Frank took delight in how the park has progressed over the years and how it has engaged large numbers of people with wildlife. Thank you Frank. The Green Flag at the Butterfly Park is flying at half-mast in respect for Frank, who died recently (see tribute to Frank Cottrell).