Friday 23 November 2012

National Tree Week

Saturday 24th November - Sunday 2nd December

Recent events have confirmed that the view across the countryside and in our towns is set to change faster than anyone could have expected.  In recent years, pests and diseases have started to threaten some of our most loved trees, such as oak and horse chestnut, but the spread of Chalara fraxinea (ash dieback) and the anticipated devastation of the UK population of ash trees has left everyone considering what the next steps should be. 

National Tree Week was launched in 1975 to maintain the tree planting momentum to replace the losses resulting from Dutch elm disease, which had already wiped out more than 20 million of our most significant landscape trees.  The Tree Council has run the festival every year since, encouraging everyone to celebrate the tree planting season in a variety of ways, not least of which is by planting more trees.  This year, once again, the landscape is being altered. We are facing losses that will change the view out of our windows, from town pavements, country footpaths and across fields and woods. Since trees make a difference to so many aspects of life, wildlife and biodiversity – and that includes people – will be affected. We need to act to change our view, both figuratively and literally.

“Anyone with land of their own, whether a garden, woodland or field, can make a difference to their view by adding a tree”, said Pauline Buchanan Black, Director-General of The Tree Council. “This year, though, the campaign carries particular significance as we look for ways to minimise the impact of ash dieback and carefully consider what to plant. Rising concern about tree diseases has also reminded us of the importance of checking not only where the seed of their tree started life, but also where it was germinated and grown. Not since Plant A Tree in ’73 has there been the same urgency to safeguard a view for the future”.

Alasdair Douglas, Chair of The Tree Council, added “It is almost exactly 40 years since Secretary of State for the Environment Peter Walker stood up in the House of Commons and announced that the following year was to be designated National Tree Planting Year. This was the Government initiative to encourage the planting of new trees to replace those millions killed by Dutch Elm Disease. The Tree Council was formed from that initiative and has been running National Tree Week ever since. We couldn’t have foreseen that we’d be faced with the losses from a tree disease of similar epidemic proportions just as we go in to National Tree Week but this seems a timely moment to ask the public to think carefully about what will happen to their view and what they will do to restore it for future generations.”

Visit The Tree Council's website for details of local events and tips on tree planting and aftercare. Event information is also available from the Tree Council infoline, 020 7940 8180 (during office hours).

Thursday 15 November 2012

500 Bluebell Bulbs

The final event in our celebrations for Cheshire Wildlife Trust's 50th birthday took place on Sunday 11th November, when 500 native bluebell bulbs were planted at New Ferry Butterfly Park. It sounds a lot - but fourteen people got stuck in and all the bulbs were planted in 45 minutes! Many thanks to Wirral Countryside Volunteers, who had cleared undergrowth from the hazel coppice and hawthorn copse in readiness. Next year should see some of them flower, hopefully just in time for our Open Day to start the summer's openings, planned for 5th May 2013. The display will get better each year, with a particular flush of flowers a year after the coppice is cut for hedging stakes, letting more light onto the bluebells. The bulbs were funded by a "Your Wirral" grant for Wirral Borough Council - thank you to the Bromborough Area Forum.

Wirral's Year of Coast and Countryside is also drawing to a close. A big Thank You to all our leaders for the walks and plantings. However, the guided walks were so good we are going to repeat some over the next few years, starting with a Bluebell Walk on Saturday 11th May in Dibbinsdale, meeting 10 a.m. at Bromborough Rake Station, as part of Wirral BC's Walking Festival. Look out for more events next year.

Dibbinsdale Winter Warmer

The Friends of Dibbinsdale have organised a Winter Warmer event for Saturday 8th December.
"We will be having a BBQ and hot drinks will also be available.
Activities and Crafts on display will include:
Willow seasonal wreath making -  have a go at making your own Christmas decorative wreath.
Christmas decoration making for children - paint your own wooden Santa Christmas tree decoration.
Visit the ‘Bodgers’ outdoor workshop and see how freshly felled wood can be turned using the traditional shave-horse and pole-lathe.
Pottery painting - paint and buy your own pottery (to be confirmed)
We hope Santa will be able to drop in to meet and bring good cheer to our younger visitors (oh .. ok then, to all our visitors).
Access -  Parking is available for about 25 cars, in the main car park. There is a bus stop at the Spital Road / carpark entrance ( Routes 85, 219 and 419).  Come on foot if you can and enjoy a stroll through the park to see the newly established bird feeding station and the latest improvements  both in and around Woodslee Pond."
More information about the group can be found on their website -

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Chalara Action Plan

Image: FERA

Defra has published its Chalara Action Plan, setting out the ways the Government plans to tackle the disease.

These include:
  • Newly-planted diseased trees and diseased trees in nurseries will be traced and destroyed, as once young trees are infected they succumb quickly.
  • Mature trees will not currently be removed, as they are valuable to wildlife, take longer to die and can help us learn more about genetic strains that might be resistant to the disease. Infection does not occur directly from tree to tree.
  • Better understanding of the disease will be built through research and surveys, which will look not only for diseased trees but for those that show signs of genetic resistance to Chalara, to help identify genetic strains resistant to the disease.
  • The search for the disease will include trees in towns and cities as well as the countryside, building partnerships with a range of organisations beyond Government.
  • Foresters, land managers, environment groups and the general public will be informed about how to identify diseased trees and those likely to be resistant to the disease, and know what to do if they find a diseased tree.
More information can be found on the Defra website.

Friday 9 November 2012

Ash dieback update

Image courtesy of Fera

There are two trees on Wirral that are currently being investigated for ash dieback disease.

If you see an ash tree with suspicious symptoms, please contact the Forestry Commission.

Younger trees are more susceptible.

However, on mature trees, the leaves will be crisping up ready to fall and any ash keys (seeds) will be brown in any case. This is normal.

The important thing to look for is the tell tale triangular mottling below a bud or smaller branchlet junction, or if more advanced stretching up and down the branch's bark, and if you split the wood some discolouration of the water carrying tissues.

If you think you have spotted the disease, please check the symptoms video and pictorial guide from the Forestry Commission website before reporting it by telephone or email (further details below).

It is best to leave all material in place and report any suspected sightings for an inspection.

Take photos and send these to the email address below.

In England and Wales:
Chalara helpline - 08459 33 55 77 (open 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. every day)

Updates on the disease will be posted on the Forestry Commission website

Monday 29 October 2012

Ash Dieback Disease

As you may be aware, the media have reported a new and very serious threat to the UK countryside in the form of a fungus Chalara fraxinea. This fungus has the capacity to decimate our native ash tree population, in much the same way as Dutch Elm disease wiped out the elm population last century. The infection is nowhere near us at present, but since infected trees moved for the nursery trade are the main means of long-distance spread, it could crop up anywhere.

It is important that we monitor ash trees this winter and during the spring and early summer months next year. The pdf documents in the links below (courtesy of The Forestry Commission) indicate what to look for. Lesions appear on the bark surface and can grow considerably in size. The bark underneath is often discoloured and grey or brownish. It can kill the tree, or lead to substantial die back of the crown. The leaves wilt from the tips but, as many other conditions also do this, the main ID feature is the bark.

Pictorial Guide to Ash Dieback Disease

Ash Dieback Disease Pest Alert

At the request of the Forestry Commission and Defra, can you:

1) Look out for signs or symptoms of the disease in ash trees.

2) Send any photos or descriptions, plus your location and contact details to one of the contacts listed by the Forestry Commission:
• Forest Research Disease Diagnostic Advisory Service
Telephone: 01420 23000 or Send email
Forestry Commission Plant Health Service
Telephone: 0131 314 6414 or Send email
Fera Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate
Telephone: 01904 465625 or Send email

If you have a camera and GPS on your phone you can use a new app, Ashtag, developed by the University of East Anglia to track the spread of the disease. Alternatively, you can manually upload a picture from your camera to their website:

At this stage the disease appears confined to the east of England but, as with many fast moving pathogens, early containment and identification is essential. Wherever you are, please check the health of your local ash trees.

Sunday 28 October 2012

Wildlife Trust Calendar

The Wildlife Trust calendar for 2013 will be on sale at all our events and at £6 makes a great present.

Why not come along to our Members' and Friends' Coffee Morning on November 3rd from 10 a.m. to noon?

There will be calendars and Christmas cards on sale, a Bring and Buy and raffle and a chance to meet other people who are working to create an environment rich in wildlife  for everyone.

Telephone 625 5570 for the address and directions to the venue.

Apple Days

In October we held an Apple Day at Eastham Country Park. If you saw our tasting table display and our supply of juicing apples you might have wondered why we didn't have as many apples as in previous years.

A disastrous sequence of weather, the wettest April for more than 100 years followed by a rainy and windy June wiped out up to half of England's expected apple production. The blossom just didn't open on many of the trees and then because of the rain and wind the  bees didn't fly to pollinate those that did flower.

Despite this we held a busy event with our display and tasting table, our wooden apple press to make juice, apple recipes on sale and some children's craft activities. Mersey Morris Men delighted everyone again with their traditional dances.

A couple of weekends later we joined in with Burton Manor's Apple Weekend which was a magnificent celebration of all things appley.

Wednesday 10 October 2012

Apple Weekend at Burton Manor

On October 20th and 21st, Burton Manor is hosting an Apple Weekend.

10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on both days.

Entrance with programme purchased on the day. Adults: £1, children under 14: free.

Activities and events include:
  • Display of locally grown apple varieties
  • Apple tastings
  • Apple expert to identify your unknown apples
  • Gordale Nurseries with advice on growing fruit trees – discount vouchers available
  • Local Bee Keepers with demonstration hive, information and advice
  • Honey for sale
  • Competitions with prizes
  • Talks throughout the weekend
  • Expert advice on orchard management
  • Apple Press – bring your own apples and press your own drink
  • Burton Apple Juice for sale, produced from apples grown free from pesticides
  • Refreshments, including ploughmans lunch comprising local products and apples
Wirral Wildlife will be there with information about wildlife friendly gardening.

Follow signs for Burton Manor College, CH64 5SJ. Map of location.

For more information, telephone 0151 345 1107 or send an email

Small Mammal Trapping at Butterfly Park

Mammal trapping had not been carried out here before so it was with great interest that the Longworth traps were collected on a bright autumn morning. Ron and Sarah had put out un-set traps baited with birdseed on two previous nights so that small mammals could get used to them. On the Saturday evening they added slices of apple or carrot, fly pupae (in case insectivorous shrews were trapped) and hay bedding to each trap and set them. Left overnight a small mammal entering one would cause the door to close behind it and it would then spend a cosy night with plenty of food and moisture from the apple.

Half of the traps were sprung and these all contained woodmice (Apodemus sylvaticus). Each individual was carefully shaken out into a bag, removed by holding it gently by the scruff of the neck, sexed, checked for parasites and then weighed. 5 females and 6 males were identified, ten were juveniles weighing 14-18g and one adult male weighing 24g. All the woodmice were carefully returned to their habitat. No shrews or voles were trapped although leaving traps out in the daytime could have produced different results.

Trapping enables the species present to be recorded and if carried out at regular intervals can show population changes. If the animals that are trapped are marked by cutting off a small section of their fur in a particular area they can be identified if they are trapped again. If this is done on several individuals and trapping is repeated this enables the total population numbers to be calculated.

It was lovely to learn about this technique, to see these small mice at close quarters and learn about the value of monitoring their populations.

Leasowe Birdwatch

Over 20 people enjoyed a tour of Leasowe lighthouse on 5th October, led by members of the Friends of Leasowe Lighthouse. This was preceded by a birdwatch on the North Wirral coast and along the (flooded) fields nearby.

Read the next newsletter to find out what we saw!

Thursday 4 October 2012

Leasowe Lighthouse and Winter Birds Walk

Friday 5th October
Leasowe Lighthouse and Winter Birds Walk

Walk - 1 p.m.
Lighthouse tour - about 2 p.m.

A birdwatch for the winter months - Leasowe Bay at high tide. Walk from Leasowe Lighthouse to the shore, return to the lighthouse for hot drinks. The fit can climb the steps to the lamp room! No need to book for the walk, which is free, but booking needed for the lighthouse (cost £2.50) - telephone 0151 327 5923.

Meet: Leasowe Lighthouse, Grid reference: SJ253912
Location on Google Map

Leaders: Ed Samuels and Mathilde Baker-Schommer from Mersey Estuary Conservation Group, Rosemary Quinn from Friends of Leasowe Lighthouse.

Thursday 27 September 2012

Seed Gathering Season

Nights are drawing in and the view from the window is changing as the leaves turn golden and the berries and seeds ripen. Are you one of those people lucky enough to look out of your window and see a tree? That tree is telling you the season is shifting; its stark, leafless form will re-enforce the arrival of winter and herald the arrival of spring as its leaves begin to open. Even in the centres of our largest cities, trees provide this link to the natural world, making them vital parts of our urban landscape. However, we can often take our trees for granted, only realising how important they were in their local landscape when the tree has gone.

The Tree Council is calling on everyone to change their view. On 23rd September, they launch the start of the tree year with Seed Gathering Season. Over the next month most of our trees will produce seeds and fruit and using this seed to grow yourself a free tree is the easiest way to literally ‘Change Your View’. Coordinated events and informal activities are taking place all over the country, but you can just as easily do it on your own. Just take a walk in town or country to collect seed to pot up and grow into small trees that can then be planted out next year.

Of course, seeds are food as well as potential trees – for humans and for wildlife. Make the most of the autumn harvest by gathering berries, nuts and fruit to eat and make into delicious autumn treats – just make sure that there is plenty left over for the creatures that depend on them to get through the winter.

If you want to be sure that you are picking the right things in the right places, there are planned events, run by The Tree Council's member organisations, its volunteer Tree Wardens and other supporters, currently taking place throughout the country. Further information, and a free poster to download, can be found on the Tree Council's website.

Monday 24 September 2012

A Busy Day

On Sunday 7th October you'll be spoilt for choice. We have something for everyone.

Small Mammal Survey
9.30 a.m.
Find out more about small mammals at New Ferry Butterfly Park by learning how to identify and survey them. The event will cover small mammal identification, such as how to tell the difference between mice and voles, and there will also be a practical demonstration of small mammal trapping and how to record your findings.
Children under 14 must be accompanied by an adult.

Cleaver Heath Workday
Meet at the reserve on Oldfield Road, Heswall at 10 a.m.
Stout footwear and waterproofs recommended, and volunteers should bring a packed lunch if staying for the whole session, which ends between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Further details and directions from Mike Maher, email or telephone 0151 342 4249.

Apple Day
Eastham Country Park
2 - 4 p.m.
Apple tasting, juice making and other fun.

Hope to see you at one or more of these events.

Friday 21 September 2012

Rocks and Birds

We were taken back in time - geological time - on our recent guided walk on Thurstaston beach.

The sandstone that is exposed in higher areas further inland on the Wirral is here 70 feet below the sand. The rock was formed over 200 million years ago at a latitude of 30 degrees in a desert-like climate. It gradually moved to its present location through the process of continental drift.

More recently, 13,000 years ago, the Irish Sea glacier travelled down from Scotland and through the Lake District until it encountered the Snowdonia glacier. The glaciers acted like bulldozers, scraping up a mixture of sand, clay and stones and when the ice melted these were left as the till (or boulder clay) cliffs on what is now the beach.

Hilary Davies, our geologist guide, identified stones from Scotland and the Lake District that had been washed out of the unstable cliffs. Ranger Lynne Greenstreet helped us identify the shelduck and other birds on the estuary mud as we completed a fascinating circular walk.

Thursday 20 September 2012

Landscape Wardens

Cheshire Landscape Trust has been successful in being awarded a grant from the Big Lottery Fund’s Awards For All scheme to run a new project called Landscape Wardens. This is building on the success of the Tree Warden scheme that the Trust has run across Cheshire for over 20 years and hopes to build on this work by encouraging people to take a greater interest in the landscape around them.

Cheshire Landscape Trust are inviting people to get involved with the new project and learn more about the local landscape – how to read it, record it and look after it. The Landscape Wardens project will initially be centred on 2 very different parts of Cheshire, urban Ellesmere Port and the largely rural area of Broxton in south Cheshire, to give a good overview of the wide range of landscapes in the county.

The first events will be an introduction to the project and a chance for people to get involved with future events. These two initial events will take place in Ellesmere Port on Saturday 29th September and at Bickerton Village Hall on Saturday 6th October. Both events will be from 2 to 4 p.m.

Following events will include the chance to learn about Landscape Character and how this helps you to read your landscape and everything in it. There will also be a workshop on wildlife habitats and practical things that can be done to look after them. All the events are free with refreshments provided.

If you would like to get involved then why not go along to the event on Saturday 29th September at West Cheshire College Campus or on Saturday 6th October at Bickerton Village Hall and become a Landscape Warden.

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Bidston Wildflower Planting

Our fourth wildflower planting, to celebrate the 50th birthday of Cheshire Wildlife Trust, took place on 15th September at Bidston Moss former landfill site. The Forestry Commission now manage this site under their Newlands scheme, and it is a mix of young woodland and wildflower grasslands.

Most of our plantings have been of 50 wild flower plants, but this one, thanks to the generosity of Forestry Commission, the Friends of Bidston Moss, local resident Norman Marsh, and Wirral Borough Council's Year of Coast & Countryside fund, was of 110 plants.

Seven people had a busy afternoon planting Meadowsweet, Cowslip, Hedge Bedstraw, Fleabane, Betony and Ragged Robin alongside one of the main paths near the top of the hill, where there were few existing wild flowers. They will brighten up that area for people and provide food for wildlife, including bumble bees and butterflies. Do go and take  a look next spring and summer.

Sunday 16 September 2012

50th Anniversary Prize Quiz

Wirral Wildlife is celebrating the fiftieth birthday of the Cheshire Wildlife Trust. As part of the celebration, the annual Wirral Wildlife Prize Quiz has fifty questions this year. All money raised by selling quiz sheets will go to Wirral Wildlife.

The quiz questions and instructions are available to download via our website.

Beach Walk

The high winds may have caused the cancellation of play at the Women's Golf Tournament in Hoylake on Friday afternoon but they didn't deter hardy members of Wirral Wildlife who joined a guided beach walk. 

In the evening we were pleased to welcome Lindsay Sullivan, Marine Conservation Officer with the North West Wildlife Trusts, to start our autumn programme of talks. She explained the rationale behind the 'Living Seas' project, the slow progress being made in establishing Marine Conservation Zones and how we can help to maintain the momentum of the campaign.

If you missed the talk or want to learn more about the project and the importance of the Irish Sea visit

We signed fish scales to add to a petition to be presented to Downing Street in order to put pressure on the government to create Marine Protected Areas. If you want to add your voice go to

Thursday 13 September 2012

Dawpool Wildflower Planting

50 more wildflowers were planted on Sunday 9th September to continue celebrating 50 years of Cheshire Wildlife Trust. The plants went in at Dawpool Nature Reserve, Wirral Country Park, near Thurstaston.

Dawpool is a former waste tip, which Rangers are managing for wildlife and people. The wild flowers will help brighten up the more grassy areas for invertebrates and visitors. The plants were funded by Wirral MBC Tourism Dept as part of the Year of Coast and Countryside.

Your next chance to join in and help to plant more wild flowers is at Bidston Moss on Saturday 15 September at 2 p.m. Meet in the car park in front of the Materials Recycling Facility, Wallasey Bridge Road (entrance between the entrance and exit to the Household Waste disposal site. Grid ref: SJ 297907). If coming by train, bus or cycle, meet at end of signed footpath access to Bidston Moss, on Wallasey Bridge Road next to exit from Household Waste site. BOOKING ESSENTIAL: telephone 0151 327 5923. Ideal for families.

Wednesday 12 September 2012

Gardeners' Question Time at Ness Gardens

Glad to meet several supporters at Gardeners' Question Time at Ness Gardens last Saturday.

We were handing out information about wildlife friendly gardening. If you would like some advice, see the Cheshire Wildlife Trust website.