Friday 25 March 2016

Flora Locale Woodland Course

Dr Hilary Ash, Honorary Conservation Officer of Wirral Wildlife, is one of the Facilitators on a course called ‘Managing woodlands for ground flora’ that is being run by Flora Locale.

The course takes place on Wednesday 4th May in Bromborough.
It involves a visit to SSSI ancient woodland in a steep-sided valley, with species-rich ground flora including sheets of bluebells and wood anemones. Contrast this with secondary woodland and modified ancient woodland affected by 19th century cultivation. See the effects of beech and hornbeam on this ground flora, and the benefits of a small coppice area. Discuss the impact and control of Himalayan balsam.

All on made paths, but there are steep slopes, and a "tunnel" under the railway embankment. A torch may be helpful! Stout footwear needed.

Flora locale is committed to promoting and supporting good practice in ecological restoration projects.

For more details and to book a place go to the course information page on the Flora Locale website or send them an email.

Thursday 24 March 2016

Concern Over Application For Badger Cull In Cheshire

Carrying out the badger vaccination programme in Cheshire.
Photo: Tom Marshall

Cheshire Wildlife Trust were deeply worried to learn last month that an expression of interest in a badger culling licence was submitted to Natural England for the first time in Cheshire.

In light of this news, the Trust has made representations to Natural England about the impact of a cull, reiterating their opposition to culling and advocating badger vaccination as one of a range of measures to tackle the spread of Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB).

Charlotte Harris, Chief Executive at Cheshire Wildlife Trust, said: "Cheshire Wildlife Trusts is opposed to the culling of badgers and we're extremely concerned to learn an application for Cheshire has been submitted to Natural England for the first time.

"The culls to-date have been found to be repeatedly flawed in their methodology, measures and objectives – they missed their targets, were expensive and their impact on the TB problem, if any, is uncertain.

"We believe that controlling the spread of the devastating disease Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle requires implementation of a package of measures and we advocate alternatives to badger culling – we're one of a number of local organisations, including Wirral and Cheshire Badger Group and Chester Zoo, that have been carrying out a badger vaccination programmes in Cheshire.

"We are sympathetic to the farmers whose cattle are affected by this devastating disease, but we urge the Government to consider the scientific evidence which indicates that the cull will not significantly reduce Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle."

You can add your name to The Wildlife Trusts' e-petition against the cull:

Monday 21 March 2016

A Local Botanist's View on EU Environmental Regulations

River Mersey at sunrise.
Water quality improved in the river due to EU legislation.
Photo: Dave Wood, Flickr

As a local botanist, I am very concerned about the future of our environment and wildlife. My personal position is that the highest protection we currently have for special places like The Dee Estuary, and threatened species like bats and great crested newts, is under EU legislation. Major schemes like the proposed Hoylake Golf Resort have to go through detailed consideration of the environmental effects before applying for planning permission, so that our environment is properly considered. It is very unclear whether this would continue if the UK left the EU; both sides in the debate need to say what provision they would make for nature conservation. The EU-derived nature conservation legislation would be particularly at risk of being reduced by future governments. As the recent publicity over pollinators has shown, we need our wildlife, including the little species. It is the EU that has imposed a temporary ban on neonicotinoid pesticides, and the current UK government that allowed exceptions to that last year, against scientific advice.

I am also old enough to remember when UK pollution legislation was weak (remember Octel's pollution and the state of the Mersey?), and it was the tightening of EU rules that was key to improving our air and water quality. I do not want any risk of going back to those days.

But the influence of the EU has not always been good, especially the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy. Both have been improved in environmental terms recently, but need to go further.

Please consider these aspects when deciding how to vote in June. Ask those lobbying for either side how they would make sure that nature conservation and pollution legislation is maintained and updated, particularly when the government of the day is hostile to such protection.

Hilary J Ash MA, PhD, MCIEEM

Wednesday 16 March 2016

Love Your Local Estuary - 23 March

Cheshire Wildlife Trust is holding an evening buffet at Ness Gardens to launch the new Love My Estuary project. Discover how CWT is working with partners across the Dee Estuary to improve water for wildlife.

Wednesday 23rd March
6 - 7.30 p.m.
Ness Gardens Lecture Theatre

To book please contact Jan Shone by email or phone 01948 820728.

For more information and to download an advice pack, see 

Tuesday 15 March 2016

The Joy of Seven Samurai

Paul Loughnane (L) and Edwin Jones (R) at Gilroy Nature Park
with their new Samurai pruning saws

Wirral Countryside Volunteers have been working at Gilroy Nature Park, West Kirby, one or twice a year since 1998 helping local resident, Edwin Jones, who looks after the park largely by himself.

Edwin who nominated the volunteers for a £150 Hoylake and District Civic Society Award, enthused “The volunteers give a great boost to park when they come. They get involved with great gusto thinning trees, maintaining paths, removing trees from the pond edges and their favourite activity, laying the hedges.”

Bonfire and story telling at Gilroy Nature Park. Photo: Paul Loughnane

Recently at Gilroy Nature Park, the volunteers removed some willow from around two rare native timber trees the volunteers planted 16 years ago. The native black poplar trees will now flourish as the competing willows have been removed. In March, there was an Apple Avenue event at the entrance of Gilroy Nature Park as part of the West Kirby Transition Town programme of events. This brought several community groups together. Here the volunteers provided a bonfire in the woods which gave a cosy ambience to a “home grown banana session” when stories, songs and poems were shared around the glowing embers of the fire.

The money awarded enabled the volunteers to renew their pruning saws so they can perform much work throughout the Wirral peninsula where the volunteers carry out over 50 work days a year. After four years hard service the saws were becoming blunt with the chrome cutting tips wearing away. The seven new samurai pruning saws will make sawing a joy again.

Paul Loughnane

Monday 14 March 2016

Hoylake Golf Resort Public Meeting

A public Meeting is being held to discuss the Hoylake Golf Resort.

Tuesday 29 March 7:30 pm

West Kirby United Reformed Church
Meols Drive
West Kirby
CH48 5DA

Topics of concern include:

Archaeology and History
Consultation process
Council's conflict of interest
Council's management skills
Disruption to the wards beyond Hoylake
Economic and Environmental Impacts
Flooding risk
Green Belt
Links Academy
Municipal and other Golf Courses and Clubs
Petro-chemicals usage
Rights of Way and Footpaths
Roads and Traffic

The meeting is being held so that people may air their views, share their concerns and ask the questions that Council and Councillors have so far failed to answer.

If any questions cannot be answered on the night, attempts will be made to find the answers for later reporting.

The meeting is public and will be reported on the website

Councillors and Officials have been invited to attend. You are invited to speak freely but politely!

A donation to help defray Hall rent would be appreciated.

Monday 7 March 2016

Another Hedgelaying Success

Eric Joinson looking proud of the hedge at
Poulton Hall. Photo: Paul Loughnane

Wirral Countryside Volunteers (WCV) recently held their 10th free hedgelaying training day for the Cheshire style. This attracted 28 participants, including 12 absolute beginners, who came from as far away as Knutsford, Wrexham and Ambleside. Four participants came by public transport. The hedge at Poulton Hall, Bebington was an interesting hedge and of some significance as it was planted in 1993 with a woody species planted for each century that the Lancelyn Greens have resided at Poulton Hall. They were first recorded as being there in 1093.

The Lancelyn Greens are owners of four CWT reserves namely Thornton, Foxes, Intake Woods and Tom’s Paddock. The hazel hedge stakes came from New Ferry Butterfly Park’s Brick Pit Coppice, a fifth CWT reserve.

This was WCV’s best laid hedge to date. We can get even better. Derrick Hale, of the National Hedgelaying Society committee, complimented the “Consistent angles and build in that hedge.” Several factors contributed to the high standard of hedge laying. The breaking in of the hedge into 8m lengths prior to the training day meant that new cutters could get started straight away and follow the flow of pleachers (the cut stems which are bent over) already laid. The young hedge lent itself to being laid as well as it was just less than 2m in height and there was not much brash removal required. The hedge had been carefully trimmed by hand by the Hall’s gardeners so it had little rot and no gnarled wounds or split ends that are caused by blunt mechanical cutters. In addition the collective skills of the WCV have increased considerably in recent years.

Liverpool John Moores Conservation Society
students having a go at hedgelaying

Liz Kenny, a new volunteer said “I learned so much from being paired-up with an experienced hedgelayer, and John guided me through all the stages, making sure I had lots of practice using bill hook, axe and saw on a variety of species in the hedge. It was really satisfying to see the difference we had made by the end of the day."

Weeding can be an issue with weeds rapid smothering newly laid hedges, reducing the regrowth from the base, but not here as the gardeners mow just in front of the hedge. We will be back in autumn to tackle another 100m of this ideal beginner’s hedge. Some were surprised by the wheel barrow delivery hedge-side of supplies of home-made cake and fresh tea, but that is standard WCV style.

Friday 4 March 2016

Six Ways The EU Has Improved The UK Environment

West Kirby beach. Photo: Andy Miah, Flickr
Cleaner because of EU water quality regulations.

The referendum is coming, views will get polarized – but the environmental sector seems broadly united on this front, on the basis that being a member of the EU is better for the environment, giving us cleaner air, cleaner water and beaches, more recycling, and better wildlife protection – as well as better planning!

The EU and the Environment

Earlier in the month the Independent newspaper published details of a letter sent to Environment Secretary Liz Truss by academics and conservationists. They argued that EU regulations have been vital to improving Britain’s water, air and natural environment.

These are six ways the EU has improved Britain's environment over the decades:

1. Clean Beaches
EU regulations on water quality have helped in cleaning up Britain's beaches. Nearly 600 coastal bathing areas are monitored for potentially dangerous bacteria - with minimum standards set out for safe bathing - which have to be displayed. This pressure has resulted in the significant increase in water quality.

2. Fish Stocks
EU wide fishing restrictions have had a dramatic effect in preventing overfishing. Last year cod and haddock showed a dramatic recovery.

3. Air Quality
Steep reductions in sulphur and nitrogen oxide emissions helped ensure that the most serious urban smog and acid rain episodes no longer occur at the rate and intensities we have seen in the past.

4. Energy Consumption
The EU ban on incandescent lightbulbs now saves average UK households £83 a year, while the eco-design directive has lowered energy consumption in many white goods.

5. Species Protection
The EU's Birds Directive has significantly contributed to the protection of species most at risk of extinction. There is clear evidence that most threatened species are progressing better as EU conservation efforts prove more successful than those carried out on a national level.

6. Climate Change
The UK was instrumental in persuading the EU to adopt "at least 40 per cent" carbon reduction commitment for 2030 against opposition from some Eastern European states that rely heavily on coal.

Also Friends Of The Earth, WWF UK, RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts commissioned a report examining the role of the EU in influencing the UK’s environment and potential outcomes if we were to leave. It is a couple of years old now but still relevant.

Whatever else your views on Europe may be, it seems clear that staying in is the greener, cleaner choice.

Linda Higginbottom

This represents my personal view and other opinions exist.

Wednesday 2 March 2016

Reprieve for National Wildlife Crime Unit

Further to our post about the danger of closure that was facing the National Wildlife Crime Unit, it is pleasing to let you know some good news about its future.

Yesterday Environment Minister Rory Stewart announced that £1.2m of funding will be provided over the next four years to enable the NWCU to continue operations until at least 2020.

River Park Events in March

Step Into Spring - This Month's Events at Port Sunlight River Park

Saturday 5th March
What's Under Your Feet? - Bug Hunt
1.30 - 3 p.m.
We want to find out what the birds are eating at the River Park. Come and helps us find out which bugs are living under the ground. Suitable for accompanied children aged 4 and over. Meet at the site office at Mersey View Picnic area.

Saturday 12th March
Dogs Welcome
To welcome responsible dog owners and explain the site guidelines, we will meet and greet all dog walkers at each entrance with goodie bags. There will be a dog walk at 11 a.m. meeting at Dock Road North car park. The Friends of Port Sunlight River Park will also serve refreshments at the site office at Mersey View picnic area.

Monday 28th March
Easter Trail, Egg Hunt, Crafts and Refreshments
11 a.m. to 3 p.m.