Thursday 25 October 2018

Saving Cheshire’s Trees

Saving trees

This autumn Cheshire Wildlife Trust volunteers have been busy collecting seed from alder buckthorn trees at Hatchmere Nature Reserve.

Alder buckthorn is a little known tree in the area, but it grows well on the acidic peat soil and heathland found on our reserve. The day involved the volunteers first learning to identify the tree, then identifying ripe fruit followed my many hours of seed collection. The target was 10,000 of the alder buckthorn seeds!

Collecting seeds

So why are we collecting seed?

The seeds are now safely banked in the underground vaults of Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank – as part of the UK’s first national collection of tree seeds. Stored in a temperature and humidity controlled environment before being processed and transferred to deep-freeze conditions, the seeds should remain viable for many decades.

These collections of seeds will play a vital role in on-the-ground conservation work to protect UK trees and woodlands from threats such as pests and diseases like ash dieback. The collections, and associated data, are also available to researchers working on solutions to tackle the many threats facing our woodlands.

As a partner of the project, so far this year Cheshire Wildlife Trust has collected seeds from five species of tree including wild cherry, guelder rose, wild service and hawthorn, with many more collections planned.

Cherry blossom

The work is part of the UK National Tree Seed Project, which was launched in May 2013. Set up by the Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank at Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, the project's aim is to protect the UK’s trees by securing genetically diverse collections of our native trees and shrubs.Taking into account factors such as conservation status, prevalence in the landscape and vulnerability to pests and diseases, the target species include many which underpin the UK’s wider plant and animal diversity. This also includes species that support the woodland industry, tourism and recreation, such as ash, juniper, Scots pine, alder, beech, hazel, silver birch and yew.

To date, the project has collected more than 12.5 million seeds sampling from over 8,000 individual trees across the UK.

The UK National Tree Seed Project is funded by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

Tuesday 23 October 2018

Volunteer Press Gangs at Butterfly Park

Liverpool John Moores Conservation Society. Photo: Paul Loughnane

I was once asked by an officer the Cheshire Wildlife Trust did I allow volunteers to take rest breaks, as if I was running press gangs! Well one recent weekend we had two press gangs. Firstly on Saturday Dave Elwand and the Wirral Tree Wardens and then on Sunday a press gang imported from Liverpool John Moores University Conservation Society.

Wirral Tree Wardens. Photo: Paul Loughnane

We were making use of the fallen apples from New Ferry Butterfly Park as well as apple donations from Burton Walled Garden, Upton Hall School Orchard, Brimstage Orchard and private gardens. Approximately 3.5 gallons of apple juice was produced with a mix of dessert and cooking apples for a sweet apple juice for Wirral Pomona to ferment into a cider. For fresh apple juice to drink crab apples were added to the mix to take away the sweetness. Some students asked why they should not eat the crab apples. I said “Take a bite and you will soon realize why!” A wincing face is a sure test it is a crab. With the team of eager students quartering, scratting and pressing apples it did not take much time at all to fill the press and they were all excited to see the juice rush out of the press as the apple mash was squashed.

After making the apple juice the students enjoyed sampling the juice alongside the BBQ put on for them. In fact the juice, BBQ, homemade cakes and tea gave some of the students’ energy to work on Embankment Coppice until 5pm in the afternoon, the longest a student group has ever stayed. We hope to entice them back again with an apr├Ęs task cider sometimes soon. Look after your volunteers and they will come back again, no press gangs required.

Paul Loughnane

Monday 22 October 2018

Cheshire Wildlife Trust say Wirral’s wildlife has not been considered in Local Plan

Bluebells in Dibbinsdale SSSI:
housing adjacent would threaten them with loss through trampling.
Photo: Hilary Ash

Cheshire Wildlife Trust have issued a stark warning to Wirral Council on the impact of their proposed development options on Wirral’s wildlife put forward in their local plan.

Rachel Giles, Evidence and Planning Manager at Cheshire Wildlife Trust has put forward her concerns as part of a public consultation on the council’s local plan.

The Trust is concerned that the clear guidance relating to sustainable development has been overlooked by not giving the natural and historic environment equal consideration to economic and social issues and that the plan proposes a significant threat to green belt land.

“We believe that at least 14 of the proposed options would result in significant harm to either SSSIs or Local Wildlife Sites. We are disturbed to see that these have been put forward when the government’s National Planning Framework specifically states that sites of biodiversity should be ‘protected and enhanced’,” said Rachel Giles.

Wirral Wildlife, the local volunteer group of Cheshire Wildlife Trust, has considered every parcel of land proposed. Hilary Ash from the group said, “We are particularly concerned about the possibility of building on large areas of land around Dibbinsdale SSSI, and around Local Wildlife Sites at Irby, Greasby, Prenton, Barnston and Storeton. Other areas under threat include those used by birds from the Dee estuary as roost grounds, and land supporting bats, great crested newts, hares and badgers. The cumulative effects of building on a large proportion of the proposed sites would be very damaging to Wirral’s wildlife, and to the opportunities for local people and visitors to enjoy that wildlife.”

The Trust also believes that the proposed development options have failed to take into account the priority that should be given to supporting a network of habitats for wildlife. “Even the top priority areas of habitat, seem to have been ignored,” said Rachel Giles. “Failure to take the network into account undermines the objectives of ecological network mapping to ensure that wildlife has connected habitat in which to feed, live and breed. The point of network mapping is to inform the planning process so that changes in land use retain and improve wildlife corridors and core sites. This helps reconnect fragmented populations of flora and fauna and over time should help with their recovery. The National Planning Framework states that planning policies must take a ‘strategic approach to maintaining and enhancing networks of habitats’, something that seems to be lost in these proposed plans.” A particular concern is the open land corridor east of the M53.

Cheshire Wildlife Trust have recommended that the ecological network is incorporated into Local Plan policies. “This is essential to inform decisions relating to the various development options and it is unacceptable it hasn’t yet been included,” said Rachel Giles.

Embedding an ‘environmental net gain principle for development, including housing and infrastructure’ is the overarching aim of the government’s 25 Year Plan for the Environment which was released this year. But the Trust believe that this hasn’t been considered in these proposals. “Many of the sites put forward are areas of high wildlife value such as those important for ground nesting birds, which would make net gain very difficult to achieve unless tracts of land were set aside for the purpose of biodiversity offsetting.

The proposals can be viewed on the Wirral Council’s website and comments can be submitted by email to

by post to The Forward Planning Manager, Wirral Council Economic and Housing Growth, PO Box 290, Brighton Street, Wallasey, CH27 9FQ

or by completing the online form. The public consultation closes on 26th October 2018.

Thursday 4 October 2018

Apple Day

Apple Day was celebrated on September 30th at Eastham Country Park.

Local apples were on display with a record 32 varieties picked from orchards at Brimstage Hall, Upton Hall School and Willaston and some from our volunteers.

Apples ready to be tasted.

The traditional apple press was used to make delicious juice and children are always keen to help....

.......and to taste it.

Slightly less strenuous is seeing how long a piece of peel you can get from an apple using our peeling machine. 

Children also coloured in apple pictures and wrote poems to glue on our wooden tree.

We know that the group held an Apple Day in 1996 and every year since then.

Recently we have been lucky enough to have Mersey Morris Men with us.

A day to truly celebrate the British apple.