Monday, 19 October 2020

Green Flag Award for Butterfly Park


The Green Flag raised at the Butterfly Park
The Green Flag raised at the Butterfly Park


The Green Flag team visited New Ferry Butterfly Park on October 2nd to hand over the Community Green Flag 2020-21.


Hilary Ash being filmed by the Green Flag Award team
Hilary Ash being filmed by the Green Flag Award team


This is the 7th Green Flag this urban nature reserve, run by local people, has been given.


Two members of the Green Flag Award film crew at the Butterfly Park
Two members of the Green Flag Award film crew at the Butterfly Park


While there the team did some filming and the video (which includes the Butterfly Park and Port Sunlight village) can be seen here 




The Butterfly Park opened on Sunday afternoons from mid June to mid September and around 500 people visited in that time. A one way system and passing places were introduced to help to keep everyone Covid-safe. There was no pond dipping or other hands-on activities but everyone appreciated being able to stroll around and appreciate the flowers and insects. 


Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Eagle In The Frame


Mel Roberts, who had the vision to create New Ferry Butterfly Park, was a watercolour artist among other talents. He painted a picture of a white-tailed eagle and gave it to Frank Cottrell, who was so vital to getting Cheshire Wildlife Trust to take on the Butterfly Park.


White-tailed eagle painted by Mel Roberts
White-tailed eagle painted by Mel Roberts


Frank recently paid for it to be framed. The proprietor at Framework (Bromborough) was very impressed with it and said it was the best quality painting he had had in to frame for years.

 

Frank Cottrell with the painting of a white-tailed eagle
Frank Cottrell with the painting of a white-tailed eagle


Paul Loughnane, Secretary of New Ferry Butterfly Park Committee, is looking after it now.


Friday, 2 October 2020

Socially Distanced Surveying at Thurstaston Common

 

Belinda and Natasha with a quadrat taped up at Thurstaston Common
Belinda and Natasha with a quadrat taped up at Thurstaston Common


Just before restrictions tightened in Wirral again, we managed to get the Thurstaston Common annual monitoring done. This is its 39th year for the oldest 5 quadrats. Wirral Wildlife recorders have been doing the monitoring since 1992. The results are currently being analysed by Prof Rob Marrs. The quadrats measure 5m x 5m, so social distancing is easy!


If you find a metal bar sticking out of the ground on Thurstaston Common - please leave it alone, it is probably marking one of the 12 quadrats!

Friday, 25 September 2020

Apple Days Revisited


Display of apple varieties at Apple Day
Display of apple varieties at Apple Day


This year should have been the 23rd Apple Day organised by Wirral Wildlife. As it has had to be cancelled I thought I would look at the history of our Apple Days and what has been achieved.

Apple Day was initiated on October 21st 1990 by Common Ground at an event in Covent Garden, London. They had noticed a decline in local orchards and apple varieties and wanted to create a ‘calendar event’ to remind everyone about the relevance of local apples and orchards.

As far as I know the first Wirral Wildlife Apple Day was held on 19th October 1996 at Bob’s Orchard in Eastham. The original organiser was John McGee and, when he moved to live in the south of England, Frank Cottrell took over until 2010. My first personal records date back to 2005 when I was organising some children’s activities. Common Ground had a competition to see how long a continuous piece of apple peel could be produced using a knife or a mechanical peeler. I set up a mechanical peeler for the children to use and measured the peel taken off the apple. The secret was to have as round an apple as possible, not necessarily an enormous apple. In 2006 someone from our Brimstage Apple Day won the national Under 16 Competition with peel 269 cm long and in 2008 we had another winner from Eastham Country Park with a peel 240cm long.


The Longest Apple Peel competition
The Longest Apple Peel competition

The Longest Apple Peel competition
The Longest Apple Peel competition

The Longest Apple Peel competition
The Longest Apple Peel competition

We used to hold two Apple Days – on the Saturday at Brimstage Hall and on the Sunday at Eastham Country Park. As our days attracted more and more people and got very busy for a small band of volunteers, in 2012 we moved to one event only at Eastham Country Park. The original Apple Days were held around October 21st but we noticed local apples were ripening earlier. We moved Apple Day to the first weekend in October and then since 2015 we have held it on the last Sunday in September.


Home made apple pie at Brimstage Hall
Home made apple pie at Brimstage Hall

Apples on display at Brimstage Hall
Apples on display at Brimstage Hall

We have always had on display (and for tasting) as many locally grown apples as possible and in 2018 hit a peak of 28 varieties.


Apple varieties at Eastham Country Park
Apple varieties at Eastham Country Park

Apple varieties at Eastham Country Park
Apple varieties at Eastham Country Park


These come from the trees in Brimstage Hall Orchard, Willaston Community Orchard, Upton Hall Orchard and others from people’s gardens.


Apple trees at Brimstage Hall orchard
Apple trees at Brimstage Hall orchard

A closer look at the fruit on an apple tree
A closer look at the fruit on an apple tree


The wooden apple press is popular with everyone and children love to help squash the chopped apples, mash them up and then turn the handle on the press. The resulting juice looks a bit brown but I bet it is the tastiest apple juice around.


Chopping up apples ready to be pressed into juice
Chopping up apples ready to be pressed into juice

Crushing the apples with a big stick!
Crushing the apples with a big stick!

Crushing the apples
Crushing the apples

Mincing up the crushed apples
Mincing up the crushed apples

Turning the handle on the apple press
Turning the handle on the apple press

The tastiest apple juice
The tastiest apple juice

As well as the apple peeler we have other things for the children to do like making badges, writing apple poems, colouring and wordsearch.


Making pollinator mobiles
Making pollinator mobiles

Coloured in apple shapes and apple poems hung on the tree
Coloured in apple shapes and apple poems hung on the tree

Coloured in apple shapes
Coloured in apple shapes

Making badges
Making badges

For the last few years Lena and her team have brought home made apple products like cake, crumble and apple butter to sell.


Home made cake, crumble, jam and apple butter
Home made cake, crumble, jam and apple butter

Another highlight is the presence of Mersey Morris Men who dance for us come rain or shine. Although last year the pouring rain meant it was a bit of a squeeze inside the visitor centre!


The Mersey Morris Men
The Mersey Morris Men

Music from the Mersey Morris Men
Music from the Mersey Morris Men

Volunteers wanted for the Mersey Morris Men
Volunteers wanted for the Mersey Morris Men

The Mersey Morris Men performing in the courtyard at Eastham Country Park
The Mersey Morris Men performing in the courtyard at Eastham Country Park

The Mersey Morris Men performing indoors on a rainy Apple Day at Eastham Country Park
The Mersey Morris Men performing indoors on a rainy Apple Day at Eastham Country Park


Our aim has been to highlight the range and taste of locally grown apples as opposed to the limited range available at the supermarket. We hope to convince everyone of the value of ancient orchards and new community orchards for both people and wildlife.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Looking At The Lime Waste Area


Hilary Ash being filmed at the Butterfly Park
Hilary Ash being filmed at the Butterfly Park

Last weekend filming began to record some of the railway history behind New Ferry Butterfly Park.


Paul Loughnane being filmed at the Butterfly Park
Paul Loughnane being filmed at the Butterfly Park


Paul Loughnane being filmed at the Butterfly Park
Paul Loughnane being filmed at the Butterfly Park


In case you can’t wait for its release here is some of the story behind one area of the Park.


The lime waste area


Before we started the Park, Mel had found the concrete base and lime waste so we knew there had been a water treatment works to soften water for the steam engines. 


Mel digging lime
Mel digging lime

In the 1990s the pump house was still visible under a coat of ivy, near Bebington Road, in the grounds of the station master’s house (house since demolished). Water was taken from the borehole in the pump house, piped up the goods yard to the treatment works, where it was mixed with various chemicals, pumped to the top of the tall steel tower and filtered down through it. The tower had a small brick building alongside to house more of the works, whose footings we did find under the grass. The process was a standard one, the Kennicott water-softening plant.


Water softening plant
Water softening plant


The softened water was then mostly piped up to Rock Ferry where the main-line engines could be filled. Some was piped to a watering point on the main siding of the goods yard (now called the lime waste siding), where we found the base of the pipe, the “elephant’s trunk” (tanned leather pipe for filling the engine), and the valve to control it with its covers, one of them labelled “water”. 

The waste from the process was a lime-rich slurry, which was mostly loaded into tankers (sometimes, as in one photo, old engine tenders) and taken off to farms for use as fertiliser. 


Lime wagon
Lime wagon

If the waste got on the outside of the tankers during filling, it had to be washed off before leaving the yard, to prevent it washing down in rain and clogging the ballast of the main line.. But they left a lot of waste behind! - a layer of lime waste 30-50cms deep which has formed a calcareous grassland. When we lifted some turf with some schoolchildren in a science week project we found that there is a thin layer of soil, plant roots and worms – and apparently unchanged lime waste underneath. The yellow meadow ants make hills which are speckled white with the waste.


Cowslips
Cowslips flowering in spring


The lime-rich soil that has developed on it allows a particular group of plants to grow, including cowslips in spring, marsh orchids in early summer, marjoram (a favourite of gatekeeper butterflies) and meadow cranesbill (much loved by bumble bees) in high summer and hoary ragwort in late summer (good for insects to feed on before hibernating). This area forms a major nectar and pollen source for our invertebrates from April to August.

Marjoram providing nectar in the summer
Marjoram providing nectar in the summer

Monday, 21 September 2020

Kathryn's Garden Makeover For Wildlife

Kathryn J Fegan contacted us with news of her garden transformation. Kathryn's achievements are really impressive and provide habitat for a wide range of wildlife. The results are a pleasure to see...


Bee and butterfly service station flower bed
Bee and butterfly service station flower bed in full bloom


I was both inspired and challenged by your articles over the summer to help wildlife in our gardens, and I just wanted to share the changes I’ve made in my back garden and how I’m enjoying the garden coming to life with bees, other insects, butterflies and a hedgehog.


The beginnings of the new flower bed
The beginnings of the new flower bed


Filling the bed with topsoil and compost
Filling the bed with topsoil and compost

My garden used to be a big square lawn with green shrubs around the sides. Very little changed through the seasons. Hardly any living things visited despite me putting out bird feeders and we had an ignored blue tit box.


Starting the new bed in the middle of May’s drought
Starting the new bed in the middle of May’s drought

The finished flower bed
The finished flower bed

Since March I have created a bee and butterfly service station flower bed to one side of the lawn by placing a layer of cardboard over the grass when it was brown in the hot weather, and covering this with a deep layer of topsoil and mushroom compost which I had delivered. The result has been spectacular and I have had fun identifying honey bees, carder bees, red tailed and buff tailed bumble bees and a cuckoo bumble bee.

I followed Charles Dowding’s no dig method from YouTube which preserves the soil structure and fungal connections beneath, is very much less hard work and in 2 months the cardboard is rotting and feeding the soil, and the plants are rooting into the rich soil below.


Perfect foraging for bees
Perfect foraging for bees


Then opposite to this I have dug a small shallow pond and already have 4 black diving beetles in it, and today a visit from a mating pair of common darter dragonflies.


Kathryn's small pond
Kathryn's small pond providing a home for aquatic insects


Common darter dragonflies
Common darter dragonflies


I have scarified the back half-moon of lawn and sown wildflower seed; it was a little late in the season so I expect to see better results next year but field grasshoppers now visit.


Grasshopper
Grasshopper



An area of lawn with longer grass and wildflowers
An area of lawn with longer grass and wildflowers

I have dug up the back border and planted a mixed native hedge with hawthorn, hazel, blackthorn, field maple and dog rose. I planted whips so they’re about 3 feet tall now. I made 2 hedgehog holes in a fence and a gate, and now have hedgehog poo on the lawn. Gradually I am replacing green shrubs with native and bee-friendly plants.

I’ve been fascinated by the arriving insects and have been uploading them to iNaturalist for identification and recording. I’ve identified Green, Hawthorn and Sloe shield bugs in the garden - that started when one literally fell onto my knee as I sat in the garden with a coffee!


Red admiral on ivy flowers
Red admiral on ivy flowers


Sloe shield bug
Sloe shield bug


Green shield bug nymph
Green shield bug nymph


All this change has been just one person in 7 months! I would like to encourage others to make the change for wildlife. I’ve found it fascinating to see how nature responds to just a little invitation from us, and my garden is now alive with insects and birds.