Monday 16 August 2021

Autumn/Winter 2021 Quiz


The Lake District is the theme of our new quiz

Try our Lake District themed quiz for a chance to win a £10 voucher.

The closing date is 31st January 2022.

Sunday 15 August 2021

A Simple Pleasure, Well Enjoyed

Tucking into afternoon tea at Poulton Hall Garden
Tucking into afternoon tea at Poulton Hall Garden

Last month, Wirral Wildlife were fortunate enough to be offered Poulton Hall Parkland and Walled Garden for a fund and awareness raising event. Entrance to the wildflower meadow area required you to pass through a passage way of hedges excellently laid by Wirral Countryside Volunteers. The Countryside Volunteers were offering ‘have a go at hedge laying’ mock up on a fresh upright willow branch hedge, to be cut and laid between hedging stakes. Several guests relished the opportunity to pick up a billhook and slice part way through the willow stem and weave the stem to build a hedge.

Have a go at hedge laying
Have a go at hedge laying

Along the mown path through the meadow you pass Scirard’s pillar where the inscription says in Latin “Scirard de Launcelyn flourished here in the year 1093”. Entering over the ha-ha you leave the wild area and enter the formal gardens in front of the hall. Continuing on through the shady garden you were able to check out the creatures that live in the shady pond with a bit of pond dipping, progressing through the fragrant rose garden where you could take in the perfume. At the end of the rose garden you were met by a witch who guided you into a wardrobe, from where you come out into the world of Narnia, the enchanted walled garden.

In the walled garden, there are so many features to take in, from triffids, to the smoking Jabberwock, to the Singing Rose. Every half an hour the chimes of the carillon bells play a different piece of music, and the end of the recital heralds the story teller to commence a tale. There were volunteer marshals to guide you around the one-way Covid secure system which also made sure you have a chance to see everything.

Being National Meadow Day there were tours of the meadow and hedgerow by Dr Hilary Ash. The meadow here was potato field until 1993 before being converted to a wildflower meadow. After many years of work, it was looking colourful with the yellow and red of buttercup and sorrel flowers, interspersed with the pink spikes of marsh orchids and blue saucers of meadow cranesbill. Above fluttered meadow brown butterflies. It now looks like a proper Cheshire hay meadow, a habitat that has been almost completely destroyed in the last 70 years. Hopefully it will become more species-rich over time, naturally or with some human help.

Is it a bird?
Is it a bird?

Scirard was asked what the feature behind the Dalek was? A guest thought it was an art feature. Scirard simply replied it was the top of a cut monkey puzzle tree (see photo above). It shows you how this garden puts you in the world of imagination and fantasy.

Despite the pouring rain in the morning the weather brightened for our guests. If it had been a little wet we were prepared with space in the conservatory and under gazebos. Seventy cream teas were consumed!

If Wirral Wildlife were afforded this opportunity again, they would jump at the chance, not only is it a fund and awareness raising event; it is also a chance of a social where members and friends can meet each other in a convivial and relaxing setting. It provided a wonderful occasion to reconnect with friends as for many it was the first time had actually seen their friends in 18 months.

Many thanks to our supportive hosts, to the 20 plus volunteers involved in running the event and to our friends at New Ferry Village Hall who lent the tables and robust market style gazebos.

Wednesday 11 August 2021

Portrait of Treasurer

Caricature of Howard Gibson, painted by Carol Ramsay. Caricature of Howard Gibson, painted by Carol Ramsay and framed by Pam Sullivan
Caricature of Howard Gibson, painted by Carol Ramsay and framed by Pam Sullivan


Howard Gibson retired as Honorary Treasurer of New Ferry Butterfly Park, after 22 years of dedicated service, at the park’s recent AGM. We are immensely grateful to Howard for so many years of sterling work, when we could always rely on the Park’s accounts being accurate, up to date, and professionally presented in apple-pie order. When someone like this retires, particularly after such a long period of service, you suddenly realise how important a Treasurer is. It is the only position that any organisation must have. Organisations can cope without a Secretary or a Chair but not without a Treasurer. Howard was a recently retired HSBC (Midland) bank branch manager when in 1998 he was recruited by Mel Roberts, the visionary founder of the park, taking over from our first treasurer Vi Otter.

The Treasurer’s role started on small scale, but has developed into a much more involved role reflecting the considerable development and increased activities taking place at the park. It is busy job in the summer, sorting out weekly collections put in the donation tin and distinguishing between donations: general, wood chip, soil improver or group visits. These are accurately and clearly presented in the annual accounts. The accounts give the committee a clear picture of the financial resources and how each income stream has contributed over the year. Howard’s accounts were used to demonstrate the park is a business - we sell wood chip. This was an important point raised in court in 2009 when protecting the park’s business tenancy. Howard became an expert in VAT and claimed 20% refund on our disabled accessible composting toilet via Cheshire Wildlife Trust. This refund helped with funding the surround ground works required.

The busiest day of the year is the opening day, when nearly 1,000 visitors are entertained. It can be complicated, with cash floats required for several stalls selling goods, tombola tickets, cakes and refreshments, along with the purchase of materials, some items being purchased on the day as the opening day progresses. One opening day required six trips to the supermarket next door to keep the BBQ and Cycle Smoothie supplies going! On the following day whilst volunteers are all recovering, Howard quickly presents the accounts for the opening day, as a thank you to all the volunteers who have contributed to the success of the opening day and sharing how their part in fundraising endeavours has helped. Assistant Treasurers for future such events are required and offers of help would be greatly appreciated.

The most complicated and involved financial project handled by Howard, and one which cost the most at £17,000, was the Comma Project in 2012, during which in a shop in New Ferry Precinct was rented for six months. Each month there was a different artist and a private viewing party at the end of the artist’s residency. It was a challenge to collect all the receipts: “No receipt, no payment” was Howard’s mantra and quite right too. There was the rent, gas, electric and water bills along with decorating bills, artistic materials, and artist’s payment at the end of their residencies.

Howard opening his retirement present.
Howard opening his retirement present

Following this year’s al fresco AGM at the Park, Howard was presented with a caricature of himself painted by Carol Ramsay, who initiated the first opening day. This was beautifully framed, using recycled wood, by Pam Sullivan, who created our Welcome Board. The smile on Howard’s face as he opened the portrait said it all. With such a lovely, personal and fun portrait like that the committee will all want to retire!

To find a replacement for Howard presented some challenges and was a worry as potential Treasurers who were asked declined; then out of the blue John Bateman came forward. John had already started taking a few items on board such as the successful Crowd Funding Campaign for the Silver Jubilee Gates. This raised over £1,000 which is a similar income to an Opening Day but with a lot less effort. John will make an excellent Treasurer as he is already involved in our monthly work parties and is the volunteer who lives the closest to the Park. John will be looking into the world of electronic donations.

Howard will be carrying on at the Park with many of his other roles such as mowing the grass, fixing and painting the site furniture and offering valued advice. Howard has carried out many successful physical projects at the Park; the BBQ stand, the bench by the container, designing compost bins and, best of all, adding a sloping roof to the metal container, keeping it dry and harvesting rain water. Howard has always been a quiet strength of the park and was recognised and celebrated by Cheshire Wildlife Trust, who awarded Howard the Eric Thurston Award in 2015. As Howard hands on the Treasurer’s baton, the Park continues its journey with another ambitious project, the Silver Jubilee gates. Under Howard’s good financial stewardship the park has accrued enough funds to make a significant contribution to this grand project.

Tuesday 10 August 2021

Spring/Summer Prize Quiz 2021: Winners and Answers

Red underwing moth, the answer to question 5. Photo: John de Haura

The spring/summer quiz entries have been scored and winners notified.

Part one of the quiz consisted of cryptic clues about the names of moths and butterflies. Part two was called 'hidden rivers' and there was an amazing total of 103 river names to find in the short narratives.

The winner is Chris Chantler of Bath, who receives a £10 voucher for the best overall score. Jean Baker of Chesterfield and Louise Hardy of Dunbar both receive a £5 voucher for getting the highest score in one part of the quiz.

Grateful thanks go to Tony Hailwood for his help with preparation and judging of the quiz.

Here are the answers:

Part One - Butterflies and Moths

1. To start with, here’s a wonderful kind of insect, to follow 14, 17, and 27. (4). Hawk

2. Large crowd following golf. (5). Ghost

3. Abundant Friend (one of a Society). (6, 6). Common Quaker

4. Petrol for a reptile following 13 or 25? (13). Tortoiseshell

5. Winter bird caught beneath. (3, 9). Red underwing

6. This one is not Pica pica. (6). Magpie

7. Nor is this one Pavo cristatus. (7). Peacock

8. Did we hear Blair give a greeting in Downing Street? Add 22. (4, 5). High Brown

9. A shorthand for “Come and sit on my knee, Geordie lass”? (6). Lappet

10. Another former Downing Street resident follows 13 or 25. (5). Heath

11. Mercury ore. (8). Cinnabar

12. Waders have individual tiny ears initially, following 13 or 25. (5). White

13. Elgar medley can start 4, 10, 12, or 28. (5). Large

14. In vogue, but not uniform, one of 1. (6). Poplar

15. This one is a French aristocrat. (4, 2, 8). Duke of Burgundy

16. Far eastern personality? (7, 9). Chinese character

17. Jumbo one of 1. (8). Elephant

18. Person in control of Dorset beauty spot. (8, 7). Lulworth Skipper

19. One often seen in a pub. (7). Drinker

20. One Basil very nearly caught. (6, 1). Silver Y

21. Role for Snout, the tinker. (4). Wall

22. Cash register inside religious house. (10). Fritillary

23. One on Great N Ridge, fluttering. (6, 5). Garden tiger

24. Fish, or former cabinet minister. (8). Grayling

25. Second shopping centre, describes 30 + 22, or 4, 10, 12, or 28. (5). Small

26. Kitty? (4). Puss

27. The world’s smallest avian, one of 1. (11). Hummingbird

28. Oxford or Cambridge perhaps can follow 13 or 25. (4). Blue

29. Elegance from SE15? (10, 6). Camberwell Beauty

30. Quiet nobleman edged before 22. (5-8). Pearl-bordered

Part Two - Hidden Rivers

When I compiled these narratives, I knew of 50 river names there. I expected contestants to find a few I was not aware of, but I was greatly surprised by the number of names they found - see below.

I travelled to America, together with all my luggage, and the state I finally reached was Kentucky.  I came across a town where twin sisters owned a diner, the best our guidebook recommended.  These women were great in the kitchen, and they were so cheerful.  They had a speciality of pasta marinated in a rich sauce, served with meat, ham especially.  Or you could go for their well-prepared and delicious eggs benedict.  That was something we all enjoyed.  The best banquet I’ve ever eaten!  I could stomach no more food that evening!

Lugg, Teifi, Rea, Ken, Kent, Uck, Cam, Ter, Sow, Stour, Kit, Itchen, Soch, Tamar, Amar, Ted, Nar, Thame, Thames, Forth, Irwell, Par, Ouse, Allen, Len, Etive, Ive, Ver, Machno, Ore: 30.


“Did you go birding?”  “I did indeed: I went with Mister Naylor.  There was heavy rain, and you could feel the wind rushing through your hair, but we didn’t care.  We saw a family of stonechats; we saw stock doves and a few skylarks.   We saw goldcrests in a cedar tree.  We stayed by the lake for a picnic lunch and there I saw a bird I thought was a Slavonian grebe, but I don’t know for certain.  Then we saw a peregrine with young in its cliff eyrie.  We spent all evening watching it.  On the way home at dusk a tawny owl flew down onto the road in front of us.”

Ding, Dee, Went, Tern, Erewash, Wash, Ash, Windrush, Shin, Rha, Carew, Ewe, Stone, Tone, Ock, Dove, Sand, Lark, Dart, Tay, Clun, Avon, Don, Tain, New, Liffey, Spen, Tall, Leven, Ton, Usk, Taw: 32.

Ernest loves geography - his atlas is all he has ever needed.  He has a wonderful geography teacher: he idolises her.  Ernie, tell us some of the facts you have been taught in geography.”
“Yes.  There are 50 stars and 13 stripes on the American flag.  Andorra has the highest capital city in Europe.  The capital of Argentina is Buenos Aires.  Tunis is the capital of Tunisia.  The flags of Germany and Belgium are both yellow, red, and black.  Water flowing from deep underground wells comes from an artesian basin.  The city of Rome was built on seven hills.  The state of Israel is about the same area as Wales.”

Erne, Severn, Rheidol, Ise, Luss, Tar, Can, Lagan, Farg, Aire, Isis, Yellow, Red, Black, Blackwater, Rom, Derg, Roman, Frome, Seven, Tat, Swale: 22.

I was in Devon, and ever one for a football match, I wanted to see a cup-tie.  It was a local derby between Exeter City and Torquay United.  It finished one-nil after one of the defenders scored, enlivening the match with an own goal in the latest minutes of the game.  It was fortunate that the stand was covered because it rained quite heavily during the first half.

Devon, Dever, Deveron, Ant, Ose, Eea, Calder, Alde, Exe, Tor, Hedon, Nen, Fender, Rede, Eden, Lin, Test, Cover, Lyd: 19.

Total: 103.

We are aware that several river names are repeated.  They are:  Dee, Don, Ewe, Ive, Nar, Ore, Rea, Red, Sand, Ted, Ter, and Ver.  We only allowed one point for each of these. 

All of the names listed above have been verified as genuine river names.  A few names that we couldn’t verify were disallowed.