Friday 27 October 2023

Fungal Foray at Dibbinsdale

Fungal Briefing by John Ratcliffe
Fungal Briefing by John Ratcliffe

A third fungal foray was held by Wirral Wildlife at Dibbinsdale Local Nature Reserve. Prior to the foray a recognisance survey was undertaken by John Ratcliffe of North-West Fungal Group, and it was found to be a fungal desert as a result of the dry weather. John added “Our only hope is rain.” The Eventbrite attendees were emailed to warn them the host of fungi may not be as impressive or abundant as other years. Luckily for these fungal detectives it did rain, it rained so much that the path by Otter’s Tunnel under the railway was flooded and the planned route was altered. The autumn flowers of the fungi came out, though not very as abundant in numbers a respectable diversity of 52 species were recorded with 30 species not having been recorded on the previous fungal foray here.

Amethyst Deceiver
Amethyst Deceiver

The gills/pores of a mushroom head give 20 times the area of the mushroom for spores' dispersal. It can be quite daunting with all those new names in English and Latin, but as the attendees went along, they started recognising the fungi that were seen early in the foray. Crib sheets of the previous year’s fungal records were provided to help recall the names.

One fungus found was the Beef Steak mushroom which when you pressed it oozed out red dye as you see in a steak. Also found was the attractive Amethyst Deceiver and a Blushing Bracket. Clive, another fungal expert, was full of anecdotes about each fungus. Cramp balls, so called as you put them down your breeches when on a long horse ride to prevent cramp. Birch Polypore can be dried and used as a razor strop, or the fresh elastic skin peeled into a strip could be used like a sticking plaster, with the inside being clean. John was pleased to see attendees were all interested. One of the attendees, Ben Hart, typed up a list of the species seen on the day in the evening, including the common and Latin names. John, our fungal leader, searched for the Horn of Plenty on the damp rock cutting on the banks of the river Dibbin but unfortunately, we did not find that this time. We will look for it during next autumn’s Fungal Foray.

Horn of Plenty
Horn of Plenty

Thursday 19 October 2023

Your Views Wanted on Local Nature Recovery Strategy

A favourite Wirral view for many, looking over the Dee Estuary.
Photo: Tim Jokl, Flickr

How can we all encourage nature to recover in Wirral?

The first phase of public engagement for the Local Nature Recovery Strategy (LNRS) for the Liverpool City Region has begun.

The LNRS is a new plan designed to support and improve nature and biodiversity in the Liverpool City Region (Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens & Wirral). It will use key evidence and the views of local people. The LNRS will act as a blueprint for protecting and enhancing nature, and will:
  • Map our most important habitats
  • Map opportunities for nature recovery
  • List the priorities for reversing the decline in plant and animal species
In order to create this strategy, everyone can share their views on the nature, the places and the species that they value most.

A survey is live now and continuing until November 15th.

Please find the link to the survey here:

Thursday 12 October 2023

Apple Afternoon at New Ferry Butterfly Park

A tasty display of apple varieties next to our apple information board
A tasty display of apple varieties next to our apple information board

Sunday 8th October was a warm October day - perfect weather for all things appley. Volunteers at New Ferry Butterfly Park organized an afternoon to celebrate locally grown apples. Thank you to everyone who visited.

John has been coming to Apple Days since he was about 4 years old!
John has been coming to Apple Days since he was about 4 years old!

The first Apple Day was organised on 21st October 1990 by Common Ground to celebrate apples and orchards. Many traditional orchards were being dug up and the country became reliant on imported apples despite about 3,000 apple varieties having been grown in the UK. The aim was to bring the wide variety of local apples to the attention of the public.

A selection of apples to take home
A selection of apples to take home

Many groups joined in the annual celebration and Wirral Wildlife began organising Apple Days. As far as I know the first Wirral Wildlife Apple Day was held on 19th October 1996 at Bob’s Orchard in Eastham.

Using the traditional wooden apple press to make juice
Using the traditional wooden apple press to make juice

Later it moved to Brimstage Hall and then we added a second day at Eastham Country Park. In the last Apple Day before Covid (Wirral Wildlife’s 22nd Apple Day) we had 28 varieties of apples from orchards at Brimstage, Willaston and Upton Hall School. We also had enough apples to juice using our traditional wooden press. The Mersey Morris Men danced and the Tree Wardens sold apple goodies like pies and jam.

Checking the apple juicing equipment
Checking the apple juicing equipment

This year we decided to reinstate a smaller version – an Apple Afternoon at New Ferry Butterfly Park. John Bateman collected apples and manned the apple press so that visitors could taste freshly pressed juice. We had 21 varieties of apples picked from Brimstage and Upton Hall School orchards plus two varieties from the NFBP committee chairman’s garden. What wonderful names these old varieties have – some dating back to the 17th century. Some varieties like Peasgood’s Nonsuch are named after the person who raised them. Others like Lord Lambourne are named after a person. Catshead is named because of its shape, Red Love for the colour of its skin and flesh and Bee Bench after the tradition of taking bee hives to orchards to pollinate the flowers. A full list of our varieties is given below.

The peeling machine in action
The peeling machine in action

Our apple peeling machine is always popular – who can create the longest piece of unbroken peel? This year the longest was 266 cm. Common Ground used to run a national competition and one year someone from our Apple Day won the under 16 competition with a piece 269 cm long. Maybe someone will break this record next year.

Can you peel a whole apple without breaking the peel?
Can you peel a whole apple without breaking the peel?

So watch our Event listings for 2024 and put the Apple afternoon onto your calendar.

Apple varieties on display:

Annie Elizabeth
Arthur Barnes
Ashmead’s Kernel
Bee bench
Burr Knott
Court Pendu Plat
Crawley Beauty
Egremont Russett
Golden Noble
James Grieve
Lord Derby
Lord Lambourne
Peasgood’s nonsuch
Phil’s cooker
Red Love
Ribston Pippin
Withington Welter
Worcester Pearmain