Thursday, 19 April 2018

Wildflower Hunt


Do you love wild flowers? Would you like to know more about them? And help save them for the future? So would we.


About the Wildflower Hunt

People have less contact with wild flowers than previous generations. There are fewer flowers around us and we seem to have less time to enjoy them.

Taking part in the GBWFH is a great way to enjoy flowers, whether you’re familiar with them or not. And by letting Plantlife know what you’re found, you’ll help our work to make sure that there are more flowers and that people can enjoy them.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Primrose Day

Primroses at Embankment Coppice 17th March

Tomorrow, 19th April, is Primrose Day. This is when primroses are placed by Disraeli’s statue outside Westminster Abbey. This is to commemorate the death of Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield, in 1881. Primroses were his favorite flower.

The name Primrose comes from the Latin meaning “first rose”; they herald in the spring season. At New Ferry Butterfly Park spring is well on its way, with primroses in full flower amongst the coppice stools in Embankment Coppice. There are approximately 45 primroses in flower. 50 primroses were plug planted into the embankment using money from a Love Wirral Grant in 2014. Nearly all of the primroses have survived and there are many small immature primroses coming up too. This planting has been very successful and they are starting to spread of their own accord. This location on thin skeletal soils in amongst the coppice stools with summer shade has proved to be ideal habitat for them.

The early nectar source provided by the primrose flowers is appreciated by early flying butterflies with long proboscises (tongues) such as Brimstone and Small Tortoiseshell. Long tongues are required to reach down the 10mm long corolla (flower tube) to reach the nectar at the bottom of the flower. The early flying queen bumble bees, especially the common carder and the hairy-footed flower bee, a recent arrival at the park in 2014, will also make use of the primrose flowers.

Following this successful project, it is hope to extend this primrose area by further planting along the embankment. En masse they will produce a wonderful floral display. This area lies in the sanctuary area of the park, so the pale yellow flowers with the egg yolk centres will be enjoyed undisturbed by the wildlife and by Merseyrail passengers as the trains coast slowly past the railway embankment decelerating towards Bebington Station.

Paul Loughnane

Friday, 6 April 2018


Apple grafting in the cold with David Ellwand. Photo: Paul Loughane

Hedge laying spectators are often surprised how much wood is cut through to bend down the stems. The hawthorn stem should be cut 80% through so that the upright stem can be bent over. There is enough of the cambium layer left for the bent stem to survive and give maximum regrowth from the stool. Even more of a miracle for them would be apple grafting, cutting an apple variety stem, the scion, completely and then grafting it on to a root stock. Wirral Countryside Volunteers and Wirral Tree Wardens held an apple grafting day at New Ferry Butterfly Park with an impressive total of 18 varieties of scions which came from orchards in Malpas, Willaston and Chester.

Apple Grafting - the cut. Photo: Paul Loughnane

Despite the cold, 3oC with snow and wind which made the fingers numb and stiff, under the gentle tutelage of David Ellwand 36 apple scions were grafted to either dwarfing or semi-dwarfing stocks. This was achieved using the whip-and-tongue groove method and then firmly bound with tape. Lining up the scion can be difficult and if the rootstock is larger than the scion you have to graft the scion to one side for the graft to be successful, making sure the cambium layers of both knit together so there is a free flow of sap.

Whip-and-tongue grafting sequence

Several Cheshire varieties of apple were grafted. There are no named Wirral apple varieties. The nearest name variety is the Elton Beauty, raised at Ince Nursery in 1954. However, one apple seedling at the park was thought worthy of grafting the “Adam and Eve tree” which produces a crisp dessert apple, with a good, sweet flavour. This was christened the “Adam and Eve” tree by raconteur Mel Roberts, the Park’s founder. The story goes the tree arose following a domestic argument; when the green grocer’s wife dumped the green grocer’s produce including apples in the park when it was abandoned land.

David Elwand took a tour of the park assessing the apple trees growing there. They were bought as wild crab apple trees but turned out to be varieties of apple trees. He gave us advice on pruning them. Right at the north end of the park up the steep embankment, David was rewarded; identifying a golden hornet crab tree, the apples of which would be very useful for his Pomona cider project.

Potted up grafted trees. Photo: Paul Loughnane

The grafted trees are well-labelled, potted up and placed in a shady corner in the park to slow growth just in time for the union to take before the scion comes into full leaf and draws on the rootstock. In addition to cloning the apple varieties, the dwarfing rootstocks were propagated by both coppice stooling and trench layering.

Paul Loughnane

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Wildlife Identification Workshops

Community Nature Hub

RECORD are very excited to announce they are now taking bookings for the first batch of Wildlife Identification Workshops as part of their new Community Nature Hub project.

To book onto the workshops please follow the links and book via Eventbrite.

14th April 2018 - Reptile Identification
23rd June 2018 - Shieldbug Identification
30th June 2018 - Wildflower Identification

If you would like to be kept informed about the project and upcoming Wildlife Workshops and Recording Days, please subscribe to the Community Nature Hub mailing list here.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Small Mammal Survey Training

Wood mouse. Photo: Hans Hillewaert

Alan Smail, the Ranger at Brotherton Park and Dibbinsdale Local Nature Reserve, is sponsoring a short training course on Small Mammal Surveying.

Ron Warne will be running the course which will be held in the reserve's Visitor Centre on the morning of 12th May 2018.

Ron will set up the traps on 10th and 11th with a view to having some real animals to experience.  He expects to have completed the session by lunchtime.

The number of places will be limited to give everybody some 'hands-on' experience with the equipment and animals.

If you would like to attend, please contact Ron directly via email to book a place.  If this session is over subscribed there will be a further one in conjunction with the Wirral Tree Wardens a little later in the Spring/Summer.

Friday, 23 March 2018

Earth Hour

In case you haven't seen this email from Cheshire Wildlife Trust, here is their update about Earth Hour and the work being done to reduce the impact of climate change.

Whilst we at Cheshire Wildlife Trust spend a lot of our time working locally in Cheshire, much of our work does play a role in protecting the natural world on a larger scale. Whether it’s managing habitats of international importance or conserving our precious pockets of wildlife in Cheshire, we're working together to protect the environment.

With #EarthHourUK on Saturday 24th March at 8:30pm, we wanted to highlight some of the ways our work helps reduce the impact of climate change.


FACT: Peatland environments are the UK’s largest store of carbon. The carbon stored in UK peatlands is equivalent to 3 years of total UK carbon emissions!

In Delamere, we're helping to restore peatland which stores carbon from the atmosphere.

We’ve worked on 55 different sites across Delamere to restore peatland habitat through re-wetting. We’ve also surveyed new sites that need protection in the future.

Tree planting

We’re planting 1,000 trees in the Swettenham Valley to ensure woodland cover, capturing carbon in the area for centuries to come.

Reduce flooding

We’re working hard to hold more water upstream in the Peak District to prevent flooding downstream in Cheshire.

Pressures from climate change mean that floods have begun to occur more often and when they do occur, result in expensive damage.

As part of our five year Slowing the Flow project, we’re introducing flood prevention measures such as leaky dams to prevent flooding downstream during future storm events.

Minimise machinery

We’re working with local communities to teach traditional land management techniques as an alternative to machinery. In small, isolated meadows across Stockport the grass is scythed each summer, using no mowers or fuel.

Low food miles

As well as having our own allotment at our headquarters, we’re helping local Friends of Groups to manage Community Orchards, producing food locally and organically.

Working together

We're working with private landowners in the wider landscape, to create a landscape that is more permeable for wildlife to move through. This is necessary not just to protect populations, but also to enable species to extend their ranges in response to our changing climate. The combined effort of Wildlife Trusts nationally to create Living Landscapes is helping wildlife move around the British countryside.

What are you doing?

Is there something you’re doing to act against climate change? Perhaps you’re switching your lights off for just an hour at 8:30pm on Saturday, joining the likes of Buckingham Palace and Edinburgh Castle. No matter how big or small the action, do let us know what you're doing on Facebook, Twitter or email.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Hedgehog Rescue

Hedgehog rescue. Photo: Les Roberts

The return of ‘beast from the east’ reminds me that we also had some very cold weather in early December last year. On one particularly frosty Friday night we opened our front door to check no shoes had been left out under the porch. To our astonishment a small hedgehog was, quite literally, sitting on our front step and, we felt, looking rather sorry for itself.

Given the temperature, conditions and the time of year we realised this youngster was in trouble. A thick cardboard box was quickly found and we lined it with scrunched up newspaper, something which we hoped would retain the animal’s own heat and create some warmth. Into the box also went a plastic tub filled with water but we didn’t think we had any suitable food – we needed advice.

Given the hour it was not surprising that we could not contact the Hedgehog Rescue numbers we phoned but we did get through to RSPCA HQ. They asked us to weigh our guest which we did using kitchen scales and plastic container. Unfortunately, this showed that the little creature was underweight and would not survive hibernation even if it could induce that state. We were advised to go to our nearest supermarket and buy cat food, perfectly acceptable to hedgehogs apparently. We were also told to keep the animal warm overnight and find a rescue centre next day.

Finding an accommodating centre proved difficult. Not because the volunteers who ran them were unwilling, they were simply unable because of the numbers of such young, underweight or injured hedgehogs they were already housing – a winter long commitment. Thankfully a Wirral veterinary practice did offer to add our now very perky and endearing guest to those they were currently caring for. Why such numbers of these delightful creatures fail to reach the optimum weight and size to hibernate is worrying and sad. We presume it is down to changing land use and shrinking natural habitat. Gardens may be the salvation, especially if they offer ‘wilder’ areas, however small and are devoid of slug pellets. Well done the long-term rescuers who are giving their own time and money to help maintain the population of such charming animals.

Les Roberts