Blog Archives: Travel by Rail

#WildEssexWalks – at the head of the Stour Estuary

Oh no!  Shock horror! That was our first reaction when we climbed the steps to the top of the sea wall at Manningtree today.  Instead of an expanse of mud with myriads of feeding waders we were greeted with an almost high tide!  Either tide tables aren’t what they used to be, or (more likely) it was an early and exceptionally high tide, as it so often is around the time of the Hunter’s Moon.

However, we need not have worried: we still managed a lot of ‘birding’ – watching them fly in on to the strips of salt-marsh on the estuary, to feed, preen, get frisky and all the things birds get up to, and as the tide came in further and covered everything, fly off again.

Cormorants hung their wings out to dry in their customary fashion, and Little Egrets struck their poses in elegant style, occasionally flying over showing their black legs and yellow feet to good effect.  Several species of gull put in an appearance – Great and Lesser Black-backed, plus Herring, Black-headed and  a single Common Gull.

Large flocks of Redshanks and Avocets entertained us with their fly-pasts, and hunkered down on the marsh and open water respectively. Lapwings flapped by and a few Brent Geese were seen too, along with larger numbers of Teals, Wigeons and a few Mallards.

Black-tailed Godwits put in a show just as the tide was at its highest, calling to each other in their inimitable ‘Wit Wit’ way, but the biggest surprise was a group of ten Greenshanks, usually much more solitary than this.

All this against a backdrop of Moorhens in the ditch to the rear of the seawall, singing Wrens and a shouting Cetti’s Warbler in the scrub, and a lovely Red Kite circling leisurely overhead.

Of course, us being us, we also looked at any other wildlife we could find – plants including the bright yellow Tansy, a favourite with visiting insects and the beautiful Teasels, some containing a ladybird or two, perhaps already thinking of hibernating for the winter.

Common Reeds were starting to assume their autumn colours and Dog-roses were absolutely laden with luscious hips, presumably testament to our damp midsummer.

A Red Admiral flew overhead, a Harlequin Ladybird basked in a brief flurry of sunlight and on our way back down the steps we narrowly avoided standing on the largest of the chrysomelid beetles, Chrysolina bankii.

Having rescued the beetle, some of us retired to the local pub for a pint and bag of crisps and chat. All in all a very pleasant WildEssex event, in spite of the often rather dull and overcast (though thankfully dry) conditions – thanks all!

#WildEssex on Tour: Harlow and the Stort Valley


After the success of last year’s three-day event to Burnham-on-Crouch, we decided a second one was in order – this time to the not-usually-associated-with-wildlife Essex town of Harlow.  Our band of enthusiastic ladies were game for anything, and we’d like to thank them all for their interest in all we arranged and their sense of fun!

Our base at the Harlow Mill Premier Inn was most comfortable, and sitting outside with a drink hearing the running water from the mill pond into the Stort Navigation Canal was just delightful.

We mixed some walking along canals with visits to gardens, a mill, a museum, churchyards and pubs, plus a train ride and a walk to the most odd, brutalist, (but exciting to Chris!) zig-zag bridge…

The main focus of course was the wildlife which we found at every turn – from our second-only sighting of a Southern Green Shieldbug to the exploding seed pods of Himalayan Balsam to Ivy Bees enjoying every Ivy bush we encountered.

Everywhere were bushes and trees absolutely laden with fruits and berries. And plenty of those fascinating structures, galls and leaf-mines, too.

Water played an important part of the trip, us spending a considerable part of the first two days enjoying walking along the banks of the River Stort and Canal.  Listening out for birds we heard the ‘peep’ and then the blue flash of a Kingfisher or two, the high pitched tinkling of Goldcrests, the screech of Parakeets (though no sightings, sorry Jean!), plus ubiquitous Robins and Chiffchaffs performing their autumn songs.  Ducks and Moorhens on the river were showing signs of Spring-friskiness – no doubt due to the day-length being similar to that of Spring when they would be getting up to such activities!

Insects along the way included dragonflies and damselflies, bees, hoverflies, grasshoppers, and an Alder Leaf-beetle (only the third record for Essex, but well established here judging from the number of holes in the leaves) and ladybirds of many types in various stages of their development.

The flowering season is coming to a close, but along with the beautiful but invasive Himalayan and Orange Balsams, there was plenty to see from festoons of Hops to strong-smelling Water Mint, and emerging fungi hinted at what looks like shaping up to be a bumper autumn.

A pleasant walk away from our hotel was the famous Gibberd Garden – a mixture of wild and more-tended areas, lots of sculpture and a castle with its own moat.  My heart went into my boots when, on arrival, the board outside stated it was ‘Closed for Private Function’ but that turned out to be an admin error  (phew) – so we got in OK and were virtually all alone to explore as we wished. Coffee and cake in the Barn were very welcome as the afternoon went on.

En route to the garden we had encountered several Juniper Shieldbugs (one trapped in a web, which we of course rescued) on an Ivy bush.  This is puzzling given that they are meant to spend their lives on Juniper and related species, and so we will be asking the experts about this unusual behaviour. There was a Cypress tree across the road, but why they should be branching out we don’t know.

On the final morning we went into the heart of Old Harlow, through the Greenway and on into Gibberd’s New Harlow  for a tour of some of the many green spaces, ‘The Lawn’ Uk’s first residential tower block The Lawn (Harlow) – Wikipedia,  and a churchyard full of gravestones covered in colourful lichens where many interesting stories were revealed by the two ladies working in the grounds.

We concluded our mini-break in the delightful Harlow Museum.  This has so much to enjoy – from a walled garden full of interesting plantings, (where Chris saw evidence of the Figleaf Skeletonizer moth for the first time, it only recently having arrived in the UK), to a gin still, to an unusual exhibition of Penny Farthings and other bicycles. It really is the epitome of a good local museum, and a credit to Harlow Council.


As organisers, we were thrilled with how the trip went, not only for the camaraderie and pleasure of being in each other’s company, but also for the excitement of discovering new things.  We will be sending records of the Southern Green Shieldbug, Alder Beetle and Figleaf Skeletonizer moth to county and national databases so evidence of our trip will be set down in the annals of history!

During our last evening’s meal we discussed the possibility of a 3rd Wild Essex on Tour trip next year – who knows we may even cross the border into another County!  Do get in touch if it is something you may be interested in.


Two days of wildlife, culture and commemoration in and around London

At the weekend, we spent a very happy couple of days exploring parts of London we haven’t been to before as well as some old favourites, and a foray out into the Surrey countryside. Here are some of the photos from our travels, with words kept to a bare minimum…

First stop, just after emerging from the Jubilee Line at London Bridge was the Hop Exchange, a remarkable building which a friendly security man was very happy to tell us all about – as he said, ‘what is the point of learning if you keep it to yourself’! The similarities with  the Halifax Piece Hall we explored on one of our visits earlier in the year – same function, different commodity –  were very apparent.

On emerging back into the street, we noticed the Shard looking over our shoulder, a looming but kindly presence throughout our time in Southwark:

A wander around the streets took us to the delightful Red Cross Garden which gave us a nymphal Southern Green Shieldbug…

…and then to Crossbones Cemetery, one of our main reasons for this trip. With a rich but shocking history as a last resting ground for thousands of those on the fringes of society, it is a tiny haven from city life, despite its proximity to numerous landmark features.


Lunch at The George, with its galleries, before more walking the streets, peering wherever fancy took us in the manner of all good psychogeography. And of course spending as much time with the new – the incredible Shard – as the old…

Peckham next for more of the (relatively) new, with the Pioneer Centre, from the 1930s Peckham Experiment approach to community and social welfare, and Peckham Library, the product of millennial modernity:

Overnight in the Barking Ibis gave us chance for a lovely walk at dawn along Barking Creek, one of our favourite parts of the Metropolitan Essex coastline, with Jersey Cudweed, Cormorants and Cetti’s Warblers to guide our way:

Then it was back to Waterloo, and a jaunt down the Necropolis Line, or the modern equivalent thereof, to Brookwood Cemetery in deepest Surrey.

Brookwood may have been established to satisfy an urgent need in the heart of the city, but its size is so vast (it is the largest cemetery in the UK) that it is still under-utilized, with lovely acid heathland habitats within its bounds.

Special plants, such as Devil’s-bit Scabious and Dwarf Gorse, abound ..

.. along with all manner of animal life, including Small Copper, Fork-palped Harvestman, Alder Leaf-beetle. Rhododendron Leafhopper and the green spider Nigma walckenaeri …

… and a whole lot more.

A large section of the cemetery is given over to military burials; the most thought-provoking part of the whole site is the American section, the gleaming gravestones being laid out with such precision, and eliciting many conflicting emotions around the futility of war within the beauty of the natural world…

After the cemetery, there was just time for a stroll along the Basingstoke Canal….

…before heading back to Crossbones for the monthly vigil, a rather moving plea for social justice, sadly as relevant nowadays as when the cemetery was in operation.

Two cemeteries, from two eras: when will we ever learn?

Eastern Scotland by train: Forth Rail Bridge, York and the journey home…

Our final morning in Aberdeen, and the rain has arrived. Overnight the granite city has become the dour granite city! Such a monochromatic contrast to yesterday…

We broke the journey south for three hours by the Firth of Forth, changing on to a stopping train at Inverkeithing where a Hawthorn Shield-bug sidled across the platform, another insect towards the northern end of its UK distribution. We rescued it from trampling feet!

Then a couple of stops down the line and across the rail bridge to Dalmeny. A wander down through the woods, past fruiting Rowans and Speckled Wood butterflies, brought us to the shore and its wonderful views of the iconic Forth Rail Bridge, with the modern road bridges further west.

The best thing was the fact that against all forecasts, the sun re-emerged, lighting the bridge and its rusty colour. Simply magnificent!

Out on the water, solitary Guillemots and small rafts of Razorbills were loafing and diving:

South Queensferry was busy (a cruise ship was moored just downstream) but lovely …

… and all too soon, it was back on the train and into a now-dismal England. Overnight in York the rain continued, so next day we had a wet wander round the walls, with Wall-rue ferns and Shaggy Soldiers.

Most interesting was the sight of snails (mostly Banded Snails with just a few Garden Snails) on certain sections, the only likely dry-weather refuges being the grassy embankments four or five metres below.

Into a pub to shelter, we suddenly realised our holiday was ticking away, and sought the wild once more. After checking numerous Senecios in vain, from Common and Sticky Groundsels to Oxford and Narrow-leaved Ragworts (it was only with close scrutiny that I realised how much the old flowerheads in rain look like sea-anemones!) …

 …. and along a steeply sloping concrete embankment of the Ouse we at last found the prize, the locally endemic York Groundsel. A fertile hybrid between Groundsel and Oxford Ragwort, it is surprisingly distinctive with eight yellow rays. What’s more, this is a de-extincted plant. First found and named Senecio eboracensis in the 1970s, by the noughties it was globally extinct in the wild, a victim of City Council herbicide profligacy. Thankfully the Millennium Seedbank at Wakehurst Place had some seeds, which were grown on and enabled its return to the wild earlier this summer.

Sadly we were unable to find the other York speciality, Tansy Beetle, except in art form, despite some good stands of the foodplant. A good reason for us to return.

And so our holiday drew to a close. Five nights, six days, and five rail journeys which thanks to early booking and a railcard cost just a couple of hundred pounds!

Eastern Scotland by train: Aberdeen, the Granite City

We saw Aberdeen at its best, at least for our one full day there, in sunlight and under azure skies. Far from being the monochrome, grey granite city of repute, the sunlight brought the stone and the city to life.


Once again it was a whirlwind mix of culture and wild. The city centre has lots of monumental buildings, photogenic in the right light …

… and especially down by the docks, the cityscape is enlivened by equally monumental street art.


Union Terrace Gardens, recently remodelled, provided a wonderful pocket of green, set off by impressive modern constructions:

And the gardens themselves are full of interesting plants, and plenty of insect activity. What’s not to love about a garden that features apparently deliberate ornamental plantings of Timothy grass!


Out then to Old Aberdeen, a world away from the bustle of the modern city into the historic seat of learning, and modern place for leisure and pleasure.

Attractive buildings and cobbled street scenes in abundance are laced with the ever-present colours of Fuchsia…


… and the lovely Cathedral of St Machar, with its impressive ceiling, stained glass and rough stone walls.

Nearby, the Botanic Garden. There is no truth in the rumour that our trips are planned around places like this! Just as with Dundee, the garden is full of light and life, colour and interest.

And almost next door, into Seaton Park, a mix of cultivated ‘wild’ and natural green space, the latter running down to the wildness of the River Don, with Goosanders  and the sound of rushing water.

But as is so often the case it was the ornamental gardens forming the main focus of insect activity:

Back to the Fuschia, it was interesting to watch the way that Honeybees were getting the nectar without delivering on their side of the pollination bargain, chewing through the base of the flower tube to get at it. In fact, on close examination, almost every flower had been on the receiving end of nectar thieves.

But as we headed back to the hotel, so the sun disappeared, cloud was spreading in, and change was afoot, ready for the next phase of our holiday, the two-day journey home…

Eastern Scotland by train: the wilder side of Dundee

Everywhere we go, whether countryside or city, we seek, and usually find, nature. In Dundee, it was right outside the hotel, with Guillemots and Cormorants fishing offshore, Shore Crabs scrambling through the exposed seaweed, and everywhere Lesser Black-backed Gulls seeking an easy meal from the outside tables.

Ornamental plantings around the V&A attracted our attention because of the dozens of Rosemary Beetles, here towards the northern end of their current range. But for some unknown reason there was not one on the various labiates (their recognised foodplants) planted there. All were on Stipa and other ornamental grasses, something we have never seen before; a plea on Twitter failed to come up with an adequate explanation, nor indeed other examples of this mystery phenomenon.

One of the main street trees around the redevelopment of the waterfront are a form of Elm, and on many of the larger specimens, the trunks were patterned with lichens and Horse Chestnut Scale-insects.

Around the old Victoria Dock, as is typical of such former industrial areas, a brownfield flora has established, Buddleia being a major component, mixed with a few maritime species like Sea Mayweed.

And the funnel of the rusting lightship has been colonised by very artistic lichenscapes, no doubt in part a result of the nutrient from bird droppings.

The Botanic Garden was just lovely, one of the better such gardens of the many we have visited in my opinion.

Of course it featured many attractive and interesting plants from around the world…

 …. many of which were feeding insects in the warm, sunny weather.

At the heart of the garden is a very impressive attempt to recreate the full range of locally native habitats, from sand dunes, to Caledonian pine forest and montane cliffs.

These habitat zones were a great opportunity to see rarities that need a hard slog and much remote searching to find in the wild, such as Dwarf Birch, Mountain Sorrel and Woolly Willow…

… while Devil’s-bit Scabious in full flower seemed an irresistible draw to numerous hoverflies.

From Birch Shield-bugs on the Silver Birch trees to epiphytic lichens in the branches, and fungi sprouting from the mulch, the whole area hosted the whole spectrum of native wildlife…

… including a distinctively shaped, blackish carrion beetle (playing dead at first) we identified as Phosphuga atrata, something we haven’t seen before although it is widespread across the country.

Always something of interest to find in a new area, but after a couple of days it was time to get back onto the train to head up the coast to Aberdeen…



Eastern Scotland by train: Dundee – architecture and art

A couple of weeks ago as the south baked under an unprecedented September heatwave, we had fortuitously booked a rail trip to eastern Scotland where although still lovely and sunny, the temperatures were much more amenable.

This is the first of four blogs covering those six days. Dundee for the first two nights proved to be very exciting and full of interest, and now for me a real challenger to Glasgow as my favourite Scottish city. In no small part that is down to the best-located Premier Inn we have ever been to, overlooking the ever changing beauty of the Firth of Tay, the road and rail bridges spanning the water east and west respectively.

A couple of hundred metres along the waterfront is its cultural heart, the magnificent new V&A design museum, the thing that drew us to Dundee in the first place.

A shapeshifter of a building, close up it seems to be a heavily stratified sea cliff…

… while walking into and under it has all the echoing moistness of a remote sea cave, with ever-changing reflectascapes in its rockpools:

From further away, it transforms into a cruise liner echoing Dundee’s past as a major trading port.

And then from another angle, it is nothing less than an snapping leviathan from the deep – yes, the city has a whaling past too.

A delight to be alongside, at any time of night or day:

Inside the museum there’s some photogenic building design features and interesting artwork and exhibits:

Alongside the V&A is berthed the RRS Discovery, Scott’s vessel for his first Antarctic expedition, with visitor centre:

And the Slessor Gardens, full of sculpture, art… and yes plants too, including fences cleverly reflecting the organised chaos of a reedbed!


Then we came to the Tay Road Bridge, a low-rise affair, but providing remarkable disappearing vistas through its underbelly…

And finally on the waterfront (for now – there are plans for an Eden Project there in the gasworks of the old East Dock), the transformed docks surrounded by historic (and modern) buildings. The dock has its historic vessels too, the HMS Unicorn and a lightship rusting into oblivion in a very fetching manner.

Away from the water, the jute-milling past of the city is now firmly in the past:  the many jute mills have mostly been demolished or repurposed as flats. But one remains to keep the memory alive, the Verdant Works museum. Described to us by a friend as ‘the best museum ever’, the other reason for us visiting Dundee, and we found it hard to disagree with that assessment.


Other cityscapes included the two hills rising out of it, numerous chimneys, churches, art and other buildings, many in a pleasing warm local red sandstone that didn’t match our southerners’ preconception of a dour Scots town (helped by the sunshine and blue skies!).

Our final main location was of course the Botanic Garden. More about the plants and other wildlife there in the next blog, but it also features interesting art and sculpture, along with views across the firth.

It probably says something about our age, but a highlight of our walk home from the Botanic Garden around Balgay Hill  was what we both agreed was the most comfortable park seat ever. Well done to the City Council!

More than enough to keep us fully entertained for a couple of days, it is a city to which I suspect we will return.


Heading Westwards Part 2: … and the power showers of South Wales

Leaving Bath for the last half of our three-day train trip, it was under the Severn, out of the sun and into the rain of the Vale of Glamorgan.

Llantwit Major, close to the south coast, has a beach with cliffs, a view over the Bristol Channel to Exmoor, and is a place where the vegetation is sculpted by salt-laden sea-spray:

This close to the warmth of the sea, pushed inland by incessant south-westerlies, the landscape also features a suite of plants we are less used to seeing in winter-chilled and droughted Essex, at least in such bounty. Chusan Palms are scattered around, including in the churchyard,  while every stone wall is festooned with Ivy-leaved Toadflax:

In field corners and gardens, Monbretia is naturalized in golden swathes …

and the hedgerows are largely of Fuchsia, now in full bloom.

Notwithstanding the Fuchsia originate from South America, they seem to be much used by local bees, including Common Carders, Honeybees and Buff-tailed Bumbles. In abundance – between the showers every bush was a-buzzing:

St Illtyd’s church is a fascinating place. Looking every bit a ‘standard’ parish church, it is the site of one of the earliest seats of Christian learning in the country, and its internal features reflect that, with remarkable mediaeval wall paintings:

But most impressive of all are the Celtic stones, covered in symbols and inscriptions that hark back to a pagan past. Corralled together inside the restored chapel they are to my mind a little out of context – cut off from the spirits of the outdoors, from which they derive their symbolic power …

… but at least they are protected from the elements, which showed their force as we sheltered inside!

And Nature is never too far away. The stonework at the restored end of the building features an ammonite fossil …

… and the churchyard itself is far from being an over-tidied, pesticide-poisoned waste, the fate of all too many even in these relatively ecologically enlightened times.

It may have been only a short break, but we covered a lot of ground at leisure, and were able to immerse ourselves in landscapes and weather we are most unused to at home!

Heading Westwards Part 1: relaxing in a hot Bath…

Three hours on a train brought us to a very hot and sunny Bath for a full day of exploration, after years since either of us had been there. And the first impression, particularly in the sun, set against blue skies, was a city defined by, almost hewn out of, its local geology: the beautiful honey-coloured oolitic limestone.

All the classic elements of architecture share the limestone in a remarkable, World Heritage display of geoconcordance, from the Abbey…


… to the Roman Baths (notwithstanding the considerable inducements not to sit on the stone shelves!) …

… to the Circus, with its wonderful quincunx of massive Plane trees (sadly under threat, we later learned) …

…and the Royal Arcade …

.. as well as less renowned vistas throughout the city.

So many ‘cliffs’, it is not surprising that there were Peregrines around, along with numerous Herring And Lesser Black-backed Gulls: Bath was renowned as one of the first locations where the inland, urban breeding habit of these ‘seagulls’ was recorded.

Given its location in a loop of the River Avon, bridges and riverscapes are another major feature:

Along the riverbank there was welcome dappled shade from many Tulip-trees, while several of the Sycamores where showing a remarkable infestation of Horse-chestnut Scale-insects: …

… and riverside flowers included Himalayan Balsam and Shaggy-soldier (both attracting insects) with another rapidly spreading non-native, Water Bent-grass.

Tumbling down from a higher level in a series of vertiginous locks, we walked along the Kennet & Avon Canal to Widcombe …


… one lock gate in particular being a lovely vertical garden, nicely complementing the village telephone boxes.

Last but not least the Botanic Gardens. Always a delight to visit such places, as much for the insects and other wildlife as for the plants themselves:

… including a single Globe Artichoke attracting the attention of a carder-bee, a Honeybee and a leafcutter-bee, all delving deeply and being liberally coated with pollen.

But then we were off, further west, into Wales…

Late Summer at Landguard Point

It was a perfect summer day for a short foot-ferry trip from Harwich to Landguard Point…

The Harbour was millpond-still, overseen by huge blue skies and dramatic cloudscapes:

Waves lapped gently on the shingly shores as the port activities clanked softly in the background…

Out on the Common, most  flowering was over, apart from Sea Mayweed and Sticky Groundsel now at their peak …

…  with Rest-harrow erupting from the Rabbit-grazed turf and Yellow Horned-poppies still sending out blooms that flutter in the slightest breeze.

Otherwise it was the fading delights of a floral summer:

Duke-of-Argyll’s Tea-plant, as so often simultaneously flowering and fruiting, its goji berries having survived the depredations of superfood hunters and birds alike:

Some magnificent Robin’s Pincushions, galls caused by tiny wasps, adorned the Dog-roses, while several much larger Sand Wasps were provisioning their nests in the shingle:

A couple of mating Common Blues posed well, although the star insects – Dune Villa fly and Jersey Tiger moth –  were simply too fast in the mounting heat, and evaded the camera.

All this and more, including on the Essex side of the Haven, the mean streets of Harwich, nowadays lined with Shaggy Soldiers, a street-plant that wasn’t there a decade or so ago when we lived in the area…

… and the  biodiverse, bounteous, blooming beauty of brownfields: a magic multicultural mix of species from all over the world, today thronged in Small White butterflies!

A couple of days in Cambridge…

A couple of lovely sunny days in Cambridge last week, Eleanor’s first holiday with Granny and Papa, proved a real success all round. Centrepiece of the first day was the Botanic Garden: well known to us, but seen now with new eyes – flowers from all round the world, complete with a kids’ passport-stamping discovery trail …

Given the time of year, fruits were also a feature, along with foliage sprinkled with mercurial stardust and brought to life with welcome sunlight:

Insects were everywhere of course, from leaf-cutter bees to Cinnamon Bugs, butterflies to dragonflies, the Ruddy Darter being one of Eleanor’s photographic efforts!

One poor Southern Hawker was giving especially good views, but only because it had been captured and beheaded by a Moorhen. It was then presented to a well-grown chick, which proceeded to turn up its bill at the offering!

Finally on the insects, we were saddened to see the killing fields of Thalia dealbata unleashed. A previous blog Murder at the Garden Pond: Thalia dealbata – the (not very) beautiful assassin | Chris Gibson Wildlife has catalogued the unsavoury habits of this plant, and we hope that contact with Garden managers will result in the removal of the pollinator-killing flower-spikes, as we now do at Beth Chatto’s Garden.

The following day, the Museum of Zoology kept us out of the fierce sun, and occupied for a good couple of hours. A REAL museum, with lots of fascinating actual specimens, an absence of buttons and lights, but child-friendly display cases, the right height to get eye-to-eye with specimens of every kind.

And that apart from some bits of intentional and unintentional street art was it…

… except for the delight of the funfair for our little treasure!




Wandering around the Wirral with a camera

We have just returned from a lovely three day train trip to and around the Wirral, a place previously unknown to us. Despite the often wet weather (this is a far cry from semi-arid Essex!), we had a wonderful time, especially our night at The Ship, Parkgate…


Nestled on the shores of the Dee Estuary, overlooking extensive salt marshes to the distant Welsh hills and the wind farms of Liverpool Bay, The Ship proved an ideal location, with good food and drink, and an excellent sun-deck for those few precious moments when the sun emerged!

The black-and-white colour theme of the village in places contrasted beautifully with the native red sandstone walls:

Although the tide remained stubbornly distant, there were flock of Black-tailed Godwits and Redshanks, together with a few Greenshanks and Common Sandpipers, and a couple of Spoonbills, all to the rattling and reeling of singing Sedge and Grasshopper Warblers.

Wirral Country Park

Just north of Parkgate we explored part of the linear Wirral Country Park, a former railway line, which produced a number of botanical and entomological treasures.

Ness Botanic Gardens

Sadly, our afternoon at Ness was pretty much wall-to-wall drizzle (or heavier), and therefore the experience can best be described as ‘atmospheric’!

Of course the plants were interesting…

… together with a range of insects, including the Alder Leaf Beetle, a new colonist of the country after its 20th century extinction.

New Brighton

An evening stroll along New Brighton promenade was a complete seaside experience…

… complete with views to the windfarms. across to the iconic Liverpool waterfront, and deep in the heat haze to the north, Antony Gormley’s humanoid beach sculptures ‘Another Place‘ at Crosby.

Port Sunlight

And finally to the main reason for our visit to the area, the delights of Port Sunlight. Blue-skies and sun, culture, architecture and art…

… and of course in the copious green spaces and gardens, wildlife …

— including a surprising record (for us) of the Tulip-tree Aphid, seemingly another very recent colonist of our shores, being devoured by  Harlequin Ladybirds. Always something exciting to find!