Poppies on Islington, Liverpool

Driving through Liverpool recently on my way to the M62 I came across a surprising vista. Liverpool and Manchester made a joint bid last year to fund a project called a ‘Tale of Two Cities’; with the aim to have wildflowers planted in inner-city areas.  As part of the scheme for Liverpool, the project organisers have created a wildflower corridor along the Islington central reservation, leading up towards Everton Park.

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The two cities bid for the £120,000 funding available through the national ‘Grow Wild’ scheme.  ‘Grow Wild’ is a £10.5m campaign to bring people and communities together to sow, grow and support UK native wild flowers. It is funded by the Big Lottery Fund and led by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in London.  ‘Grow Wild’ has been set up to inspire people to get together to transform unloved urban sites, gardens and windowsills into wildlife-friendly wild flower patches. Liverpool and Manchester wanted to deliver a distinctive cultural wild flower project to connect two historically divided cities, blending pathways into the two cities with environment and culture. Their proposals have been supported by the National Wild Flower Centre, the National Trust and the two city councils.  More details can be found at http://www.growwilduk.com

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The idea was that Everton Park in Liverpool and Hulme in Manchester will make bold statements by transforming large areas of neglected space and unloved verges into magical displays of wild flowers. The local communities in each area share many cultural and historic similarities.

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In Liverpool, derelict and paved areas of Everton Park have been planted with wild flower displays, some marking demolished streets and the central reservation on Islington.  In Manchester, wild flower landscapes have be created along Princess Road and its linked surroundings to be seen by 100,000 passers-by daily on their way in and out of the city centre each day.

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Planting events, cultural exchanges in each city and coming together at music and art festivals organised by the people of Everton and Hulme have all been planned to take place in the wildflower areas that they have sown and cared for.  Community leaders will continue to meet through events across the two cities.  The hope is that an imaginative working relationship between the two historic rivals will be a roadmap for others to follow.

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Richard Scott, senior project manager at conservation charity Landlife, who coordinated the Tale of Two Cities bid, said that the plan was to ensure maximum visibility for commuters and local communities by placing wildflowers in highly visible and unexpected urban spaces.  The Grow Wild competition was decided by a national online vote that was decided in November last year.  Liverpool and Manchester were chosen against strong competition from the London Borough of Newham, Bristol, Plymouth and Sheffield.

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As you drive up Islington from the city centre you can’t miss the planting and the colour of the wild flowers which as I came to see them were mostly poppies giving a bright red carpet set against the cityscape down the hill.  Like Princess Road in Manchester thousands of people commute up and down Islington each day and the show of wildflowers there is unexpected and quite spectacular as I found them.

March snow in Heswall…

Van Morrison’s 1973 song Snow in San Anselmo (the first track on the album Hard Nose the Highway) captures a California town experiencing snow for the first time. The song gives you the sense that time stops and everyone is silently taking in the snowy scenery around them for the first time.

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From the last verse of the song:

Snow in San Anselmo

My waitress my waitress my waitress

Said it was coming down

Said it hadn’t happened in over 30 years

But it was laying on the ground

But it was laying on the ground

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Well we’re not in California and we’ve had snow before in Heswall but my elderly neighbours said we haven’t had it as deep as this in the last 25 years.  We had around eight or nine inches of snow and considering it started on 22 March the day after the first day of Spring, it is unusual and given that Wirral being next to the sea tends to have milder weather it is even more out of keeping with the regular pattern of weather.

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Nature’s a fickle thing.  The Jackdaws perched high in the snow covered tree tops wondering what season its is and the magnolia buds breaking through snow encrusted leaves alongside a single camelia flower heralding a Spring which hasn’t quite arrived.

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I had a walk down to Gayton Roundabout with my camera.  A lot of tree branches had broken under the weight of snow.  In the two small triangular woods next to the roundabout many Scots Pine branches had fallen blocking the paths.

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Some branches had fallen onto the road way bringing down telephone cables.  As I slithered home on Friday night in a snow storm a large branch had fallen blocking the road at the end of Storeton Lane which the queue of motorists had to move in order for us to get out onto Barnston Road.

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As I slithered around walking on the pavement one intrepid explorer strode out on his cross country skis soon disappearing into the distance down Barnston Road.

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By Sunday afternoon whilst the pavements are still under many inches of snow the main roads are now clear.  The thatched Devon Doorway pub and restaurant looked inviting with its extra layer of snow on its roof in the afternoon sunshine.

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A walk around Ness Gardens

On Sunday morning we went along to have a quick walk around Ness Botanic Gardens which are located just outside the village of Ness in South Wirral.  After a gloriously sunny Saturday the weather was again about to change so we took the opportunity to have a wander around before the rain arrived.

The gardens cover over 18 hectares and have a wide range of plants, so there’s a lot to see.  We had the morning to explore just a small part of the gardens.  The interest changes with the seasons so we set off to see what the late summer display was to be.  It was a warm day and there were lots of insects and butterflies in the gardens.

Ness Botanic Gardens started when the Liverpool cotton merchant Arthur Bulley, with his considerable wealth, began to create a garden here in 1898.  He was interested in introducing new plant species from across the world.  He was sure that Himalayan and Chinese mountain plants could be established in Britain and he sponsored expeditions to the Far East to collect new plants to prove his theory.  He introduced hundreds of new plants to Britain including rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias.

At Ness Mr Bulley propagated the plants they had collected and many of the seeds from the Far East were first cultivated here and he set up a plant and seed company, Bees Ltd, from this pioneering work.

Mr Bulley died in 1942 and his daughter Lois presented the gardens to the University of Liverpool in 1948 with an endowment of £75,000 with a stipulation that they continue be kept as botanic and ornamental gardens open to the public as a tribute to the memory of her father.

But during and following the Second World War it had not been possible to maintain the gardens as they had been and by the time the University took over they needed a lot of attention.  The University developed a more naturalistic setting for the plants and spent the next three decades achieving Mr Bulley’s dream.

The old building is still there but a new building the ‘Horsfall Rushby’ Visitor Centre opened in 2006, with a central courtyard area with reception, indoor cafe with outside seating area, shop, lecture theatre, conservatory and exhibition space.  It has a ‘green’ ‘living’ roof made up of sedums and mosses.  Along with propagation glasshouses there is an apiary where members of the public dressed in suitable protective gear are shown how the bees are kept.

The University continues to manage the gardens and there is an increasing emphasis on research, conservation and educating the public particularly schoolchildren.  There are around 10,000 types of plants grown in the gardens including many rare and interesting specimens.

In the Garden Part 3

As seems to be the story this summer we get several days of rain and the odd brighter day once in a while.  On Sunday the afternoon was quite sunny.  Given the heavy rain and strong winds over the last week the flowers in the garden have been a bit battered but I managed to take a few photos of the flowers currently in bloom.

Peonies

Moroccan Pineapple

Red Rose

White Rose

Strawberry

Hypericum

Surfinia

In the garden part 2

This weekend has been very changeable.  Showers with winds and some bright sunny spells. I’ve taken some more photographs of the flowers in the garden before they fade.

Azalea

Day Lily

Fir Tree

Gentian

Sweet William (Dianthus)

Snow in Summer (Cerastium)

Japanese Acer

Hydrangea

Castor Oil Plant (Fatsia)

Rock Rose (Cistus)

Rhododendron

Deutzia

Iris

Fly on a leaf

Sambucus Purpurea (Purple leaved Elder)

Fritillary

Hydrangea Serrata

Monday in the garden

Bank Holiday Monday is a very different day from yesterday’s grey rainy day.  The sun is shining but not for long, the weather forecast says its rain again tomorrow.

Getting out in the garden I’ve taken some photographs of the flowers before they fade away.

Tree Peony

Clematis

Maple tree

Anemone

Honeysuckle

Allium

Deutzia

Cranesbill Geranium

Oak tree

The Green Man who has become faded and worn

Californian Lilac

Fushia

Lets hope that there’s a long hot summer ahead.