Can't see the woods for the trees?
The view across the golf course.
Those of you that know me, or have read this blog, will know that I am volunteering for the Woodland Trust as a Web Guide for VisitWoods. The project is ambitious and aims to collate an up-to-date and accurate resource for all the woods across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Recently I went to check out two sites local to me, but ones that I was not overly familiar with, certainly the first “Bowring Golf Course”. Although the name doesn’t exaclty conjure up a woodland in my mind I knew it was part of Bowring Park and as such there would be no surprise to me if I found a woodland within its boundaries.
I was aware that in the 70s when the M62 was opened it split the park and golf course in two and although I had passed it many times I had never actually visited the park.
After hopping onto the train to Roby Station, just a short walk later there I was at the entrance to Bowring Park. On entering I walked towards a visitors centre, there was a wooded area to my left and a children’s playground and a field dotted with trees to the right.
As I got by the visitors centre, which was closed, I passed through a gate and entered what was clearly, in years gone by, a formal garden from a grand house. This aroused my interest but I would have to wait until I got home for the history lesson and the explanation as to who the house belonged to as well as some fascinating facts about the park itself.
You can explore the information on the Friends of Bowring Park website but meanwhile here are a few photographs that I took on the day.
Having enjoyed an hour or so in the park, mainly watching various birds I thought I would investigate further but without walking across the golf course I couldn’t tell whether or not there was more woodland on the other side. Not wanting to walk across the course, but knowing the area well, I decided to walk around to the far side of the golf course via a housing estate expecting to be able to enter the park there. But to no avail as I came up against this:
No gate there then…
What I saw in Bowring Park I did find fascinating and I will be investigating further and visiting again in the future.
Disappointment at not finding an entrance was short lived as I walked back through the estate toward Court Hey Park. The estate in Roby was one I hadn’t been on for quite some years - since I worked for the council in fact - and I finished working there in 1988 so some memories were stirred as I walked through.
Court Hey Park I am familiar with as it is the home of the National Wildflower Centre and Merseyside BioBank, the local records centre for North Merseyside. I have been there a few times because of the two institutions above, but I have never explored the park itself in any depth.
Again, as this was a visit for VisitWoods my dilemma was to decide when is a wood a wood and not a park? Well the sign in the photograph above clearly seems to answer the question as it says; “Court Hey Park”. But does it answer the question?
Look beyond the sign at the mature trees, the fallen dead wood and the herbaceous plants coming through the leaf-litter, it looks like a wood to me.
A definition for woodland on the Forestry Commission website says:
“Woodland is defined as land under a stand of trees with, or the potential to achieve, tree canopy cover of 20% or more…. The woodland must also have a minimum width of 15 metres.”
I can honestly say that the trees behind the sign fit that definition but there was more to come as I walked deeper into the park, and not just “woodland”.
Again there is an active Friends group at Court Hey Park and their work is clear to see as the park is well kept and has excellent facilities such as a fenced in adventure playground for children to play in safety.
As I write I am wondering how many are “Friends” of both parks due to there close proximity? Just how many volunteers are out there?
Past the playground is a feature that I hadn’t seen, “a footprint” of Gladstone’s Mansion House.
Footprint of Gladstone’s Mansion House.
So an interesting if unexpected history lesson.
As can be seen looking through to the distance in the above photograph there are many more mature trees in the park.
A young hawthorn - one of my favourites and much loved by birds.
A grey squirrel - now there’s a blog in its own right!
An Oak with autumn leaves intact. (I’ve noticed this a lot this year. Is it unusual?)
To sum up my time spent assessing these two sites for Visitwoods I certainly feel it was time well spent. I enjoyed both in different ways, although perhaps not woods in the traditional sense as we think of them.
Court Hey Park definitely has excellent wooded areas and other attractions as described and I could happily lose myself in Bowring Park’s gardens “twitching” for a few hours.
I’m not sure how many volunteers are ‘out there’ but I know that I am enjoying and getting a lot of satisfaction from doing my voluntary work for the Woodland Trust’s VisitWoods. Hopefully I’m giving a good service in return.