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.

A New Dawn...Chasing Rainbows

Having re-read my blogs from earlier this year I found it quite fascinating that I could almost visualise myself as another person, fighting for the right to regain his dignity, even though in reality, that dignity was never lost.  Unemployment, particularly if it lasts for any length of time, can be demoralising - I was certainly in the doldrums and as hard as I tried it seemed that I was stuck.

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In my blog from nine months ago; “Off topic - Jobless (Shame about the recession then!)”, I was clearly at my lowest ebb but it was also probably the beginning of the fight back by letting people know (if anyone read it) that I was ready to beat the struggle, somehow.  The way I began to beat that struggle was to get out and about again, an effort to be fair, and my volunteering played a great part in this as described in the blog that came 2 months later; “Volunteering - I just wish it paid the bills…”   

I was, and still am, aware that this has its downside, as a lot of voluntary roles are more about getting a job done cheaply (even for free) without much concern for the willing volunteers and the impact on potential for paid employment. 

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 The importance of volunteering for me on the VisitWoods project (with The Woodland Trust) was that as a volunteer I was made to feel part of a well managed team, my input and time was valued, my participation encouraged.  I talk about this in “Optimism returned…” as well as happiness and job satisfaction, as the things that matter to me personally.  This blog was written 5 months ago, around the time I filled out yet another application form, this time for the NHS.

In due course I received the obligatory email to check the NHS job website as there was news of my application.  I clicked through the links to find, to my surprise, the offer of a test with the possibility of an interview!  The usual scenario then followed as I backtracked to find out which bloody job this actually was - I had applied for so many!  

Of course I agreed to the test which I sat with approximately 100 others on the morning of the 10th August.  We waited to hear our fate, many being asked to leave before us lucky ones were told we had an interview – mine was the next day as it happened.  On the afternoon of the test I had another interview – at the JobCentre!  I despise the place and was back there on the Monday to sign-on and as with every time I was there - I hoped it would be for the last time. 

After signing-on I got a call from a job agency – I was registered with many and for the most part I found them less than helpful.  The call was asking me to call in for an interview with a view to a job over in Clatterbridge Hospital and two days later I started work.  The Jobcentre could go and get ****** – well you know the rest!

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I think I was 2 weeks into the job when I got the call to say that I had been successful in my interview for the job at Royal Hospital.  I was happy at Clatterbridge – I got on well with other people there - so although happy to have been successful at the test and interview – I was torn as to whether to accept the new position.  Having taken everything into consideration I knew that it made sense to accept the “more permanent” position which I duly did. After six short weeks I left Clatterbridge with a card thanking me for my good work and feeling quite emotional!

So within weeks of the “Optimism returning” I was now starting job number 2 and receiving a letter from Knowsley Council inviting to an interview for a job that I had applied for some months earlier (as I discovered after further backtracking!)  Also successful at that interview I am waiting for a start date following the laborious checks that are carried out these days.  I will be able to do the new job alongside my “day job” which suits me fine as I am adjusting to the very different world of working in a large hospital and I get on well (I hope) with my colleagues there.

In “Optimism returning” my final line - “After all, with optimism returned, I know that life can change in an instant….”  - was proved to be very true as things did change in an instant and life moved on.  

My “New dawn” may well have begun but I’ll still strive to fulfil my dreams and as Steve Jobs, The Apple founder, once said; ‎

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work and the only way to do great work is to love what you do.  If you haven’t found it yet keep looking; and don’t settle.”

Maybe the next blog in this series will be entitled “Settled” – we shall see, but I don’t expect that I’ll ever stop Chasing Rainbows.

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