Otterspool opens up for wild flowers
As you wander through the ancient woodland at Otterspool Park you will notice an abundance of wild flowers.
Snowdrops and daffodils are giving way to bluebells and celandines, generic and summer flowers will soon carpet the woodland between Sefton Park and the glorious Otterspool Parade, buy on the banks of the Mersey.
These native flowers nestle beneath ancient oak, ash and beech and over the past two years more and more sunlight has broken through to aid growth.
The work to clear the 13 hectare woodland and paths has been carried out by local volunteers working with The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside . So far almost 2500 hours of volunteer effort has gone it to improving the site, mainly through our regular Liverpool volunteer group but also involving local residents, arboriculture students from Myerscough College and students from Liverpool University, all working together to improve the woodland for people and for wildlife.
The Wildlife Trust’s Local Nature Reserves Officer for Liverpool Adam Graham said that the site was largely unmanaged for some years.
Adam said: “Otterspool Park is a fantastic local piece of Liverpool woodland. The woodland is ancient, meaning it dates back to prior to 1600 and allowing time for plants like Bluebells to colonise and spread. The wood is also home to a colony of purple hairstreak butterfly which survive in the tree tops on mature oak.
On top of this ancient woodland much ornamental planting was added when the wood became the grounds of a stately home in the 1800’s. This planting included many exotic trees and shrubs which have helped create a unique and almost arboretum like feel to the wood in places. Unfortunately this planting was spreading unchecked within the wood, threatening its native character and making the woodland very dark, dense and uninviting”
Walking along the path used to be a dark and unnerving experience, now the sun shines on walkers, plants and wildlife. Butterflies and other insects are feeding off the plants and dawn walks are noisy with a whole variety of birds.
The aim of the project was to work with volunteers on habitat and access work across the park. The Wildlife Trust’s involvement started through funding from The Veolia Environmental Trust, who awarded a grant of £29,800 through the Landfill Communities Fund, and Forestry Commission in September 2013.
Adam said: “The work focused on making the woodland pathways feel safer and more inviting by undertaking a lot of clearance work, removing rhododendron and opening the woodland, as well as re-planting with native woodland shrubs and wildlflowers. Basically a whole range of measures to make the site better for wildlife and people.”
“The park sits between Sefton Park and Otterspool Prom – two very heavily used parks but both very manicured and traditional, Otterspool Park offers something unique in being a woodland and much more naturalised. This is something we have tried to develop through the work, removing a lot of the ornamental shrubs and bringing the woodland back towards its original natural state”
“The hope is that more people will use it as a route to and from the river and also in its own right”
“The results have been fantastic and the response from the public very positive – the work the volunteers have put in has been incredible and it’s great to see more people start to use the wood and explore it again”
Tony Colligan, who has been part of the volunteer group added”… On behalf of the volunteers, we are all so proud that our joint efforts have completed such a transformation of this magnificent park “.
Volunteer groups meet fortnightly every second Wednesday and one Saturday per month. They are hoping the site will be designated a Local Nature Reserve now much of their initial work has been completed.
The Executive Director of The Veolia Environmental Trust, Paul Taylor, adds, “This work is a great example of how the Trust and the Landfill Communities Fund can help protect valuable urban woodlands and greenspaces such as Otterspool. We really like the fact that volunteers are getting involved too, and their efforts will create a thriving habitat that people can visit and enjoy all year round.”
Liverpool has four Local Nature Reserves already which The Wildlife Trust has been instrumental in creating. Otterspool will be its fifth. Local Nature Reserves are places that are managed for wildlife and people, have a level of protection for wildlife and also place more of a duty on the local authority to maintain them.