Ness Botanic Gardens

Usually, late March wouldn’t be my preferred time of year to visit a botanic garden but it was a glorious spring day (and Mother’s Day on top of that) so I made my way to Ness Botanic Gardens.

The brainchild of Liverpool cotton merchant Arthur Kilpin Bulley, he began to create a garden in 1898 and thus laid the foundations for one of the major botanic gardens in Britain. He sponsored expeditions to the Far East, believing that Himalayan and Chinese mountain plants could be established in Britain. After his death in 1942, his daughter presented the Gardens to the University of Liverpool. Apart from some fascinating plants, it features different habitats like a Rock Garden, Water Gardens, The Spinney, Wildflower Meadow, Azalea Walk, Herbacious Lawn and much more.

But without further ado – let the garden do the talking…

A Victorian day out – Eastham Country Park

Over 100 years ago, she crossed the river by paddle steamer, paid her three pennies and walked up the steps beneath the towering Jubilee Arch, into the Eastham Ferry Pleasure Gardens.

There she saw entertainers on an open air stage, acrobats performing daring feats in the circus ring and listened to music by the bandstand, surrounded by the beautiful fountains and plants of the gardens.
(Copyright Eastham Country Park Sculpture Trail)

Today it is a ‘just’ a lovely wood that provides the perfect surrounding for an afternoon stroll and is loved by dog owners, families and walkers alike. But when I heard that there are the remnants of an old bear pit (though nothing much else) they certainly had my attention.

There is something very satisfying about an autumn afternoon stroll in the woods. The trees show themselves in their best colours, the air has this particular leafy smell that reminds me of jumping into heaps of leaves as a child, squirrels running around to gather their winter supplies, the light is muted and golden and if you’re lucky you can gather some brambles or sweet chestnuts.

I enjoyed all that, that is after I finally found the entrance. It must be one of the worst signposted parks I’ve been to recently, down to a lack of signs after a certain junction. I basically approached it three times from three different directions and just gave up too soon because I thought it couldn’t be right. You could tell the ‘newbies’ apart from the locals by their slow driving, having a confused and somehow lost look on their face. But I made it and it sure was worth it, so that’s all that counts.

Eastham tree wall

The tree almost seemed to desperately ‘cling’ to the wall.

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Some majestic trees between the old walls and borders.

Eastham fountain

One of the surviving Victorian fountains.

Eastham bench

Obviously you needed a bench to relax and enjoy the fountain. It looks somewhat Victorian but I’m not sure it is.

Eastham bear pit stairs

Entrance to the bear pit.

Eastham bear pit

This pit was once home of two brown bears and designed to look like a cave. Originally it had a dome of railings over the top to keep the bears in and the people out.

Eastham bear pit2

It was tiny!! Thankfully animals in zoos are kept in bigger and more natural enclosures!

Eastham sweet chestnut

Autumn. Gathering sweet chestnuts reminds me of my childhood. I still can’t resist…

Eastham leaf

Unfortunately it wasn’t quite the ‘Indian summer’, just the wrong kind of trees I suppose.

Eastham tree funghi2

A lot of interesting fungi along the way.

Eastham tree funghi

Fungi everywhere, quite big too.

Eastham tree face

Might be just me, but can you spot the face? More like half a skull or something from The Mummy.

Eastham woods

I just love a good forest.

Eastham cabs

Don’t think they do these kind of signs anymore. Shame really.

Eastham ferry house

The old ferry ticket office is a cafe now. Further down is still the old ferry pier.

Eastham Liverpool skyline

View from the ferry pier towards Liverpool.

The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls – Hilbre Island

After a long time of “One day I’ll have to go there” I finally managed to visit the three tidal islands lying at the mouth of the Dee Estuary, the border between England and Wales at this point. Hilbre Island is the largest island of this group and lies about 2 miles offshore from West Kirby (Wirral), with Middle Eye and Little Eye being the smaller ones. All three islands are formed of red sandstone and can only be reached on foot via a certain route at low tide. Little Eye and Middle Eye are both unpopulated, but Hilbre Island has a few houses.

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Long way to go – Little Eye on the left and Middle Eye and Hilbre Island on the right.

West-Kirby

Looking back toward West Kirby.

It is believed that Hilbre Island has been occupied on and off since the Stone Age. Its name probably derives from the dedication of a medieval chapel, which was built on the island, to St. Hildeburgh, an Anglo-Saxon holy woman living on the island in the 7th century as an anchorite.

Little-Eye-View-to-Wales

View from Little Eye to the Welsh coast. This island not more than a couple of rocks.

The islands have quite an interesting history. Some think that there was already a hermitage or place of pilgrimage prior to the Norman invasion on Hilbre. The islands ‘changed hands’ quite a few times from a Welsh lord, to an abbey in Normandy who passed it on to an abbey in Chester. After finally being disregarded as a sanctuary it even had a small factory to refine rock salt and a beer house or inn. Hilbre Island Lighthouse was established in 1927 by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board Authority to whom the islands belonged at the time. Finally the islands were sold to Hoylake Council, passing it to Wirral Borough Council on its formation.

Middle-Eye

View from Little Eye towards Middle Eye and Hilbre Island.

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I didn’t expect that much green on Middle Eye

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Hilbre Island is very close to Middle Eye

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Looking back from Hilbre Island towards Middle Eye

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The old telegraph station

The walk to the islands is very popular with locals and tourists especially throughout the summer months. To keep a bit of privacy for the houses you can only access certain parts of the island.

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The old lifeboat station. This is how far the water retreats at low tide. Quite a long walk if you want to go for a swim.

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View from the far end of the island. The lighthouse is on the far right and the roofs of some houses can be seen on the left.

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Additionally, there are lifeguards on duty as well when the tourists flock in.

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Going round the island you can get a glimps of some of the houses

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Some of the houses almost reminded me of ones I had seen in Norway

Middle-Eye3

Back on Middle Eye I spotted this

Middle-Eye4

Time to return to the mainland.

I will try to go back during the winter months with hopefully less people there as it does get quite busy.