Saturday, 4 July 2020

Recent Developments 2020

Since Lockdown began on March 23rd 2020, the new "normal" way of life has changed somewhat.  Our volunteers were unable to gather together, join in our shed for hot drinks, plan events or even have our Committee meetings.  Now we have Zoom virtual Committee meetings.  Our planned events were all cacncelled as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic.  No Spring Plant sale, no plant stall for the Secret Gardens of Oxton, no Litter picks.  

This morning, Saturday 4th July, was the first volunteer Saturday when we were allowed to meet up in the Rose Garden, albeit at 2 metre social distances. 

Indeed the Rose Garden and The Oxton Fields have been a lifeline for recreation during this lockdown. Many people in the community have used these valuable green spaces for their daily exercise outings, as every other place, apart from food shops, was closed.  Families have had picnics and enjoyed the good weather, when usual home visiting was prohibited. 
We were saddened to discover that this week our Bug Hotel in the Rose Garden had been vandalised. That, coupled with 4 roses being stolen, is extremely upsetting. Particularly as members of the community had given their time and money in contributing to and caring for this great asset The Rose Garden.
The Police and Parks and Gardens have been alerted to the theft of the roses. Could we ask the community to be alert and report any suspicious activity to the Police non-urgent call line 101.

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Difficult times 2020

Since 23rd March we have been in lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic.  This has meant that council gardeners cannot mow the lawns in any areas except cemeteries.  We have all been told to only venture outside for daily exercise or to get food or medicines.  The long border has been left to fend for itself, but we have noticed that some of last year's dead stems are actually acting as supports for this year's growth to push through.  Many locals are still using the Rose Garden for their daily walk, joggers doing laps of the rose beds, as well as many dog owners giving their canine companions some much needed fresh air.

Blue tits have been sighted using some of the nesting boxes which John Booth and John Hall had alreday set up last year.  Keeping to the 2 metres rule for social distancing,  our Secretary Peter and John Booth have continued to prune the roses, which they wanted to complete before the end of March.  We are striving to make improvements to the Rose Garden, not just for us humans, but for the wildlife too.  With this in mind, John Booth had built a bat box.  With the help of his son Phil and Peter, they installed the bat box high up in one of the mature trees.  Quite a task as it is a substantial structure and needed to be very securely attached.

We hope you are all staying safe and that it won't be too long until we can all resume some kind of normality in these difficult times.  We miss meeting you and chatting while our volunteers are gardening in the Rose Garden.  Please enjoy your exercise in and around the Rose Garden, quarry and Oxton Fields.  We are happy for dogs to be off lead in the quarry area and on the oxton Fields, but would appreciate it if you could keep their leads on whilst in the more formal Rose Garden.

Although we are not meant to stop and sit, perhaps you can keep a look out and see if you can spot any birds nesting in our boxes.   See you soon and look after each other.

Sunday, 8 March 2020

Wirral History and Heritage Fair 2020

This year's fair took place at the Town hall in Hamilton square on Saturday 7th March.  While the rest of our team were busy working in the Rose Garden, preparing for our Spring plant sale , some of our Committee attended the Fair to represent us at the Town Hall.

Linda Atkinson, Membership Secretary and Annette Capper, Chairperson, helped by John Booth and John Hall, set up our stand in order to raise Public awareness of our Friends Group. Our stand has been much improved  recently to showcase the various activities we carry out to benefit the local area and community, such as tree planting, rose planting, litter picks, plant sales, Christmas grotto etc.

Some other activities planned this year include an Easter hunt and Tallest sunflower growing competition.  We planted 150 tree whips a few weeks ago and a few of our Friends have already been on a willow weaving course, courtesy of TwigTwisters, with a view to coppicing some locally grown willow to create plant supports for the long Border in the Rose Garden.  One possibility would also be to create a living willow serpentine tunnel on the Oxton fields for children to run through!

If you want to get involved, become a paid up member of the Friends of the Arno and Oxton Fields. There are lots of practical ways you can help out too. You can do as little or as much as you want.  We are a very sociable group and would love to meet new members.

Thursday, 27 February 2020

Young Tree Planting February 2020.

The weather has been extremely wet and windy throughout most of February.  We have finally received our order of native tree whips from Wirral Borough Council.  A couple of our Committee members met with Neil Garnett from the Council to agree on how many the Friends Group would plant and whereabouts on the Oxton Fields would be suitable.  We set a date for Saturday 22nd February.

The 150 tree whips we agreed to plant were either Alder or Goats' willow, both native varieties which sustain wildlife.  Willows in particular are an excellent caterpillar food for  many types of moth.  Both tree types like wet ground to thrive so the boggiest areas of the fields were ideal spots.  Indeed we already had some willow and alder in the largest copse which regularly gets flooded.  These trees help to soak up a lot of excess rainwater, so of benefit to us as well as the insects.

Despite heavy rain the day before, we wrapped up warm and wellies on, we trudged out with our spades to start planting.  The Council had provided the tree whips, stakes and netting to give the trees the best possible chance of getting established.  The netting will also help to prevent the whip being mown over once the grass starts being cut regularly.  Neil had stated that they would leave these areas for the grass to grow longer which is also of benefit to wildlife, part of their aim to increase biodiversity.  To be fair, the ground is so wet in these aeas that mowing is virtually impossible anyway.
Councillor Allan Brame came to say hello.

About 12 of us worked for a good two hours planting, staking and netting the tree whips.  Luckily the rain stayed off and by 12 noon we had completed our task and all the tree whips were in the ground.  We headed back to the Rose Garden to warm up with hot drinks and biscuits.  A well deserved treat for all the very muddy work.  There are another 100 tree whips which the Council will plant on the other side of Duck Pond Lane. Native Hawthorn, Blackthorn and perhaps some Birch.

A few of our Friends group have since been on a willow weaving course, with a view to being able to coppice some willow in the years to come to make plant supports for the Long Border.  We may even build a living willow tunnel on the Oxton Fields  for local children to play in. Watch this space!

Sunday, 9 February 2020

February 1st 2020

Last saturday 1st February was our first chance to all meet together this year to start preparing the Rose Garden for the Spring. As usual, we gathered at 10am and discussed which jobs we wanted to carry out.

Our secretary Peter had already spent lots of hours tidying the top shrub beds either side of the rose arches, so he continued with that. Our Membership secretary Linda and her sister Pauline started painting the front of our gardeners' shed, as they have planned a lovely floral design to brighten it up. Sian and Dave worked hard clearing common cornus from the centre of a shrub bed, which had got out of hand and was taking over.  A couple of us tackled some of the brambles and nettles which were starting to appear in the long border, as well as potting up a few ground covering perennials.  Weeding was carried out by the side of the shed with a view to creating a nursery bed for growing on small plants.

Another job carried out was to reinforce the shrubs alongside the entrance from Storeton Road, whilst also pulling out lots of encroaching ivy.  Many people seem to have created a makeshift path, cutting across the shrub bed when they should be using the formal paths provided.  As we had planted bulbs, we were keen to make sure this cut through was no longer an option.  It only takes a few minutes longer to walk around the path!

Paths were brushed, more work was done in and around the shed and more wood and sticks were added to the Bug Hotel. 
To warm us up, Sarah made hot drinks for us all, with shortbread biscuits to keep us going.  It was lovely to come together and get so much done in only a couple of hours.  As the saying goes, "many hands make light work!"

There were lots of signs that Spring is just around the corner.  The snowdrops are poking their heads above ground and beginning to open.  Hellebores in the long border are looking stunning in shades of pink and cream. Crocus flowers are starting to appear on the top lawn by the Memorial stone.

If you want to help as one of our volunteers, we would be delighted to have your company.  You can do as much or as little as you feel up to, and there is always friendly chat as we work.  Hot drinks are provided too.  Come along and join the team. We meet ( weather permitting) every Monday morning at 10am and also the first Saturday morning of each month at 10am.

Monday, 16 December 2019

Christmas Grotto 2019

After all the hard work put in during the year by the two Johns, we decided to make full use of the shed to celebrate the festive season with the Arno community.  This was the first time we have been able to organise an event like a christmas grotto, so we were keen to make it a wonderful celebration to end 2019.

Posters were made and social media used to let everyone in the local area know that Santa would be visiting our Arno.  All preparations were made to tidy up around the shed and our membership secretary Linda Atkinson, assisted by her sister Pauline created a wonderful secret grotto in one side of the shed, as well as elf outfits. Linda, also helped by our Chairperson Annette Capper, organised the event and allocated duties to other Committee members so that everything was ready. We were also selling home made jams which Brenda had kindly brought, ideal last minute gifts!

Saturday 14th December started very cold with quite a breeze. We gathered at 8.30am to set up the gazebo, decorate outside the shed and set up the tables and chairs. We had brought our home-made or shop bought cakes, gingerbread men, mince pies  and bottles of mulled wine.  Tea urns were used to warm the mulled wine and boil water for teas and coffees. Christmas music began to play and Santa arrived to take his seat.  We even had a basket full of bagged up dog treats for the many dog walkers who regularly exercise their pooches in the Arno and on the Oxton Fields.

We were delighted that so many people came along to support us.  Lots of dog walkers came to partake of the mulled wine and their dogs were looking smart in their Christmas coats. The star of the show was even giving a piggy back to his own mini santa toy.  Our elves were walking around handing out the dog treats and letting people know what was going on.

Lots of children were brought along to meet Santa, and were given a chocolate treat and a satsuma.  After visiting Santa in his grotto they joined us under the gazebo for soft drinks and gingerbread men.
It was lovely to be able to gather so many people in our community together at this festive time of the year. 


At midday we started to clear away and dismantle the gazebo.  We felt that it had been a success. The sale of the jams had raised £68 and altogether, including donations in our snowman basket, £200 had been taken in just two hours. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting everyone who came along to support us and have been spurred on to plan more community events in 2020.  Watch this space!

Sunday, 8 December 2019

December Litter Pick 2019

On Saturday 7th December we met at the bottom of Duck Pond Lane to start our last litter pick of the year.  Litter pickers, gloves and plastic bags were trundled down in a wheelbarrow ready to be collected by volunteers at 10am.

Our Chairperson  Annette Capper
Everyone spread out across the Oxton Fields, up the paths through to the Rose Garden and around the Quarry area.  There were particular spots which were littered with lots of empty drink cans and glass bottles.  Around the edges of the Quarry and where the remains of the Sundial are situated seem to be especially prone to litter being thrown into the undergrowth.

Some strange items always seem to turn up, no matter what time of year we do the litter pick.  This time, we unearthed an old fire extinguisher, section of air ducting as well as a children's sledge.

After just over an hour, all the volunteers met for a photgraph or two and hot drinks and mince pies.
These regular litter picks are a vital part of the work the Friends group carries out.  Without these events, there would be so much more rubbish, spoiling the beautiful green spaces that we should treasure and enjoy as a community, as well as posing a danger to wildlife. 

If you feel you would like to take part in our next litter pick, follow us on Facebook or read our Notice Boards whenever you are passing.