Last week I was rewarded with a visit to two exceptional country parks as part of my Green Flag judging role. I always find it an enjoyable experience judging our wonderful parks and public open spaces.
The parks in question were The Wirral Country Park and the Rivacre Valley LNR, two large public open spaces that provide an excellent wildlife corridor for all to enjoy.
The Rivacre valley LNR is based on the valley of Rivacre Brook which is a small tributary of the River Mersey. The reserve is a 395-acre green corridor stretching into the town, making it one of Cheshire’s largest managed reserves and the largest open space in Ellesmere Port and Neston. The park is bordered by housing on the south edge and heavy industry to the north.
As for the Wirral Country Park, otherwise known as the Wirral Way, this was initially developed in the late 1960s by Cheshire County Council. The park is based on the former Hooton to West Kirby Branch Line railway. The country park is approximately 19.3km (12miles) in length. Half of the park lies within Cheshire, the other lies in the Borough of Wirral.
Hadlow Road Railway Station
Walking both sites allowed me to see the real value of what these sites can bring to their communities. During my visit I witnessed a wide range of age groups enjoying the Wirral experience.
Each site offered a vast array of habitats for enhancing and encouraging a wide range of flora and fauna and a haven for wildlife.
Horse riding along Bridal paths
The biodiversity of each site was rich with plenty of different habitats being managed by the council to ensure they continue to prosper and remain in a healthy condition for the local wildlife and insects that benefit from these managed habitats.
Biodiversity in parks and open spaces refers to the variety of plant and animal species, as well as the ecosystems and ecological processes present within these areas. Parks and open spaces can serve as important habitats and refuges for a wide range of organisms, contributing to the overall biodiversity of an area.
Bees making the most of the rich food on offer
They provide habitats for various organisms, from trees and shrubs to insects, birds, mammals, and reptiles. The presence of diverse species promotes ecological balance and resilience.
The way the park is managed will help and support complex ecological interactions. For instance, plants may provide food and shelter for insects, which in turn serve as a food source for birds. These interactions create interconnected ecosystems, contributing to the overall functioning and health of the environment.
Biodiversity plays a crucial role in providing complex ecosystem services. These services include carbon sequestration, air purification, water filtration, pollination, and soil stabilisation, the presence of diverse species enhances the ability of ecosystems to deliver these services effectively.
Brook flowing through Rivacre Valley
These valued spaces can also serve as protected areas for the conservation and preservation of rare, threatened, or endangered species. When turf professionals and volunteers maintain suitable habitats and implement conservation measures, these areas contribute to the long-term survival of vulnerable species.
In urban areas, parks and open spaces provide valuable green spaces, which are crucial for maintaining urban biodiversity. They offer refuge for wildlife, mitigate the urban heat island effect, improve air quality, and enhance the overall livability of cities.