February 02, 2021
THE BEECH TREES OF SOUTH LIVERPOOL
I have walked for many miles through south Liverpool for work or pleasure, and everywhere there are beech trees. Sefton Park, Aigburth Road, Calderstones Park, Reynolds Park, Brodie Avenue – all have fine old specimens. I first met them on my way to school, when I walked beneath the gigantic beeches of Otterspool Park. I loved the thick grey trunks, like the muscular legs of elephants, and would gaze up at the high canopy of bronze leaves rattling in a dry autumn wind, or see the pale green leaves in spring and early summer. Tall beeches shadowed Aigburth Road to the sandstone walls of La Sagesse school and Cressington Park, magnificent trees maybe 100 years old, well short of their possible 400-year lifespan. They are good trees to have near schools – in folklore, the beech is connected with learning and wisdom and early books were made from thin slivers of beech wood.
To visit my Auntie Gwynneth in Gateacre, I walked through the beech trees of Black Woods, or past the staggered forest of giant beech trees on Menlove Avenue and then over Woolton Hill to the great avenue of beeches on Blackwood Avenue. A favourite solitary walk took me through Calderstones Park and Allerton Golf Course to the silent woods around Allerton Towers, silent but for the wind in the beech trees. Later, when Gwynneth went into care, I walked past the stately beech trees of Penny Lane, beneath grey lonely giants on Ibbotson’s Lane or Mossley Hill, to her care home on – of course – Beechwood Road. And old beeches loomed out of the dusk of Sudley on the long walk home – all my journeys to see Auntie Gwynneth were defined by beech trees.
There are about twenty-five Beech street names in Liverpool, mostly in the south of the city, a whispering grove of trees in stone and brick. Around Beechwood Road the memory of open woodland has survived in Broadleaf Road and Woodheys Road, and in my A-Z, this urban area is called Wood End Park, as if remembering a boundary of lost woodland. There are majestic beeches still on Beechwood Road, guarding old sandstone walls and marching down to Otterspool Promenade. I drive past them to visit my mother-in-law, just the most recent miles in a journey of decades and family that has sometimes made the city seem like stretches of woodland divided by buildings. I still notice the beech trees, still touch them, still love them, a love that has lasted for over forty years.
Contributor: David Lewis