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Staycation in the Northwest

Dune habitat at Formby © Matthew O'Donnell

Dune habitat at Formby © Matthew O’Donnell

I have recently returned from a week enjoying the delights on offer along the North West coastline, which although right on my doorstep, still provides plenty of surprises. As you can imagine no holiday is complete for any member of the Vivarium staff (myself included) without an attempt to find some local flora and fauna of interest.

This led me to visit Formby Point, which through its variety of different habitats provides a haven for a diverse plethora of rare plants and animals. This includes the potential to spot some elusive Sand lizards (Lacerta agilis) and Natterjack toads (Epidalea calamita), two species that I have only seen a handful of times.

Natterjack toad (Epidalea calamita)            © Matthew O'Donnell

Natterjack toad (Epidalea calamita) © Matthew O’Donnell

Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis)       © Matthew O'Donnell

Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis)   © Matthew O’Donnell

Unfortunately conditions on the dunes were very windy causing the majority of animals to seek shelter, myself included. So even though the habitat and other conditions seemed to be perfect, no lizards or toads were found.

However all was not lost as within the more sheltered pine forests there was much more to discover, including several sightings of red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) and a rather bold hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) which you can see in the clip below.


I also had the opportunity to visit Bodnant Garden, a property run by the National Trust and located in the borough of Conwy. This beautifully preserved garden is home to many national collections of plants, but it was the collection of champion trees which attracted my attention.

The Dell at Bodnant Garden © Matthew O'Donnell

The Dell at Bodnant Garden © Matthew O’Donnell

California Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) © Matthew O'Donnell

California Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) © Matthew O’Donnell



The Dell area of the garden is home to a number of champion trees including a number of giant redwoods from North America, including the impressive California Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) this particular specimen is the largest in the UK and is an incredible 49 meters tall. Planted in 1886 this tree is still a baby compared to the giants found in California which can attain heights over 115 meters and live for over 1,800 years! The tallest tree in the world is a California Redwood named Hyperion which is 115.6 meters (379.3ft) tall and between 700-800 years old.