Dibbinsdale Nature Reserve
Brotherton Park and Dibbinsdale Local Nature Reserve comprises of 32 hectares (81.1 acres) of semi-natural countryside along the river valley of the Dibbin.
The valley woodland represents the largest and one of the finest examples of ancient woodland on Merseyside. The rest of the reserve consists of meadows, reed swamps, parkland and amenity grassland.
The Nature Reserve provides an attractive and stimulating environment for educational visits. A wide range of activities to suit all age groups can be carried out on the reserve, in which pupils can develop skills in many curricular areas, particularly science and geography.
These notes contain background information, maps and photographs on the history, wildlife and management of the Nature Reserve.
There is considerable scope for these ideas to be expanded and modified by teachers/group leaders to suit the requirements of their pupils.
The Ranger Service at Dibbinsdale welcomes information on educational activities that have been carried out on the Nature Reserve.
Your experiences, ideas and suggestions can be incorporated into future updates of this web site, benefiting other users.
The Dibbinsdale Rangers are based at Woodslee Cottages, off Spital Road, Bromborough - Telephone: 0151 334 9851
(or at Eastham Country Park. Telephone: 0151 327 1007)
Dibbinsdale is easily accessible from all parts of the Wirral, being close to the A41 and the M53. There is ample parking for minibuses and cars in the main car park and many pedestrian access points as indicated on the main map.
The driveway to the car park is unsuitable for coaches.
By road: Along the A41 from Chester to Birkenhead the reserve is signposted. A sharp turning off Spital Road brings you to the car park on the right of the drive. From the M53, leave at junction 4, taking the B5137 to Bebington; continue through the cross roads (The Three Stags) and past Spital station. At the mini-roundabout (Spital Dam) turn right passed the sandstone cutting. The entrance to the reserve car park is marked.
By rail: A frequent service runs between Liverpool and Chester, stopping at Bromborough Rake and Spital Stations. Access is possible directly from these stations into the reserve. Information is available from Merseyrail: Tel. 051 236 7676
Due to the steep terrain of the river valley, unfortunately the reserve is not suitable for wheelchairs or push chairs.
First Aid points are situated at the Rangers Office and Brotherton Nature Centre at Woodslee Cottages.
Toilets (including disabled) are situated in the Brotherton Nature Centre.
A small number of picnic tables are situated close to Woodslee Car Park, but groups are also welcome to use any of the mown grass areas for picnics.
There are no formal recreation facilities at Dibbinsdale, but Woodslee Playing Fields and Spital Field are both suitable for informal group games.
Brotherton Nature Centre
The Brotherton Nature Centre is situated at Woodslee Cottages, opposite the Rangers Office. The Centre was completed in 1996 and provides facilities for visiting groups/schools and volunteers.
The Centre can cater for up to 30 people at one time, although smaller groups are advisable for practical sessions. The Centre provides a small resource library, microscopes and hand lenses for examining specimens, and writing/drawing equipment.
A slide show is also available by prior arrangement. Equipment for field studies within the reserve is available from the Centre, including pond nets, trays, survey kits, measuring tapes, identification sheets and a small supply of children's waterproof coats for emergencies.
The Walled Garden to the rear of the Centre contains beehives, a small pond, and wildflower/tree nurseries which groups are welcome to visit.
Groups wishing to use the Brotherton Centre and its facilities must book in advance.
The Friends of Dibbinsdale exists to encourage the conservation and protection of the Dibbinsdale Local Nature Reserve. Membership of the Friends group is open to all.
Woodslee House and Woodslee Cottages
Woodslee House was built after the land was sold by The Rev S.K. Mainwaring to a Liverpool Merchant Mr. Robert Rankin in 1866.
This was a wedding present to his daughter when she married Mr David McIver a shipping magnate. The house which was completed in 1878, stood near the present car park on a flat area between the present buildings known as Woodslee Cottages and the edge of the valley.
The Yew trees mark the edge of the garden behind the house which faced east towards the Monkey Puzzle Tree. Woodslee Cottages, the servants quarters, stables and coach house still stand. There is also a lodge near the entrance to the park.
Lord Brotherton (Edward Allen Brotherton of Wakefield) purchased the Beyer Company dyestuffs factory in Magazine Road, Bromborough in 1917.
He also purchased the Woodslee Estate two years later with the intention of setting up a Chemical Research Laboratory under the name Port Rainbow.
However, due to cheap imports from Germany after World War 1 he changed his mind and converted the buildings at Woodslee into flats and cottages for his key employees and the grounds became known as Brotherton Sports Club. The facilities provided by the club consisted of cricket and bowling areas with pavilions and two tennis courts.
The Chief Chemist at the Brotherton Works was a Mr.J.H.Wilson who lived for a while in one of the ground floor flats at Woodslee. His son, Harold, became one of the first sixth form pupils at Wirral Grammar School and went on to become Prime Minister.
He and his wife later became known as Lord and Lady Wilson of Rievaulx.
The Role of a Ranger
There are many aspects to the job of the Ranger. However it can be looked at as dealing with the following four main areas of concern. These areas are all inter-related and interdependent. In a list form, these are some of the tasks involved in each area:
Planting trees and shrubs, creating and maintaining habitats for wildlife, dealing with sick and injured animals, feeding birds and encouraging / protecting wildlife. As the woodland develops the ranger needs to ensure the regeneration of new trees. Sometimes this involves planting and sometimes ensuring the right conditions for this to happen naturally. The development of ponds and wetlands encourages diversity of wildlife. Opening up the woodland in certain areas to make glades also encourages more and different wildlife as does the practice of "coppicing" to produce new tree growth.
Leisure and recreation
The Rangers produce an events activities programme in which they outline activities they offer to the public. Often these relate to the environment. Guided walks looking at themes of Local History and Wildlife in the nature reserve are part educational and part leisure.
The Ranger deals with a wide range of educational provision. Slide talks to adult groups on environment themes and about the reserve, talks to students dealing with countryside management and tourism, secondary school pupils dealing with issues of environmental concern in geography or science, primary school children looking at nature and the local history around them and pre-school children learning basic environmental appreciation and awareness. The provision of interpretative materials related to this involves local history information, guided walks and trails leaflets, information for notice boards and newsletters.
The Ranger is often asked in to advise upon matters to do with the environment in the broader community- factory and housing developments for instance.
The visitors coming to the park also need the provision of basic services and these need maintaining - toilets and washing facilities, bin and litter collection, first aid and emergency safety, picnic benches and BBQ facility, car parking supervision, advice and information, policing and public order are all undertaken on a day to day basis. The Rangers participate in public safety campaigns, environment initiatives, civic occasions and celebrations like the Countryside Fayre.
The Rangers liaise with many different outside organisations from the local Brownie Pack to Youth Clubs and Wildlife Trusts. The "Friends of Dibbinsdale" is for example one such group where strong ties are maintained