Bluebells, wild hyacinth, wood bell, bell bottle... which name do you prefer?

Bluebells 2
“A fine and subtle spirit dwells
In every little flower,
Each one its own sweet feeling breathes
With more or less of power. “

(Opening lines of a poem by Anne Bronte celebrating ‘The Bluebell’)

I can still recall a childhood memory of walking through a vast, seemingly, everlasting bluebell wood. It was sunny, and my parents had decided on a ‘Mystery Trip’ one Sunday afternoon.

I’m sorry to say we picked armfuls of the flowers to fill vases on getting home. Nowadays, and rightly so, you can look, but not touch or pick.

What started this line of thinking was a small valiant patch of bluebells  I spotted thrusting outwards from beneath an adjacent garden fence while walking the footpath from Green lane towards Paradise Lane.

It displayed obstinate vigour in seeking its place in the sun.

I wonder will it still be growing there next year?

It is against the law to intentionally pick, uproot or destroy bluebells. IIn the United Kingdom, Bluebells are protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Landowners are prohibited from removing common bluebells on their land for sale, and it is a criminal offence to remove the bulbs.

The bluebell has many names: English bluebell, wild hyacinth, wood bell, bell bottle, Cuckoo’s Boots, Wood Hyacinth, Lady’s Nightcap and Witches’ Thimbles, Hyacinthoides non-scripta

I can’t decide which of the names above I prefer, but ‘Cuckoo’s Boots’ is amongst my preferences.

Almost half the world's bluebells are found in the UK; they’re relatively rare in the rest of the world. Bluebell colonies take a long time to establish - around 5-7 years from seed to flower.

Bluebells can take years to recover after footfall damage. If a bluebell’s leaves are crushed, they die back from lack of food as the leaves cannot photosynthesise.

Although the bluebell has several popular representations, it’s most often known to signify humility, gratitude and everlasting love. Insects love bluebells, as they provide an early supply of nectar to hungry bees, butterflies and hoverflies.

Bluebell bulbs were often crushed in Elizabethan times, to provide starch for ruffs, collars and sleeves. Even the sap was used to bind the pages of books, while the Bronze Age saw bluebells used to set feathers into arrows.

Finally and to discourage you from picking them. They contain toxic glycosides, poisonous to both animals and humans. As all parts of the bluebell contain this toxin, they can cause skin irritation for some people, just through any form of direct contact with the plant.

My small colony of newly spotted flowers have a long haul before them and a long time to properly establish a permanent site if the sun.

Next time you walk that footpath look out for them.

Will the Formby Neighbourhood Plan Pass its Final Inspection?

Finally, after six years in preparation, Formby and Little Altcar Parish Councils have submitted the Formby Neighbourhood Plan to Sefton Council.

Neighbourhood Plan Title Page

Six years is a very long time but presumably, the plan is the very best the two Parish Councils can produce?

So it's disappointing to note that the Sefton Council reception seems to raise some doubts. I've highlighted them in bold.

The Sefton document starts by setting out the Parish Councils'  purposes. Almost immediately they add some notes of concern. You can read them in the following extract. 

3.1 The Formby Neighbourhood Plan sets out a shared vision for Formby and Little Altcar Parishes. The whole of both Parishes were designated as a neighbourhood area’ for the purposes of preparing a neighbourhood plan and approved by Cabinet Member on 12th September 2013. The plan contains policies on the following areas

 General Policies
 Housing
 Working and shopping
 Getting around
 Community, leisure and wellbeing
 Environment, sustainability and design
 Flooding

3.2 Consultation on the draft plan (known as Regulation 14 Consultation) was undertaken by the Parish Council between 31st October 2016 and 12th December 2016. The Parish Council took account of comments received during this period in the submitted plan.

3.3 There are some concerns about some of the submitted documents and whether they fulfil some of the basic conditions. 

In particular:

 The Neighbourhood Plan needs have regard to the National Planning Policy Framework and the Local Plan. The Neighbourhood Plan and the Basic Conditions Statement repeatedly refer to the 2012 NPPF that has since been superseded.

The Neighbourhood Plan includes some policies that are contrary to strategic policies in the Local Plan, this includes a radical change to the affordable housing policy.

 The consultation framework is required to show people’s comments from the reg.14 consultation, what they said and how they have been considered. Whilst all comments are either summarised or included verbatim, it has not been shown how resident’s comments or the comments of other bodies have been considered, the statement simply says what they said.

3.4 The Neighbourhood Plan steering group did not accept the offer of advice from Sefton Council before submitting the plan.

3.5 It is up to the Examiner to decide whether the policies and content of the plan meet the basic conditions. The Council will make comments at the reg.16 stage.

(Source: Sefton Council: Report from Chief Officer Planning to Cabinet Officer Building and Planning Control for decision)

In my view, the most significant comment is item 3.4. It raises a number of questions.

  • Did both Parish Councils agree to 'disagree' with the Sefton Council advice?
  • Why did the Parish Councils reject the advice from the highly experienced Council officers?
  • Is there a conflict of views on some or all of the issues involved between Sefton Council and the two Parishes?
    • What are those?
    • Is this difference of views related to legal interpretations over the relative powers of Parish Councils and District Councils?
    • Has it to do with the Green Belt redesignation and the new housing developments, which have received official inspectors approval, thus confirming the status of the Local Plan?

Then there's the matter of the 2012 NPPF policy (National Planning Policy Framework)? Why have the Parish Councils not acted, after all, there's a seven-year gap between that change and now?

It is a remarkable passage of time, why have the Parish Councils not make the necessary adaptations?

Finally, on the question of the representation and response to the public views generated during the consultations is likely to compromise the whole plan. It is supposed to be a shared, collective and agreed public policy - not simply the Parish Councils policy.

Sefton Council closes in 3.5, with two observations:

  • A comment about the function of the Official Inspector, It's difficult not to draw the conclusion that the plan could be failed at this stage.
  • Sefton Council has also highlighted they will make comments at the 'Reg 16' stage of the process, could there more potential issues for the viability of the Plan? 

If you want to read more about the Neighbourhood Plan process I advise you to visit the Formby Parish Council website. There's a dedicated section with access to the various reports but following the plan through the Formby Parish Council minutes of meetings is more difficult. At one stage I noticed a reference to the near completion of the plan sometime in 2017, apparently, it just required some relatively small updates.

It seems to have taken over two years to make those additions and of course, the late submission date means that the current membership of both Councils is due for re-election, retirement or replacement, in the May elections. 

It begs the questions, why so long, what of the notion of electoral accountability, what has it all cost, what happens it the whole plan fails, who will be to blame?

To read the full report on the Sefton Council website follow the link:



Formby Edible Gardens Project Comes to an End

After nine years the Formby Edible Garden Project has reluctantly being brought to an end.

Recently the project team were informed by phone that the Swimming Pool Trust have other plans for the small space that has housed the project for the last nine years. The team are now winding up the project and moving some of the fruit trees to other homes.

The project began nearly ten years ago. Inspired by the Transition Town Movement which was sweeping the UK and the world,

One of the many objectives of that movement included:

  • To get to know their neighbours;
  • To feel like they are making a difference in the world;
  • Because the world’s huge challenges (climate change, social inequality, economic decline and so on) feel more manageable if addressed at the local scale (as one person put it, “Transition changed my relationship to the problems”);
  • To catalyse all manner of new projects, enterprises and investment opportunities;
  • To learn new skills;
  • To feel like they are creating a new story for their place;
  • To feel connected to other people and to something historic and exciting happening around them;
  • Because they feel it is “the right thing to do”.

We were also intrigued, and still are by the phenomenal success of the Incredible Edible Todmorden Project. They grow fruit, herbs and vegetables around Todmorden in assorted containers and spaces that are for everyone to share. They also run a wide range of events that help strengthen the local community. 
Last year they conducted 60 tours for over 1,000 visitors (who shopped in town). They describe themselves in the following way:

We are passionate people working together for a world where all share responsibility for the future wellbeing of our planet and ourselves.
We aim to provide access to good local food for all, through
• working together
• learning – from cradle to grave
• supporting local business  (Source:

Sadly we never achieved the same scale or effect of the Todmorden team, perhaps confining ourselves to the small enclosed garden helped to obscure the Formby Project. Nonetheless, the remaining enthusiastic team members are proud of our efforts.

We gave ourselves an ambitious target and the length of the project is a testimony to our commitment and the strong friendships we developed and continue to hold.

Formby Edible Gardens is a collaborative project involving local residents in Formby working for a more sustainable future. The project seeks to increase the general resilience of Formby given Peak Oil, Climate Change and Food Security........

A demonstration plot will provide examples of small-scale but efficient ways of growing food in a small space. It will provide advice and support for local and other residents who want to grow food in their own gardens. It hopes to establish small neighbourhood groups throughout Formby to promote food growing Finally it intends to stimulate an increased awareness of the benefits of healthy eating and to promote local food production and consumption. (Source:

Some of the plants and the garden infrastructure will be reused. The fruit trees have gone to The Bridge Inn Community Farm, they write:

We provide training and real life work experience in horticulture, agriculture and care of animals. The farm gives people a real working environment to care for friendly animals, grow crops and be part of a great team.....

The farm is now home to a variety of gardens featuring shrubs, herbs, trees, vegetable patches, fruits and ponds. We have a Japanese garden and tea house, which is beautifully manicured, with an ornamental pond.

They welcome visitors and we've always enjoyed meeting them and watching the continuing success of their project, they are the team that manages the Formby Station vegetable growing containers.

As to our recently constructed compost container, arrangements are in hand to transfer it to the small garden in the grounds of Formby Library.

So after many happy hours of pottering, planting, planning, seed swaps days, open days and talking to visitors we draw it to an end,

My thanks to everyone who participated it was quite a number of volunteers over the life of the project, but my very special thanks go to Sheila and John, constant members, both fellow Brummies who unfailing supported the project.

In John's case, a weekly return trip from Southport over the length of the project is a measure of his enthusiasm.





Formby Parish Council & Little Altcar Neighbourhood Plan

Formby Parish Council and Little Altcar Councils finally publish the Local Neighbourhood Plan.

Neighbourhood Plan Title Page
Formby Parish Council members will consider the final version of the Neighbourhood Plan at their meeting on Tuesday 5 February. The second paragraph of the 91-page document states:

The Formby and Little Altcar Neighbourhood Development Plan, [NDP] has been produced jointly by the Parish Councils of Formby and Little Altcar, starting back in September 2013. The Parish Councils wanted the people of Formby and Little Altcar to have a say in all aspects of the future of the town; addressing the issues surrounding housing, infrastructure, health and wellbeing, the environment, and include natural/heritage assets. However, most importantly, it wanted local people to decide what they wanted in their community.

Observers may very well ask why it's apparently taken 6 years to prepare and at what cost in financial terms and human time. Both Parish Councils are to be renewed in an all-out election this year and there only 2 more meetings before the elections.

Notice of Meeting

All members of the Council are hereby summoned to attend the next Ordinary Meeting of the Parish Council, which will be held at Formby Library, Duke Street, Formby, on Tuesday 5 February 2019 at 7pm

Claire Jenkins
Clerk to Formby Parish Council


  • 1.0 To receive Apologies
  • 2.0 To Receive Declarations of Interest
  • 3.0 Public Forum (the meeting will be adjourned for this item)
  • 4.0 Previous Minute
    • 4.1 To consider and approve the Minutes of the Ordinary Meeting held on 8 January 2019.
  • 5.0 Matters of Report from Previous Meeting – for information only
  • 6.0 Planning Applications – (Sefton’s weekly list email, also available on Sefton Council’s website).
  • 6.1 To note current position on Formby Development Sites in Sefton’s Local Plan.
  • 7.0 To discuss and resolve the following:
    • 7.1 To receive the Neighbourhood Plan, Consultation Statement and Basic Conditions Statement and to approve the submission to Sefton Council for the second stage (Regulation 16) consultation.
  • 8.0 To authorise Payments (enclosed)
  • 9.0 Chairman’s Report
  • 10.0 To receive the following reports – enclosed for information only
    • Clerk’s report
    • Environment Group
    • Finance and General Purposes Group minutes
  • 11.0 Date of Next Ordinary Meeting– Tuesday 5 March 2019 to be held in the Meeting Room, Formby Library at 7pm

Members of the press and public are welcome to attend

The final version of the document (dated 30-1-19) is available here:



Keep a close eye on Sefton’s beloved furry friends

Among Sefton’s most beloved residents are its beautiful red squirrel population, found mainly in Formby.

Red Squirrel on a tree trunk

Their role in Sefton should not be taken for granted and special care is taken to sustain their numbers.

An important part of this is observing and recording both red and grey squirrel numbers. Lancashire Wildlife Trust is hosting a squirrel monitoring workshop at Coronation Park in Crosby, January 19, 10.30am – 12.30pm for those who want to volunteer for this important role.

If this sounds like it could be right up your tree, visit the Lancashire Wildlife Trust Facebook page

(Source: Sefton Borough Council)