Wildlife on your doorstep - The Rea Valley is blessed, and so are those walking it.

You don't have to travel great distances to appreciate wildlife, and if you're lucky enough to be in a striking line of a river or other water body then you are truly blessed.

Birmingham might not be known for its great water courses but it can boast a fine network of canals and dynamic, vibrant rivers, brooks, streams, rills and runnels, together with reservoirs, lakes, ponds and pools, not to mention wet grasslands and woodlands alongside.

Andy Slater pays regular tribute throughout the year to the green spaces and wildlife of the Rea Valley and beyond; from the tiniest beasts to the changes in time and space he catalogues, journals and photographs with a naturalists eye. - check out his Twitter page for splendid images-

A first lesson for aspiring naturalists is to get to know the species in nearby gardens and parks before stepping into the wilds, and if the imagination is given free reign and/or rein then the wilds are on the doorstep too. …

A Good Yew News Story - UPDATE

Following the alarming cut back of an ancient Yew tree in March 2015, I'm please to report that two years of healthy looking regrowth to this ancient specimen, reported by specialists to be around 850 years old, provides great hope and blessed relief that the tree has not only survived the ordeal but should continue to thrive and live on for many more centuries.

Nature Improvement proposals and CONSULTATION for the Rea Valley

What are Nature Improvement Areas? The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country say-
NIAs are designed to revitalise urban and rural areas by creating bigger, inter-connected networks of wildlife habitats to re-establish wildlife populations and help achieve nature’s recovery. NIAs will improve the health of the natural environment to support food production, reduce flood risk and increase access to nature. NIAs encompass areas of land that include natural features and wildlife habitats but also include roads, housing developments and other man-made elements. They are areas that have been identified for their opportunities to restore nature at a landscape-scale alongside other land-uses. NIAs should enhance existing ecological networks by:
• Improving the management of existing wildlife sites
• Increasing the size of existing wildlife sites
• Increasing the number of wildlife sites
• Improving connectivity between sites
• Creating wildlife corridors

Follow this link for more inform…

Beyond The Rea and off to historic Hill Top Nature Reserve in Sandwell Valley Country Park

Hill Top, at the western edge of Birmingham, bordering the Sandwell Valley Country Park.
An intriguing and ancient broad green lane runs SE to NW, passing the old farmsteads of 'Hill Top' and 'The Uplands'.
The track is hollowed, hence holloway
Hill Top today (top) 1890 (below)
The holloway looks like an ancient green road running south-east to north-west, and many of the field lines either side are the same today as in 1890. The old farmsteads of 'The Uplands' and 'Hill Top' can be located, with clusters of trees emanating from the hedge line

From the 1890's map below it looks as if The Uplands is a landscaped estate with an avenue of trees laid out to the north of the house. A much larger building than nearby Hill Top Farm and complete with stables and other out buildings.
Hill top Farm from the 1950's

A wonderful and essentially green expanse of unwritten and untold history, crossed and crossed again, north south east west and grazed for centuries.


Mapping the Oaks III - Tree reasons why ancient oaks survived the felling of ancient forests in Britain


Mapping the Oaks II

Interpretation:I recently picked up the notion from a colleague that if hazel was the tree of the 'common people', oak could be thought of as a tree of the land owning upper class; I think she said the "filthy rich", but land ownership seems to be the key precis here; I'd not thought of trees in class related terms before, but a most valid point to consider. In times when timber was at the heart of all life in Britain every twig of a tree would have served purpose; although 'small wood' from managed coppice woodland was possibly of equal or greater value than large timber trees. 

I've heard of a character, once operating in Uffmoor Wood, Halesowen, named 'Line prop Joe', who made line props and sold them to the people of Halesowen and Cradley in the 1940's and 50's. The wood was closed to the public recently by its current owner the Woodland Trust because of anti social behaviour, involving sex, dogs and drugs, it's almost rock '…

Mapping the Oaks I

Birmingham is regarded as a surprisingly green city, so much so that it boasts the title as Britain's only Biophillic city.
This Guardian article explains why -

The City and its suburbs, especially to the south and west, seems to emerge from the canopy, or maybe, yet somewhat romantically, sinking into the inevitable reclaiming of nature. For sure the trees are often spoken of in terms of nuisance and liability, but also protected vigourously and energetically, with thousands planted every year by organisations such as Trees For Cities, Trees For Life, Forest Schools Birmingham and virtually all the Parks' Friends groups.

A city of trees
Many street trees were planted in the 19th and early 20th Century and as such are nearing the end of their unnatural lives. Limes, Planes and Poplars were planted along major routes in a bid to absorb the rising city pollutants. Many hav…