Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Weoley Castle

Weoley Castle is an area of South Birmingham which has the remains of an old fortified manor house. Not much remains of the house, but the bases of the stone walls can be seen. There’s more to see here than at Hawkesley House!

Weoley Castle is not a castle as such; it was a manor house that had curtain walls and a moat and it was inhabited since the 12th century. You can read more about the history here or there is a very comprehensive history here.

Covert shot taken through the railings ;-)

Unfortunately, Weoley Castle ruins are closed off to the public except on open days and guided walks. There is a ‘Talk and Walk’ Day on September 7th that I’ll be going to!  The walls can be seen from a viewing platform (and some can be seen from the track that goes along the back of the site, as I discovered by accident!) Weoley Castle is operated by the Birmingham Museums Trust.

A few more pics, from around t'interwebs:



Weoley Castle can be found on Alwold Road, B29. The 29 bus goes past the site, from Northfield high street, or the City Centre (by St Phillips Cathedral/Pigeon Park). Maybe I'll see some of you at the Talk and Walk day on September 7th?

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Bourn Brook Walkway

The other day I ventured down a path I’ve never been before – the Bourn Brook Walkway. I suppose I never knew it existed, I’m never usually in this part of Birmingham but I had seen it (the old faithful) Google Earth, and I decided to go for a mooch one day and see where I ended up. So, with my shiny new phone and its shiny new camera, I set off for a walk! The walkway also leads you towards Woodgate Valley Country Park.

The Bourn Brook walkway is approximately 1.5 miles long; I started it at the roundabout for the new Selly Oak bypass (near the QE Hospital) and then walked West towards the Weoley Castle area. I forgot to time how long it took me but I was ambling along quite slowly as it was a hot and sunny day! Apparently it is part of a larger walking route that takes in Harborne and some parkland as well.

The Bourn Brook is a small stream that flows into the River Rea in Cannon Hill Park via Selly Oak (it flows past the new Selly Oak bypass and the University). People often get it confused with the Bourn, which flows through Stirchley and the Nature Centre, before joining the Rea! Bournbrook is also the name of an area of Birmingham, primarily student-ville to the south of the University, and it’s roots may be traced back to the 19th century and growth around this part of the watercourse.

For a lot of the route, you can’t actually see the water, as it is obscured by vegetation, which is a shame! There are also no benches along this route and it is not tarmacked so be prepared! 

And now for pictures! (Lots and lots of..)

The view at the start of the route. The QE Hospital is up the hill behind me, and the Selly Oak bypass is off to the left.

Granite boulder avec caption. Geeked out a bit, but I am a geologist so it's allowed...

The end of the first part of the walk, on Harborne Park Road. The route continues over the road by the garage... this small sign!

This is where I left the route, at Stonehouse Hill/California Way.

All in all, it was a pleasant walk in the afternoon and I enjoyed it, but I'd like to see more information boards along the way, highlighting the Bourn Brook and the local history and wildlife etc. and I'm aware that a lot of the pictures are very samey-samey as the views weren't very different along the route!

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Ode to a Secret River

As many of you will know, Birmingham is home to the wonderful River Rea and its tributaries and wildlife. Not so many people know that it has a poem! This ode was written in 1998 by Harry Reeves, and I believe you can buy hard copies of it at the Lickey Hills Visitor Centre. Parts of this ode are featured on the notice boards along the river.

I've lifted this straight from the River Rea Trail website but I fully recommend you go and have a nosey through it all, lots of information relating to the Rea!

Ode to a Secret River

On Waseley Hills in Worcestershire a little river rises, 
It isn’t much to look at, but it’s so full of surprises, 
To many folk it’s not well known, which seems to be a pity 
For on its banks near Deritend began our Second City. 

The river is of course THE REA which flows into Brum’s heart 
Since Saxon times to present day its played a vital part. 

From Waseley Hills it flows north-east and heads for Gannow Green 
Then Frankley, Rubery, Colmers Farm where Callow Brook is seen, 
On, underneath the Rover Works the Rea makes steady flow, 
To local folk ‘The Austin’ works is still the name they know. 

From Longbridge through to Daffodil Park and then past Kalamazoo, 
The Impey family founded it with loose-leaf binders new. 
Through Mill Lane Fields the Rea flows on, once corn mills graced each end,
‘twas ‘Hawkesley Mill’ near Kalamazoo and ‘Northfield’ by the bend. 

Now underneath the railway line as Northfield comes in sight, 
And by the side of Station Road, Rea flows on day and night. 
Soon on to Wychall reservoir past rolling mill long gone, 
But then Kings Norton Church appears with spire to gaze upon. 

So on to Lifford we must go, cross Worcester Canal with river below, 
Then Tollhouse Junction and Guillotine Lock, 
on Lifford Hall should we dare to knock? 

Another reservoir appears and Lifford is its name; 
‘twas built two hundred years ago and Wychall was the same, 
Canals were being opened up with navvies toil and sweat 
More water still was needed now to keep the levels set. 

Canals did take their water from the nearby River Rea, 
but millers were not happy and protested all the way! 
In the year of seventeen ninety our Parliament passed an Act 
To store supplies of water, which everybody backed 
Those reservoirs provided that water night and day, 
Canalmen now felt happy, as did millers on the Rea! 

To Fordhouse Lane and Hazelwell where corn mill once stood proud 
And on the bank a millstone lies, mid bushes on the ground, 
The walkway and the cycletrack now pass on either side - 
It’s good for people to enjoy a walk or family ride. 

The Pershore Road’s not very far with traffic night and day, 
But as you walk the valley’s banks it’s quiet by the Rea.         

At Cartland Road the Rea is joined by a stream that’s called ‘The Bourn’ 
It started life as Merritt’s Brook, then Griffin’s Brook was born, 
But as it flowed through Cadbury’s works did George call it the Bourne? 

Through Stirchley now to Selly Park where Moor Green Woods are seen 
With joggers and ‘doggers’ and mothers with prams, enjoying the peaceful scene, 
Here kingfisher and heron live and little fishes too 
Just looking for their daily food, as many creatures do. 
With Queen Anne’s lace and Campion the hedges all abound 
And on a wet and marshy site the kingcup can be found, 
Whilst Himalayan Balsam, is this the Ranger’s friend? 
Just springs up as you walk the banks, on going round a bend. 

What is that in the distance?, that building I can see 
Ah, now I know, It’s Pebble Mill and the well known BBC, 
I wonder if Carl Chinn is there, still getting little rest. 
But telling all the world around that Brum is still the best! 

The Nature Centre’s our next stop, as we go on our way 
And here another little stream runs down to join the Rea. 
This is Bournbrook and not the Bourne. To some it seems confusing 
But as it flows past Pebble Mill the brook finds this amusing. 

Inside the Nature Centre, it’s fun for many a child, 
The animals can’t stray away, but do still roam quite wild. 
There are fox and lynx and beaver, with sheep and goats and deer, 
While birds, and snakes, and insects are studied without fear. 

In nineteen hundred and twenty seven a thunderstorm did break, 
It was a summer’s evening , the ground looked like a lake, 
The Rea was flooded all the way from Longbridge into town 
And streets turned into rivers, as the rain came pouring down. 

In Austin works and Kalamazoo the floods did leave their mark 
And bread and milk were brought by boat to folk in Selly Park, 
Allotments in the valley had sties where pigs were kept 
But when the river burst its banks the pigs down stream were swept. 
Near Bristol Road at Longbridge, a man in a hut was found, 
The hut was wedged beneath a bridge, but he was safe and sound!

The Cricket ground was flooded with water from the Rea, 
And pictures in the local press showed bike sheds washed away! 
But now there is a cover, ‘Brumbrella’ is its name, 
It takes the water from the pitch - down in the Rea to drain! 

Deep into a culvert the Rea had to go 
Because of that flooding so long ago, 
Between its stone walls into Cannon Hill Park 
With weirs to flow over to make it less stark. 
But the walls are not barren to those who are keen 
For if you look closer moss and lichen are seen. 

Louisa Ryland gave the park in Eighteen Seventy Three, 
Its brought much joy to many folk, and most of the time it’s free. 
The flowers and trees are beautiful, at all times of the year, 
But if you walk back through the park, wild meadows soon appear. 

The MAC is busy everyday, with Drama, Theatre, Art 
While August brings a fireworks show and music plays a part. 
There are horse parades and puppet shows, boating and fishing too, 
Whenever you go to Cannon Hill, there’s something to see and do. 

Now it’s under the road into Warwickshire’s ground 
For Edgbaston cricket the crowds are all bound, 
There’s a stand by the river, ‘Rea Bank’ WAS its name 
But it’s now Eric Hollies, of late bowling fame. 

Inside its concrete collar the river still flows on 
Through Calthorpe Park to Balsall Heath, 
Where have the ‘ladies’ gone? 
And then we come to Belgrave Road, to the ‘Bristol’ folk can’t go, 
But up the hill the Mosque is seen whilst the Rea is down below. 

So now it’s under Gooch Street that the Rea is flowing on, 
And then on into Rea street with memories long gone. 
For there you’ll find the places where many a workshop stood 
And men did toil with sweated brow - conditions were not good. 
It was the birth of industry when metal trades held sway, 
And if you walk along those streets, you’ll find some there today. 

At High Street Digbeth, long ago, men met to trade and barter, 
And in eleven sixty-six, King Henry’s Market Charter. 

In April sixteen forty-three the Battle of Brum was fought, 
Prince Rupert came down from Camp Hill and caught defenders short. 
He came to punish Birmingham, whose mills were making swords, 
And crossed the Rea at Deritend with all his fighting hordes, 
They overcame defenders there and put them all to flight 
Then up the hill his forces went to set the town alight! 

“Grey willows whispered by the Rea 
where lovers dreamt and children played in clean fields on a summer’s day”. 

‘Twas over the Rea in Floodgate Street where that place was described 
And here we think Beorma’s folk, a pleasant spot espied, 
They settled near the river’s brink with fields and woods nearby, 
Was water from the Rea itself then pure enough to try? 

To people passing up above the Rea cannot be seen, 
It is a secret river , and we try to keep it clean 
But if the Digbeth plans take shape and start to make their way, 
We hope the next millennium will, revitalise the Rea. 

Road bridges could be opened up to let the people see, 
There is a river down below that’s flowing to the sea. 
Now what about a walkway with flowers and plants and trees? 
And wayside pubs and cafes, where folk could take their ease. 

Bird’s Custard Factory still stands there, its front well worth a glance 
But at the back it’s full of life, with art and craft and dance. 
The old Crown Inn’s just up the road now looking very well, 
If its past history was revealed what stories it could tell. 

So on we go to Fazeley Street, ‘Grand Unions’ overhead 
You can walk the ‘cut’ to London Town, or take a barge instead! 

Now the Rea is hidden, in a culvert dark and deep, 
But ‘neath the rails of Curzon Street, the river does not sleep. 
It flows on to the Heartlands where life begins anew 
Canal banks are now lively, with buildings bright and new. 
Perhaps I’m only dreaming with hope still in my heart 
But could the Rea itself be raised, to play a vital part? 

Spaghetti now looms nearer, it’s just by Nechells bend 
The river is still flowing on, but near to journey’s end. 
At last the River Tame is reached , which takes us to the Trent, 
Due North it flows to Humberside, its waters nearly spent, 
And now it turns towards the East, it’s plain for all to see - 
The Rea’s arrived at journey’s end, out in the Great North Sea. 

From humble start in Waseley Hills, the Rea has reached the sea, 
But on its way as you have heard, its shaped Brum’s history! 

We formed a conservation group, to make all folk aware 
The City has a river and it’s there for ALL to share. 
It has a pleasant valley too with walks and cycle tracks; 
We’ve planted trees and bushes there, and filled up litter sacks. 

We try to make it greener, and help to keep it clean 
But cans and cars and trolleys are dumped upon the scene, 
There is a linear walkway, and cycling’s made its mark - 
One day, we hope, it will become, Rea Valley Country Park!

Harry Reeves 1998

Thursday, 18 July 2013


I read this little ditty on 101brum and, given the tone of the rest of the posts, I’m not sure if I should take this with a pinch of salt, but a quick scout around Ye Olde Interwebs tells me it could well be true.. Apparently the board game Cluedo was invented in Brum!

A man named Anthony invented a game called Murder! back in 1944 as a way to while away the evenings during the war. In 1945 a company called Waddingtons took it on and changed the name to Cluedo, and voila! A board game was born.

The floor plan of the board game is said to be based on Highbury Hall, and later this year a blue plaque will be unveiled to honour Anthony.


Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Lapworth Museum of Geology

The Lapworth Museum of Geology is located in the Aston Webb building at the University of Birmingham, where it forms a key part of the Earth Sciences department. The Lapworth dates back to 1880 and retains the original, Edwardian display cases, although it has recently won funding from the Lottery Heritage Fund for redevelopment.

The Lapworth Museum is named after Charles Lapworth, who was a geologist who worked in furthering the understanding of how mountains are made. He was the first Professor of Geology at Mason College, which became the University of Birmingham in 1898.

Charles Lapworth - Source
Much of the items on display at the museum are fossils, including shells, trilobites, crinoids and ammonites. There are samples of the Solnhofen Limestone as well as mineral samples from the surrounding area, especially the coal mining history of the Black Country.

Entry to the museum is free and it is fully wheelchair accessible. 

You can read more about the Natural Science collections ofthe West Midlands here.

The Lapworth Museum has a Twitter feed!



The Lapworth Museum can be found in the Aston Webb building at the University of Birmingham (A Block).  The University can be reached by train on the cross-city line; head for University station. If you've never been to campus before, aim for the clock tower - Old Joe is in the courtyard in front of the Aston Webb building (it is the curved redbrick building - also worthy of a blog post due to the detail and sculptures above the main doors!)

The University can also be reached by bus - the 61 and 63 stop on the Bristol Road. The 98 and 99 stop by the Medical School, near the railway station. You can also drive, though parking on campus is limited, especially during term time. There are disabled bays near the museum entrance. 

The University website has a collection of maps and PDFs available - see here for more.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Bournville Carillon

The Carillon at Bournville is a tower at the school opposite the green, and it has a clock face on it. Some days, especially in the summer, a sweet sound of bells can be heard over the air - this is the carillon playing!

A carillon is an instrument composed of bells that are played in a series to produce a melody. It was erected in 1906 and has 48 bells.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Cotteridge Park

Cotteridge Park is a place I’ve known about but only fully explored sometime this year. I was never sure of how to get there, which road I should go down, if it really was the park I could see from the train? Turns out it is the park I see from the train, it’s really easy to get to and I could quite happily wonder around it for a while.

Dear old Wiki tells me that the park is 22 acres in size and is one of the Victorian parks of the city. Didn’t know that. It also has a boulodrome and last year was awarded a Green Flag award!

I quite like this park because there are lots of boulders. I like boulders. I had to ask a couple of people if they would move so I could get a photo of the boulders. These boulders (this word looks silly now) are thought to be more glacial erratics! Lots of these scattered around the place. If all of the Cotteridge Park rocks are glacial erratics, that gives a total of 10 found so far, since I started the blog.

Every year there is a small free festival in Cotteridge Park, called CoCoMad. I went last year (it was very muddy) and it was BRILLIANT. A good day out despite the rain! There are stalls selling crafts and merch and food, a main stage and an acoustic tent area, a shopping trolley pageant and all sorts of other fun stuff.

Cotteridge has Anglo-Saxon roots and the name is first recorded in the early 1300s. There is quite an in-depth history written here which is worth a read if you want to know more!

Cotteridge Park is also on Twitter!

You can read more about it here and here.

More pics:

A pretty awesome willow tunnel!