Lickey Hills Country Park
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|Lickey Hills Country Park|
Lickey Hills Country Park, from Bilberry Hill over Rosehill Road and the Birmingham Municipal Golf Course towards Beacon Hill. Bilberry bushes in the foreground.
|Area||524 acres (212 ha)|
|Operated by||Birmingham City Council|
|Public transit access||Barnt Green railway station|
Lickey Hills Country Park is a country park in England. It is 10.3 miles (16.5 kilometres) south west of Birmingham and 24 miles (38.5 kilometres) north east of Worcester. The 524 acres (212 ha) park is situated just south of Rednal and close to Barnt Green. It is half a mile east of Cofton Hackett. It is one of the oldest parks managed by Birmingham City Council.
The park exists in its current form only through the activities and generosity of the early 20th-century philanthropic Birmingham Society for the Preservation of Open Spaces who purchased Rednal Hill and later arranged for Pinfield Wood and Bilberry Hill to be permanently leased on a nominal peppercorn rent. The society included such prominent and public spirited luminaries as T Grosvenor Lee, Ivor Windsor-Clive, 2nd Earl of Plymouth and several elders of the Cadbury family led by George Cadbury and his wife Dame Elizabeth Cadbury. The society gave the original park to the people of Birmingham in 1888, with further tracts being added progressively until 1933. The park has thus been preserved as a free-entry public open space.
The Lickey Hills immediately became popular as a recreation area and attendance numbers exploded between 1924 and 1953 while the tram service connected with the terminus at Rednal. As early as 1919 as many as 20,000 visitors were recorded on a single August Bank Holiday Monday. The current Country Park status was established with the support of the Countryside Commission in 1971 and today the park still hosts over 500,000 visitors a year. It is considered to be one of the most picturesque public spaces of its type in the West Midlands and is Green Flag recognised.
The first evidence of people settling in the Lickey Hills date back to the stone age when a Neolithic hunter lost a flint arrow head on Rednal Hill. The arrow head is leaf-shaped and made of flint and is certainly over 4,000 years old. Additionally a 3,000 year old flint javelin point was found lying on the surface by an observant Mr W H Laurie when the Lickey's road-widening was taking place in 1925. A flint scraping tool was found in the area near the Earl of Plymouth monument. The artifacts are on display at the Birmingham Museum.
The Romans constructed a Roman road over the Lickeys very near to the present Rose Hill gap, before it swung north and followed the route of the present day Bristol Road South. The road would have been used to transport salt and other goods between the Roman encampments at Worcester and Metchley, near where Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital now stands. It would have also been used as a military marching route by Roman soldiers. In 1963 a Roman coin was found near Rednal Hill School by a Janet and Stephen Harris. The coin was a dupondius struck during the reign of the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius who ruled Rome and Britain from 138 to 161 AD. The tiny coin was struck from brass and would have been worth about the price of a loaf of bread.
In Norman times the Lickeys formed part of the royal manor of Bromsgrove and were set aside as a royal hunting forest. As well as stocking the area with deer, the Normans deliberately introduced rabbits to the area that were kept in large enclosures, or 'warrens' hence the road and place names. The word 'forest' means 'place of deer' and did not necessarily mean that the area was totally covered with trees.
The manor was sold by crown charter in 1682 to the Earl of Plymouth. The Earl lived at nearby Tardebigge and his descendants would own the lands at Longbridge, Rednal, Cofton Hackett and the Lickey Hills for the next 250 years.
In 1888 the Birmingham Society for the Preservation of Open Spaces purchased Rednal Hill and handed it to the City in trust. They also arranged for Pinfield Wood and Bilberry Hill to be leased on a peppercorn (nominal) rent. Birmingham City Council finally purchased Cofton Hill, Lickey Warren and Pinfield Wood outright in 1920. With the eventual purchase of the Rose Hill Estate from the Cadbury family in 1923, free public access was finally restored to the entire hills.
In 1904 Mr and Mrs Barrow Cadbury gave the Lickey Tea Rooms building at the bottom of Rose Hill to the people of Birmingham, as a place of rest and refreshment and it remained open until the late 1960s. The building still stands but is in use as the Bilberry Hill Centre, a hostel and sports facility run by Birmingham Clubs for Young People nestling at the base of Bilberry Hill. The hostel can accommodate up to 65 persons.
For many Birmingham and Black Country people, the Lickey Hills were a traditional day out. When the Birmingham tram network was extended to the Rednal terminus it would carry the crowds from all over the city to the Lickeys. There are records of crowds as far back as the Rose and Crown on busy Sundays, as families queued for the trams to take them home. The terminus and tram tracks were removed in 1953.
Geography and amenities
The Lickey Hills area is of significant geological interest due to the range and age of the rocks. The stratigraphic sequence, which is the basis for the area's diversity of landscape and habitat, comprises:
- Barnt Green rocks - Precambrian tuffs and volcanic grits
- Lickey Quartzite - a Cambrian quartzite
- Keele Clay - a Carboniferous clay
- Clent Breccia - a Permian breccia
- Bunter Pebble Beds - beds of Triassic water-worn pebbles
The park's total area is 524 acres (2.12 km2) and includes an 18-hole golf course that was the first such municipal facility in the country. The park is situated in the Lickey Hills range, which is part of the Clent and Lickey ridge. The hills, which separate the Longbridge and Cofton Hackett end of Birmingham from Barnt Green and Lickey in rural Worcestershire, are eleven miles south of central Birmingham.
Included within the park boundary is the eighteen hole non-membership municipal Golf course, a bowling green, tennis and putting green as well as a purpose built wheelchair pathway and viewing platform allowing easy access to panoramic views over the surrounding countryside.
The visitor centre, opened on Easter Sunday 1990 and contains an exhibition, leaflets and information on nature trails, guided walks as well as other activities organised by the Ranger Service. It also has a small but well stocked cafe as well as a gift shop and toilets.
There are three car parks, one by the visitor centre, one by the club house of the golf club and one on the top of Beacon Hill. Also by the visitor centre are a children's play area and paths for disabled visitors, although due to the steep topography within the park these paths are limited. Between the Bilberry, Beacon and Rednal Hills stands The Rose & Crown hotel and public house which serves meals daily including Sunday lunches.
The Green Flag Award is a national scheme which started back in 1996 as a means of recognising and rewarding the best green spaces in the country. They look for a certain standard of quality management within the park, cleanliness, use by the community and so on. There are a total of 27 criteria to pass in order to win the award.
Flora and fauna
There are several deer species and Eurasian badgers living in the park, together with a wide range of water fowl on the lake including Canada geese, mallards, coot, moorhen and swans. In spring, there are notable displays of bluebells.
The forests mainly consist of mature spruce and pine trees although there is also a wide ranging mosaic of deciduous trees on the lower slopes. Bilberry Hill is named after the extensive bilberry bushes that bear fruit in the early to mid autumn and are popular with walkers for the free harvest that is later transformed into jams or bilberry and apple pies.
There are over 380 different types of flowering plants within the park, including 17 types of ferns and 30 types of mosses. There are a range of woodland species including insects such as beetles, centipedes and slugs. Together with flies, bees and butterflies, they provide the staple diet for the larger wildlife within the hills.”
Ninety types of birds have also been recorded within the park. These include the European robin, common chaffinch, blue tit, great tit and common wood pigeon, with willow warblers and tree pipits visiting during the summer and fieldfare and redwing during the winter. Nuthatches are frequently seen on the bird feeders outside the small cafe near the lake.
The damp woodland ground is also home to a variety of reptiles, which include grass snakes, adders and the common lizard. The most evident wildlife are the large numbers of grey squirrels throughout the woods and rabbits over the hills, especially during summer evenings. The area is very popular with walkers, families, birdwatchers, other nature lovers and the general public.
There is an uphill walk of about 1 mile to the Visitors Centre from both bus terminal and train station.
The 98 Travel West Midlands Bus service from Birmingham City Center to Rubery Great Park, Rednal.
The rail destination is Barnt Green railway station.
Obelisk and toposcope
On the road from Lickey to Lickey Beacon there is an obelisk folly commemorating Other Archer Windsor, 6th Earl of Plymouth, who created the Worcestershire Yeomanry volunteer regiment of cavalry, which fought in the Napoleonic Wars. The obelisk, which is well hidden from the road, is inscribed with the words "To commend to imitation the exemplary private virtues of Other Archer 6th Earl of Plymouth."
Just a kilometre north of the monument, on top of Beacon Hill, is the toposcope made in the early twentieth century by the Cadbury family, standing next to the Ordnance Survey triangulation point. A small castelated structure was built to rehouse the toposcope in 1988 to celebrate the centenary of the park. It is 297 metres above sea level and provides the best views, of the city and surrounding counties, that the park provides.
In 1904, J. R. R. Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, moved to Rednal with his mother, who had been ill and was convalescing. The hills became a favourite haunt and are thought to be an inspiration for the mythical Shire, where the hobbits lived in his books.
John Henry, Cardinal Newman lived and was buried in the area.
The author Jonathan Coe was born in Lickey in 1961.
- Margaret Mabey, A Little History of the Lickey Hills, The Lickey Hills Society, 1993, ISBN 0-9519839-1-1