Author Archives: charris

Lea Ford Cottage

Lea Ford Cottage in its original locationLea Ford Cottage is a rare example of a 17th century farm worker’s cottage, largely unchanged in over 300 years.

The cottage originally stood on an isolated patch of farmland between the Birmingham-Derby railway line and the River Tame, near Lea Marston village.

In 1975 the building was dismantled and moved into the grounds of the Hams Hall Environmental Studies Centre. Here it was reconstructed and renovated by conservation experts from Avoncroft Museum of Buildings.

Downstairs the cottage has a main room, where the occupants would live, cook and eat meals, and an inner room which would have been used for storage. Upstairs were two bedrooms.

Maggot’s Croft

The exact age of the cottage is unknown. The first documented mention of the building is in 1675, when the house, together with a barn and garden, was sold to Sir Charles Adderley, the owner of Hams Hall, for £20. The cottage was then known as Maggot’s Croft and the residents were Timothy and Elizabeth Holden.

The Holdens lived at the cottage for the next 43 years until Elizabeth died in 1718. Little is known of the occupants for the next 100 years, but they were probably agricultural workers employed by the Hams Hall Estate or local farmers.

In the early 1800s the cottage was rented by Charles and Mary Bassett for the princely sum of £2. Their younger son Charles inherited the tenancy and lived there with his wife, Jane. Following Charle’s death in 1857, Jane lived on at the cottage, eventually marrying William Parker in 1874. During these years the cottage was variously known as Godwin’s Croft, Church Pit Cottage and Fisherman’s Cottage.

The cottage was occupied until 1938 when the last tenants, Mr Stanley Finney and his family, moved to a larger property in Lea Marston village.

The cottage then lay empty for the next 36 years, slowly crumbling but protected from vandals by it’s isolated position, until it’s historical value was recognised by Birmingham Architectural Association in 1974.

Working with experts from Avoncroft Museum, and with funding from the Central Electricity Generating Board and Birmingham City Council, the building was carefully dismantled, restored, and rebuilt in the grounds of nearby Hams Hall Environmental Education Centre in 1975.

The building was restored using traditional techniques and materials. The tile roof was replaced with thatch and the brick infill (which can be seen in the picture above) was replaced with woven hazel ‘wattles’ and ‘daub’, made from clay, straw and cow dung.

The cottage has been restored close to it’s original state and would be instantly recognised by it’s original tenants, Timothy and Elizabeth Holden.

Kingsbury Circular

An easy circular walk through Kingsbury Water Park along park trails, public footpaths, canal towpath and quiet lanes.

Distance: 8km (5 miles)

Time: Allow 2 hours

Ascent: 15m

Landscape and path type: Surfaced paths, towpaths, footpath and lanes in country park, canal, and open country. There is one kissing gate and one short set of steps along this route.

Map: OS Explorer 232 Nuneaton & Tamworth

Dogs: Permitted, under control at all times.

Download the walk leaflet (5.1MB PDF)

Curdworth Circular

An easy circular walk from Curdworth Village to Over Green and Wishaw along public footpaths and canal towpath.

Distance: 9km (5.5 miles)

Time: Allow 2 hours

Ascent: 38m

Landscape and path type: Public footpaths. Open countryside, towpath and village. There are three pedestrian kissing gates and no stiles with rough ground when not on roads.

Map: OS 220 Birmingham, Walsall, Solihull & Redditch.

Dogs: Permitted, under control at all times.

Download the walk leaflet (2.1MB PDF)

 

Lea Marston Lakes

Lea Marston is a series of three purification lakes created by the Environment Agency (EA) from former gravel extraction pits. They were opened in 1980 and helped remove pollutants from the River Tame.

As the River Tame flows in to and through the wide, shallow lakes, the water flow slows, allowing pollutants to settle. These could then be removed by dredging. At it’s height, the dredging was a constant operation, removing around 15,000 tonnes of contaminated sludge per year. Following creation of the lakes, the water quality of the River Tame downstream began to improve rapidly.

Improvements in water treatment at Minworth Sewage Works, and the widespread decline in heavy industry in Birmingham, mean the lakes are no longer required for water purification. The EA is currently considering their longterm future, for people and wildlife.

There is a similar lake purification system on the River Rhur in Germany.

The lakes are of regional significance for winter wildfowl populations. There is a bird hide and walks around the lakes.

Look out for…

Access

The car park entrance is on Coton Road.

Contact

For more information about the EA visit www.environment-agency.gov.uk.

Where is it?

Shustoke Reservoir

Shustoke Reservoir was built in the 1880s to supply clean drinking water to Birmingham’s rapidly expanding population.

In 1870, the Birmingham Water Works Company applied to Parliament for permission to extract water from the Bourne and Blythe rivers and to create a new reservoir at Whitacre Lodge, near Coleshill.

The land was purchased from Lord Norton, owner of the Hams Hall estate, and work began to excavate the 100 acre reservoir. A pumping station, filter beds and another small reservoir were also built at nearby Whitacre.

The construction of the reservoir took over 10 years to complete and it finally opened in 1874. The total capacity of the reservoir is around 460,000,000 litres and it supplied 28 million litres of water per day to Birmingham.

By the early 20th century, the supply from Shustoke had become inadequate for Birmingham’s ever-growing population. With the completion of the Elan Valley dams in 1904, the reservoir became a backup, and in 1908 Shustoke’s supply was switched to Coventry. Today, Shustoke supplies Coventry, Nuneaton, Bedworth and Atherstone.

The following photographs were kindly provided by Dianne Hazel and show steam-powered dredgers clearing silt at Shustoke Reservoir, circa 1920 :

Access

There are a variety of walks including a circular walk around the Lower reservoir, which links to The Heart of England Way and Centenary Way footpaths. The Upper reservoir is not open to the public

There are opportunities for bird watching, fishing and sailing, and in the spring the reservoir banks are covered by wildflowers.

The main car park can be accessed from the B4114, Coleshill – Nuneaton Road.

Contact

For more information visit www.stwater.co.uk.

Where is it?

WWII Bunkers

Take a stroll along the western bank of the River Tame at Tamworth and you might make a surprising discovery.

Hunkered down in the grass by the edge of the riverbank, in the shadow of Tamworth Castle, is a squat, hexagonal, concrete bunker. This pillbox dates from the early 1940’s, one of around 28,000 similar defensive structures built at strategic locations across the country to slow down a potential German invasion force during World War II.

Follow the river and canal network and you will encounter several more of these fortifications, stark reminders of a dark time in our history.

Read more about anti-invasion preparations during WW2 at Wikipedia.

Watch ‘War on the waterways’ video by Canal & River Trust.

Where is it?

Whitacre Heath SSSI

Tame Valley Wetlands | Warwickshire Wildlife Trust | Heritage Lottery Fund

Whitacre Heath nature reserve is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The 44 hectare site features pools, woodland and wet grassland and is formed from old sand and gravel workings.

The reserve is important for breeding water birds. The pools support species including little grebe, tufted duck, water rail and teal. Waders such as lapwing, redshank, curlew and snipe are also regular visitors to the large areas of wet grassland.

Other frequently seen birds include great spotted and green woodpeckers and numerous species of warblers, finches, tits and thrushes.

Dominated by alder and willow, the wet woodland areas are important for fungi, mosses and liverworts which thrive in damp, shaded conditions. Deadwood provides a home to a number of important beetle species.

Frogs and toads thrive in the moist habitats and pools on the reserve. Grass snakes can be seen in March and April basking in the spring sunshine.

A walk along one of our self-guided trails may reveal some interesting plants including southern marsh orchid and the rare blue fleabane, which is only found at a handful of locations in Warwickshire.

Keep an eye open for the rare white-letter hairstreak butterfly and watch for emperor dragonflies and broad-bodied chasers in mid-summer flying over the open pools.

Look out for…

Access:

Open to members of the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust only.

There is good car parking facilities on the Birmingham Road, 0.5km south-east of Lea Marston.

The reserve has fairly flat informal paths (after an initial steep slope up from the car park) with a way-marked route to 5 bird hides. Paths are prone to flooding and are muddy in winter.

Contact:

For more information visit www.wkwt.org.uk.

Where is it?

RSPB Middleton Lakes

Just south of Tamworth lies Middleton Lakes, one of the RSPB’s largest nature reserves.

This 160ha reserve was a gravel quarry until 2007, since when it has been transformed into a haven for wildlife and people.

Situated adjacent to Middleton Hall (owned by Middleton Hall Trust with a craft centre and tea room) and between the River Tame and the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, the site contains lakes, pools, reedbeds, meadows and woodland and is a haven for wading and woodland birds, otters, dragonflies and butterflies.

There are footpaths, viewpoints and an events programme. The reserve is open every day from dawn to dusk.

Look out for…

Access:

Open to members of the public (£3 charge for non members).

There is a good network of surfaced and unsurfaced paths, benches and bird hides.

To find out more about access and opening times, as well as the events programme and volunteering, visit the RSPB website.

Contact:

For more information visit the Middleton Lakes pages at www.rspb.org.uk/reserves

Where is it?

Tameside Local Nature Reserve

Tameside was historically pasture land and is now a valuable site for wildlife and people.

The reserve was created following the building of the A5 bypass, when material was extracted from the site for the construction of road embankments.

Tameside covers 18 hectares, with a 3.2 hectare lake as the most prominent feature. The lake has four small islands, and is a great place to spot little egrets, herons and lapwings. The River Tame passes through the reserve and a small link to the lake enables fish to take refuge from the fast water and spawn. Kingfishers are regularly seen feeding along the river bank and barn owls may be observed hunting for small mammals over the rough grassland.

The reserve is a mix of grassland, scrub, ponds, and scrapes, and new areas of woodland have been planted across the site. All of this encourages many different species, from foxes and other small mammals, to an abundance of birds, insects and plants. Look out for dragonflies, marsh frogs and grass snakes.

There are a number of trails around the site that link to the River Walk into Tamworth and up on to the towpath of the Birmingham and Fazeley canal, which crosses the river on an aqueduct at the southern end of the reserve.

The LNR is managed by Tameside Wildlife Conservation Group through the ‘Wild about Tamworth’ project, a joint initiative between Staffordshire Wildlife Trust and Tamworth Borough Council.

Look out for…

Access:

From Fazeley Road – no on-site parking available.

Contact:

For more information about Tameside and the Tameside Wildlife Conservation Group go to tamesidelnr.wordpress.com

For more information visit the Wild About Tamworth website at: www.tamworth.gov.uk.

Where is it?

Broad Meadow

The 61-acre Broad Meadow is sited on an island between the two channels of the River Tame at Tamworth.

It is an example of lowland meadow – a floodplain grassland habitat which is becoming increasingly rare in Staffordshire and across the UK. Broad Meadow is also one of only two sites in the county where the rare Snake’s Head Fritillary can be found growing wild.

Broad Meadow is a Local Nature Reserve and is managed under the Wild About Tamworth project, which aims to make the site more accessible to people by opening it up and more valuable to wildlife by allowing the fritillaries to spread.

Look out for…

Access:

From Oxbridge Way, via the bridge over the weir to the west of the site.

Contact:

For more information visit Wild About Tamworth at www.tamworth.gov.uk

Where is it?