Author Archives: Ian Wykes

New tenants arrive at Hams Hall

Back in February we installed a series of wildlife cameras and nest boxes around the office at Hams Hall. During the last weekend in April, blue tits began to move in to one of the nest boxes.

Take a look at  some of the footage of our new tenants!

Tamworth Spring Clean

DOZENS of bags of rubbish, four shopping trollies, two bicycles and a bench frame were among the waste and litter collected by community-spirited volunteers during a spring clean event in early March.

Willing volunteers of all ages rolled up their sleeves and helped tidy large parts of the Bolebridge ‘egg’ roundabout near the Castle Grounds, and the water channel that runs through it, during a four-hour community litter pick on Saturday, March 10.

The event was organised by Tamworth Borough Council as part of Keep Britain Tidy’s ‘Great British Spring Clean’ campaign, which aims to bring people across the country together to help tidy our streets, parks and countryside.

It was supported by volunteers from Tamworth Borough Council’s Street Scene department, Tame Valley Wetlands and Wild About Tamworth, local nature groups, people on Community Payback schemes and members of the public. Organisers were pleased with the turnout despite the poor weather forecast and gloomy conditions.

› Read the full story at Tamworth Informed

Heritage Training Workshops to be held in Warwickshire

Warwickshire County Council in partnership with Tame Valley Wetlands is to hold a series of heritage training workshops over the next few months.

The events are being organised by the County Council’s Historic Environment Record Team and are entirely free to attend. The workshops will help local communities understand and be able to advocate for the heritage and historic environment in their area.

The series of workshops kicks off on 31 January at The Old Market Hall, Coleshill with an event entitled ‘Identifying, understanding and valuing heritage’. The workshop will seek to:

  • Explain the concepts of ‘historic environment’ and why it is important to local community, environment, and economy.
  • Provide guidance on how to obtain and develop an historic environment ‘evidence base’.
  • Provide instruction on how to identify and record the character of locally distinctive urban and rural areas.

Following this, there will be further events held throughout February and March on various different aspects of heritage and the environment.

Councillor Jeff Clarke, Portfolio Holder for Transport and Environment said:

“These workshops are a great way for residents to learn more about their area and how best to protect important parts of Warwickshire’s heritage.

“They’re entirely free for residents to attend and will enable you to get involved in looking after our fantastic county for generations to come”

For more information contact

To book please visit

Coleshill countryside circular

An medium difficulty circular walk exploring the countryside around Coleshill following public footpaths and quiet lanes.

Distance: 8km (5 miles)

Time: Allow 2½ – 3½ hours

Landscape and path type: The route uses unsurfaced footpaths through arable fields, muddy farm tracks, tarmacked pavements and roads. There are sets of steps, footbridges, slopes, pedestrian and kissing gates during this walk. Sturdy footwear is recommended.

Please be aware the walk crosses area where the River Blythe floods during adverse weather.

Map: OS Map 221 Coventry & Warwick, Royal Leamington Spa & Kenilworth.

Dogs: Permitted, under control at all times.

Download the walk leaflet (4MB PDF)


You can also watch a video of this walk and others on our YouTube page – click the link to watch the video:

Shustoke Reservoir circular walk

A medium difficulty circular walk around Shustoke Reservoir following public footpaths and quiet lanes.

Distance: 9km (5.5 miles)

Time: Allow 2½ to 4 hours

Landscape and path type: The route uses unsurfaced footpaths through arable fields, farm tracks, tarmacked pavements and roads. There are sets of steps, footbridges, slopes, pedestrian gates, kissing gates and a stile during this walk.

Map: OS Map 232 Nuneaton & Tamworth, Lichfield & Atherstone.

Dogs: Permitted, under control at all times.

Download the walk leaflet (2MB PDF)

You can watch videos about our circular walks on our YouTube page. Click the link to find this video and many more.

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)

You can also visit our YouTube page to watch videos about this and many other circular walks. Click the link to watch:

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)

You can also watch a video about this walk and plenty of others on our YouTube page. Click the link to watch!

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…


For more information about the EA visit

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 :


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.


For more information visit

Where is it?