Birmingham Nature Lovers: Woodgate Valley Country Park

As a first impression, when you pull into the car park, and see the visitors centre, Woodgate Valley is pleasant enough, yet lacking in any particular wow factor.  However, as you start to move away from the main children's play area, the scene begins to open up and becomes quite spectacular.

Behind the visitors centre, there is a large open area, and in the distance, a playing field.  From here, we were able to loop back round using a small trail between the trees.  Returning to the main path, we turned away from the car park, and towards the open ground in the distance.  Meadows bordered us on either side.  To the right, buttercups cheerily sprinkled the grass with bright yellow.  To the left, we could see horses grazing in the distance. As we approached, a couple of the more curious ones came over to the fence, which is (for me) always a delight!

We continued on down the pathway towards some distant trees, and there we found the Bourn Brook which runs through the 450 acre park.  For us, this is where our journey ended, as it was a hot day, and my dog, Finn, had found some fox poo to roll in (thanks Finn!). The park consists of an expanse of mixed terrain, including meadows, woodland, ponds and the brook.  The park has a rural feel to it due to its origins as a collection of farms and smallholdings.

Most definitely worth a visit!

Address: Clapgate Lane, Birmingham B32 3DS

Facilities: Cafe, toilets, education via the Ranger service, events, walks, wheelchair accessible.

Words and photos by Debra Jane who can be contacted on @debracreates  or read more on her website.

What parks do you visit? Please add your recommendations below of tweets us on @BrumFaves

Birmingham Nature Lovers: Lickey Hills Country Park

Before this recent visit, I had only one memory of Lickey Hills; as a child, one winter, I remember going there with my parents, and rolling in the snow with my dog, Megan.  The memory is faded now, so I really didn't know what to expect - other than hills, obviously!  We went to the visitors centre entranced, which has a free car park that is surrounded by towering trees.  There is also a wheelchair accessible car park right behind the visitors centre, and pathways/ramps to make this area of the park welcoming for all.

There is a café, exhibition and toilets, nearby, a large children's play area.  Outside, there are plenty of picnic benches, so you have somewhere to sit if you're there with your dog.

Within the 524 acre park, there are plenty of walking trails that head off into the forest, or up onto higher ground.  It is hilly, and much of the park isn't accessible to wheelchairs though there is a purpose built wheelchair pathway and viewing platform.  Also, Landrover tours are available to ensure that anyone can enjoy the less accessible areas of the park.

On some trees, you'll find way marked signs, and information about those walks is located within the visitor’s centre, along with details of any Ranger led activities that are happening.  As we were walking, I remembered that there is also Beacon Hill within the park (which has its own car park), and this was featured on a Tolkien Tour I attended a few years back with Midlands Discovery Tours.

In addition to plenty of walking and green spaces, there is also an 18 hole municipal golf course, which was apparently the first facility of its type in the country.  There is also a bowling green, tennis court and a putting green, so, there really is something for everyone!
When you reach higher ground, there are some truly spectacular views out over the surrounding countryside, and if you're lucky, you may spot a dear grazing, as well as seeing other wildlife such as rabbits and squirrels.  It is a beautiful area, approximately 11 miles south west of Birmingham city centre, and most definitely worth investigating.

Address: Lickey Hills Country Park, Warren Lane, Rednal, Birmingham. B45 8ER

Facilities: cafe, toilets, Landrover tours, ranger service/led events

Opening Times: Summer season 10am-6.00pm | Winter season 10am-4.20pm

Words and photos by Debra Jane who can be contacted on @debracreates  or read more on her website.

What parks do you visit? Please add your recommendations below of tweets us on @BrumFaves

Birmingham Natures Lovers: Kings Heath Park & Highbury Park

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Kings Heath Park & Highbury Park

As these parks are so close to one another, that you could feasible walk from one to the other, I thought I'd write them up as one.

We started off at Kings Heath Park, which is a very picturesque and well-kept park, with a more formal feel.  As there is a Horticultural college there, this is to be expected.  There is also a lovely pond with water features, which is very relaxing.  The walks are gentle, the pathways good, and it's great for disabled access.  It didn't take us very long to walk around the pathways, so is ideal if you don't have a lot of time, or energy!

There is a toilet block outside in the park, but they were pretty unpleasant, so I'd recommend using those inside the college (the ladies are up a flight of stairs). 

Within the college premises, you will find the delightful Victorian Tearooms which does amazing coffee, and has a fabulous looking menu (I'll be going back for lunch in the Autumn, that's for sure) as well as a wide range of cakes and treats. 

Afterwards, we headed over to Highbury Park, which is right next door (you can cross over the road and into Highbury Park from the corner of Avenue Road).  I loved Highbury Park for its wilder feel.  It was once part of Sir Joseph Chamberlain’s estate, as he lived in the adjacent Highbury Hall (which is now a banqueting centre). 

In the early 20th Century, the park was landscaped with extensive tree planting, and the Dutch and Italian gardens were also created.  As well as these smaller areas of formal gardens, there are plenty of wide open spaces, with lots of running space for children and dogs, and many a shady tree under which to sit and read, or picnic. 

Address for Kings Heath Park: Vicarage Road, Kings Heath, Birmingham, B14 7TQ Kings Heath Park Facilities: Free parking, children's play area, The Victorian Tearooms, toilets, ranger service/events

Address for Highbury Park: Highbury Park, off Shutlock Lane, Kings Heath Highbury Park Facilities: Free parking and children's play area.

Words and photos by Debra Jane who can be contacted on @debracreates  or read more on her website.

 What parks do you visit? Please add your recommendations below of tweets us on @BrumFaves

Birmingham for Nature Lovers - Meriden Park (in Kingfisher Country Park)

On Monday, I arrived at number 3 on my alphabetical Birmingham for Nature Lovers list, to find it was a disappointing green splat in the middle of a housing estate and truth be told, I just couldn't bring myself to get out of the car and explore!  I drove around it from the outside (it took me less than a minute) and there's really not much to tell. 

So, not wanting to waste a sunny day, and with an eager Finn dog anticipating his walk, I whizzed off towards Chelmsley Wood, where I thought (logically, as it's a 'C') I would find my next park.  However, when I arrived at the location I had in my mind's eye, I discovered that it was Meriden Park, and so my fancy alphabeticalised notions were crushed!

All the same, I was glad that I made the visit.  Whilst not perfect by any means, Meriden Park provided a pleasant late Monday morning venue for a walk.  There was a small area of woodland to wander through, and as the park runs alongside the River Cole, there were nice green areas to walk along, plenty of trees, ducks and benches to enable you to sit and enjoy the view. 

Meriden Park belongs to a collection of parks which come under the banner of Kingfisher Country Park, Formerly project Kingfisher.  It covers an 11km stretch of the River Cole, which runs from the M6 in Chelmsley Wood through to Coventry Road (A45) at Small Heath.

Due to the rather confusing (or is that just me?) borders between Birmingham and Solihull, Meriden Park actually comes under Solihull BC and there's plenty of details on their website about the park.

As a walk, I found it peaceful and fairly pleasing on the eye.  Whilst you are aware that it's near a busy road, and there are houses and flats that you can see from some parts, it was still a pleasant enough place.  It's nice and flat and is wheelchair accessible (details here), dog and children friendly.  It was fairly quiet when we were there, with just a few other dog walkers strolling beside the river, so the main soundtrack was one of birds, and distant traffic.

There is free car parking off Moorend Avenue, and the 14, 59A and 72 bus all stop near the park.  On the website, it says that Marston Green Train Station is a short walk away, but I think it's actually about 30 minutes walk - so 'short' really depends on your perspective!

Address: Meriden Park, Moorend Avenue, Chelmsley Wood, B37 5SH

Words and photos by Debra Jane who can be contacted on @debracreates  or read more on her website.

What parks do you visit? Please add your recommendations below of tweets us on @BrumFaves

Birmingham for Nature Lovers: Brookvale Park

When I arrived at Brookvale Park, the second inner city area of 'nature' for these articles, I realised that I'd driven past it a few times over the years.

Apparently, it is a former drinking reservoir, created to provide clean water to Birmingham residents - at the time, it was located in the countryside, so was ideal.  It has also been used as an open air swimming pool in the early part of the 19th century, so has had varied uses.

It has a very sizeable car park and there is one disabled space, before you actually get to the car park.  As parking is up a slope, this makes sense, so it's well thought out and very suitable for wheelchair users to enjoy. Whilst now surrounded by houses on both sides, the reservoir is huge, tree lined, and enjoys plenty of grass all the way around. 

There are also numerous benches, so plenty of space to sit and enjoy the wildlife.  Despite a main road running alongside Brookvale Park, I found it to be very peaceful, with the sounds of birds dominating my time there.

A few squirrels raced around playing chase (and tormenting my dog, as squirrels always seem inclined to do!).  There is a flat, wide pavement that runs the full circuit of the lake, and a bridge that passes over the water at the far end, where you cross over the brook that feeds the lake.

There are tennis courts, and a children's play area there, so something for everyone!

As for access, aside from parking, it can be accessed by the number 11 bus passes the far end of the park on Marsh Lane (A4040). Alternatively, the number 65 travels along Slade Road, both less than 10 minutes’ walk from the park.  The car park is accessed via Park Road, Erdington B23.  

Overall, it was a lovely park, very peaceful, and makes for a lovely and leisurely dog walk.  I will go again!

By Debra Jane who can be contacted on @debracreates  or read more on her website.