Working to protect and enhance the Lickey Hills and their environs
As Chair of the Lickey Hills Society (LHS), I would like to respond to the letter from John A Ridarta in the September edition of the “Village”.
The letter is headed ‘Lickeys must be protected’ and I am sure that everyone would agree with that sentiment. However, I am not clear what the Lickeys need to be protected from. Mr Ridarta mentions developers but during my 30 years of involvement with the LHS, I am not aware of any development taking place within the Country Park. The only significant building has been the construction of the popular and well used Visitor Centre in Warren Lane which opened in 1990.
In the same sentence, Mr Ridarta mentions developers in Cofton Hackett but that is a very different situation. Since the closure of the car plant in 2005, that area has undergone considerable change and there has been much development but this has had a limited effect on the Lickey Hills Country Park. It is important to distinguish between the very rural nature of the Country Park and the more suburban nature of Cofton Hackett.
Mr Ridarta asks who manages the Lickeys. The simple answer is that Birmingham City Council owns, manages and finances the Country Park. The bulk of the Park is within Bromsgrove District Council’s area but neither Bromsgrove DC or Worcestershire County Council make any financial or other contribution to the management of the Park although many of the estimated half a million visitors to the Park each year live in these areas. The majority of Country Parks within the UK are managed by local authorities rather than by organisations like English Heritage as suggested in the letter. Like all local authorities, Birmingham has had to face severe budget cuts in recent years and the city’s Parks Department has not been immune to these cuts. However, the importance of the Lickeys has been recognised – it was the first park in Birmingham to receive the Green Flag Award in 2000, a national excellence award for parks and green open spaces, which it has attained every year since. As a consequence the cuts faced by the Country Park have been minimal when compared to other parks in the city.
Many years ago, the Lickey Hills Consultative Committee was formed – this group is composed of park users and local residents who meet throughout the year to consider all aspects relating to the management of the Country Park. The formation of the group was encouraged by Birmingham City Council and is seen as an example of good practice and subsequently a number of similar groups have been established in city parks.
The day to day and indeed the long-term planning for the Country Park is in the hands of a highly qualified, experienced and excellent Ranger team who are based on the Lickeys. In addition to the Lickeys, the team has a responsibility for the care and management of some sixty parks and green open spaces in the south west of Birmingham. The Rangers are supported by organisations like the LHS and an army of volunteers who give freely of their time, energy and expertise to help ensure that the Lickeys are looked after and enhanced in the best way possible.
Mr Ridarta correctly mentions the likely introduction of car parking fees which are currently being considered. However, before any charges are introduced, a significant amount of work will need to be done in the different car parks to ensure that they are safe and ‘fit for purpose’. Once charges are introduced and all the restoration costs have been met, we have been assured that the monies raised will stay within the Country Park, for ongoing maintenance of the car parks, helping towards ensuring that the jobs of the Rangers and others will be safeguarded and that there will be finances available to spend on equipment and projects to further enhance the Country Park.. It is important to remember that visiting the Country Park will remain free and that the charge will only be levied on the parking of vehicles. As Mr Ridarta apparently lives in Cofton Hackett, he will be able to take a short walk to reach the Lickeys.
I trust that the above will help to answer some of the points raised in the letter and that the LHS and many others will continue to work to help ensure that the Lickeys, one of Birmingham’s flagship parks, are indeed protected for the benefit of this and future generations.
Chair: Lickey Hills Society
Several weeks ago, the Society became aware that the MASU was offering grants to charitable organisations in the local area. Following discussions with the Union, we made an application for a grant of £15,300 and to our great surprise we subsequently learned that we had been successful. The application identified the ways in which we would spend the money, the bulk of which will be on information boards; either replacing/updating existing boards or creating new ones. The boards will enhance the experience of people visiting the Hills and in so doing inform and educate them which are in line with the MASU’s objectives. We have naturally contacted the Union to express our thanks.
It was with great sadness that we recently learned of the death of Dr.Cath Elliott who passed away on April 18, 2019 aged 98. Cath was a long standing member and indeed a life member of the Society.
Cath lived in the area for most of her life and spent most of her childhood living at Chadwich Manor, Lydiate Ash. In 1953 she moved with her parents to a new home in Monument Lane where she lived until 2015 when she moved to live near her sister in the village of Elmley Castle, near Pershore. A Thanksgiving Service for Cath’s life was held at Elmley Castle Church on May 9.
For many years, Cath was a respected and well-loved Family Doctor in Bromsgrove. She was awarded the MBE in 2007 for her work as Chair of the Bromsgrove Branch of the Save the Children Fund which she served with distinction for many years. It was typical of Cath that she wrote regularly to the local media to thank those people who supported the charity in many different ways.
Cath was also a very active and much loved member of Holy Trinity Church at Lickey. Cath took part in various working parties at the church where one of her responsibilities was cleaning the drains – not the most glamorous of jobs but one that Cath was happy to take on. A number of members of the church travelled to Elmley Castle for the Thanksgiving Service.
Photo - Cath in 2007 with a cup at the SCF stall in Bromsgrove - courtesy of Jane Ashe
Cath was an active member of the Society, regularly attending meetings and taking part in practical activities. I well remember one autumn litter pick five or six years ago. It was pouring with rain and those of us who had gathered in the Visitor Centre were considering cancelling the event due to the conditions. We were just about to make an announcement to that effect when the doors opened and in walked Cath in full wet weather gear. If Cath who was in her early nineties at the time was willing to turn out then who were we to cancel! We did agree to collect for about an hour and meet back in the Visitor Centre – who was last to return, Cath of course.
This one simple event well illustrates the commitment and dedication of Cath to the Lickey Hills and to the Society. She loved the Lickeys which played an important part in her life, it is thought that she walked her various dogs on the Hills every day for some 60 years! Our thoughts at this time are with Cath, her family and her many friends.
© 2015 The Lickey Hills Society