Working to protect and enhance the Lickey Hills and their environs
Law practice Eversheds Sutherland who have an office in Colmore Row have made a donation of £500 to the Lickey Hills Society. The money will be used to purchase 2 Tree Poppers for use by the Lickey Ranger team and volunteers for the extraction of unwanted scrub, woody plants and trees. They will be especially useful tools for the ongoing Heathland Management Programme. There are three sizes of tree poppers for removing stems of different diameters. The Rangers have indicated that they would like one large and one medium sized popper. The poppers have to be imported from Canada and LHS has agreed to make up any shortfall in funding.
Eversheds Sutherland are planning a volunteer day when they will use the poppers.
Inspired by the recent Heritage Lottery Funded (HLF) project Hidden First World War Heritage of the Lickey Hills local resident Chris Burwood has created a diorama of the Bilberry Hill Gun Proof Range as it might have been during the First World War. The 1/72 scale model was constructed using information gathered by the HLF project team during 2017 and 2018.
The Bilberry Hill Gun Proof Range was built towards the end of the First World War (late 1917), under the direction of the Ministry of Munitions, to carry out the inspection testing of repaired 4.5" howitzer field guns and 18-pdr carriages. The guns and carriages were returned from the battlefields in Europe and repaired at the Austin Motor factory in nearby Longbridge.
The diorama was on display at the recent Lickey Hills History Society Heritage Open Weekend at the Country Park and proved to be a very popular exhibit. It is now on long-term loan to the Lickey Hills Rangers and has been installed in the Lickey Hills Visitor Centre.
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
© 2015 The Lickey Hills Society