Category Archives: Events

Early morning bird walk on the Rowley Hills

Once again, our annual early morning bird watching walk led by local expert Nick Horton did not disappoint. Following an introductory talk, in which he informed us of what birds we should particularly be looking out for at this time of the year, we headed onto the hillside, taking the track leading through the old quarries excavated back in the 1700s which opens out onto the site of Blue Rock Quarry landfill. As we walked through the canyon, bird calls were evident, and we heard or saw in this area Chiffchaff, Blackbird, Woodpigeon, Song Thrush, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Great Tit, Blue Tit and Dunnock. Once out in the open, those who had them trained their binoculars on the dense patches of bramble and it wasn’t too long before Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat were spotted. It’s hard to believe that these tiny birds have in the past few weeks flown all the way from Africa to breed here, and in the next three months will raise their young and then both adults and juveniles will fly off to Africa to spend the winter in sunnier climes. Those that survive this mammoth journey will be back next year and the cycle will continue. Both species are relatively frequent up here on Portway Hill and Nick informed us that this was the best site he knew where both birds could reliably be seen at this time of the year.

Moving on further up the hillside in the direction of the masts, more birds were added to our ever-increasing list – Robin, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Green Woodpecker, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Wren, a Peregrine, and possibly a fleeting glimpse of a Linnet as it flew off.

As we headed up towards the golf course, crossing Portway Hill, a Sparrowhawk flew quickly by. There was too much human activity on the golf course by this time so from here we turned back, crossed Portway Hill and returned along the track, skirting back gardens in Lye Cross Road where House Sparrow and Goldfinch were added to the list.

Our walk ended shortly after this and Nick was thanked for providing us with his expertise which always makes this early morning walk so much more rewarding. As he walked back home, he reported later that a Buzzard and a Heron had flown over.

The total of different birds either seen or heard in the three hours we were out was an impressive 27, showing just how important the open spaces of the Rowley Hills are for our wild birds.

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‘Looking Back’ walk

Not to be put off by the cold easterly wind, those who attended the ‘Looking Back’ walk with Jim Rippin across the Portway Hill site on Saturday 13th April had a great time. To mark the occasion Jim brought along a special edition booklet containing some of his and others’ old photographs. Two of the photographs taken from his booklet (see below) show the entrance to Bury Hill Park as it was, prior to, and just after the A4123 Wolverhampton Road was cut through in 1927. It’s interesting to note that the terrace houses of Bury Hill Road in the middle of the first photograph and to the left in the second photograph are still there today.

Don’t forget that we have our Dawn Chorus walk this Monday 6th May, starting at 7:00am. Join local bird expert Nick Horton for a walk around the Portway Hill site; in December Nick spotted a Red Kite on two separate occasions over Turners/Portway Hill and watched crows mobbing a Raven. We will also be on the lookout for Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Peregrine, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel, all birds regularly seen on the hillside. Wear sturdy footwear and dress appropriately for the early morning weather conditions. Meet on St Brades Close at the junction with Tower Road.

Looking Back: Walk 2. A guided walk over Rowley Hills with archive photographs

Led by Jim Rippin and Mike Poulton and in partnership with the Friends of Rowley Hills10.00am – 13.00pm, April 13 2019 

Join us for the second guided walk based on archive photos and stories from around the Rowley Hills. Jim and Mike’s carefully designed walk invites us to see the area in new and fascinating ways and reflect on the many changes that have taken place over the last 60 years. Come along and share your own views, photographs, and experiences of this iconic area.

Cost: £6 (all proceeds go to the Friends of Rowley Hills).

A special edition booklet will be available for an additional fee.

No need to book – assemble at the entrance to Bury Hill Park (adjacent to the Wolverhampton New Road and opposite Bury Hill Road) at 9.45 am.

Please wear sturdy footwear and bring appropriate clothing for changeable spring weather. We are sorry but the route is not suitable for wheelchair users. The terrain is at times undulating and possibly muddy in places.

For more information call 0121 559 4886 or visit https://livingmemory.live.

2019 dates for your diary

We’ve added the first batch of events for 2019 to our Events page – see also below:

  • Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Saturday 19th January 2019, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch but tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided. No need to book, just turn up!
  • Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Friday 1st February 2019, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch but tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided. No need to book, just turn up!
  • Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Saturday 16th February 2019, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch but tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided. No need to book, just turn up!
  • Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Friday 1st March 2019, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch but tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided. No need to book, just turn up!
  • Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Saturday 16th March 2019, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch but tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided. No need to book, just turn up!
  • Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Friday 5th April 2019, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch but tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided. No need to book, just turn up!
  • ‘Looking Back’ walk led by Jim Rippin and Mike Poulton, Saturday 13th April 2019, 10:00am – 1:00pm. Meet at the entrance to Bury Hill Park. Cost £6 payable on the day (all proceeds go to the Friends of Rowley Hills). A guided walk-and-talk over the Rowley Hills with archive photographs. Following on from our very successful ‘Looking Back’ walk in September 2018 by popular request we have decided to repeat the event again this spring. This is a specially designed guided walk-and-talk based around a series of remarkable photographs taken by Jim Rippin over the last 70 years. The walk will invite us to see the area in new and fascinating ways, helping us to reflect on the many changes that have taken place within living memory. Souvenir booklets with old photographs will also be available to purchase on the day.
  • Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Saturday 20th April 2019, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch but tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided. No need to book, just turn up!
  • Dawn chorus walk, Portway Hill, Monday 6th May 2019, time to be confirmed. Join local bird expert Nick Horton for a dawn chorus walk around the Portway Hill site. In December Nick spotted a Red Kite on two separate occasions over Turners/Portway Hill and watched crows mobbing a Raven. We will also be on the lookout for Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Peregrine, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel, all birds regularly seen on the hillside. Wear sturdy footwear and dress appropriately for the early morning weather conditions. Meet on St Brades Close at the junction with Tower Road.
  • Green Hairstreak search, meeting place to be confirmed, Saturday 25th May, 11:00am. More details to follow!

Small mammal trapping results!

The small mammal-trapping event on Portway Hill a couple of weekends ago went really well despite us only catching one Wood Mouse on this occasion. Everyone who attended was given the opportunity to set a trap and a total of 12 Sherman traps and 3 Longworth traps were placed in the vegetation along the track through the old quarry and on the Wildlife Trust site. In each trap we placed a handful of sheep’s wool for bedding, and baited the traps with a mix of seed, cucumber, castors, lettuce and a small piece of cheese. The location of each trap was marked so that when we returned the next morning none of the traps were missed. They were then left in place overnight.

At 8am on the Sunday a group of 10 people showed up. Our initial disappointment at not catching anything in the first few traps turned to joy when a trap was retrieved containing a Wood Mouse in pristine condition. We carefully transferred the mouse into a small, transparent lidded bucket which was held up so that everyone could get a good look and take photographs. The mouse obliged by sitting there eating seed that had been transferred from the trap into the bucket with him. Although the bait was missing from two of the other traps on this occasion the trap-doors had failed to close.

After safely collecting up all of the traps we headed up the hillside in the direction of the radio masts to look for signs of mammal activity beneath some onduline roofing sheets that had been put down earlier in the year in the hope that any reptiles on the site might find refuge beneath them. No small mammals were detected beneath any of them but several little woven-grass nests constructed by voles were found.

Of the other wildlife we saw over the weekend the biggest surprise was a very late-in-the-season Speckled Wood butterfly, seen on the Saturday flying across the Wildlife Trust land. Buzzard, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk were seen overhead, and despite it being so late in the year, many of the hillside’s wild flowers were still in bloom, including Dog Rose, Yarrow, Burnet Saxifrage, Groundsel, Oxford Ragwort, Common Ragwort, Bush Vetch, Common Cat’s-ear, Tall Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Oxeye Daisy, Common Toadflax, Shepherd’s-purse, Smooth Sow-thistle, Red Campion, Red Clover, Black Knapweed and Weld. The exceptionally dry June and July followed by a mild autumn may have had something to do with this.

There has also been a change to the dates of the Wildlife Trust’s volunteer days in December – all the most up to date information is on our Events page so make sure you check there before heading out!

Here are a few photos from the mammal trapping event, with thanks to Andy Beaton for taking these.

Meet the mammals!

Later this month the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country will be holding the Rowley Hills’ very first mammal trapping event! All the details are below and also on our Events page.

Mammal Trapping – 2-part event, Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th November 2018. Help us find out more about the small mammals that call the Rowley Hills home! Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill on Saturday 17th November, 3:00pm – 4:30pm to help set out traps to catch small mammals overnight. The traps don’t harm the animals and have plenty of food in them to lure the animals in and keep them well fed while they await their release. Then the next morning on Sunday 18th November, 8:00am – 10:00am, join us again to help open the traps and see what we’ve found. This could include creatures such as Wood Mouse, Bank Vole, and Common Shrew. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. Booking is essential, please email tomh@bbcwildlife.org.uk to book your places. See also https://www.bbcwildlife.org.uk/events/2018-11-17-mammal-trapping-part-1-portway-hill and https://www.bbcwildlife.org.uk/events/2018-11-18-mammal-trapping-part-2-portway-hill for more info.

‘Looking Back’ walk across Portway Hill

On a fine and dry mid-September Saturday morning nineteen attendees assembled just inside the entrance to Bury Hill Park in anticipation of our Living Memory arranged ‘Looking Back’ guided walk across Portway Hill.

Our leaders for this event, Jim Rippin and Mike Poulton, took us on a circular tour of the Portway Hill site, stopping at pre-determined points to compare the scene that we were looking over today with Jim’s photographs taken in the 1950s when he was a lad. In many instances the view before us was totally unrecognizable from the photograph taken back then, because at the time, towards the end of the 1950s, deep granite quarries dominated the landscape. Names that were familiar to the local people of the day, Sampson, Old Sampson, New Turners Hill and Blue Rock Quarries have little meaning to the people living in this area today but back in the 19th century and first half of the 20th century many local people earned their living here in the quarries.

Jim showing members of the party one of his old photographs (image © Geoff Broadway).

Pages from Jim’s pocket book (image © Geoff Broadway).

To Jim these photographs transport him back to his childhood – this was his local playground, and fortunately for us today, back then he was the proud owner of a camera, somewhat unusual in those days especially for someone so young. Little could he have known then that the photographs he was taking at that time would be so significant today. He was among the very few people who photographed the local scene just as quarrying ceased for ever here in the 1950s. Resurrected, and digitised from photographs tucked away in boxes for most of his adult life, he has now compiled some of them into a pocket-sized book, perfect for carrying around, and a few of these books were handed out at the commencement of the walk so that the photographs could easily be referred to at the various stopping points as we walked across the hillside. A few photographs shown on the walk are exhibited here. To see more historical photographs of the area please visit the History page of our website.

A view of Edale Estate and Oldbury beyond taken from the top of Bury Hill Park in the 1950s (image © Jim Rippin).

A view of Edale Estate and Oldbury beyond taken from the top of Bury Hill Park in the 1950s (image © Jim Rippin).

View towards the mast and water tower on Turner’s Hill in the 1950s (image © Jim Rippin).

One of the stops on the tour took us along the old double-hedgerow which was part of the disused public right of way which met Portway Hill a little to the north of Old Portway Farm. Here we were met by Wendy, the present owner of Old Portway Farm, who kindly invited us to look at the building in greater detail.

Henley’s pig shed in 1953 (image © Jim Rippin).

Working our way back towards the Wolverhampton Road down the south side of the hill Jim pointed out the location of Henley’s Farm and pig shed; this spot is now under housing along Kennford Close.

Our final stop of the day was around the brick-built cairn on the parcel of land owned by the Wildlife Trust where the event concluded with a group photograph.

Livingmemory.live ‘Looking Back’ group photograph around cairn on Portway Hill – 15:09:2018 (image © Geoff Broadway).

Our grateful thanks go to Jim Rippin for his wonderful photographs, to Wendy at Old Portway Farmhouse for kindly inviting us on to her land, and to Geoff Broadway and his team at https://livingmemory.live for their generous support and for making this event happen.

We hope to repeat this walk again in the spring of 2019 so be sure to look out for the details on our website and book early.