Tag Archives: Sandwell Council

Intensive litter-picking on the hills!

During January and February FORH have carried out litter-picks along both sides of Portway Hill. The accumulation of dumped rubbish and thrown-out cans and plastic bottles from passing motorists in this area has been of great concern to the Friends of Rowley Hills for some time now and over the past few years the problem with littering has steadily increased.

Portway Hill regularly attracts fly-tipping and from this area alone over 50 bags of rubbish have been removed along with carpets and hazardous waste such as old tyres etc. Litter that had accumulated along the hedgerow in Oakham Road bordering the Dudley Golf Club land between the Wheatsheaf and Warrens Hall Care Home has also been removed. We are grateful to Serco and Sandwell Council for their prompt response in organising the collection of the litter-filled bags and other rubbish from the roadside.

We would also like to thank Mark Smith and staff at Edwin Richards Quarry who have carried out litter-picks from their side of the fence on the bank overlooking Portway Hill.

Portway Hill recommended to be designated as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation

Seven green areas across Sandwell, including Portway Hill in the Rowley Hills, are set to be added to a list of nature conservation sites. Portway Hill is currently designated as a Site of Local Importance for Nature Conservation (SLINC) but its status may soon be upgraded to that of a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC).

Sandwell Council’s cabinet, which met on 20 September, discussed a recommendation to designate Portway Hill as a SINC, as well as 6 other areas at the following locations as Sites of Local Importance for Nature Conservation (SLINCs):
  • Bullers Open Space, Tipton
  • Market Place, Tipton
  • Merry Hill, Smethwick
  • River Tame Corridor, Oldbury
  • Whitecrest, Great Barr
  • Woden Road East, Wednesbury

The designations provide up-to-date evidence for planners to protect local nature when making planning decisions. This could mean that Portway Hill receives better protection from any potential future threat of development.

For more information, visit http://www.sandwell.gov.uk/news/article/4424/seven_green_spaces_set_for_conservation_list.

Part of the Portway Hill site.

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Beacon to be lit on the Rowley Hills to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday

The Rowley Hills (image © Mike Poulton)Tomorrow evening Sandwell will join hundreds of communities up and down the country when it lights a special beacon to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday.

People will be able to see the beacon from miles around when it is lit at 8.30pm on Thursday 21 April. Sandwell Mayor Councillor Barbara Price will officially light the borough’s beacon on the Rowley Hills, near East Avenue. The best view of the beacon will be from the Oldbury area (the actual site where the beacon is lit is not suitable for spectators).

The Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will light the principal beacon at Windsor Castle. It will be followed by the lighting of more than 1,000 beacons throughout the United Kingdom, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, UK overseas Territories and Commonwealth to celebrate the Queen’s landmark birthday.

The Army Cadet Force is taking special gas-fuelled beacons to the top of the four highest peaks in the UK, other beacons include Unst in the Shetland Islands, the most northerly beacon in Great Britain, and four beacons in the Virgin islands.

Beacons have previously been lit for:

  • The Queen’s Silver Jubilee – 1977
  • 50th Anniversary of VE Day – 1995
  • Beacons for the Millennium – 1999
  • The Queen’s Golden Jubilee – 2002
  • The Trafalgar Weekend Beacons – 2005
  • The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – 2012
  • 75th Anniversary of VE Day – 2015

New waymarker posts on Portway Hill

Great news – six waymarker posts have now been erected in various places across Portway Hill pointing out the official Public Rights of Way linking Portway with Bury Hill Park and the Wolverhampton Road. We are grateful to Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council and the Local Access Forum for making this possible.

FORH committee member Bob Duncan alongside one of the newly installed waymarker posts.

Friends of Rowley Hills committee member Bob Duncan alongside one of the newly installed waymarker posts.

Wildlife round-up – October 2015

Although summer is over and autumn is now well and truly with us, there are still plenty of fascinating flora and fauna to be seen in the Rowley Hills. Here’s a round-up of recent sightings; don’t forget, if you’ve seen something interesting, let us know!

Bird migration is continuing apace, and taking on an autumnal flavour, with the first Redwings of the season being spotted. This member of the thrush family breeds in northern Europe and migrates south in autumn, escaping the cold weather to spend the winter in the UK and other central and southern European countries. Other migrating species seen recently include Meadow and Tree Pipits, White and Yellow Wagtails, House Martin, Chaffinch, Siskin, Redpoll, Swallow, Spotted Flycatcher, Chiffchaff, Golden Plover and Cormorant. Many thanks as always to Ian Whitehouse for keeping us up to date with his Rowley Hills sightings!

Spotted Flycatcher (image © Ian Whitehouse)

Spotted Flycatcher (image © Ian Whitehouse)

Early morning on the Rowley Hills, a great time for vismigging (observing visible migration of birds) (image © Ian Whitehouse).

Early morning on the Rowley Hills, a great time for vismigging (observing visible migration of birds) (image © Ian Whitehouse).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve had more good news following Sandwell Council’s decision to delay cutting the grass on Bury Hill in response to our request. Not only has this allowed the Harebells there to finish flowering – enabling us to collect seed from them to sow elsewhere in the Rowley Hills – another scarce wildflower in Birmingham and the Black Country has been discovered in the same area which would probably never have come to light had the grass been cut as normal. The flower is Trailing Tormentil (Potentilla anglica); it is very difficult to identify as it hybridises with two other members of the Tormentil family, Creeping Cinquefoil (P. reptans) and Common Tormentil (P. erecta). The two hybrids and Trailing Tormentil all look very similar, having flowers with both 4 and 5 petals; however 2 experts have verified that it is Trailing Tormentil. The diagnostic feature confirming this is fully fertile flowers – hybrids are not fertile.

Trailing Tormentil (Potentilla anglica) (image © Mike Poulton)

Trailing Tormentil (Potentilla anglica) (image © Mike Poulton)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elsewhere on the hills Mike Poulton photographed a Broom Moth caterpillar feeding on Red Bartsia, and another new botanical record for the Wildlife Trust’s Portway Hill site was a large patch of Sneezewort, so named because its pungent smell supposedly causes sneezing.

Broom Moth caterpillar (Ceramica pisi) (image © Mike Poulton)

Broom Moth caterpillar (Ceramica pisi) (image © Mike Poulton)

Sneezewort (Achillea ptarmica) (image © Mike Poulton)

Sneezewort (Achillea ptarmica) (image © Mike Poulton)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mike and Doug also found an enormous spider whilst working on the Wildlife Trust’s site, which turned out to be a Four Spotted Orb Weaver. This spider holds the record for the heaviest spider in Britain!

Four Spotted Orb Weaver (Araneus quadratus) (image © Mike Poulton)

Four Spotted Orb Weaver (Araneus quadratus) (image © Mike Poulton)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s turning out to be a great fungi season too. These two species were photographed last week; Blackening Waxcap was near the Wildlife Trust’s Portway Hill site and Verdigris Agaric was on Massey’s Bank.

Blackening Waxcap (Hygrocybe nigrescens) (image © Mike Poulton)

Blackening Waxcap (Hygrocybe nigrescens) (image © Mike Poulton)

Verdigris Agaric (Stropharia aeruginosa) (image © Mike Poulton)

Verdigris Agaric (Stropharia aeruginosa) (image © Mike Poulton)

Recent wildlife sightings

We’ve had some great wildlife sightings in and around the Rowley Hills recently! If you’ve spotted anything interesting, please do let us know.

At this time of year, the Hills host a continuous flow of migrating birds, which stop off briefly to rest and refuel before continuing their journey south. Recent sightings include Tree Pipit, Redstart, Linnet, Grey, Yellow and Pied Wagtails, Siskin, House Martin, Garden Warbler, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Swift, Spotted Flycatcher, Sedge Warbler, Blackcap, Swallow, Willow Warbler,  Mistle Thrush, Raven, Peregrine, Kestrel, Buzzard and Sparrowhawk. Many thanks to Ian Whitehouse who regularly tweets his Rowley Hills sightings and photos!

Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) (image © Ian Whitehouse)

Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) (image © Ian Whitehouse)

Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis) (image © Ian Whitehouse)

Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis) (image © Ian Whitehouse)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Local resident Andrew Cook also sent us these brilliants photos of a male Kestrel sitting on his garden fence. The Rowley Hills are a great spot for Kestrels as the grassland provides the perfect habitat for voles and mice, which are the Kestrel’s preferred prey. It looks as though this Kestrel may be resting after having recently eaten, as there is a small amount of blood on his beak and talons.

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) (image © Andrew Cook)

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) (image © Andrew Cook)

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) (image © Andrew Cook)

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) (image © Andrew Cook)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another nice local record came from Lukas Large, who recorded this video of a Humming-bird Hawk-moth feeding on nectar from Red Valerian in his garden. As the name suggests, this moth resembles a Hummingbird in flight as it hovers and darts between flowers, its wings humming; Red Valerian is one of its favourite food plants. Humming-bird Hawk-moths migrate to the UK in summer from southern Europe and north Africa.

Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia) (image © Doug Barber)

Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia) (image © Doug Barber)

And finally, some more great news about the Harebells growing on the hillside above Bury Hill Park. Because Sandwell Council very kindly agreed to delay mowing the grass here in order to help conserve these wildflowers, we have been able to collect a large amount of seed from them. For most of the Harebells on that site it is probably the first time they will have produced seed in living memory as by now the whole area would normally have been cut. The seed capsules will now be left to dry out and the resulting seeds sown in suitable locations elsewhere on the Rowley Hills to help to conserve a scarce Birmingham and Black Country plant. This is great news for conservation and biodiversity in the Rowley Hills and we are very grateful to Sandwell Council for their cooperation with our request to put the mowing in this area on hold.

Friends of Rowley Hills in Halesowen News

FORH logoWe’ve had some more coverage of our concerns about the proposed redevelopment of Edwin Richards Quarry, this time in Halesowen News. Although we did not give any direct statements to the newspaper (all the quotes attributed to us are lifted directly from our objection letter) the article gives a good outline of our position regarding the proposals. We’ve never referred to ourselves as a ‘pressure group’ though – we like to think we’re a bit friendlier than that!

Click here to read the full article.