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.

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Photos from our recent volunteer day

Our volunteers day on Portway Hill on the 20th October was very productive. We cleared all of the grass and bramble debris piled up from the previous volunteers day and even managed to find a few new fungi for the Portway Hill site. The reason for removing all arisings from the site is to reduce soil fertility which should in time increase the diversity of the wild flowers and insects found here.

Here are some photos of before, during and after the volunteers’ hard work, as well as lots of lovely fungi!

Round-up of recent news from the hills!

Tom Hartland Smith, Senior Conservation Officer at the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country, recently wrote us this summary of the past few months’ events on the Rowley Hills:

If you have not managed to come along to any of the events and volunteer days over the last few months you will have missed out on an exciting look into what moth species we have on the hillside, of which the Chinese Character Cilix glaucata was a first spot for me, but all the moths on the hillside were new records for the site – how exciting! The glorious early morning bird walk for International Dawn Chorus day was a great success and we were rewarded with a lovely sunrise with spectacular views and delightful birdsong throughout. We also had another successful and delightful butterfly walk where we were greeted with a kaleidoscope of butterflies on a hot summer day. On one of the volunteer days we popped out some new reptile mats which we have positioned to gauge if there is a population of reptiles on the hillside (no joy yet but still checking).

During the regular volunteer days we have worked on opening up some of the public rights of way, re-installing PRoW way markers and tidying up the site when we can. We’ve also been monitoring the meadow in which we found Common Spotted Orchid, which is a first for the hillside, and spreading Harebell and Yellow Rattle seeds as well as introducing Alder and Purging Buckthorn to try and increase these food plants for the Brimstone butterfly.

A new replacement interpretation panel has been purchased and is ready to be installed on the cairn on one of the upcoming volunteer days. Myself and Mike Poulton are going to be meeting to sort out doing some small mammal trapping; information about this will be posted on the Friends of Rowley Hills website in due course. If you are interested in getting involved in the surveying of small mammals on the hillside, please email info@bbcwildlife.org.uk.

I hope you are all well and thank you all for making such a massive impact on a cracking site. I always look forward to the volunteer days and events on Portway Hill, as the hillside and people have so much to offer.

Join us for some volunteering next weekend!

We’ve got a big task to achieve on our next volunteering date, Saturday 20th October – why not come and join in? We need to clear all the mown grass off the wildflower meadow on Portway Hill – this will prevent it from rotting back into the meadow over the winter, helping to keep soil nutrient levels low to encourage a greater diversity of wildflowers. 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!

Here are a few photos from one of our recent volunteer days where we restored a public right of way marker that had been vandalised.

‘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.

Police Community Support Officers visit the Rowley Hills

On the evening of Thursday, 23rd August members of our committee met up with PCSO Ria Ware and PCSO Alan Wiltshire, who had kindly agreed to accompany us on a tour of the Portway Hill site. We took this opportunity to show them where unlawful activities are taking place, which includes cable burning, drug abuse, under-age drinking and off-road motorbike and 4-wheel vehicle scrambling.

PCSOs visit Portway Hill

We welcomed the advice they gave regarding reporting such matters to the police; please refer to the How you can help page for information regarding this.

A successful haul at the Rowley Hills’ first moth evening

On Friday evening (31st August) we set up two Mercury Vapour moth traps in the old quarry at the top of Bury Hill Park. In all we lured 14 different species of moth to the traps. The two that there were most of were Large Yellow Underwing and Square-spot Rustic. Chinese Character and Mouse Moth were nice to see.

Richard Orton and Tom Hartland-Smith put on a really interesting event, explaining about the different traps that are used to lure moths and the most useful books to use for identification. The ten people who attended enjoyed a great evening and learned a lot from the experience and we look forward to further events like this in 2019.