‘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.

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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.

Moth night!

We’ve added another great event to our autumn line-up – a Moth night on Portway Hill, Friday 31st August 2018, 8:30pm – 10:00pm. Come and join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country for an exciting night of moth trapping up on the Rowley Hills. All welcome and no prior knowledge needed. Due to the Wildlife Trust having not previously surveyed the site for moths every record will be a new one for the hillside and site! This site is renowned for rare butterflies so we hope it will offer similar delights for moths. Walking boots are recommended and please bring a torch if you have one available. Meet at St Brades Close, B69 1NX, West Midlands. Please note this is a residential parking area so please park respectfully with the local residents in mind.If you are planning on attending can you please email Tomh@bbcwildlife.org.uk to express interest.

Poplar Hawk Moth (image © Rob Farrow via Creative Commons)

Autumn/winter 2018 events

We’ve added a whole host of new events for autumn/winter 2018 to our website, including lots of conservation volunteer days with the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country and a fascinating guided walk focusing on the history of the local area. All the details are below and also on our Events page!

  • Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Friday 7th September 2018, 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: A guided walk-and-talk over the Rowley Hills with archive photographs, Saturday 15th September, 10:30am – 1:00pm. Led by Mike Poulton and Jim Rippin, cost: £6 (all proceeds go to the Friends of Rowley Hills. This specially designed guided walk-and-talk is based around a series of remarkable photographs taken by Jim Rippin over the last seventy 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. Booking is essential; for more information and to book your place, go to https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/looking-back-a-guided-walk-over-the-rowley-hills-with-archive-photographs-tickets-49033218677.
  • Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Friday 5th October 2018, 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!
  • Geoconservation day, Portway Hill, Saturday 6th October 2018, 10:30am – 2:30pm. Join the Black Country Geological Society to help excavate and expose more of the dolerite at Blue Rock Quarry. Meet on St Brades Close; wear old clothes, waterproofs and stout footwear. Please bring gloves and tools: spades, brushes, trowels, loppers, saws etc. and a packed lunch. For more info please visit the BCGS website.
  • Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Saturday 20th October 2018, 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 2nd November 2018, 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 17th November 2018, 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!

Butterfly walk last weekend

Our butterfly walk last Saturday was a great success with many Ringlets and Marbled Whites on show. We also spotted Meadow Brown, Common Blue and Small Heath butterflies, and Six-spot Burnet and Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet moths. A small bung impregnated with Six-belted Clearwing moth pheromone was hung from vegetation in two places where Bird’s-foot Trefoil, the caterpillar’s food plant is plentiful, and on both occasions, male Six-belted Clearwing moths were attracted to the lure. This small day-flying moth, resembling a wasp, is seldom seen although it is relatively widespread on the hillside.

Here are a few photos of some of the species seen, as well as some new aerial photos taken on the walk by Andy Purcell.

New photos in our Gallery!

We’ve just refreshed our main photo gallery with lots of lovely new photos, all taken by local photographer Andrew Cook who walks around the hills regularly with his camera! Here are a few to whet your appetite; to see them all, click here to visit our gallery.