I might never have visited the Lickey Hills, south-west of Birmingham, had the Open Spaces Society (OSS) not held its local correspondents’ weekend there.
On 10-12 October, we met at the excellent Hillscourt Conference Centre, Rose Hill, on the Old Birmingham Road (B4096). The centre was built in 1897 and was a prep school (which one of our number, Peter Newman, attended), and then was bought by the National Association of School Masters and Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) which still owns and manages it. We only had to cross the road to be in the Lickey Hills.
The hills are a country park, in Worcestershire but managed by Birmingham City Council. They are made up of four hills: the wooded Rednal, Bilberry and Cofton Hills on the east side of the B4096 and the open Beacon Hill to the west. Rednal Hill was originally bought in 1888 by the Birmingham Society for the Preservation of Open Spaces (perhaps linked to the OSS which was then known as the Commons Preservation Society?) and handed to Birmingham City to hold in trust. The city bought Cofton Hill, Lickey Warren in 1920, and the Rose Hill estate from the Cadbury family in 1923, restoring access to the public.
The Lickey Hills were a traditional destination for a day out by tram from Birmingham and the Black Country, and they still feel like a much-loved open space, with a mixture of laid-out paths and planted trees, and wilder, self-generating woods.
I managed to fit in three walks on the hills, two before breakfast with my friend Bev Penney, and a longer one with the group. It was magic to be on Bilberry Hill at 7 am with the mist in the valley.
The view to the east shows how effective the south Birmingham green belt has been in keeping development at bay—not perfect of course, but so much better than nothing.
We walked further along the ridge for a view across the valley to Beacon Hill. It was hard to believe we were so close to Birmingham. Bilberry Hill is well named, there were many bilberry (wortleberry) bushes as well as clumps of ling heather.
The weekend provided a great opportunity for OSS correspondents to swap experiences and ideas and learn from each other. The walk was a lovely break from the seminar room.