Feedback from Tame Valley Wetlands Community Meeting 20/03/17 

In March TDCS Committee member Ruth Robinson attended a Tame Valley Wetlands Community Meeting held at Water Orton. We are grateful for Ruth’s report on the meeting which brings organisations and individuals who are interested in nature and our local heritage and environment and we hope that you enjoy reading about her experiences.


This free event was aimed to bring together the communities of the Tame Valley Wetlands. It was an opportunity for local groups or individuals with an interest in access to the countryside, heritage or the environment, to network and share best practice, meet similar groups, share tips and ideas, and be inspired. It was also a chance to find out about the Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership and get involved.

The day started with a talk :The Tame Valley Wetlands, where we are now and visions for the future followed by the health  and social benefits of nature and heritage conservation work. These are the basic points :

The Tame Valley Wetlands, spanning from Birmingham through rural North Warwickshire and Tamworth, is a landscape of real importance for society and nature, and one which is under substantial pressure.

The canal network and the River Tame and its floodplain form the largest series of interconnected wetlands in the Midlands – this connectivity and availability of open space is a vital asset for both people and wildlife.

The Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership, led by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust and supported by a variety of organisations including charities, local groups, statutory bodies and councils, formed over 10 years ago in recognition of the importance of this landscape, with the vision ‘to create a wetland landscape, rich in wildlife and accessible to all’.

Over the last 2 years alone, thanks largely to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Biffa Award, Environment Agency and other partners, the Partnership has invested just over £1 million towards realising this vision through the Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership Scheme.

Work has involved restoring the floodplain and improving the river in Kingsbury and Tamworth by re-naturalising the channel and reinstating an historic river island; restoring the Drayton Turret Footbridge – an iconic 200 year old Grade II listed structure on the canal, formerly owned by Sir Robert Peel; and enhancing hundreds of metres of hedgerow for the benefit of wildlife.

The Tame Valley Wetlands not only provide a vital role in reducing flooding, improving water quality and providing a home for wildlife; they are also special places for people to relax and enjoy, improving health and wellbeing. A key aim of the Scheme is to encourage responsible and improved access to the countryside and nature reserves for people living in Tamworth, Kingsbury, Coleshill, Castle Vale, Water Orton and nearby villages.

TameFest – a large free event showcasing the Tame Valley Wetlands – which took  place in Tamworth Castle Pleasure Grounds on Saturday 27th May.

After these talks there was then a chance to join in on two workshops. Firstly I joined a workshop where we talked about funding opportunities. It was hosted by two ladies from WARWICKSHIRE COMMUNITY AND VOLUNTARY ACTION (www.wcava.org.uk) which was formed in 2008 through the merger of separate ‘Councils for Voluntary Service’ and ‘Volunteer Centres’ to provide a single point of access for everyone who wants to engage in community and voluntary action. They have a collective history of over 200 years of supporting local communities to thrive. Although they are based in Warwickshire they said that they would be quite happy to talk to anyone outside their area who was linked to helping the Tame Valley Community.

The second workshop I attended was called ‘Telling The Tale of the Tame’. On the website www.tamevalleywetlands.co.uk they are asking for help to build a picture of the local history of the Tame Valley Wetlands by uploading your stories, photographs and memories to the Historypin website.

Historypin is a digital archive of historical photos, videos, audio recordings and personal recollections. Users are able to use the location and date of their content to “pin” it to Google Maps.  On the website you use the drop down tag : Discover : then History and then finally Historypin (located at the very bottom of the page). Anyone can add material but we were warned to be careful of copyrights on pictures but your own are ok to include. They are looking for any information that people may have whether it is concerning mining, the wars, people history ( who was where and where did people go) , the waterways or just memories.

There was then time for a short closing talk which brought the end to a very enjoyable and informative day !!

Images in this blog post, attributed to Tina Williams, are as follows: Tame Valley Wetlands at Middleton Lakes (RSPB site), Lake and wetlands at Kingsbury Water Park, Tame Valley Wetlands at Middleton Lakes (RSPB site) and Kingsbury Hall.

 

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Heritage Open Day September 11th, 2016

TDCS was in Tamworth Town Hall for the second year running on Heritage Open Day on 11th September, 2016, and our stall was kept busy as hundreds of visitors of all ages called in. It was good to see the Mayor in full regalia welcoming people into the Mayor’s Parlour. Thanks also to our friends the Green Badge Tourist Guides who did sterling work around the town centre publicising the HOD attractions, assisting visitors, and welcoming people into the Town Hall.  We had a lovely time.

Here are some scenes from the day.  Unless stated otherwise all photographs are by S. Biggs.

tgtg-hod-2016-09-11-001“Thomas Guy” makes an appearance at histdcs-hod-2016-09-11-sb_0960 Almshouses, posing proudly below his coat of arms (photo by D. Biggs).  TDCS would like to see a statue of our town’s great benefactor Mr. Guy erected in the town. On the right: Blooming marvellous!  The Castle Grounds show why Tamworth has won Gold in the Small Cities category of the Heart of England in  Bloom competition for ten consecutive years. Well done to all concerned.

tdcs-hod-2016-09-11-sb_0983aThe “Mediaeval Grave-diggers” literally worship The Worshipful The Mayor of Tamworth, and the Mayoress.  His Worship looks  bemused!

Below:  Back to front! Shouldn’t Bibbledy Bob the policeman be chasing the Convict?  If only Sir Robert Peel’s statue could talk!

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Thanks for the memories. TDCS members Jill Wood, Kay Green, and Michael Green are fascinated by what was happening in the  town fifty years ago, revealed in a 1966 volume of the Tamworth Herald on show in the Town Hall.

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The scenes of Old Tamworth on our stall captivated many visitors.

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Hams Hall ~ Relics of Past Times

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Two of our TDCS committee members attended a First Aid course in August 2016, held at the offices of the Tame Valley Wetlands Project at the Hams Hall Environmental Centre, close to Lea Marston in North Warwickshire.

This centre now lies within the busy Hams Hall Distribution Park, but when it was set up it was in the grounds of the Hams Hall Power Station which for most of the Twentieth Century dominated the local skyline with its massive cooling towers and employed many residents of Tamworth and District.  The centre was established within the walled garden of the former mansion of Hams Hall, once home to the celebrated politician and benefactor Charles Bowyer Adderley, 1st Baron Norton (1814 – 1905).

One of our attendees took the opportunity to capture for us some images of this tranquil spot hidden away amidst the bustling Distribution Park, and with its poignant relics of past times.

(Photos: David Biggs)

Rural heritage: Historic Lea Ford Cottage (featured in the main photo above) was relocated to the walled garden in 1977, but sadly is currently unused.

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The garden walls are the only reminder that Lord Norton’s stately mansion of Hams Hall once stood here.

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The plaque takes us back to the long-gone days of Hams Hall Power Station.  The oak tree in contrast still thrives.

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The Environmental Studies Centre pond provides a lovely focal point.

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If you have any memories of the site in its various incarnations we would love to hear from you.

 

Fond Memories of Steam

This article was kindly submitted by Civic Society member Michael Green. It provides a fascinating insight not only into steam locomotives but their impact on the local landscape and the excitement that their appearance would engender amongst many of the town’s  local inhabitants.

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The recent visit to Statfold Barn Railway with members and friends of the Society was the third I have made, and the magic rather than diminishing with each just increases. Quite rightly, it has been described as a treasure on our doorstep and, thankfully, it is not a hidden one due to the kindness of Graham Lee who arranges open days and allows private visits such as that from the Society.

The Society is justly proud of the work done there to rescue and preserve our heritage and, of course, it is a living museum with the opportunity to travel on a private railway pulled by a steam engine. It was while travelling behind Alpha on the visit that I was again vividly reminded of a place in Tamworth famously associated in times past with steam engines too.

The place and an important part of my Tamworth heritage was an insignificant piece of land lying between the low and high levels to the south east of the station and now occupied by a mobile home park. In the 1950s it was affectionately referred to as the Stationfields and, at that time, was a place of pilgrimage for trainspotters from throughout the Midlands and elsewhere, its attraction being the position which gave a view of the wide variety of steam engines both on the high and low levels.

On Saturdays and during school holidays it was necessary to have arrived and picked your spot before the double headed ten to ten from Birmingham arrived disgorging droves of “Brummies” as we called them. It was 1/4½d (about 7p) for a child return. The best place to set up for the day was roughly halfway between the bridges under the low and high levels. It was vital to be with a friend or in a group since, if trains were signalled both ways on either level, someone would have to go under the appropriate bridge in case trains crossed so that the one on the far side could be “spotted”!

It would be easy to think that trainspotting was the preserve of boys but this was not the case. While in the minority, girls were also to be found amongst the trainspotters. Unbeknown to me at the time, my future wife was one of them!

FMOS2On the low level, there were two “up” lines to London and two “down” lines to the North West and Scotland. The trainspotters developed their own special names and expressions. Sometimes nicknames were used so the signals on the two up lines were nicknamed “Baby (pronounced Babby) Clangers” on the slow line and “Daddy Clangers” on the fast or main one. While there were only two down lines there were, in fact, three signals because of the link from the fast to the slow or local one and these were called “Main” “Main to Local” and “Local”. A signal was “pegged” when it went up and the accompanying shout would indicate which it was. As soon as the engine was in view there was a further shout of “sighted” and then the cry of “Scot” or whatever class of engine it was when it could be identified. Of the two levels the low level was undoubtedly the premier one with its famous expresses like the Royal Scot (London–Glasgow), Irish Mail (London-Holyhead)FMOS3 and Mancunian (London-Manchester), drawn by engines from the upper echelons of the locomotive hierarchy, each class of which had its own special name (the Coronations were called “Semis”, the Princess Royals “Prinnies”, the Royal Scots “Scots”, the Jubilees “Jubes” and the Patriots “Pats”).

“Local” and “Baby Clangers” were on the lines used by local stopping trains and goods traffic. That did not necessarily mean that these lines were unimportant! Almost unnoticed a pair of engines would creep up to “Local” and remain there for what seemed an eternity. One could see that the second engine was a Britannia class or “Brit” on its way to Crewe works for overhaul. Experience told you that it would be from the Eastern region. Excitement mounted as one waited for “Local” to go up to see which one it was! The other slow line could also provide excitement. The nine o’clock passenger train from Tamworth to London was sometimes pulled by an engine from a northern shed overhauled at Crewe which one would not usually see. It was some years after I had finally finished trainspotting that I “copped” my last Scot, The Green Howards (46133), on one of these.

The high level was largely the domain of the work horses of the region and were mainly the 3F 0-6-0s known as “Duck 6s” and the Stainer 8F 2-8-0s called “Consols” (I don’t know why) pulling differing numbers of wagons in those days principally filled with coal.

If you were a regular and dedicated trainspotter at the Stationfields you could “cop” all the “Pats”, “Prinnies” and “Semis” and a lot of the “Jubes”. You could possibly “cop” all the Scots as well. There were those who visited “Fudger’s Junction” though. This was the mythical place where you could “spot” every engine! Those who visited it were ruthlessly ridiculed.

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Every trainspotter had his Ian Allan “ref” which listed all the engines, in my case, of the London Midland Region. This was precious and kept at home. All the numbers spotted in the day were listed in a note book and, in the evening, these would be checked with the “ref” and the “cops” (engines seen for the first time) underlined in it.

Those were indeed halcyon days. The only bit of bother was the occasional appearance by the owner to assert his ownership. He was Charlie Jenkins who would shoo everyone off. Needless to say, as soon as he had gone, all reappeared!

There were two other individuals connected with the Stationfields whose names stand out. The mentor for young trainspotters was Dennis “Buster” Bromley. He knew everything about trainspotting and the engines and was much envied as he lived at the top of Marmion Street within easy reach of the Stationfields. He was a great source of intelligence. It was known that the engines pulling trains in the morning could return in the evening so if a rare one had gone through he would let us know and we would make sure we were there to see it return. The second was Mr Burrows who specialised in photographing engines. He would come amongst the spotters selling his photos at 6d each. I often wonder what happened to those priceless negatives.

Not only was the Station Café a popular haunt for motor cyclists during the 1950s but FMOS5trainspotters would gravitate there too during quiet periods. As I recall it, its interior was best described as functional with a counter, tables and chairs, table top football, a pinball machine and, of course, the juke box which has been mentioned elsewhere.

Today, as I walk across the mobile home site, images from those bygone days flow through my mind. I see the signals and those Leviathans of steam sometimes pulling as many as 17 carriages. However, one image always causes a shudder. I see the mid-day Royal Scot pulled by the double headed diesels numbered 10,000 and 10,001. Little did I realise in the 1950s that I was seeing the heralds of the demise of steam and the shape of things to come!

There are excellent pictures of Tamworth’s old fine Livock designed station and steam at Tamworth on the warwickshirerailways.com website: http://www.warwickshirerailways.com/lms/tamworthlowlevel.htm

Sensational Statfold – TDCS Visit 16th July 2016

 

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The Tamworth and District Civic Society’s private V.I.P. tour of Statfold Barn Farm Steam Railway – one of the wonders of Tamworth and District – attracted 126 members and friends of all ages. We toured the workshops, yards and museums, admired the attractive and pristine railway architecture, had joyous steam train journeys, and picnicked surrounded by vintage machinery. A fantastic event. A fabulous place. A huge thank you to the owners for making TDCS so welcome, and many congratulations to them and all their volunteer helpers who have lovingly built and maintained this railway paradise.

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For further information about Statfold Barn Farm and its amazing Steam Railway visit its website at:  http://www.statfoldbarnrailway.co.uk/statfold_barn_farm.php

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Images, in order of appearance:

Alpha steams through the Staffordshire countryside pulling 3 carriages fully laden with TDCS members and friends.  (Photo: S. Biggs).

Quite some hobby! A throng gathers as Graham Lee describes his stunning private collection. (Photo: S. Biggs).

Many guests enjoyed a picnic lunch. (Photo: S. Biggs).

The smiles say it all. One of the most successful and enjoyable TDCS events ever.  (Photo: S. Biggs).

Owner Graham Lee explains technical processes to an attentive audience in one of the workshops. (Photo S. Biggs).

All Aboard! The steam train prepares to depart from the beautiful and immaculate station platform. (Photo: David Peace).

Members of the party explore yards and sheds full of salvaged machines. (Photo: S. Biggs).

Hopwas Church Fete, 2nd July 2016

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What a quintessentially English scene!  The annual church fete at St. Chad’s Church, Hopwas on 2nd July 2016.  Stalls, entertainment by a dance troupe and the Tamworth Wind Band.

008This chocolate-box, church, lauded by Pevsner, nestles on Hopwas Hill in the shadow of Hopwas Hayes Wood.  It was designed in 1879 by the celebrated architect John Douglas of Chester, and is a Grade II listed building.  It is a daughter church of the Parish of Tamworth.  The beautiful red brick and half-timbered building, with its distinctive octagonal spire, is a great architectural asset to Tamworth and District.

Inside the welcoming interior may be found two memorial plaques to the dead of 007both world wars.  Exploring the churchyard, one will find various interesting graves, including that of the reforming and philanthropic Vicar of Tamworth, and noted Egyptologist, Reverend William MacGregor, who was one-time Curate at Hopwas and did much to get the new church built, replacing St. John’s in the centre of the village.  His plot lies forward of the village war memorial at the east end of the church.

Also to be seen is the grave of Reverend Ernest Henry Rogers who was Vicar of Tamworth (1922-36), and his wife, with a memorial vase to their son who was killed in action in 1942.

006Our correspondent tells us that an excellent new publication, called “Hopwas Papers” was on sale at the fete, and is a ‘must-have’ item for the area’s local historians.

 

 

 

(Blog Post and Photos: D. Biggs)

Tamworth Charity Proms, 2nd July 2016

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Tamworth is ‘Promtastic’!  A true town of hope and glory!

We refer to the charity proms concert hosted by Tamworth’s Parish and Collegiate 018Church of St Editha to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday. The singers and orchestra were excellent, The pews were packed and the church was an ocean of Union and England flags. Everyone seemed to have an enjoyable time.

The patriotic event also raised money both for the on-going restoration of the ancient 015edifice, and for the invaluable work of St. Giles’s Hospice at Whittington which helps so many people in our area.

We pay tribute to the Vicar and Churchwardens, and all who assist them, for day in and day out ensuring that our magnificent church is at the heart of our community, as their predecessors have also done for a millennium. On 30th June 2016 at 9.00 p.m. they held a Vigil Service for the eve of the Battle of the Somme centenary. On Friday evening 1st July they provided a Battle of the Somme commemoration service in the presence of the Mayor and Mayoress of Tamworth. On Saturday night the hallowed stones reverberated to the Proms, and on Sunday it was business as usual. All this, and much more, every single day. They are a credit to our town.

We are so lucky to have this impressive and historic building, which we may all 020appreciate and benefit from, whether we are a member of its congregation or not. Its maintenance and restoration is a never-ending labour of love. The Proms concert was a brilliant way to help it, to honour our longest-living and longest-reigning monarch, and to engage with the community. Well done to all involved.

(Blog post and photos: D. Biggs) 

TameFest 2016

Celebrating the Tame Valley Wetlands

TDCS stall at Tamefest

On Saturday 28th May committee members from the Tamworth and District Civic Society ran a stall at the annual TameFest event, organised by the Tame Valley Wetlands Initiative. This year’s event, at Kingsbury Water Park, which followed the inaugural TameFest held at Coleshill in 2015, was once again a success attracting an estimated 1,500 visitors.

Tamefest brings together local groups to celebrate the vibrant heritage of the Tame Valley Wetlands. The Tame Valley, between Birmingham and Tamworth, has a lot to offer, not least in terms of its beautiful historical buildings, amazing wildlife, traditional crafts and outdoor sports and recreation.

Morris dancers at Tamwfest 2016 2The day was sunny and warm and, in addition to promoting the work of the society and talking to visitors, members took advantage of the events programme which included Coleshill Town Band, Tamworth’s Shoebox Theatre and Ansley’s Morris Dancers. Strolling around the lakes and meadows of Kingsbury Waterpark highlighted the rich SS856528environmental heritage of the area, particularly the profusion of wildflowers and wildfowl. A visit to the village of Kingsbury afforded members the opportunity to view Kingsbury Hall, which dates from circa 1500.

Next year’s Tamefest will take place in Tamworth Castle Grounds.

About the Tame Valley Wetlands Initiative

SS856511Tame Valley Wetlands is a landscape partnership, led by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and a variety of organisations including local councils, groups, charities and statutory bodies.

Their vision is ‘to create a wetland landscape, rich in wildlife and accessible to all’ in the Tame Valley Wetlands, located between Birmingham and Tamworth, in North Warwickshire and south-east Staffordshire.

The body is delivering a £2.5 million scheme, to complete a series of conservation projects to Bird at Tamefest kingsbury WPrestore heritage and improve the area for wildlife, whilst also reconnecting local people with their landscape. This will be achieved by improving access and learning, so that everyone can enjoy the Tame Valley Wetlands.

Training and volunteering opportunities will be offered so that local people can gain heritage conservation skills, and a programme of exciting events and activities aimed at all ages and interests will also be delivered.

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To read more about the Tame Valley Wetlands Initiative visit its website. http://www.tamevalleywetlands.co.uk/

Images in this blog post attributed as follows: TDCS stall (Susan Biggs), Morris dancers (Susan Biggs), Kingsbury Hall (Tina Williams), Tame Valley Wetlands Logo (Tina Williams), wildfowl (Susan Biggs) and lake and wetlands (Tina Williams).