Category Archives: Parks

The Old Bull’s Head & The Bloxwich Wishing Tree

The old Bull's Head pub, Park Rd, Bloxwich, 10 June 1927 (pic by Billy Meikle)
The old Bull’s Head pub, Park Rd, Bloxwich, 10 June 1927 (pic by Billy Meikle)

Bloxwich was once particularly rich in old public houses, many dating to the Georgian era and before.

By the time local historian Billy Meikle (1858-1943), who spent most of his life in Walsall, wrote about the old Bull’s Head pub in Park Road, Bloxwich, few such early inns remained, and today many surviving Bloxwich pubs are sadly closed, converted or under threat for economic reasons.

Arms of the Skeffington family
Arms of the Skeffington family

The original Bull’s Head inn had been in what was later named Park Road, Bloxwich, since Tudor times.  The name of the pub is traditionally said to be inspired by the bull’s head which was part of the coat of arms of John Skeffington, a Bloxwich landowner of the 1500s.  However there was once a long tradition of bull-baiting in Britain, and pubs of this name often refer to this now-extinct blood sport, so there may also be an element of this in the origins of the name.

The Bull’s Head was for centuries a thriving social centre and a popular meeting place for local workmen.  Indeed the ‘Amicable Society’ – the town’s largest friendly society – met there from 1785.  They had seventy-two male members and by 1811 there were forty women on the register.  A Catholic Society also met there in the early 1800s, with Titus Somerfield as secretary and a membership of 260.

Arthur and Mrs Banks outside the old Bull's Head, 10 June 1927 (pic by Billy Meikle)
Arthur and Mrs Banks outside the old Bull’s Head, 10 June 1927 (pic by Billy Meikle)

William Colbourne owned the Bull’s Head in 1813.  By 1818 Thomas Taylor had taken over, and was still there in 1834.  In 1851, Samuel Taylor was the licensee but by 1880 it had changed hands again.  William Fryer was the landlord in 1908, by which time the weekly takings were £11 and four shillings.

Though latterly having a plastered Victorian façade added, by the time Billy Meikle came on the scene in the early 1900s the pub still retained its ancient oak beams, an ingle nook and an 18th century fireplace, giving it a cosy atmosphere.  In 1938, Meikle wrote that forty years ago the Tudor fire grate had been removed.

Kitchen of the old Bull's Head, 1927 (watercolour by Billy Meikle)
Kitchen of the old Bull’s Head, 1927 (watercolour by Billy Meikle)

The old Bull’s Head was much-loved, both by locals and by Meikle, who photographed the pub, together with its last landlord Arthur Banks and his wife, on 10 June 1927, not long before it was demolished by Walsall council.

Later, he painted watercolours of the interior to complement his fine photography, leaving a unique record of a wonderful old ‘watering hole’ now sadly lost to us.  Continue reading The Old Bull’s Head & The Bloxwich Wishing Tree

EDITORIAL Forever autumn: what future for our green spaces?

Bloxwich Park, our ancient village green: will those fallen leaves lie undisturbed in future?
Bloxwich Park, our ancient village green: will those fallen leaves lie undisturbed in future?

The summer sun is fading as the year grows old
And darker days are drawing near
The winter winds will be much colder
Now you’re not here

Today is Sunday, and the weather, surprisingly given conditions of late, was lovely, crisp, clear and sunny, with a sparkling light fit to shine deep into our souls. The grass was green, and the red-hot fallen leaves of autumn glowed bright in the wintry sunshine.  The great wheel of the seasons is turning, and we can see this all around us.  It is part of our lives, and our spirit.

What did you do?  Did you go for a walk?  Did you take the dog, your partner, the kids?  Where did you go?  A day out in the car?  Or a trip into our borough’s very own countryside havens?  A wander down to the local park, perhaps after church or a quiet drink in the pub?  Bloxwich is blessed with so many leafy parks and village greens, we are surrounded with trees and lawns, bushes and shrubs, little pools and hidden nature walks, with a once-bubbling fountain, quiet now but biding its time for the spring to come.

What a great day to be outdoors.  What was it like?  What did you see there?  Did you look around in wonder, stand silent amongst tall poplars, birch or oak?  Listen awe-struck to the birds, or stare out breathless across a trembling lake or pool?  Did you kick your way through the leaves, run along the footpaths and across the grass?  Did you feel the icy breeze sending a tingle up your spine?  Didn’t it feel good to be alive?

Come spring and summer, will you return to these green temples of peace for quiet contemplation, for family fun days and traditional carnivals, for childrens’ activities and adult education, for minibeast hunts and birdwatching walks, to spot bats or butterflies, to consider the rocks and waters beneath your feet or to watch the stirring of life on land, in the air and beneath the water of ponds and lakes?

Yet these havens of living beauty, and our access to them, cannot be taken for granted.  In dark times, we may have to fight for them, to raise our voices and our hands, to question and call to account those who set themselves far above us, as they see it.

What will you do if our parks and countryside spaces, the green and beating hearts of our towns and our borough’s hinterland, begin to suffer from neglect?  What if mowing the grass and managing the trees and heathland, trimming the bushes and husbanding the hedgerows, dredging the ponds and lakes, bending the willow fences and mending the stiles, picking the poop and clearing up all those glorious but now dark and rotting autumn leaves are all cut back, or heaven forbid, abandoned altogether?

What will you do if the opening hours are cut, the services dwindle, the helpful staff, the hard-working maintenance crews, the expert rangers, inspiring educators and supportive volunteers disappear, until one day you walk up to the gates of Bloxwich Park, or King George V Playing Fields, or Bloxwich Promenade Gardens, or any of the borough’s many parks and nature reserves large and small are locked and bolted, with barbed wire on the railings, the buildings boarded up, the play equipment rusting, the tools abandoned in the long grass and nothing stirring beyond the bars but the breeze, the peeling paint on burnt-out cars and the uneasy odour of fly-tipped rubbish.

What will you do?

Well you cannot say that you have not seen it coming.

What do you mean?  You cannot see it? You cannot hear it? You cannot read it? Are your eyes and ears open at all?  Things are falling apart all over England as a result of government cuts forced upon the people by those who think they are better than us, those with their millionaire’s hands jammed deep in our pockets but who care nothing for crumbling services, slashed jobs and ‘little’ lives that do not matter to them.

You see, it is happening already, even to the glorious legacy of our Victorian forebears who created the town and village parks for the good of the people, for their health and for their spiritual well-being.  And to the work of those who came after, inspired by the same ideals and a love of life and of knowledge to set up our nature reserves.  One day, perhaps, we may even see these places abandoned altogether, as part of “efficiency savings” or because “nobody cares”.

What will you do if the parks are built on and the nature reserves become a haven of a different kind – for drug addicts and burnt-out cars?  You may see no sign of this now, but those who do not care for the people will surely care even less for the green places that they love and need.

And swingeing green cuts are coming to Walsall.  Forced by massive and insupportable local authority budget cuts by national government, proposals already announced by the Council will lead to yet more staff cuts and “efficiency savings”.  We know what that means.  Oh, there are no parks closing now, nor are there plans to do so – but what of the future? A slippery slope is just that, and who will put on the brakes?

Thankfully, there are those arising who will stand against such decline and will fight for alternatives to cuts.  They are, appropriately, a “grass roots” group of Walsall countryside enthusiasts who can see clearly the dark clouds looming ahead for our local green spaces, because they are actively engaged in supporting them and the hard-working Walsall Council staff who do so much to make them accessible and enjoyable.

Beginning with the Friends of Park Lime Pits, they have not let the grass grow under their feet. Hearing of the cuts proposed, they stood up to be counted on Facebook, they made their opinions known through Twitter, they set up an official petition on the Walsall Council website, and organised not only a peaceful protest at the Council House but a meeting with senior Council officers, so that they could both better understand the reasoning behind the cuts – and make their voices heard.

Would that the people of this once-great nation would do as much.  Would that YOU would do as much.  Will you?

Much of what you really need to know is here, on the blog and other sites of this passionate group.  Make up your own mind on the issues and ask questions:

Save Walsall’s Green Spaces and Countryside Services

Sign the Petition against the cuts

Join the Facebook group

SHOW YOU CARE.

Before this all this is gone.  It has already begun…

Stuart Williams, Editor

Click on each photo below (and above) to see the full beauty of these precious places:

Abandoned Park Keeper's Lodge, Wiggin Avenue, King George V Playing Fields.
Abandoned Park Keeper’s Lodge, Wiggin Avenue, King George V Playing Fields.
King George V Playing Fields mean so much to so many.
King George V Playing Fields mean so much to so many.
Wallington Heath Pool - an 18th century stagecoach halt saved from weed and neglect by parks staff.
Wallington Heath Pool – an 18th century stagecoach halt saved from weed and neglect by parks staff.
History and natural beauty come together at Bloxwich Promenade Gardens on the High Street.
History and natural beauty come together at Bloxwich Promenade Gardens on the High Street.
Not just a patch of grass - a place of life and heritage on Elmore Green since ancient times..
Not just a patch of grass – a place of life and heritage on Elmore Green since ancient times..

Forever Autumn

(from Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds)

The summer sun is fading as the year grows old
And darker days are drawing near
The winter winds will be much colder
Now you’re not here

I WATCH the birds fly south across the Autumn sky
And one by one they DISAPPEAR
I wish that I was flying WITH them
Now you’re not here

Like the SUN through the trees you came to love me
Like a leaf on the breeze you blew away

Through Autumn’s golden gown we used to kick our way
You always loved this time of year
Those fallen leaves lie undisturbed now
Cause you’re not here

Like the SUN through the trees you came to love me
Like a leaf on the breeze you blew away

A gentle rain falls softly on my weary eyes
As if to hide a lonely tear
My life will be forever Autumn
Cause you’re not here

Cause you’re not here

Cause you’re not here…

Countryside cuts protesters lobby Walsall Council meeting

Save Walsall's Green Spaces protesters at Walsall Council House.
Save Walsall’s Green Spaces protesters at Walsall Council House.

A successful protest was held outside Walsall Council House this evening by the Save Walsall’s Green Spaces and Countryside Services Group, who lobbied Councillors as they arrived for a scheduled Full Council meeting.

The Group, recently formed on Facebook by concerned local residents to celebrate, support and protect Walsall’s green spaces, which are under threat from a possible £400,000 cut in funding proposed by Walsall Council under draft proposals recently published, handed out leaflets and spoke to councillors during the peaceful protest.

After the protest Linda Mason, spokesperson for the group, explained that although the subject of cuts was not being debated at the meeting, it was important to keep the matter fresh in councillors’ minds and to remind them how much the borough’s green spaces and in particular the Countryside and Park Rangers mean to the people of Walsall.

The placard-waving and banner-wielding protesters numbered around a dozen and were able to engage some councillors in conversation, who in the main appeared broadly supportive.

Protesters outlined their particular concerns regarding a proposed cut in Ranger posts. Councillor Arif, representing St Matthews Ward said however: “We are not cutting any Countryside Rangers.”

Ms Mason commented to The Bloxwich Telegraph:

“Cllr Arif’s quote is most welcome to the group.

“We will continue with our campaign which also includes an online petition, now signed by the largest number of people in Walsall Council’s e-petition history, and a web site.”

The group’s online petition against the cuts will remain active on Walsall Council’s website until the end of December and can be signed via the following link: Green Spaces Petition

Concerned Walsall residents are also being invited to join the Facebook group via the following link: Facebook Group

The group’s website which includes further information can also be found at:

Save Walsall’s Green Spaces and Countryside Services

Countryside cuts debate begins in cyberspace

The Friends of Park Lime Pits (courtesy Linda Mason).

A group of concerned Walsall borough residents have taken a stand in cyberspace against proposed Walsall Council budget cuts which they believe will seriously affect the future of Walsall’s green spaces and Countryside Services.

The Friends of Park Lime Pits have set up a new Facebook Group to allow local people to debate these concerns in the open and to raise the profile of the cuts at the same time as Walsall Council is inviting the public to have their say on the 2013 budgetary proposals.

HAVE YOUR SAY ON CUTS

Early budget proposals which went to Walsall Council’s cabinet on 24 October are published at www.walsall.gov.uk/budgethaveyoursay and indicate that more than £13 million of savings are needed in the next financial year alone as part of £70 million worth of savings over the next four years. More than £32 million has already been ‘saved’ over the past two years.  The published proposals are set to be redrafted before the final budget is decided in February 2013.

According to the Friends of Park Lime Pits, although the fine detail is missing, £400,000 worth of cuts are being proposed for the department dealing with Walsall’s parks and open spaces.

And it is believed that should the cuts go ahead, two of four Countryside Rangers could go, along with other posts in Parks.

SAVE OUR PARKS AND COUNTRYSIDE

Linda Mason, local resident and Secretary of the Friends of Park Lime Pits decided to set up the group ‘Save Walsall’s Green Spaces and Countryside Services’ last Friday evening to celebrate all that is good about the much loved service and to campaign for its future existence for the benefit of future generations of Walsall.

Linda said:

“I have become aware over recent weeks through the local blogging community and also through volunteering with Friends of Park Lime Pits, of potential cuts to jobs within Countryside Services  and the effect that such cuts could have upon this much loved and respected part of the services provided by Walsall Council. I was heartened to see that within 18 hours of the group being set up there were 75 supporters.

“The group aims to put pressure on the council to reconsider the budget cuts. Countryside Services and its staff are a real asset to the town and borough and provide a wealth of expertise, commitment and hard work in maintaining, promoting and improving all green spaces and local nature reserves. Their loss would be keenly felt.”

An e-petition has been formulated and submitted to the council for approval and the Group hopes that it will be available for signature by individuals later this week.

VOLUNTARY GROUPS

Although certain voluntary community groups do help with Green Space maintenance, they can only function as effective groups with the leadership and support provided by the committed and knowledgeable staff that are currently in post. Apart from Countryside Services, parks staffing will also be cut and maintenance reduced as part of the cuts proposed.

Without these people, green spaces across Walsall borough will suffer through lack of maintenance, vision and management. As well as environmental concerns and anti-social behaviour issues, these green spaces could become places where nobody would want to visit, thereby depriving local people of much needed leisure and environmental opportunities for relaxation and a healthy living both of mind and body.

JOIN THE DEBATE

The Facebook group can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/437765136281023/

And is open for everyone to join.

Picture courtesy of Linda Mason and the Friends of Park Lime Pits.

Shocking Bloxwich tree vandalism mystery solved

Sergeant Hannah Davies (inset) and tree damage

The mystery of the terrible vandalism done to trees in the Bloxwich Promenade Gardens off High Street has been solved, thanks to information received from public-spirited local people via Cllr Kath Philips, Cllr Julie Fitzpatrick, The Bloxwich Telegraph and others, and the perpetrator has been promptly identified and located by Bloxwich police.

The fear of possible dog-fighting activity has also, thankfully, now been laid to rest.

Bloxwich East Neighbourhood team leader Sergeant Hannah Davies (photo inset above), speaking to The Bloxwich Telegraph, said:

“A local male has been identified as responsible for the damage by encouraging his dog to scratch at the trees while he was sitting in the park.

“The dog isn’t a fighting dog and doesn’t pose any more danger to the public than any other dog, his actions were merely done for amusement but have unfortunately resulted in devastating damage to several trees.  The damage caused has no link to dog fighting at all.

“The male in question will be arrested and dealt with at the earliest opportunity. No further damage to the trees has been done since this male has been identified and spoken to briefly by officers.

“The Council have been liaised with and have provided funding so the trees can be surrounded by bamboo to protect them.  Cllr Fitzpatrick, Cllr Phillips and Nikki Rolls have been updated.”

These mindless acts of vandalism were kindly brought to the attention of The Bloxwich Telegraph by local Councillor Kath Philips – see our original story via this link.

Nikki Rolls of Walsall Council has invited anyone willing to volunteer to help with the work of protecting the trees to join her at the Bloxwich Fountain in Promenade Gardens on Thursday at 10.30am – see today’s earlier story via this link.

Bloxwich East Neighbourhood Police’s website can be found via this link.

Appeal for volunteers to help save damaged Bloxwich trees

Appalling tree damage in Bloxwich Promenade Gardens

Further to The Bloxwich Telegraph’s recent report about the shocking vandalism to trees in the Promenade Gardens off Bloxwich High Street, a story which will be followed up shortly, Bloxwich Town Centre Management and Bloxwich Business Partnership are appealing to local people for help in saving and protecting these trees from further vandalism.

Nikki Rolls, Walsall Council’s Bloxwich Regeneration Officer, has spoken to The Bloxwich Telegraph in the hope that residents and traders will come forward to join forces is assisting in the necessary work, which is scheduled for this Thursday.

Nikki told us:

“The Council’s urban forestry team has arranged a volunteers day to shield the worst damaged and other trees by installing bamboo fencing around the trees this Thursday from 10.30am.

“We need your help – if you are able to volunteer some time to help us protect these trees please meet us at 10.30 by the Bloxwich Fountain on Thursday.”

All equipment is being provided for use during the day, and volunteers need not be tree experts or botanists – just willing to do a little work to help save an important part of the green and leafy environment and historic heritage of Bloxwich.

If you need further information, you can telephone Nikki on 01922 654324.

Website www.walsall.gov.uk

Parks promise Easter treat for youngsters

Easter egg hunt.

Sweet-toothed youngsters are being invited on a tasty treasure hunt throughout the borough’s parks this Easter – searching for tasty treats.

Popular Easter egg hunts, free of charge, are being staged again in 2012 by Walsall Council’s parks development team. And the egg-stravagant activity comes to Bloxwich’s famous King George V Playing Fields on Saturday 7 April!

Others in the series of events are on Friday 6 April at Willenhall Memorial Park and in Holland Park in Brownhills on Easter Sunday 8 April.

Palfrey Park will also host a hunt on Monday 9 April and the events come to a close on Tuesday 10 April at Pleck Park.

Teams of under 10s and teams of under 14s are being invited to take part in the fun events. Each team can have a maximum of three members. Registration for all hunts is at 10.30am and they will get under way at 10.45am.

At Willenhall, Bloxwich and Brownhills, youngsters should meet at the play areas. In Palfrey they should go to the mess room and meet at the pavilion in Pleck.

John Millard, Walsall Council senior park ranger, said: “The Easter bunny has already been busy, hiding some chocolate treats ready for the treasure hunts next month.

“The events are free, so won’t break the bank for families this Easter, and as well as being in with a chance of winning, youngsters can enjoy fresh air and exercise in some of the borough’s lovely parks.”

For more information contact the parks development team on 01922 65893/4/5/6 or 07736 388409.

Bloxwich bonfire lights the blue touch paper!

FireworksBloxwich will be a riot of colour next weekend as the borough’s first bonfire and firework display gets under way.

The bonfire at King George V Playing Fields will be lit at 7pm on Saturday 29 October.

Fireworks will delight the crowd from 8pm-8.20pm.

Hundreds of visitors visit the bonfires, organised by Walsall Council’s parks team, every year.

John Millard, Walsall Council senior park ranger, said: “We’re counting down to the first of this year’s three bonfire events and are looking forward to another huge turnout.

“Supervised bonfires are the safest option for all and we’re very proud of our colourful firework displays which are well praised  every time we stage them.”

Food is available at the bonfire event along with children’s rides.

Entry is £3 for adults, £1 for children and free for under fives.
For safety reasons visitors are not allowed to bring their own fireworks or sparklers to the event. No alcohol is allowed and under 14s must be accompanied by an adult.

The park rangers still need hundreds of wooden pallets to build the bonfires and are asking businesses, factories and supermarkets to rally round.

John added: “Our bonfires are massive and take some building so any help is much appreciated.

“We have been well supported in previous years by businesses from all over Walsall, as well as slightly further afield, and we hope to attract the same level of support this year.”

Anyone who is able to donate and deliver pallets should contact senior park rangers John Millard on 07736 388409 or John Morris on 07736 388418.