on October 11, 2011
One of my favourite places in Birmingham is the Lickey Hills Country Park. It's basically a massive 524 acres of parkland on the outskirts of Birmingham, also bordering Bromsgrove and Rednal. I used to come here as a child, and now with children of my own I find it's an ideal place to spend the day and get some fresh air into the family's lungs at the same time! An added bonus is the fact that the Park is free to visit with very few 'optional extras' available, making this a very cheap day out.The wonderful thing about the Lickey Hills Country Park is the greenness of the place; it's beautifully unkempt and generally left to its own devices as far as what plants grow in which areas. There are areas of the Park which have been developed and made more visitor friendly, but on the whole the Park remains a haven of flora and fauna. My favourite area of the Country Park is the 'duck ponds', and it's remained a favourite since I was three years old. It's a huge space in the Park which has been beautifully landscaped around a series of ornamental duck ponds. Walking along a country trail through this part of the Park is especially fantastic for the kids as the ponds are spaced out at intervals and there's always something to look at. The ponds themselves are bursting with wildlife; the obligatory ducks are in abundance in the summer and often you'll see a line of ducklings swimming along trying to keep up with their mum. This is a beautiful section of the Park in any season, although the summertime is definitely the best time to visit if you want to really appreciate the beauty of the area. Children are allowed to fish in the duck ponds using those small fishing nets on sticks, which can be bought from the visitors centre which is further into the Park. My kids have caught plenty of tiddlers and sticklebacks, not the mention the odd newt and even (bizarrely) what I can only describe as a goldfish! Dotted along the trail through the duck ponds are benches at strategic points where you can sit and relax while surrounded by trees and gorgeous wild plants. There's Bluebell Wood, where literally hundreds of bluebells sprout up among the trees for a couple of weeks during the spring. This truly is an amazing sight as the whole floor of this particular piece of woodland is coloured a vibrant purple. Equally beautiful is a patch of the Park which is covered in snowdrops during the winter and early spring, this is also a fantastic display. Another section of the Park which is well worth seeing is the Visitors Centre. This building is a perfect example of packing a lot into a small area. One section of this very small building is a café where you can buy reasonably priced snacks, ice creams and drinks. This opens out into a outdoor picnic area where you can munch your ice lolly and eat your packed lunches, plus the kids can run across to the excellent adventure-type playground which is 100% visible from the picnic area so safe for the little ones to have a bit of much needed freedom. The centre also houses a small gift shop which caters for little kids with not much pocket money, souvenirs of the Country Park start at the ultra cheap price of 25p and the majority of the children's gifts are under £1. Adults can fork out for gardening books and intricately made bird boxes, but be prepared to pay more than your kids! There's a fantastic information display in the centre, including some beautiful photographs of wildlife which has been found in the Country Park. Freely available are leaflets and booklets explaining various aspects of the Park, take advantage of these as they'll help you to make the most of your day. The woodlands are so vast that it's physically impossible to see everything in one day, so using the leaflets and maps you can pick out the parts you want to go and have a look at first. It's impossible to discuss the Lickey Hill Country Park without mentioning the nature you can see if you look hard enough – and are lucky enough. I saw my one and only 'real' badger at the Country Park; I've also seen several woodpeckers and even a buzzard, kindly pointed out by a passing member of the ranger team which looks after the park. This is on top of a multitude of common or garden animals which can be seen all over the Park; the rabbits, robins, sparrows, frogs, kingfishers etc… There are also a herd of deer which live in the park, and polecats but I've never spotted these – I will one day! The Lickey Hills Country Park also boasts an 18 hole golf course which is located next to The Rose & Crown hotel; here you can have a pint and an (overpriced) meal, hire bikes and even get married! The view from the golf course is magnificent as there are trees, duck ponds and nicely maintained gardens as far as the eye can see. There's much, much more but you'll have to go and discover the rest for yourself as it'll spoil the surprise if I tell you too much! Be prepared to spend at least four to five hours in the Park, if you can make a full day of it then arrive as early as possible and leave at dusk. Most areas in the Park are easily accessible by car from the various roads which encircle it, to see everything you'll have to get back in the car and drive to the next entrance along as cars are obviously not allowed to drive through the woodland. All entrances have an excellent amount of free parking (including plenty of disabled spaces) which is central to the particular area you've decided to explore. The Lickey Hills Country Park is roughly 10 miles South of Birmingham City Centre, your best bet if you're travelling by car is to take the A38 (Bristol Road) South as far as Longbridge before following the signs for the Park. You can catch the number 62 bus from the City Centre into Rednal, and here you'll be at the very end of the park with roughly a walk of one and a half miles to get to the Visitors Centre. A train will drop you at Barnt Green Station, but again you've got a good walk ahead of you to get into the main part of the Park. Disabled and pushchair access is very good, although because this is an area very much left to nature it can't be guaranteed that visitors with a disability will be able to do everything. Some pathways in the Park are very steep and loose with gravel so someone with mobility problems would obviously need to be careful. Check in the Visitors Centre for information on which areas are easily accessible and if you're in doubt one of the rangers will happily advise you.
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