Westley Vale Millennium Green
This information was kindly provided by Veronica Treadwell.
Westley Vale Millennium Green Charitable Trust
Following an initiative by the Government in 1998 supporting the creation of “Millennium Greens” to provide “breathing spaces” for the twenty first century, this 5.5 acre disused allotment site was transformed into an area of natural beauty. Surrounded on three sides by a dense urban landscape, with the Grand Union Canal forming its fourth boundary, the site enjoys a mixture of woodland, wetland plus a large mown area for recreation. The site rises above the canal, with the Westley Brook winding its way down to it through the wetlands.
The area is leased from Birmingham City Council for 999 Years on a peppercorn rental and, as a Charity, is managed by a group of Trustees supported by local volunteers who come together regularly to plant, clear, litter pick twice weekly, and maintain the site as a conservation area.
The Millennium Green is completely accessible to the local community at all times and is very well used throughout the year, particularly by dog walkers, local people and school children as a safe and friendly environment. It is also used for educational and recreational purposes by two local Scout Groups, Cottesbrooke Infant and Junior Schools (former pupils designed the detail on the main gate), Kimichi School, Youth Groups, the Pagan Society, and the local Gym. Starting in the Spring of 2016, as part of the 'Active Parks' initiative, free weekly TAI CHI sessions are being held on the Millennium Green. Groups such as Churches Together, The House of Play, and Community Unity who, together with the local Police, have run activities on the site such as “Teddy Bear’s Picnic”, Easter Egg Hunt, and Fun and Education events. We have also run fundraising events, including Dog Shows, as well as celebrating the official opening of the site by the Lord Mayor of Birmingham in 2000, ten years in 2010, and fifteen years in 2015.
As a Charitable Trust, Westley Vale Millennium Green is supported by Birmingham City Council, the Environment Agency, Severn Trent Water, Canals and Rivers Trust (formerly British Waterways) and we continue as members of Birmingham Open Spaces Forum. We also work closely with Arts in the Yard who have links with the Ikon Gallery, organising joint art and cultural activities. They also supported the mural, completed by Graffiti Artist Hoaksar, which covers the wall along the main drive into the Millennium Green. In 2015 we joined WatersideCare who, as well as providing equipment to maintain both Westley Brook and the Canal side, are helping us to monitor the water quality of the stream and to provide an educational facility to the local schools, including “pond dipping.” The Millennium Green has been entered as part of Acocks Green Village in Bloom with the Royal Horticultural Society for the last three years, achieving Silver in 2013, Silver Gilt in 2014, and Gold in 2015.
Improvements and Projects on the Millennium Green in 2015 – 2016
As part of the ‘Be Active Birmingham’ ‘Active Parks’ / ‘Park Lives’ programme, free-to-all one-hour sessions of TAI CHI started in April 2016 on the Millennium Green, to run during the Summer months in all weathers.
Arts in the Yard event.
This was an Arts and Culture event organised by ‘Arts in the Yard’ in conjunction with the ‘Ikon Gallery’, who moored their craft workshop narrow boat by the Vineries canal bridge, adjacent to the Millennium Green. Many members of the Public, including local school children, were able to enjoy craft work on board the narrow boat, with guided walks, clay work, and a camp fire sing-along on the site.
On two occasions during the year, as part of their community volunteering policy, a group of young adults from this company helped in clearing large areas of undergrowth and over-hanging foliage from the path edges. Other companies in the area have shown an interest in carrying out similar projects on the site.
Adopting a stretch of the Grand Union Canal
As part of a group of local volunteers, supported and advised by a member of the Canals and Rivers Trust, a section of the Grand Union Canal, including the canal side boundary of Westley Vale Millennium Green, has been ‘adopted’. Working sessions with clearing, planting, litter picking, graffiti cleaning and general maintenance are held on alternate months throughout the year.
TESCO ‘Bags of Help’ Funding
This funding initiative was a result of the five pence plastic carrier bag charge by large companies, the proceeds of which could be applied for by charitable organisations. Following an application, Westley Vale Millennium Green was successful in securing funding of £8000. This will be spent on improving the fifteen post Trail around the site, with an information leaflet including a map and details of each marker point. It is hoped to improve access paths on the site at the same time.
Urban Orchard Project
Following discussions with Rob Tilling from ‘The Urban Orchards Project’, it was decided that, due to the enormity of the task of clearing the area of raspberry plants and the lack of an on-site water supply for the required watering, it would be difficult to proceed with the proposed 15 to 20 tree orchard. It was decided, therefore, to establish a few fruit trees with more added each year. A Plum and a Cherry tree have been planted next to the existing Medlar. Two Crab apple trees have been potted up for planting next autumn.
The Wildlife Trusts – Birmingham & Black Country
The initial contact with The Wildlife Trusts was for advice on providing suitable nesting sites for Owls and Bats on the site. Following a visit from one of their Team, it became clear that there was a suitable natural environment already established, with many of the existing trees serving as ideal nesting sites. Looking at other areas of the site, it was agreed that an area of more recent tree planting would be ideal for ongoing maintenance, and a large area has been planted with woodland bulbs and plants. It was also decided to create a wild flower meadow on the slope to the ‘Heights’ and, with soil samples taken to establish whether the area is suitable, and with continued support from the Wildlife Trusts, it is planned that the process of preparing and planting the meadow will commence in July 2016.
- Continue to maintain Westley Brook with water monitoring assisted and advised by WatersideCare, and including local schools under supervision.
- Continue, in liaison with Canals and Rivers Trust as part of their ‘Adopt a section of Canal’, to maintain both sides of the Grand Union Canal which border our site.
- Extend the ‘Orchard’ by clearing the overgrown raspberries and gradually introducing a variety of fruit trees to this area. To then maintain the site and harvest and process the fruit.
- Further joint activities with other local Community groups, including Arts in the Yard and the Ikon Gallery.
- Continue working closely with The Wildlife Trusts to improve the habitat.
- Ongoing maintenance and litter picks on a regular basis.
- Complete the ‘Fifteen Points Trail’ for education purposes.
- Encourage education and recreational activities and events on the site by all sections of the local community.
These ongoing improvements ensure that this ‘green lung’, an oasis in the complex urban environment of our City, continues to add health and value to all our local residents.