“ The Park is designed to provide a stimulating and educational environment. There is a path to take the visitor beside ponds, through woodland, flowering meadow and heathland, with places for rest and reflection. The park is also designed to be a safe and enjoyable place to work. „
Its been so sunny in Birmingham today that we just had to find somewhere to pop to for a few hours; it would have been sacrilege to sit indoors on such a warm and summery day.
My next door neighbour suggested we visit the Birmingham Ecopark in Small Heath. The Ecopark is Birminghams section of The Wildlife Trust and is a large area dedicated to educating us Brummies on the importance of sustainability, ie. using environmentally sound ways to produce an area of beauty.
The park doesnt look as well maintained as other Birmingham parks, but this is because Ecopark are trying to attract as many wild plants and animals into their boundaries as possible and this simply wont happen if the lawns are cut to a perfect 1cm height. Its beautiful in a wild and untended way, but wont rival Kew Gardens for attractiveness.
The idea of the Ecopark isnt, however, to give you something nice to look at as its basically a place of learning, used to teach people of any age and culture how we can help to save the environment by making small (and large) changes to our lifestyle. Walking through the park youll see some interesting and surprising ways to make these changes, as well as some ideas which are a bit too green to be incorporated into modern living! Its actually just the *principles* of sustainability which the Ecopark are aiming to teach us, theyre not working to turn us into a nation of tree huggers!
My favourite area in the park was the ponds. These smallish water areas have been created specifically to attract different species of wildlife, as well as having a gorgeous border of wild flowers. This is such a relaxing and comfortable area; there are plenty of benches available to sit on and chill out, while the grassy areas alongside the ponds are perfect for the kids to play on. The ponds are stunning; its not like seeing a pond in a typical park because theyre totally left to their own devices. There are reeds which grow in abundance and these not only soften the outer areas of the ponds, but also make an important contribution to the attraction of herons and other such water birds.
The only thing I will mention about the ponds is the fact that theyre not particularly well fenced off, so make sure you keep younger children well away from the edges and dont forget the reeds have a deceiving effect and in some areas overlap the edge of the water, so again be very careful if your children are playing near the reeds.
The demonstration woodland is also a particularly pretty area of the Ecopark. This is where The Wildlife Trust has planted a huge selection of trees which are native to the British Isles. These are trees specifically chosen because theyre known to attract large numbers of different insects, and this in turn will entice bird populations to feed in the woodlands. The woodland isnt a massive area but its densely planted with trees making you feel as though youre walking in a huge forest at times, especially when the sun goes in and the patch youre walking through takes on an almost twilight look.
Theres an unusual feature which my daughter called a mini Stonehenge, this is a circle of large stones which actually looked creepily like headstones to me! The stones are in various states of disrepair and look as though theyve been stuck higgldy piggldy into the ground which they have to make for a softer look to the feature. This is another area which has lots of seating so you can sit and contemplate the beauty of the area.
Ecopark also has several demonstration areas to show visitors how to create a more environmentally friendly garden. You can learn how to make rich compost using vegetable peelings, newspapers and other household waste and also see the development of Ecoparks very own compost bins, which is whats used for the majority of planting in the park. The Permaculture section of the park is where you can pick up some ideas for your garden; this includes demonstrations on effective planting to attract wildlife, as well as tips on planting vegetables to go with your Sunday dinner. To be honest, I found this area a bit pretentious as the majority of ideas are totally not practical in your average family garden but it was nice to see a working example of how eco-friendly our gardens could be with a little bit of effort and expense.
The Flowering Meadow is an absolutely gorgeous area, created using hundreds and hundreds of wildflowers. The early summer sun has encouraged them to bloom and its like looking at a carpet of colour; reds, yellows, purples and lots of green mingle in together giving visitors a beautiful display. I can also see the reason for the meadow as there were loads of bumble bees, butterflies and moths flying around amongst the flowers.
Dotted around the park are information placards, all of which give general advice on how to create the perfect environmental balance in your own garden. Again, some of the advice is not practical but I picked up a few ideas for my modest garden. Larger placards are located at the entrances to the ponds and woodlands, which explain more about the benefits of being more environmentally friendly and how you can do your bit to help the planet. In particular, the section in Ecopark which is dedicated to recycling is very comprehensive and full of brilliant ideas to not only get people recycling but also ways of doing it that Id never heard of!
The park is fully accessible to disabled visitors, and also for pushchairs. The pathways are slightly hilly but they are well maintained and smooth, so there shouldnt be a problem unless you have particularly severe mobility problems. The park is large, however, so expect to do plenty of walking. Theres a large shop which sells plants and wildflowers for very reasonable prices, and also a guide is placed in front of this shop detailing the different kinds of wildlife which you may be lucky enough to see during your visit.
One of the best things about Ecopark is its free to visit. They were holding an open day today, but as a rule theyre only open on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday between the hours of 10am and 4pm although you can ring one of their dedicated members of staff on the number below to arrange an alternative visiting time.
Definitely visit here if youre ever in the Birmingham area, its just like going to the park but its also an educational insight into our eco system. Staff are hugely knowledgeable and will answer any and all questions you might like to put to them, as Ecopark is often used to teach schools about the environment the staff are used to having awkward questions posed and are also not embarrassed about speaking to the kids when they want to ask something.
Youre encouraged to visit by public transport, as cars are obviously not the best advertisement for green living. You can catch the number 15 or 17 buses from Birmingham City Centre to Hob Moor Road, asking the driver to put you off at the Starbank Road stop. A short walk along the road will lead you directly to Ecopark. By train, you need to get off at Tysley Station which is roughly half a mile from the park.
By car (if you must!) you need to head towards East Birmingham and then into Small Heath, get onto the A45 ring road and follow the signs to Heybarnes Circus Roundabout. Ecopark is a five minute drive along Hob Moor Road, which is a turning from the roundabout. Theres plenty of space for cars to park alongside the entrance to the park, and the car park itself is well maintained and well lit.
258a Hob Moor Road
Tel: 0121 785 0553
Tel: 0121 785 0553 or 0121 454 1199.