“ West Bromwich / West Midlands „
My review of the Sandwell Valley Country Park.
Amidst the urban sprawl of the Black Country, famed for it's (once) heavy industry lies the rather surprisingly located Sandwell Valley Country Park.
For anyone who doesn't know West Bromwich well, you could hardly be blamed for not noticing the Sandwell Valley... it lies 'hidden' on a little left turn just after the town centre and before the Sandwell Hospital. From the road there's no sign of it's existence...
Yet as soon as you find the turning (which is not well signposted) miraculously the urban sprawl instantly fades away and you could be forgiven for thinking you were in the rural depths and not 4 or 5 mile out of Birmingham; honestly it's a startling transformation.
My Opinion/ Features
There's plenty of free car parking space once you reach the end of the little lane... I usually take my folding bike with me so I can get out on the many excellent cycle routes around the Sandwell Valley, but it's also great for walking too.
There are 2 working farms on the 2000 acre site; one of which is a working museum type farm, they both look very pretty -though I must admit I've never been to either of them yet... but they certainly add to the rural illusion.
That rural illusion is sometimes shattered when you have to cross over the overpass bridge which spans the M5 motorway to get to the huge lake, but soon you're back in the pseudo countryside... just don't look too closely at the horizon -lol!! But if you face the right way, the effect is really convincing...
There's plenty of wildlife around too; mainly birds and a few small mammals; squirrels etc which are a wonderful sight. Sandwell Council claim there are deers too! I personally think they're talking crap - there are no deers in the middle of West Bromwich -lol!! but it all adds to the fun (you do get deers 20 or so miles further out on the outskirts of the industrial hub -but not in West Brom; not unless they've learned to cath the bus :-)
I don't wind surf myself but it's quite a popular pastime on the large lake in the Sandwell Valley (there are a few small ponds/pools too that are just for the wildlife), and I do enjoy watching the participants travel 5 or 10 feet before falling into the water (I'm twisted like that -lol!).
If you're into a bit of quiet time, local wildlife, a bit of walking/cycling and even a bit of falling over while dressed like rubber glove (or windsurfing as it's also known) -then the Sandwell Valley is a great oasis amid the factories, offices, residential areas and shops...
Also worthy of note is the Victorian; Dartmouth Park which borders the Sandwell Valley Country Park near the entrance -it adds another flavour to the Sandwell Valley experience to be able to switch between the 'wilds of the valley and the quiet cultivation of a Victorian Park (cutting through the park is also a shortcut to the town centre shops if you leave your car in the Country Park).
With regard to evaluating the worth of the Sandwell Valley Country Park I think it all really comes down to location; If the Sandwell Valley Country Park had been located out in a rural, or more 'privileged' area -I don't think I'd have thought that much of it. I'd probably rate it as as a 3 out of 5 stars place that was OK to visit.
But, because the Sandwell Valley Country Park is the only serious bit of greenery in the West Bromwich area (a horribly over urbanised place -and I speak from experience! Great people but the area itself is in part bleak and depressing) - I'm giving the SVCP a 5 star rating because there's nothing else like it nearby, and it offers such a heart warming relief from the urban sprawl.
Enjoy over 2000 acres of woodland and parkland with wildfowl lakes and the remains of an old Benedictine Priory.