Highbury was mentioned in the Birmingham Post and Mail yesterday when Cllr. Mullaney, as Council Cabinet Member for Sports, Leisure and Culture, drew attention to last week’s vandalism of the stone viewing platform in the former Chamberlain gardens near Highbury hall. As public response pours in, people are asking what can be done. This post sets out a few answers for the near and middle future.
First, we must remind everyone that the viewing platform is not in the park. It is on unassigned Highbury Trust land. Some of the Trust land is managed by the Parks department, but the rest of it is currently outside of any contracted maintenance scheme, and is simply the responsibility of the Trust. The Ranger service has been active in managing the area for people and wildlife, but they have a set number of days they can contribute. Councillor Mullaney has been very helpful in getting council officers and contractors to do extra unpaid work in that area, but this is not a sustainable approach. He is therefore seeking funds through the Lottery, which would cover restoration and maintenance for 10 years.
For the near future, increasing the amount of activity in that part of the landscape will help us keep an eye on conditions, and will also provide alternatives to the inconsiderate destruction of heritage and wildlife features. A very easy and effective activity that you can do, as members of the public, is just walk through the area. Over the last year, Parks Rangers and groups of volunteers have opened up old garden pathways, and are continuing to work on features like rustic benches, bridges, and activity spaces. The public are definitely welcome to pass through the area, and to join in on the activities by contacting the Rangers or a voluntary group.
In the middle and distant future, a variety of things are planned, and you can help by registering your support for these initiatives. Some of these are being organised by councillors, and some are being organised by community groups like ourselves. In addition to Cllr. Mullaney’s efforts to find major funding, Cllr. John Alden (Harborne), Chairman of the Trusts & Charities Committee, is working with the Charities Commission, the Birmingham Conservation Trust, and the Highbury coalition (led by Mary de Vere Taylor) to find long term solutions to the question of conserving the estate.
Community-led initiatives include Highbury Park Friends efforts to get funding to increase volunteer activities, such as renovating the Henburys garden; developing the naturalistic play area and woodland paths; working with Highbury Community Partnerships, Kings Heath Transition, Kings Heath Centre Partnership and other business groups to develop activities at the farm, orchard, former gardens and events spaces. This work is entirely volunteer led at the moment, and is always in need of your contributions of effort, resources, or money.
To sum up, if you want to see something happen, the first thing to do is have a walk through the area and get to know it. Have a chat with other people there and get to know the community of users who are making this place safe and welcoming. Thereafter, find ways of supporting the ongoing efforts. Create your own activities, like picnics, gatherings, or treasure hunts. Or write and vote in support of council and community groups looking for funding and longer term solutions.
Some of the things organised by us and others are as follows.
Bat walk, Friday 2 September, 7:30-9 PM. Meet at the car park
Artwalk, Sunday 18th September, 11 AM -1PM. Meet at the car park.
Ancient History Walk w city archaeologist Mike Hodder, Sunday 23rd October, further details tba
The Community Orchard group are also holding work parties and an apple pressing event.
Work parties first and third Sunday of each month, 2PM at the orchard.
Apple Pressing & Picnic, 25 September, midafternoon at the orchard. Bring apples and pears from local trees. Further details tba via HCP website.