The Darwin Walk - a Peri-Urban Park

The following extracts from the Society's newsletters tell the story.

[April 1985]

At a meeting of the Society in May 1985 our Vice-President, John Sanders, said:

"There's a lot of greenery around Lichfield; one good public park and a number of playing fields and open spaces so that almost every citizen has access to public greensward within half a mile of home.

"Our Society is looking at the possibility of linking together some of these existing amenities with new walkways in such a way as to produce a 'peri-urban park' which would enable citizens to walk, or perhaps ride along a leafy 'green necklace' all the way round the city without ever being more than twenty minute walk from the city centre.

"We would like to see this bridle path with trees and bushes planted thoughtfully to produce visually pleasing areas which, going beyond mere appearances would include habitat to encourage some of the native flora and fauna which is at present being threatened by intensive farming and unsympathetic urbanisation.

"Small birds would enjoy its hazel grove, butterflies its buddleia bank, frogs could thrive in its swampy bits and blackbirds would certainly appreciate the cherry orchard. Perhaps indeed our descendants would see a rookery in the elms - the Dutch scourge permitting.

"We could start with the old canal along Tamworth Road which could easily be linked with other open spaces - the playing fields in Shortbutts Lane, the cricket field, Leomansley etc. and in the other direction with public amenities beside the by-pass.

"From one side to the other of this hoped for necklace we already have a splendid walk from Christ Church, via Beacon park and the two pools to St Chad's Church. Lichfield is singularly fortunate! Let us in the Society co-operate with other well disposed organisations, say the Local Authority, the Schools, the RSPB, Scouts, Guides, WIs and many more to make Lichfield unique.

[July 1985]

Civic Society Vice-President, John Sanders reports that he has been in contact with a number of organisations, including the District Council. There is wide and enthusiastic support for his proposals and he hopes that some initial tree planting on the southern section can begin in the Autumn. The route line of the northern section is likely to be the most difficult to establish for existing pathways are few and development has been extensive.

[November 1985]

Two dates have been arranged in November to promote the establishment of the Darwin Walk. On Sunday 10th November those interested are invited to join either of two groups who plan to complete half the circuit, or a group intending to complete the whole walk of about seven and a half miles. Plodders and striders are all invited to take part in this historic event! The course to be covered is to some extent exploratory for the definative route has yet to be finally determined.

[December 1985]

On Sunday, 10th November, the Inaugural Walk was held. A red-nosed day, crisp and cold but mercifully dry, with over one hundred people turning out to pioneer this first - and still speculative - route.

On Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th November members of the Society joined other in tree planting at Darnford Park, a part of the "Walk" well on the way to becoming established. This was an almost leisurely excercise when compared with the Society's past tree planting activity, for the District Council had ploughed the planting areas and thus a small group was enabled to plant many trees and shrubs in a short time free of the back aching sod-breaking of previous years. Further exploratory work is being undertaken in an endeavour to make the walk greener and less urban.

[April 1986]

More steady progress. Negotiations are well advanced with private landowners for access to link existing Rights of Way. Trees have been planted on Pipe Green and more are to be planted along the route of the old canal. The schools have been invited to take part in a Poster Competition advertising the Walk and some have already started to grow wild flowers, soon to be planted along the route.

[December 1986]

Many members of the Society will have been among those attending the Darwin Walk Trust's "Grandparents Tree Planting Day" on Sunday 9th November. It is estimated that over three hundred planters (Adults and Children) were involved in the planting of 150 trees - oak, ash, beech, horse chestnut, aspen, willow, white poplar and lime. Among those in attendance was Dr Erasmus Darwin Barlow and his grandchildren, descendents of the Erasmus Darwin.

What an achievement, only one year after the inaugural walk. Civic Society Vice-President John Sanders is to be congratulated; for this tree-planting event, like the Walk itself, was his idea and was established by his enthusiasm.

[March 1987]

We are delighted to report that an increasing number of people are exploring the Walk; in fact it is said that Sunday morning is the time to see blue-book in hand walkers tracing John Sanders's green necklace. The guide booklet is available for 10p from the Information Office in Donegal House. Prepared by the Darwin Walk Trust committee and published by the District Council, the booklet describes the route which is being progressively way-marked. There are still parts of the Walk which are considered to be insufficiently 'green' and the Committee continue to seek minor modifications. It is planned that a more comprehensive book should eventually be published, this would aim to include information about the history and legend associated with places through which the route passes. Additional information is being sought from people having knowledge of the origin of names, agricultural or industrial activities or anything which will add to the interest and enjoyment of the walkers.

[April 1987]

Stiles, foot-bridges and waymarkers; trees, shrubs and wild-flowers; woodland, meadow and arable field; brickwork, bridges and factory chimneys; railways, motor cars and tranquil pathways. All can be found along the Darwin Walk. The booklet describing the route, including a map and a description of a cross-city link, prepared by the Darwin Walk Trust and published by the District Council, has been on sale at the Information Office during the winter and is about to be reprinted; such has been the demand.

[November 1987]

You are invited to join members of the Darwin Walk Trust on Sunday 22nd November when they meet at 10.00 am on the land adjacent to the Cricket Ground where Mr Beddows of Maxtock farm has kindly agreed that cars may be parked. Some will choose to complete the whole ten mile circuit, others will choose to do less. All are welcome and in view of the timing it might be wise to bring along some refreshment. The Darwin Walk received another honorable mention recently, this time in the November 1st issue of the Sunday Times Colour Supplement. Michael Pilch of "New Horizons" refers to the Walk as his personal favourite of the 50 schemes to which grants have been given. This sounds like another good reason for joining in on the 22nd November.

[December 1987]

Although cold and wet more than twenty walkers turned out on Sunday 22nd November to take part in the first Autumn Walk. A warm and friendly welcome from the Landlord of "The Anchor" at Streethay was a worthy reward for the effort. Refreshed, nine of the starters completed the ten mile circuit back to Maxstock Farm. Winter, Spring and Summer annual walks would enable those who prefer to take part in an organised walk to see the route in all its seasonal phases.