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Where the Wild Things Are - a Sutton Park Experience

A longer walk visiting the largest National Nature Reserve in the West Midlands.

Distance 7.3 miles (11.7km)

Minimum time 2hrs 30min

Ascent/gradient 230ft (70m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Footpaths, tracks and road in parkland

Landscape Undulating parkland

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 220 Birmingham

Start/finish SP 112961

Dog friendliness Off lead in park

Parking Visitor centre car park, Sutton Park

Public toilets Visitor centre, Sutton Park

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1 Walk from the car park to the entrance road and go left up to Keeper's Pool. At the bottom of the pool, bear right through a gate and follow the edge of the pool, then go northwards through the trees on a path until you reach Blackroot Pool. Walk along the left edge of the pool for about 220yds (201m), then bear left (north west) and take the track through the woodland of Upper Nut Hurst. In about ½ mile (800m), turn right and cross the railway track to arrive at Bracebridge Pool.

2 Turn right, along the edge of the pool, and at the end bear right along a track. Go through the car park and then left along the park road for about 100yds (91m) on to a track leading into the woodland of Gum Slade. Continue to a junction of paths, then go left across a grassy clearing. Proceed into the woodland on a track that arcs left and gently descends to cross a footbridge at the end of Bracebridge Pool.

3 Follow the track as it arcs left and then right to cross the railway line again. Continue along the track until you reach a road, then go right for 750yds (686m) up to a wide straight track.

4 Head left and walk along this track for the next mile (1.6km). Cross the small brook and walk beside the golf course to a road exit from the park. Don't leave the park; instead cross the road and bear left along a pathway through the trees of Westwood Coppice until you come to the car park by Banners Gate.

5 Bear left up the road, passing to the right of Longmoor Pool. About 90yds (82m) beyond the end of the pool, head right along the track. After passing to the right of the trees, cross an open grass area close to Powell's Pool to reach the roadway near Boldmere Gate.

6 Go left along the road for 130yds (121m), then right, through the edge of Wyndley Wood. In 220yds (201m) bear right on to a straight road that leads to a cattle grid and ford at the end of Wyndley Pool. Continue ahead to return to the visitor centre.

Sutton Park comprises 2,400 acres (970ha) of wild and wooded countryside of moorland, meadows, lakes and groves and is one of the largest urban parks in the country. The ancient Roman Ryknild Street runs across one corner of the park and the Normans once hunted deer here. Shakespeare had kinsmen at Sutton and is likely to have visited the site. One of his famous characters, Sir John Falstaff, probably brought his Ragged Army here for he declared to Bardolph:

'Get thee before to Coventry; fill me a bottle of sack; our soldiers shall march through. We'll to Sutton Coldfield tonight.'

William Shakespeare

King Henry IV, Part I

In 1997, English Nature designated Sutton Park a National Nature Reserve (NNR) in an effort to preserve this wonderful landscape. Although it is now surrounded on all sides by residential properties it remains an important area for Birmingham and the local Sutton Coldfield community. It's a valuable space in an otherwise congested region and offers a wide range of leisure pursuits - for joggers, kite-fliers, cyclists and walkers. Despite all this activity, it is still possible to escape from the crowds and find peace and quiet.

It is the diversity of habitats in the park which earned its NNR status. Many areas, like the heathland, wetland and ancient forest, represent habitats which were once widespread but have now completely disappeared from the rest of the West Midlands. For this reason, it is the home of a large number of resident birds, as well as providing an important stop-over for migrants and other visitors. Around the pools you might see tufted duck, pochard and even snipe, especially near Longmoor Pool. It is hoped that red kites and other species, which have vanished from the region's skies, will one day return.

The nearby market town of Sutton Coldfield was important in the Middle Ages and owes a great deal to local benefactor John Veysey, who became bishop of Exeter in 1519. He lived at Moor Hall, now inside the famous park, and built a number of notable buildings in and around the town. He also founded a school and paved the streets. Veysey is buried in Holy Trinity Church and there is a fine effigy of him on his tomb. It depicts him as a young man, even though he is reputed to have lived to the ripe old age of 103. The church also contains some interesting old brasses. In particular there is one of a Josias Bull in a gown of fur, along with small brasses of his five children. The marble busts of Henry Pudsey and his wife were made by William Wilson, a mason for Sir Christopher Wren.

What to look for

Bracebridge Pool is regarded by many people as the most beautiful pool in the park. It was built for Sir Ralph Bracebridge in order to maintain a plentiful supply of fish. In 1419, he obtained a lease on the manor and chase of Sutton Coldfield from the Earl of Warwick.

While you're there

The Wall Roman Site Baths and Museum lies 9 miles (14.5km) north of Sutton Coldfield, near Lichfield. Here you will see the excavation of the most complete public bathhouse of a Roman staging post, known as Letocetum. It's situated just off Watling Street, the great arterial road that connected the Roman port at Richborough, near Canterbury, with London and the north west. Less than a mile (1.6km) away from Letocetum, Watling Street intersects the Icknield Way, running south west to north east, so this must have been a very important highway junction during the Roman era - a Spaghetti Junction of it's day, with the bathhouse at the heart of a motorway service area.

Where to eat and drink

There are a number of places in Sutton Park with cafés and kiosks at the various park entrances. Alternatively you could try one of the pubs in Sutton Coldfield, in particular along Chester Road North (the A452), just outside the park.

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