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Woodgate Valley Country Park

A short, easy excursion showing the West Midlands' urban countryside at its best.

Distance 3.5 miles (5.7km)

Minimum time 1hr 30min

Ascent/gradient 49ft (15m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Grassy footpaths and tracks, 2 stiles

Landscape Country park

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorers 219 Wolverhampton & Dudley; 220 Birmingham

Start/finish SP 995829 (on Explorer 219)

Dog friendliness Off lead around park

Parking Woodgate Valley Country Park

Public toilets Country Park visitor centre building

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1 Walk from the car park down to the Woodgate Valley Urban Farm. Go left past the animal enclosures and follow the waymarker signed 'Footpaths and Bridlepaths'.

2 When you reach the lane, go right along the tarmac footpath by the side of a stream - the Bourn Brook - with the bridlepath up to the left. This path arcs right, around the edge of the park until you reach a footbridge over the brook. At the footbridge, bear left past the large oak tree and a bench seat and walk along a footpath that arcs away from the stream towards an area of young trees. This is easy, pleasant walking and in about 150yds (137m) you will come to a junction of footpaths. Continue left ahead (if you go right you will return to the Bourn Brook), keeping to the right of the young trees as you progress in a generally easterly direction on the grass path that meanders along the edge of the trees.

3 Another footpath comes in from the left and then, at a junction of footpaths, bear right towards a rather high footbridge over the stream. Do not cross it, instead bear left and follow the footpath on the left side of Bourn Brook. This leads into the trees and there follows a very pleasant stroll through the park, always close to the bank of the stream.

4 All too soon you will hear the noise of traffic on the B4121 ahead. Just before you reach the road, go right over the footbridge and follow the footpath down the other side of the stream. The path passes close to housing, but this is barely visible and the country feel is maintained until you reach the high footbridge once again.

5 Do not go over the footbridge but leave the Bourn Brook behind and bear left to take a footpath that crosses open land diagonally with houses to your left (do not go left towards the houses). Maintain your direction over a second open area, passing close to a hedgerow of blackberry bushes. At the end, bear right on to the main tracks passing by a football pitch to arrive back at the visitor centre.

Birmingham is surrounded by country parks, which act as the lungs of the city. Woodgate Valley Country Park is one of these vital green spaces and this walk takes you past an urban farm complex and along the side of the babbling Bourn Brook, which runs the length of the valley to the River Rea at Cannon Hill Park.

The park comprises some 450 acres (182ha) of meadows, hedgerows and woodland on the western edge of Birmingham. It was originally a mixture of farms and smallholdings and every effort has been made to retain its rural appeal. Threatened by development, it was designated a Country Park in 1984. A programme of hedge and tree replanting has taken place and the visitor centre opened in 1987.

The woodland, ponds and meadows have now become home to a vast range of wildlife and hundreds of species of plants and flowers. Hawthorn, hazel, honeysuckle and ivy all thrive and, in the spring, bluebells and foxgloves add a blanket of colour. The meadowlands near the start of this walk, known as Pinewoods, are a treat to stroll through on a warm summer's day. Pheasants, kingfishers, cuckoos, chiffchaffs, whitethroats and willow warblers are regular visitors, and, if you're lucky, you may see a long-eared owl or even a marsh harrier. When the plants are in flower, butterflies arrive in large numbers and some 20 species have been seen during a normal summer. Look out especially for the red admiral and the small tortoiseshell.

During 2001, the foot and mouth epidemic resulted in the closure of many footpaths in the Midlands countryside and Woodgate Valley Park became a refuge for walkers and ramblers from outlying areas. Although it is close to so many urban roads, you can enjoy peace and tranquillity away from the noise. It is surrounded by houses, yet very few can be seen when you are walking the footpaths along the side of Bourn Brook.

Beneath the parkland are the remains of part of the Lapal Tunnel on the Dudley No 2 Canal, which connected Halesowen with Selly Oak. It is one of the longest canal tunnels in England and a reminder that the industrial side of Birmingham is never too far away, even if you can't actually see it. The canal was built in 1790 despite fierce local opposition as industrial expansion in the West Midlands was proceeding at a frightening pace. Measuring only 9ft (2.7m) wide and 9ft (2.7m) from water level to ceiling, it gradually fell into disuse with competition from the railways. Following mining subsidence in 1917, the tunnel was closed and finally sealed off in 1926, though there is an active campaign to reopen it sometime in the future.

Where to eat and drink

Woodgate Valley Café, in the visitor centre, is a popular eating place for walkers, offering sandwiches, toasties, jacket potatoes, curries and Cornish pasties. There are picnic tables and benches in the park area where children and dogs are always welcome. The Old Crown is in Carter's Lane if you would prefer a pint, but children and dogs are not admitted.

While you're there

The Lickey Hills Country Park is just 7 miles (11.3km) down the M5 motorway. Although it's in Worcestershire, this is another playground popular with people from Birmingham. From Beacon Hill there is one of the most spectacular views across the whole of the West Midlands. At the visitor centre in Warren Lane you can enjoy a fine sculptured trail, a large play area for the children and superb woodland.

What to look for

Look out for some rare and unusual breeds of farm animals at the Woodgate Valley Urban Farm, as well as domestic animals, birds and pets. The farm is a registered charity, maintained by volunteers from the local community. If pony trekking is your scene, Hole Farm Pony Trekking Centre offers facilities for riders of all ages and abilities.

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