Tuesday, 1 March 2011

HISTORICAL OVERVIEW



Ongoing research; last updated 13 December 2013


This volume continues the historical overview of Selly Oak Park; the earlier years having been reported in the previous volumes and in the book, “The Heydays of Selly Oak Park”. Again the clippings, listed in the column on the right, contain the more extensive detail upon which it is founded.


2006

In March the founding meeting of a new group, the Friends of Selly Oak Park, was held.

In April the Birmingham Mail printed a commentary on the Park from a disappointed visitor - their reporter, Graham Young clearly thought the Park was run down and, as he put it, needed some tender loving care.



2007
This was the year of my first visit to the Park! - and the start of a fascinating journey back through time, and forward again.
There is a good selection of photographs of the Park, taken by several visitors, on the website of the Friends of Selly Oak Park. Of course, a splendid aerial view of the Park can be seen on Google Earth (merely specify Selly Oak Park), to which is also attached a handful of photographs of the Park.The greenhouse, fencing and gates – all mentioned in earlier sections of this history - were no longer evident. A workman present at the time pointed out an area of old brickwork adjacent to the Park Lodge which he described as the site of the Boiler House that had provided heat for the Greenhouse(s). He expressed some disappointment that Selly Oak Park had never had quite the prestige that had been afforded Queens Park, Harborne which he considered had been the showpiece Park in Birmingham for many years. He felt that even what remained was in decline; and mourned the removal of the Daughters of Rest pavilion.
The Lapal Canal Trust (http://www.lapal.org/) - the group interested in the restoration of the Dudley No. 2 (Lapal) Canal, whose dried bed forms the northern boundary of the park - published plans for their restoration project - plans which would rejuvenate the park since the first phase of their project would involve re-watering the canal to the north west boundary of the Park where there would be a winding hole, and creating moorings and a walkway along the edge of the Park.  The project would follow on from Sainsbury's development plans which include a restored canal and waterside feature extending from the mainline Birmingham and Worcester Canal to the new road bridge in Harborne Lane just across from the Park.  Sainsbury's proposals remained on hold pending a funding a development partner being found. (There is a plan map on a web chat page at http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=301624&page=32.  When there you will need to scroll down the page to find the map.  Selly Oak park is located on the top left of the map.)


Memories

19th May 2007 - Birmingham Mail, letter from Mrs D Parsons (nee Clark), Kings Norton.

See:  http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Letter%3A+Your+Memories+-+On+parade+for+carnival%3B+Remember+When%3F-a0163601711

Letter: Your Memories - On parade for carnival; Remember When?

THE pictures of Bournbrook and Selly Oak (Mail, April 28) gave me some wonderful memories.

I was born in a back-to-back house in Milton Grove, Bournbrook, and lived there for 20 years, the youngest of a family of nine. I am now 83.

We attended Dawlish Road School, known as St Wulston's (?) then.

Once a year schools in that area would assemble for the carnival and parade up Selly Oak village to the park in Gibbins Road.

Some were lucky to get lifts on lorries, but if in fancy dress or a dancer on the maypole you walked. Mother would do her best so we could take part in the fancy dress.

One year she managed it well at a minimum cost. I had varnished corrugated cardboard wrapped round me with tree branches attached. Yes, I was Selly Oak oak tree.

As it was a very hot day, the tree collapsed as I had fainted. All ended well as I had won first prize.

Mrs D Parsons (nee Clark), Kings Norton.





2008
The fortunes of the Park seemed to be changing. The impact of the Friends of Selly Oak Park  (FOSOP) was beginning to be felt. They had certainly laid a good basis for their operations in a lively and dynamic "manifesto".  Graham Young of the Birmingham Mail revisited the Park and this time his report was much more complimentary and optimistic when compared with his 2006 visit.

FOSOP's first success, early in the year, was in securing £20,000 to re-surface the play area and to provide new play equipment. In this initiative they were greatly assisted by the local Councillors and the Area Parks Manager, Simon Cooper. Money was provided from the City's Selly Oak Ward Community Chest.

During the year a survey was made of the trees in the Park.  580 trees were counted!

The first event organised by the Friends, funded by a grant from the Birmingham Open Spaces Forum, was held in April. Entitled "Spring into Selly Oak Park", and supported by the RSPB, it was a celebration of the installation of 14 Bird and Bat boxes in the park. The boxes had been installed a few weeks earlier. Activities on the day included a bird box hunt, art, craft, face painting, badge making, and ‘build a bug box’.

More success came in June with an embryonic festival - Selly Oak Community Fair. This event, again organised by the Friends, was held to welcome back Robert Wilkinson’s Fun Fair to the Park after a number of years absence. The Lapal Canal Trust and St Mary’s School joined in providing information to Fair goers. The Fair made a significant donation to the Friends group to support the Park.

On the weekend of June 28-29, the Filipino Association of Birmingham held its 1st Birmingham Barrio Fiesta in the Park.


2009
Around £23,000 was spent improving some of the existing footpaths and creating a better circuit around the park. Local councillors agreed a grant of £3,000 early in the year to help fund an educational nature trail. Sculptures, signposts and information boards were proposed to encourage new park users and schoolchildren.
Following concerns from local residents, some of the trees along the main paths were pruned. Repairs were made to some of the lamp posts on the main path from Corisande Road to the Harborne Lane end of Gibbins Road.
The Council provided a set of goal posts for the Park. These were particularly welcomed because they moved the focus of kick-about ball games away from the play area.
In the Spring, Selly Oak Park once again had its own Park Keeper - Mr. Derrick Foley - who, though not resident in the Park lodge, worked over the weekend and Monday to Wednesday. It was reported that this appointment was providing continuity of care and greater reassurance for park users. Quadron Environmental Sevices had been appointed maintenance contractors for the Park, and the provision of a dedicated park-keeper was part of that contract.
The Friends of Selly Oak Park (FOSOP) held their AGM in November, and the Chairman, Andrew Schofield, as well as reporting the above developments, reported that the Park had once again hosted Robert Wilkinson's Fun Fair in June. As a result the FOSOP received £1300 in rent on behalf of the Park. Some of this money was put towards the community events that ran alongside the Fair. The remainder was pooled with the previous year's Fair income to be used to purchase new park furniture. A new seat for the play area, a new picnic table and an additional litter bin were ordered. The event, as well as the Fair, comprised a highly successful junior football tournament. Four teams competed in the football: St Mary's Boy's Brigade, CLC Youth, and two teams from Northfield Manor School. They each received two free rides at the Fair, courtesy of Robert Wilkinson, and the winning team (Northfield Manor Year 6) received £50 from the Friends to put towards school funds. At the afternoon community event there were displays from the Northfield Eco Centre and Northfield Manor School PTA.
There were several articles in the Birmingham Mail that mentioned aspects of the park - the developing vista from the park of the new Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the sale of a picture of the Selly Oak oak tree whose stump rests in the park, a ramble through the park, etc.

2010

In the Spring, in a creative writing assignment, the Park was described as: "a great place to sit and relax", "a popular place for families, dog walkers and football games", "a friendly environment", "always kept clean", "big enough that you can easily find a quiet area to yourself and your thoughts", "will show you, you don’t have to leave Birmingham to get a taste of nature" and "is perfect for you". A different perspective to that presented a couple of years ago by another commentator!

In June, Ken Pugh, dubbed Park Historian by FOSOP, published his book, "The Heydays of Selly Oak Park", recounting the history of the Park from its inception to 1911 when it was handed to the City of Birmingham from the Kings Norton and Northfield Urban District Council as Selly Oak was incorporated into Birmingham. The 280 page book was published by History Into Print, an imprint of Brewin Books of Studley. Subsequently the book was featured in the May/June issue of the Local History Magazine, the 28th July edition of the Birmingham Mail, and the August issue of Carl Chinn's Brummagem Magazine. It was also referred to on the internet by booksellers, especially Amazon, Waterstones and W.H. Smiths.
June 26th was the occasion of the now annual modern Selly Oak Festival, organised by FOSOP, and held in the Park in conjunction with Robert Wilkinson's Fun Fair. The festival was FOSOP's biggest event up until then and attracted several hundred people (independently of the Fair). They were joined on the day by St Mary's School, Tiverton School, Ariel Scouts, RSPCA, Quadron, Birse Civils, Infinity Theatre Group (student group), Lapal Canal Trust, Birmingham Bee Keepers Association, and park historian Ken Pugh. The tree sculptor (Dick Tilley, Spirit of Wood) who had provided a welcome post for the nature trail was on hand with demonstrations of tree sculpting and provided additional carvings on a log in the centre of the park. Two student groups provided entertainment for a small fee. The Scouts made £122 and Tiverton School around £150. The event also featured another highly successful junior football tournament. Winners this year were St Mary's Boys Brigade. The Friends made a healthy surplus from the Fair rental and planned to provide more benches for the Park and other features for children.
During the Summer, the Seventh Day Adventists held a weekend event in the Park - and disturbed some local residents by the way some of the attendees indiscriminately drove cars across the Park.
On various occasions during the year a film crew had used the Park to film sequences for the BBC TV series "Doctors", an afternoon serialised programme.
In September, Simon Cooper, the local Parks Manager, in a letter to Quadron's Operations Director, paid a generous tribute to the Park-keeper, Derrick Foley, when he wrote - "The park was immaculate with not so much as a sweet wrapper on the ground. Rose and flower beds were clean. But what I always feel is a good indicator of how a site is maintained is when you go into the yard itself. He has made a wonderful job of making the yard look much tidier than the tip it was before he arrived. I know that the Friends of Selly Oak Park have also witnessed the transformation and are very pleased with his input."
At the end of September the Friends held their AGM and reported that, as intended last year, they had donated a bin, a picnic bench and a seat for the play area from the surplus from the 2009 Fun Fair visit. They had obtained a further £3000 from the Grassroots fund towards the Nature / History Trail. Work had started on that trail with a Story Telling seat (which the children from St. Mary's School helped to design) on the Gibbins Road side of the Park, and a welcome post at the top end of Gibbins Road. These featured some of the birds known to frequent the park. Further plans included a second welcome post near the Scout Hut, a willow tunnel, and plaques (to commemorate the opening of the park, the first park-keeper and the site of Weoley Park Farm House (remember - much of the Park was the farm land)).
There were a couple of emerging causes for concern. A group of cyclists in their 20’s and 30’s persisted in crossing the Park at high speed without due attention or care for other Park users. There was also a tendancy for youths to congregate in the children’s play area and act in a fashion that other users found intimidating.
In October the Friends re-instated their website: http://www.friendsofsellyoakpark.org.uk/.
On 4th December the 1st Ariel Scout Group planted a number of trees in the Park; the trees having been donated to the Scouts by Sainsbury's.