Category Archives: linking people with landscape

Old buildings tell us stories

It’s pretty clear that historic buildings and structures we see around us everyday can tell us something about the way we used to live.  But should we just think of them as a bit of nostalgia? Or can they also help us think about the way the future should look? 

In the case of one Black Country town, a project set out to capture the thoughts and ideas of local people and feed them into the process of planning the future.  The project website includes all the results… photos, a mural (part of it shown here), oral history recordings and some great dramatic scripts… including one about a fictional local history group whose committee chooses to ignore any history after 1956. Why stop at 1956?  Visit the Brierley Hillness website and find out.

> Read What is Brierley Hillness? By Suzanne Carter
> Visit the Brierley Hillness website

Talking landscapes

What if old canals and factories could tell you their own story? In one part of the Black Country that somehow seems just a bit closer following the publication of what might be the area’s first online audio trail.
Produced by local landscape archaeologist Norman Neal, the route takes visitors on a walk around Bumble Hole and Warrens Hall Local Nature Reserves, on the boundary between Dudley and Sandwell.

By making an audio commentary available online and also to Android phone users, the Bumble Hole trail shows how heritage trails in the Black Country can be presented in a new way, opening wider potential to promote interest in the landscape. The flexibility of the online presentation has also already made it possible to improve early versions of the guide based on views of the first couple of dozen people to try it out. We understand wheelchair and buggy-friendly versions will also soon be available.

> Go to the Bumble Hole Audio Trail
> Our Explore! page has links to 23 other trails in the Black Country.

Tour the ruins of king coal

This king didn’t leave us a castle or a palace, and today it’s even hard to imagine the time when the phrase ‘king coal’ could be used without challenge.  But the Black Country, like other places, still carries marks from the age when mining not only provided most of our energy but also dominated the local landscape.

In his new review, Mike Hodder has raised the question of what a map might look like of the remains of the coal industry in the Black Country. So in a small way we’ve taken up the challenge.  If you travelled round the relics mentioned in the review it could, for example, take you on a 50 mile trip which might look like the one mapped below.  But actually coal mining was so extensive in the area that 100 years ago it occupied a third of all non-agricultural land.  So if you really want to know where the nearest evidence of coal mining is, the answer is probably right beneath you.
> Read Mike Hodder’s review of South Staffordshire Coalfield

This tour starts and finishes at the Black Country Living Museum (point J on the map) and takes in: Baggeridge (B); Brownhills Cathedral Pit (C); Walsall Wood (D); Sandwell Valley (E); Rowley Hall (F); New Hawne (G); Beech Tree (H); and Windmill End (I).  Note that, although most are visible, not all the remains are publically accessible. 

Linking People with their Landscape

A three-year project is underway to link the communities of the Black Country with local wildlife sites, enabling them to discover and care for Local Nature Reserves and other natural greenspaces. The Black Country Living landscape Community Involvement Programme is led by the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country and is promoting access, understanding, involvement and volunteering. The project aims to achieve lasting change by engaging local people with the transformation of the Black Country’s natural environment. Black Country Living Landscape Team Leader Julia Morris said “the Black Country has the potential to be a living, breathing, changing landscape of green and urban space; the active ownership of local communities is key to this”.

Corner Shops: A Social History

Based on work in the Black Country, a new website has been launched about the social history of the corner shop. The website has been created by the English Heritage Outreach Team and Black Country Touring and aims to inspire others to document and explore the contribution of corner shops to our heritage. Information sourced from The Corner Shop Project has already been presented in a variety of ways: theatre, schools projects, a touring exhibition and an archive. The website features videos, oral history extracts, images and practical case studies to support corner shop themed studies. Visit www.thecornershopproject.co.uk.

‘Hullness’ Project Underway

What makes the city of Kingston upon Hull the place it is? Arc, an architecture and built environment centre in the city, is carrying out project which will examine the notion of “Hullness”. The project will try to find the spirit of Hull – the main focus will be on the built environment, but it will also look at sport, art and social attitudes. The project will deliver a programme of debates, workshops and oral history sessions with community groups and schools. The material collected will be compiled into a permanent public archive. For more details visit http://hullness.blogspot.com/.

Explore ‘Brierley Hillness’

Brierley Hillness is a new community arts and heritage project where the people of Brierley Hill are being asked what architecture, places and spaces make the town special and distinctive. Running between January and April 2011 it will be based at the Artspace shop (Mill Street) and will include the creation of a painted community wall mural, reminiscence work, theatre production, art workshops and the opportunity to reflect on the past to help shape the future of regeneration in the area. Download a PDF of the Brierley Hillness flyer here, or details of the programme of evening events here, or details of Martin Parr photography here. Have your say on Brierley Hill’s blog: www.brierleyhill.org.