ERDF Solihull Habitat & Nature Improvements Project
In April 2017, Solihull Council was successful with a funding application to the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to undertake a wide range of habitat and nature improvement projects across the borough.
The three-year programme of woodland, grassland, wetland and water quality improvements has been delivered across publicly accessible green space within Solihull.
The funding has been used to undertake 22 individual habitat improvement schemes that collectively will increase and strengthen the capacity of the natural environment – across the region. All of the proposed schemes are located in the urban areas of Solihull.
The application was made under ‘ERDF Priority Axis 6d: Preserving and Protecting the Environment’ and will result in improved conservation status for 100 hectares of habitat.
Further to 2018 projects at Low Brook near Alcott Wood (large woody debris introduced to diversify the stream) and Fordbridge Road Reed Bed in Babbs Mill Local Nature Reserve (diverting poor quality water into a newly excavated reed bed before it runs into the River Cole), two more wetland projects have been carried out in 2019:
Meriden Park Wetland Improvements
Meriden Park has undergone some major environmental improvements in 2019 to make it a healthier habitat for wildlife and a better amenity for local people. In recent years there have been problems with silt build-up and stagnation, so the former lake (pictured) is being transformed into a new wetland with reeds, a wet meadow, tree planting, two ponds and the restored watercourse of Kingshurst Brook.
The weir beneath the footbridge has been removed so that the brook is naturalised to flow freely through the park. Along parts of the banks there are temporary plastic piling sheets to reinforce and establish the new bank. These will be removed in 2020.
Whilst the planting will need a season to settle in, it should establish and flourish after the winter.
Hatchford Brook, Olton Jubilee Park
Olton Jubilee Park has benefited from some much-needed ecological improvement works. Hatchford Brook, which runs through the park, was contained in a concrete channel (as pictured below). This led to poor water quality which impacted on local wildlife.
To improve the environment and create a new habitat where wildlife can flourish, the existing concrete water course has been naturalised, as pictured below.
Most of the concrete slabs have been removed from the sides and some excavation has widened parts of the brook. This makes for a more natural stream with shallow profiled banks and meanders which has been planted with wildflowers and grasses which will restore the watercourse and make it more natural in appearance.
Initially, during the first winter, the ground may look bare and muddy, but once the planting is established we will start to see an increase in wildlife at the park, both in numbers and types.
Important woodland management work has been taking place in 12 of the borough’s woodlands during the last two years through this project.
Woodlands need to be managed, and this work included the removal of trees which were unhealthy or preventing other trees from thriving.
When woodlands contain trees of a variety of species, ages and heights then different species of wildlife can find suitable areas to live within the wood. Removing some trees also allows light to reach the woodland floor which encourages plants such as bluebells to grow, which in turn supports pollinating insects such as bees and butterflies.
Some large machinery was moved in to protect the long term future of the woods and their trees, plants and animals.
The first four sites in winter 2017/18 were at Alcott Wood, Dorridge Wood, Elmdon Park and Hillfield Park. Another eight woods were improved during the winter of 2018/19 at Bills Wood, Chelmsley Wood, Lea Wood, Palmers Rough, Pow Grove, Smith’s Wood, Wychwood and Yorks Wood.
We are currently undertaking further woodland management as part of the Bees and Trees project. You can read about it here.
Find out more about why woodlands need to be managed here.
Some of the projects have included tree planting, but in Elmdon Ward we provided more trees under a planning arrangement with Jaguar Land Rover (JLR). The design was developed in consultation with the Friends of Damson Lane Park and Elmdon Park Support Group, and has seen trees, hedgerows and shrubs planted in Damson Lane Park, Elmdon Park and Elmdon Nature Park, the small park adjacent to Elmdon Coppice (off Luddington Road) and Rowood Drive (adjacent to the JLR sports ground) during spring 2019.
The trees and shrubs were chosen for their value for wildlife and to increase biodiversity. They include a large portion of native trees and plants such as oak, field maple, lime, birch and rowan.
450 trees were planted in Elmdon Ward along with 690m of hedgerow and a fifth of a hectare of shrub/thicket, which includes hazel, hawthorn, dogwood, holly and guelder rose which will help establish green corridors for the benefit of birds and other wildlife.
With the aim of helping to address the national reduction in species-rich grassland, five improvement projects totalling some 30 hectares of public open space have been carried out. The first of these was at Dickens Heath Country Park in 2017, and work followed in 2018 at Beechcroft Open Space, Cole Bank Park, Colebrook Recreation Ground and Elmdon Nature Park.
The aim is to increase species diversity and the ecological value of existing species-poor grassland. Initially the grass was cut and the cuttings removed, and the ground was then harrowed to lightly disturb the soil.
Species-rich wildflower meadows managed by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust were then harvested for green hay, which consists of wildflowers and grasses just as they are shedding their seed and are still ‘green’. The hay was quickly transferred to the grassland sites, where they were spread to allow the seed from the imported wildflowers to drop and germinate. This will significantly improve the biological and landscape value of the meadows.
European Regional Development Fund
The project has received £966,552 of funding from the ERDF as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for ERDF. Established by the European Union, ERDF funds help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations.
More information on the project is available here