Oldbury Sub Station Open Space

Our first project on private land - improving plantations and creating meadows around an urban electricity sub station

This National Grid-owned open space at Oldbury surrounds an operational electricity substation located to the south of Oldbury town, just east of the Rowley Hills, a locally significant series of hills, in the metropolitan borough of Sandwell. The site is situated in a predominantly industrial part of the Black Country and is encircled by the Wolverhampton Road (A4123), Portway Road and Churchbridge (the A4034).

The site has an industrial past, with historic Ordnance Survey mapping showing that in the late 1880s clay pits were opened up on formerly agricultural land to supply the local Randall Brick Works. The excavation of clay continued throughout much of the 20th century and by circa 1937 it was the site of another brick manufacturer - Radnor Field Brick Works, after which it was left undeveloped for some time and used as informal open space by local children.

In the 1960s the site came into the ownership of National Grid’s predecessors and the pits were infilled, the sub-station constructed. The area was landscaped, creating a series of large embankments surrounding the sub-station and a number of Public Right of Way (PROW) provides pedestrian access throughout the site.

Mown grassland is by far the most extensive habitat, connecting all the other sections. This encircles the central sub-station and for the most part stretches to the boundaries of the site.

In the east of the site is a low-lying rectangular area and an adjoining higher ‘dog-legged’ shaped area to the north-east of this that were left uncut during the 2015 growing season.

The Whiteheath Broook runs for approximately 200m along the southern boundary of the site in an artificial channel.

Scattered throughout the site there are a number of blocks of planted woodland dating to the latter half of the 20th century. These plantations were dominated by willows with some Alder and Hazel on the boundaries.

Undesirable vegetation, particularly large stands of Bramble, was cut to create space for under-planting of trees and thinning of some of the damaged and windblown willows allowed light into the plantation to aid the colonisation of the newly introduced species within the field layer.

Under planting of a mixture of broad leaved species including Oak and Hazel with a few select other species such as Rowan, Field Maple was carried out to improve the structure and composition of the woodland.

To improve the composition of the field-layer Red Campion and Foxglove seed were sown and appropriate field-layer species were also introduced including Primrose, Wood Millet, Wood Speedwell, Wood Sedge and Ground Ivy sourced from our Growing Local Flora project.

The site also has  nearly10000m2 of Grassland that will be allowed to develop into a rich hay meadow through an introduction of a new management cutting regime to the site. The areas will also be enriched with Yellow rattle and the potential introduction of the green hay sourced from a wildflower rich meadow.

The overall aim of the project is to engage people with the site and work towards establishing a ‘Friends of’ community group to ensure that area is sustainably managed in the future after the project has been completed.