Wins in the Willows

A touch of irony here: in the week that leaving the EU is dominating the news again, Birmingham City Council has announced their success in securing European Regional Development Funding (ERDF) to help improve the rivers Tame and Rea and their tributaries in the City. The project will make an area equivalent to about 150 football pitches better for wildlife and for people.

The improvements will help the wildlife of woodlands, wetlands, grasslands, and of course the rivers and streams themselves. They will complement work done over the last few decades to green Birmingham’s urban landscapes and bring nature to everyone’s doorstep. Local green spaces will become more attractive and accessible, encouraging people to enjoy them and lead healthier lives. Spending time outdoors in calming natural spaces, like woodlands and wetlands, is proven to reduce stress and lower blood pressure.


The three-year initiative is a partnership between the City Council, the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country and the Environment Agency. Simon Atkinson of the Wildlife Trust said ‘The project will see over £1m invested in the rivers. They are vital natural corridors which bring wildlife into the heart of Birmingham and the Black Country. The project will see rivers restored to their natural state and woodlands alongside them enhanced, creating new habits for fish, mammals, birds and invertebrates, all of which will bring people into closer contact with nature’.


The Wildlife Trust launched its involvement with a day of wild action at one of the key sites involved, Woodgate Valley Country Park. Here the Bourne Brook corridor will be re-naturalised, weirs will be removed, and the woodland will be improved. The activities included river-dipping and a wildflower meadow walk.

The rivers’ names by the way reflect the general characteristics of such watercourses. Rea means flowing, and Tame means dark. Variations of Tame include Teme, Tamar and, of course, Thames.

The project will reflect similar work carried out along the river Cole in Birmingham over many years, the centrepiece of which is the Shire Country Park. If it is successful perhaps we can hope that in due course the Rea can be freed from its culvert nearer the city centre where it flows through Digbeth and Aston. Birmingham was founded on a crossing of the Rea, near to where Gooch St. now is, and deserves better treatment. This project is a good start.

Peter Shirley