Saturday, 31 May 2014

Family appeal for help to find stolen trailer tent

A LOCAL family have had to cancel their camping holiday after they were targeted by thieves earlier this month.
Phil Harrison was dismayed to wake up and discover his trailer tent had been taken from the garages in Hopwas Close, Kingshurst in the early hours of Monday, May 19.
Under cover of darkness, the crooks had broken into the building – near Yorkswood school - and removed the tent, which the Harrisons had only bought last month.
The item is a Conway Royale Trailer Tent (circa 1991), beige in colour with a brown tarpaulin cover.
Urging anyone with information to contact police, Mr Harrison said: “The trailer tent was a massive investment for my family and I.
“We are hardly millionaires and we were looking to take our daughter and her friends away on a camping trip to celebrate her 16th birthday in June. Those plans have now had to be scrapped.”
Solihull Police are investigating the theft and following up reports that the tent was offered for sale on the internet shortly after it was taken.
If you have any information, call officers on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

Friday, 30 May 2014

The Big Lunch in Chelmsley Wood

COMMUNITY SPIRIT: The Big Lunch in Hampton-in-Arden
last year, this time North Solihull is getting in on the act.
SIT down and take the time for a bite to eat with your neighbours this Sunday (June 1).
Chelmsley Wood residents will be among the millions around the country who will be taking part in this year’s Big Lunch event.
The annual get-together, first held in 2009, encourages people to share a sandwich, a cuppa, maybe a nice slice of cake, with fellow residents.
It doesn't matter if it's a full-blown street party or a small group sat round a table; the main aim of the Sunday luncheon is to promote a sense of community.
The Chelmsley event, organised by the Ashram Housing Association, will take place at the Bosworth Community Centre.
Bring along some food and enjoy the face painting, a bouncy castle and other family activities from 11am-3pm.
To find out more go to www.thebiglunch.com/

Free photography exhibition in Smith's Wood

A PHOTO showcase of North Solihull is on display in Smith’s Wood today (Friday) and tomorrow.
The photography exhibition will be held at Auckland Hall, in Sunbeam Close, from 9am. Free entry.

Water supply restored but Severn Trent still working to stop leak

FLOOD: Severn Trent's team at the site of the burst water main
HOMES in parts of Castle Bromwich were among thousands left without water yesterday after a main pipe burst.
The company logged the problem at around 10.45am, after households in the B36, B34 and B8 areas reported a loss in water supply. Others experience a drop in pressure or discolouration.
The problems were caused after a 20inch water pipe sprung a leak in the Bromford area, flooding a number of homes in the locality.
Severn Trent manager Simon Brown apologised for the inconvenience and said that the water company were working to finish the job.
"It’s been our first priority to get everyone’s water supply back on, so our engineers have managed to re-route the water supply for our customers," he said.
"Our engineers are now working to fix the burst pipe. We also have a number of tankers in the area.
"Some customers may have had discoloured water coming out of their taps, we’ll of course be monitoring this, but if you do experience a slight yellow / orange discolouration, please don't worry.  "Your water may not look appealing but we've no reason to believe this will pose a risk to health."

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Jail for burglar who struck at homes across Castle Bromwich

REMORSE: Alex Humphries

A THIEF who targeted a string of homes across Castle Bromwich has said he’s ready to “pay the consequences” for what he’s done.
Alex Humphries, 20, of no fixed abode, has admitted 19 burglaries or attempted burglaries, most of which took place in the North Solihull suburb last summer.
He took a total of seven cars from driveways, after forcing open patio doors or fishing through letter boxes to get his hands on the keys.
But after being caught and shown letters written by his victims, Humphries apologised and said he “deeply regretted” his actions.
In a handwritten statement, he wrote: “I didn’t have any money and so turned to crime.
“It won’t happen again: I’ve learned my lesson, I want to pay the consequences and then return to being a productive member of society."
Last Friday (May 23), Warwick Crown Court sentenced him to two years in a youth detention facility.
Humphries, who was only 19 when he carried out the crime spree, struck at streets including Water Orton Road, Chester Road, Lyndon Close, Whittleford Grove, Sudeley Close, Tomlinson Road and Milebush Avenue.
The spate of break-ins took place between May-July last year. He also owned up to burglaries in Knowle and Stone, Staffordshire.
Officers eventually caught up with the crook after a Skoda he’d stolen in Knowle was spotted parked up in Shard End on July 18 last year.
Speaking after sentencing, Det Con Dave Bailey said that he hoped Humphries would not revert to his old ways.
“These weren’t professional, planned jobs and on more than one occasion he fled having been disturbed by residents in addresses he’d targeted.
“He is still a young man and I hope he is true to his word, reflects on the hurt he’s caused and works with probation to better his life and stay out of trouble.”


Wednesday, 28 May 2014

UFOs filmed after Kingshurst mum pops out for cigarette break.

STRANGE lights in the skies over Kingshurst have left one local woman baffled.
Mum-of-three Michele Bardsley saw the reddish orbs when she stepped out for a cigarette at her home in Laburnum Avenue.
The UFOs were observed for more than 40 minutes on January 10 this year.
But the unexplained phenomena only came to light today, when the Birmingham Mail released footage that the 35-year-old had taken on her mobile phone.
“I looked up and there were these shapes, like orbs, in the sky," she told the paper.
“They didn’t look like stars, or planes or helicopters, they were just hanging there.
“I thought I’d had a few too many rum and cokes!”

  • Did you see the lights? Or perhaps you know what caused them? Leave a comment below.

Cycle theft warning in North Solihull

CYCLISTS are warned to be on their guard after brazen thieves stole a bike in broad daylight last week.
The Giant-brand bicycle had been chained up outside Chelmsley gym last Wednesday (May 21) evening, when it was cut loose by two youths with bolt-cutters.
The theft happened around 7pm in the evening, while the owner was visiting the facility.
It’s understood that the culprits were caught on CCTV, although they were wearing hats and hoods at the time.
Police neighbourhood teams in Chelmsley Wood and Castle Bromwich have reported a recent increase in the theft of pedal cycles.
While the thieves came prepared in this latest incident, police have said that using a chain or wheel lock is nonetheless a deterrent to opportunists.
If you have any information about the theft call officers on 101.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

"Excessive" tributes could be banned at Woodlands Cemetery

SOLIHULL Council is set to introduce new guidelines at Woodlands Cemetery following concerns about “excessive” decorations being left at graves.
The local authority has insisted that bereaved relatives will still be able to adorn memorials with vases, flags and other items.
But following complaints from some visitors, they plan to bring in clearer regulations about the size and position of the personal items.
They say this is to ensure other families are able to access all parts of the site and that groundsmen can carry out the necessary maintenance.
The regulations would also apply to the two other council-run cemeteries, at Widney Manor and Robin Hood.
People have until June 12 to give their view on both these proposals and additional changes being proposed to the cremation service. Feedback will help to shape the new policy, with councillors expected to make a decision later this year.

Drama groups join forces to stage comedy play

CASTLE Bromwich Theatre Group have teamed up with another company to give audiences a right good giggle.
The group are performing What’s a Calorie Between Friends – a co-production with the Coleshill Drama Group.
The comedy is about a conspiracy to close down a chaotic weight loss club and how the members hatch a plan to save the organisation.
Having already performed at Arden Hall earlier this month, the Castle Bromwich team will now travel down the road for a second run of shows at Coleshill Town Hall.
The play runs from Thursday to Saturday (May 29-31). Tickets are £8 (£5 concs) and available on  0121 776 7821. For more details visit http://www.castlebromwichtheatregroup.co.uk/

Marston Green Lions' charity race night

GIDDY up for a charity race night taking place in Chelmsley Wood on Friday (May 30).
Marston Green & District Lions have organised the evening to raise funds for Me and Dee, a charity which supports people of all ages suffering with serious illness.
The charity was chosen by Lions’ member Christine Moss, who is also preparing “comfort packs” which are provided to patients admitted to hospital.
The race night will take place at the Onward Club, in Helmswood Drive, from 7.30-11pm. Tickets are £5, available in advance from Pauline Hoogerwerf on 07932 731 902.

Monday, 26 May 2014

European elections - How Solihull voted

ALMOST a third of Solihull voters backed UKIP in the European elections.
MEPs are elected to represent the entire West Midlands region, but a breakdown of votes by local authority shows how the parties performed when only the votes from the borough are taken into account.
UKIP topped the poll, with 17,590, closely followed by the Conservatives (16,823).
This was a reversal of the result five years ago, when the Tories were the largest party both in Solihull and the West Midlands as a whole.
Labour finished in third place (7231), improving on their performance in 2009, when they trailed the BNP in the borough.
In worrying news for the Lib Dems, the party received less than one in ten of the votes cast. In total they polled 4,863.
Interestingly, despite their strong showing in the local elections held on the same day, the Greens only finished fifth in the European vote (receiving 3734).

When votes from across the West Midlands are pooled together, the seven MEP seats in the region were shared out as follows:
UKIP – 3 seats
Lab – 2 seats
Con – 2 seats

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Competition will find the best blooms in the borough

BLOOMING MARVELLOUS: There are over 35
categories for green-fingered residents to enter

ARE your begonias the best in Castle Bromwich? Maybe your marigolds make the rest of Marston Green jealous?
If so, there’s still time to enter this year’s Solihull Neighbourhoods in Bloom – a competition which rewards those residents who bring a splash of colour to their communities.
The friendly contest has categories including the best wildflowers, baskets and front gardens. There are also awards to recognise the efforts of schools, businesses and community groups.
Of special interest to residents in North Solihull are the Solihull Community Housing gongs, recognising tenants who create incredible displays despite the fact their gardens often aren't the largest.
That’s not to say that the north won’t be a strong contender in other categories; last year’s winner of the best wildflower display was Margaret Hackett, from Chelmsley Wood.
And there will also be an all-new award this year for the borough's best “poppy patch”. The category coincides with the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War and it’s hoped that the red flowers will be sown far and wide in Solihull.
You have until Friday, June 6 to enter the competition. Go to www.solihull.gov.uk/solihullinbloom

  •  All those who enter can request a free packet of poppy or wildflower seeds. Call 0121 704 8750 or email equiney@solihull.gov.uk and leave your name, address and postcode.

March of the "smaller parties" in North Solihull

MOMENTUM: The Greens and UKIP were the real winners at
the Solihull local elections

AFTER all the excitement at yesterday’s elections, there seem to be two things which no longer exist in Solihull – small parties and safe seats.
The day belonged to those parties who until a few years ago would have been lumped in as “others” on the BBC’s election special.
Not anymore. In Solihull, the Greens and UKIP polled almost 30 per cent of the vote between them; it would have been considerably more if UKIP had fielded a full slate of candidates.
If you add in the Independent Ratepayer councillor, almost a quarter of the seats on the borough council are now occupied by parties that aren’t Tory, Labour or Liberal.
Let’s look at UKIP to begin with. They now have a foothold on the council after claiming the scalp of Labour leader David Jamieson in Kingshurst & Fordbridge.
They were helped, no doubt, by the fact their candidate Debbie Evans is well-known locally and had previously represented the ward as a Conservative.
But if you examine the results more closely, it’s clear the breakthrough could have come just as easily in another part of the borough. In fact there were three wards where UKIP came a close runner-up.
Among them Castle Bromwich, where for years the Conservatives have been confident of a comfortable majority. When Mike Robinson was last up for election four years ago there were 1500 votes between him and second place Labour. Yet yesterday UKIP came within just 100 votes of triumph.
The ability of the eurosceptic outfit to overturn, or come within a whisker of overturning, strong majorities will no doubt alarm parties. And if once dependable seats can disappear without warning, it makes the business of preparing for the elections next year rather more difficult.
One party who know a lot about good preparation are the Greens, whose three gains today have seen them become the official opposition in Solihull. At the moment they have all the momentum; those seats they target they win. And all this just six years since Mike Sheridan became their first member of the council.

BREAKTHROUGH: Mike Sheridan won his Smith's Wood seat
in 2008.
Seizing on the deep sense of resentment surrounding aspects of the North Solihull regeneration, the party has washed Labour away in their former strongholds of Smith’s Wood and Chelmsley Wood. Disillusioned Lib Dems have flocked to their cause also, allowing them to start to build support in Shirley and Elmdon.
Being the second largest party in Solihull is still a long way from having your hands on the levers of power. The Lib Dems - who were in that position for a decade - at one time had double the Greens’ ten members and even then, they had to broker a deal with Labour to be able to force the Conservatives from office.

MAKE-UP: How Solihull Council now looks

All the same, the status as “second party” will no doubt give the Greens renewed belief. Perhaps now they’ll be looking at taking the fight to the Tories in their traditional heartlands. Who knows what damage a party who opposes HS2 could inflict in areas like Balsall Common or Hampton-in-Arden, where there is a lingering dread about the development.
What’s for certain now is that the “big parties” all have things to consider in Solihull. For Labour, the loss of their third leader in six years is a massive setback. As a former MP, David Jamieson was a formidable figure in the council chamber and his pugnacious approach often got under the skin of the Conservative cabinet. With him gone, the party will have to look to rebuild its support in areas where once it dominated.
The Tories, who gained a seat, and the Lib Dems, who limited their losses to one, may well think they got off lightly. But as they buckle down for the battle for Solihull at next year’s General Election, they’ll be wary of the growing popularity of other parties. Neither the Greens or UKIP could take the parliamentary seat but the substantial numbers voting for these parties in many different parts of the borough could yet decide who does.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Tornado-like cloud seen in North Solihull

A TORNADO-like funnel cloud was spotted in the skies over North Solihull today (Saturday).
Several residents in areas including Smith’s Wood and Marston Green reported seeing the ominous swirl during the storm that battered the region.
In nearby Shard End, Barbara and Colin Berrow reported a metal shed had been lifted by winds, carried over their Nearmoor Road home and landing in the back garden.

'Music in the Park' event in Chelmsley Wood



MUSIC-lovers will have to hope that the wet weather eases off by tomorrow (Sunday).
That’s because the Leicestershire Co-operative Brass Band have been booked to play a concert in Meriden Park, Chelmsley Wood.
The free event is one of several organised by Solihull Council as part of this year’s ‘Music in the Park’ season.
The band will be playing from 2.00-4.15pm.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Celebrate the Bank Holiday with a May Fayre

A MAY Fayre will be coming to Chelmsley Wood Baptist Church Centre tomorrow (Saturday)
There are a number of events and stalls planned for the venue, with stalls by organisations including Solihull Carers, Trina’s Treats and Northern Star Arts.
Pop along to the Hedingham Grove centre from 11am-3pm. Entry free.

For more information visit www.homecoming.moonfruit.com

Solihull Election Special : Greens and UKIP win key victories

DEFEAT: Labour leader David Jamieson was beaten in
Kingshurst & Fordbridge by UKIP candidate Debbie Evans

UKIP have ousted the local Labour leader to take their first seat on Solihull Council.
Debbie Evans, formerly a Conservative councillor, defected to the eurosceptic party following her defeat in Kingshurst & Fordbridge two years ago.
And standing on the UKIP ticket, she triumphed over David Jamieson in her old ward.
Ahead of the election, Ms Evans said she had grown disillusioned with the Tories and the regeneration of North Solihull, which she claimed had “broken up communities”.
UKIP, who fielded nine candidates, saw their share of the vote surge in many parts of the borough and came a close second in several other wards.
The loss of Coun Jamieson, a former MP, caps a dreadful day for the Labour group.
Activist Emma Chidler tweeted: "Can't put into words my dismay, anger and disappointment [at results]. But looking forward to fight to win back lost seats."
The party has been reduced to just two councillors, after they also failed to hold on to their single remaining seats in both Smith’s Wood and Chelmsley Wood.
These have gone to the Green Party, whose success in these elections means they will be the official opposition when the council reconvenes next month.

SUCCESS: The Greens, who chose to launch their
local election campaign in Solihull, now have ten councillors

Their new members in North Solihull are Stephen Holt – the cycle tutor will represent Smith’s Wood – and social worker James Burn, who won in Chelmsley Wood
A third gain at Labour’s expense in Shirley West gives the Greens ten members, only six years on from winning their first seat in the borough.
Party leader Natalie Bennett has congratulated campaigners on their latest successes.
The council’s Conservative group were pushed hard in Castle Bromwich by UKIP; Mike Robinson saw his majority slashed to around a 100 votes (down from 1500 four years ago). They also staved off a challenge by the Independent Residents and Ratepayers in Blythe, who nearly repeated their 2012 upset.
But having successfully defended these seats, the Tories managed to increase their majority by one, after defeating Lib Dem leader Ian Hedley in Shirley East.
It’s the latest blow for the local Liberals, who have seen their number of councillors more than halve since the coalition government was formed in 2010. Only eight now remain ahead of next year’s General Election.

How they stand.
Con – 29 (+1)
Greens – 10 (+3)
Lib Dems – 8 (-1)
Lab – 2 (-4)
UKIP – 1 (+1)
Ind Ratepayers – 1 (-)
Turn Out: 33.86%


North Solihull Results:

Bickenhill
UKIP – 969
Lab – 471
Green – 266
Con - 1268
CON HOLD

Castle Bromwich
UKIP – 1244
Labour – 404
Con – 1351
Greens  - 114
Ind – 66
CON HOLD

Chelmsley Wood
UKIP – 556
Con – 142
Greens  - 1334
Lab – 511
GREEN GAIN 

Kingshurst & Fordbridge
UKIP - 1022
Lab - 713
Lib Dems - 43
Con - 277
Greens - 128
UKIP GAIN

Smith’s Wood
Lab – 487
Greens – 970
Con – 101
UKIP – 584
GREEN GAIN

Friday Thoughts - Back in Brum?

Let’s get this straight shall we.
You live in Chelmsley Wood which was built by Birmingham but has belonged to Solihull for the past 40 years. Once upon a time this was all in the county of Warwickshire, now it’s part of the West Midlands. Your MP is Caroline Spelman, who represents the constituency of Meriden. Which is a small village several miles away. But, hang on, it’s also the name of your local park. Is there any wonder you’re having an identity crisis.

SAME NAME: Meriden and Meriden Park, Chelmsley Wood,
are both in the Meriden constituency

The fact is that so many lines have been drawn and redrawn on the map it’s not always easy to adjust. It doesn’t help that place names have a habit of being repeated. Apart from the Meriden Park that isn’t actually in Meriden village, there was the slightly strange choice of name for a new housing scheme in Fordbridge. Bellway Homes dubbed the development Damson Wood, even though there’s already a Damson Wood in Solihull - a stone’s throw from the Land Rover factory. You can hear parcel companies and sat-nav users gnashing their teeth already.
But probably the biggest headache can be traced back 40 years, to the creation of Solihull Council.  As part of a massive shake-up of council boundaries in 1974, all sorts of different suburbs, villages and estates were thrown together to form the metropolitan borough. There was Solihull County Borough, the Meriden Rural District (which included what is now North Solihull) and even one parish (Hockley Heath) which had been inherited from Stratford-Upon-Avon.
The plan to put all these places together wasn’t entirely popular, with many communities worried they’d lose their identity. In truth, many decisions were made based on the relative wealth of areas or the size of their population.

VARIED AREA: The Solihull borough
coat-of-arms

You only have to take a quick glance at a map of the borough to see that it’s an awkward shape. North Solihull sticks out, if not like a sore thumb then a crooked finger. Poking up and curling round areas like Sheldon – which are actually closer to Solihull town centre, even though they’re still part of Birmingham.
The thing is though, the powers-that-be haven’t finished with the faffing about. Every few months there seems to be a new plan to redraw the region. Remember the, thankfully failed, attempt a couple of years ago to cut Castle Bromwich adrift from the rest of Solihull. Well technically it would have still been part of the Solihull Council area, but at the same time it would have been shunted into the Birmingham Erdington constituency. 
More recently, there’s been a lot of talk about creating a Greater Birmingham authority. This would see the city, Solihull and parts of the Black Country being amalgamated into a sort of super council, with a population of over two million.

MERGER: Some people would like to see the West Midlands
joined together as Greater Birmingham

The irony for the residents of Kingshurst or Chelmsley Wood is that after 40 years of being told, ‘yes, you’re part of Solihull’, suddenly they’d be back under the Birmingham umbrella. Except this time so would Knowle and Dorridge, Hampton-in-Arden and, yes, even Hockley Heath. And you can’t imagine the regulars at the Wharf pub would be happy about that.
In many ways it would be the furore of ‘74 all over again, only larger still, with politicians trying to give an entire region common purpose. For areas like North Solihull, who even at the moment feel marginalised, it would not be a comfortable experience.
There are politicians who argue that dealing with issues like transport and housing on a region-wide basis makes sense. But there are hidden dangers. There have already been whispers that Solihull may be put pressure to help Birmingham deal with its chronic housing shortage and that’s while the authorities are still independent. Should the councils be combined then the ability of the borough to protect its greenbelt would be hugely reduced. How long before great swathes of open space in the Cole Valley and near Birmingham Business Park were being eyed up to build overspill estates?


PRESSURE: Dealing with policies like housing on a region-wide
basis may mean more development in areas like the Cole Valley

Of course, councils should work closely together. But the Greater Birmingham project could well be created with the best interests of business and infrastructure at its heart, not the people. Lessons should be learned from earlier changes, including the creation of Solihull borough. If, 40 years after the event, there are still some who feel their voices aren't being heard, imagine the difficulties that may arise from allowing the borough to be subsumed into an entity of this enormity.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Kingshurst mum pleads guilty to abandoning her day-old baby in city park.

A YOUNG mum from the Kingshurst area has admitted abandoning her new-born baby in the undergrowth of a city park.
The 26-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded guilty to child cruelty at Birmingham Crown Court today (Wednesday).
The baby, who had been wrapped inside a towel and toy shop carrier bag, is said to have been “close to death” when discovered by a dog-walker.
She had been left on an embankment at Marlborough House Community Park, in Stechford, on October 31 last year.
Police estimated that the day-old girl - named Jade by hospital staff - had been out in the cold for up to an hour.
Det Insp Richard Cox, who led the investigation, said: “She was blue and cold and medical staff were unable to register a temperature at first.
“Jade was a helpless new-born child, abandoned by her mother on a cold winter’s day in a park in a place where she was not visible to passers-by and where she could easily have been attacked by wild animals.
“It was only a huge stroke of luck that a local dog walker stopped to investigate after his dog became interested in a carrier bag hidden in undergrowth."
After recovering in hospital, the baby, now eight-months-old, was taken into foster care. She is said to be making good progress.
The court heard the girl’s mother had told no-one about her pregnancy and given birth in secret. Police said she had failed to respond to a high-profile appeal to come forward and had given no reasonable explanation for her actions during interview.
The defendant has been granted conditional bail and will be sentenced on July 3.

New plans for homes in Holly Lane, Marston Green

RESIDENTS have raised concerns about plans for a fresh ‘garden grabbing’ scheme in Marston Green.
The application has been lodged with Solihull Council by Clark, Gallagher & Ray to build ten semi-detached dwellings behind existing homes in Holly Lane.
Under the proposals, the three-bedroom properties and associated parking space would be erected to the rear of Nos 22-34.
Responding to the news on the village's Facebook page, many residents were concerned that the extra homes would pile new pressure on services which were already struggling to cope.
Kate Allsop wrote: "No more houses! The doctor's surgery is a nightmare. Imagine the schools will be bursting at the seams too."
Emma Savage said that the scheme would cause traffic "chaos" on an already busy road and urged fellow residents to object. 
It’s not the first time that residents living in the road have been faced with a controversial development.
Almost 150 locals had petitioned against a previous scheme, by a different developer, to build a block of 31 apartments. That application was eventually approved by the Government in 2008.
This new development is likely to be considered by the council’s planning committee later this year. For more details visit http://ww2.solihull.gov.uk/planning_new/dc/ViewAppDetail.asp?Y=2014&R=734

Out and about for a bat night in Kingshurst

NIGHT FLIER: Babbs Mill is an ideal habitat for
species like the pipistrelle

A BAT and moth night will be taking place at Babbs Mill this evening (Wednesday).
The session, which will shed more light on the nocturnal mammals, runs from 9pm to midnight. Meet the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust team at the lakeside car park, off Fordbridge Road.
For more information call Simon Phelps on 07956993413 or email simon.phelps@wkwt.org.uk

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Fancy joining Castle Bromwich Parish Council?

A CASUAL vacancy has arisen on Castle Bromwich Parish Council.
The position to represent Park Hall ward could generate a by-election if ten members of the electorate write to Solihull Council’s returning officer before June 3.
If no such submissions are received, the parish council can choose a co-opt a member, with no need to hold an election.
If you are interested in becoming a parish councillor, contact 0121 747 6503 or counciloffice@castlebromwichpc.gov.uk

Parents' anger as yobs burn down park treehouse

GUTTED: The charred remains of the treehouse.
Photo credit/ Meriden Park Adventure Playground 


A POPULAR adventure playground in Chelmsley Wood has been targeted by arsonists.
The treehouse at Meriden Park’s Adventure Playground was set alight on Sunday (May 18).
Yesterday, photos of the blackened timber were posted on Facebook, to the dismay of many local parents.
Stephanie Downing wrote: “This is horrible, why would someone do this?
“My two love coming to the adventure playground and I just cannot believe that there are still people out there that [think] wanton destruction is acceptable.”
Sharon Elliker added: “What is wrong with people that they would begrudge kids having fun. I hope they are proud of themselves.”
A spokesman for the adventure playground said they wanted to install a better fence to protect the equipment and also urged people to spread the word that children and teenagers should not be inside the facility outside of opening hours.
Police are investigating the fire. If you have any information call officers on 101.

  • In an unrelated incident, some residents in North Solihull have reported seeing smoke rising from a massive fire at a woodchip plant some six miles away. The blaze broke out at A&A Recycling Limited, in Cornets End Lane, on Friday. At its height, around 80 firefighters were battling to bring the flames under control. It’s thought that it could take crews another two days to completely extinguish the fire.

Fostering event in Castle Bromwich today

SOLIHULL Council’s fostering team will be at Morrisons, in Castle Bromwich, today (Tuesday).
The event, from 11am-3pm, has been organised as part of Foster Care Fortnight, an annual campaign to raise the profile of foster care.
People can pop in and pick up some information. Details are also available at www.solihull.gov.uk/fostering

Monday, 19 May 2014

Second bid for North Solihull engineering college due this month

FACILITY: The North Solihull college would be based on a
facility set to open in Coventry this autumn.

OPENING a new engineering college in North Solihull could help solve the region’s skills shortage, academics have argued.
The University of Warwick is leading a proposal to create the University Technical College, which they claim would give young people the training to take advantage of job opportunities in the West Midlands’ booming manufacturing sector.
There was anger earlier this year, when an initial bid to the Department of Education was unsuccessful. Chelmsley Wood councillor Nick Stephens said in February that the decision was very disappointing.
Despite this setback, the university is to make a second attempt to secure support this month, following “positive” dialogue with the Government. If the second bid is successful, the site could open its doors as early as 2016.
The college would be modelled on a similar facility in Coventry and have a number of partners. Solihull Council would sit on the governing body, while major employers like Jaguar Land Rover would be involved in setting the curriculum.
It’s hoped that taking in teenagers at 14 and 16-years-old and offering a range of specialist qualifications would be a major boost to the region’s economy. At present, the manufacturing industry is driving the recovery and creating new jobs, but there is often a struggle to recruit young people with the necessary expertise.
In its Q&A about the college proposal, Solihull Council outlined the opportunities that could be made available to students:
“The West Midlands has a rich engineering history and the region has a number of innovative businesses and employers that the UTC aims to work with.
“The recent announcement by Jaguar Land Rover to create more engineering jobs in Solihull highlights the job opportunities for young people who specialise in science, technology, engineering and maths.”
Details about the location of the site are still sketchy, although the council has confirmed that the purpose-built facility would be within easy reach of transport links at Chelmsley Wood and Marston Green. The academy would cater for over 600 students, with over 40 per cent living within a five mile radius of North Solihull.
Authorities have said more detailed plans will be announced if the bid to the DoE is successful.

Stage role for talented Park Hall School pupil

SPECIAL EVENT: Lord of the Flies was performed as part of
the Birmingham International Dance Festival
A PARK Hall School pupil has appeared in a Birmingham Hippodrome production of Lord of the Flies.
Fenton Lockley, aged 11, was among just 22 young performers to win a role in the show, part of Birmingham’s International Dance Festival 2014.
More than 300 hopefuls, some of them almost double his age, applied to take part in the performance, but Fenton was one of the few who made it through the gruelling auditions and workshops.
The Hippodrome said that the production, based on William Golding’s Nobel-winning novel, had found the best male dancers in the region. These talented children and teens were then set to work learning routines to perform alongside nine professional dancers.
After many months’ hard work, the show opened last week and finished its four-night run on Saturday evening.
Liz Leck, Birmingham Hippodrome’s creative learning manager said: “A special event like this that gives young men, some of whom have never danced before, the opportunity to perform on our main stage alongside professional performers from such a recognised and established company is something we are extremely proud to present.”
In his spare time Fenton is also a member of the Spotlight Stage School, a troupe which rehearses in Kingshurst and Castle Bromwich.

Dementia awareness events in North Solihull tomorrow

TO mark Dementia Awareness Week, a number of information events will be taking place in North Solihull tomorrow (Tuesday)
The sessions, lasting 30-40 minutes, will give residents the chance to learn more about the condition.
They will be held at Chelmsley Wood Library (10am), Kingshurst Library (11.45am) and Castle Bromwich Library (2.15pm). Experts from the Alzheimer’s Society will be on hand to offer advice.
If you are unable to make tomorrow, the sessions will continue in the south of the borough later in the week.
While there are thousands of people affected by dementia in Solihull, there has recently been concern about local services.
Last month, Solihull MP Lorely Burt asked the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, about the future of Solihull Hospital’s Ward 10 – which is under threat of closure.
Apart from the fears surrounding the future of the 13 bed facility, there have also been calls from Mrs Burt to provide a more ‘dementia-friendly’ bus service.

  •  For more information about dementia and what support services are available call 0709933136 or email mark.clarke@solihull.gov.uk.
  • Sunday, 18 May 2014

    CTC Kingshurst starts tennis sessions for students and adults



    WITH the sun in the skies and Wimbledon just round the corner why not take advantage of new tennis sessions.
    The CTC Kingshurst Academy has teamed up with the Lawn Tennis Association to run a coaching club for both their own students and local adults.
    The sessions will be held at the Cooks Lane school on Mondays.
    The junior sessions (for pupils aged 11-16) run from 4-5pm. Coaching is £1 per child.
    Adult classes will take place from 5-7pm, with both beginner sessions and ‘cardio tennis’ for more experienced players. An evening on the courts will cost £2.50, payable on the day.
    Last summer, in the wake of the London Olympics and Andy Murray’s incredible success, Solihull Council announced it would set up a scheme to encourage more people to give tennis a try. An update on the progress of the project is expected after the local elections, so check back here for the latest news.
    In the meantime, you can find out more about the CTC’s weekly sessions on 0121 329 8360 or visit http://www.kingshurst.ac.uk/the-academy/news/anyone-for-tennis/

    Family raising money to combat rare condition

    A MAN will be pounding the pavements of Manchester today, raising money to help treat a condition which affects his young nephew.
    Five-month-old Olly Herbert, from Smith’s Wood, has been diagnosed with plagiocephaly, more commonly known as flat head syndrome.
    Mum-of-two Samantha Kirkbright first realised something was wrong when she noticed her son’s head was lopsided. The syndrome sometimes develops if a baby spends a long time asleep on his/her back.
    To try and correct the condition, the little boy has to wear a specially designed helmet for 23 hours a day.
    The £2000 piece of kit was made by a consultant from Leeds. Olly’s family is now fundraising to repay the relative who paid for the equipment.
    Samantha, 28, is organising a car boot sale and raffle, while her brother-in-law Leigh will be tackling the 10k Great Manchester Run this morning.
    "If left untreated [the condition] can cause serious issues, most notably to eyesight," said Leigh, explaining his reasons for slipping on his shoes.
    "I'm also aiming to complete the race in under 38 minutes, which would be a PB and know that there will be no better motivation on the day to get there, knowing this attempt to help Olly has been a successful one."
    Funds will also go towards the charity Headstart4Babies, helping other youngsters with the condition.
    • To donate go to http://www.justgiving.com/babyolly

    Saturday, 17 May 2014

    Chelmsley Wood chef to release his first book



    TODAY he’s best-known for his first rate cuisine, but Chelmsley Wood’s own Glynn Purnell got his start serving up a rather more basic meal – beans on toast.
    In his first book, released next week, the Michelin-starred chef (pictured above) reveals how he would rustle up the snack for his younger brother and sister.
    It was the start of a remarkable journey for Glynn, who has gone on to open several city centre venues and become a regular guest on cookery shows like Saturday Kitchen.
    His much-anticipated book, Cracking Yolks and Pig Tales, includes more than 100 recipes and also charts his transition from fledgling foodie to professional chef.
    The eager teenager had got his start while still at school, when he landed a job in the kitchens at the NEC’s Metropole Hotel. Every afternoon he would catch the 966 bus from Chelmsley, learning his trade by flipping burgers and making salads.
    At 16 he got an apprenticeship and worked at a range of restaurants; he was awarded his first Michelin Star while he was head chef at Jessica’s in Edgbaston. From there he would go on to launch the first of his own eateries, Purnell’s, in 2007.
    But the 39-year-old has said that his early memories of cooking at home have been hugely influential in his career.
    In an interview a few years ago he said: “I’m just a simple guy from a very simple background.
    “I just took my chances and worked hard and the highlight for me is the fact that I’ve got a restaurant in my hometown. I wanted to put Birmingham on the culinary map.”
    •  Cracking Yolks and Pig Tales is out on Thursday (May 22), priced £19.99.

    Friday, 16 May 2014

    Fish thief who targeted Chelmsley Wood store is jailed

    A SLIPPERY customer who stole hundreds of pounds of tinned fish has been jailed for three months.
    “Prolific shoplifter” Terry Field admitted helping himself to a huge haul of salmon, tuna and corned beef, worth a hefty £250, from a Chelmsley Wood store.
    The Kingshurst & Fordbridge neighbourhood team were called in to investigate the theft at the unnamed shop and were able to reel in the culprit after recognising Field’s face on CCTV.
    The footage showed the 32-year-old, from Kitts Green, pilfering the goods on three separate occasions. On Monday (May 12), Birmingham Magistrates handed the defendant a custodial sentence.
    PC Yonas Habtu said: “We suspect that Field was looking to sell these items on at a fraction of their price to fund his heroin habit.
    “By arresting him we have not only been able to prevent further crime but also given him the opportunity to seek support for his addiction whilst in prison.
    “There are some people who see theft of this type as a ‘victimless crime’. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. The loss of hundreds of pounds of stock was understandably causing great concern to the store manager.”

    Green candidate denies claims he gave a false address on election form

    A LOCAL election candidate in Chelmsley Wood is facing allegations he gave a false address on his nomination form, the Birmingham Mail reports.

    Friday Thoughts - Getting North Solihull to the ballot box.

    VOTE: The turn-out in many parts of North Solihull was
    less than 25 per cent in 2012.
    LAST time a local election was held in Smith’s Wood, only one in five residents who were registered to vote bothered to do so.
    The turn-out of 20.1 per cent two years ago may have been the worst in Solihull, but it wasn’t much better elsewhere in the borough.
    The dwindling number of people who can be bothered making the trip to the polling station is often put down to a growing distrust of politicians.
    There’s no doubt that the “they’re all as bad as each other” argument is a problem, but there seems to be a particular type of apathy around local elections.
    That may stem from the fact that most people don’t much care what the council does.
    They dismiss the metropolitan borough as just a lot of men – or mostly men – arguing in a room eight miles away.
    Some people would say that when it comes down to it, the decisions that really matter aren’t made in Solihull, or even Birmingham. It’s Westminster that runs the country, the council looks after libraries…
    It’s true of course that councillors aren’t all powerful. If the most important political issue to you is getting out of the EU, this isn’t going to be in the gift of Solihull Council.
    But maybe you're more worried about getting out of your house in the morning. Imagine the situation; the road is chock-a-block with cars - up on the pavements and churning the verge into mud. Who you gonna call?

    ROLE: Solihull Council is responsible for services
    including rubbish collections
    Those who think local government is rubbish are right, in part. It is rubbish (or waste collection if your prefer), as well as school crossings, street signs, your local park and the pavements you walk on. The borough council's budget for the year is something like £169m.
    Suddenly one of your ward councillors seems a lot more useful. It’s the little problems and not so little ones (have you seen the size of some potholes) where the local authority comes into its own.
    The clue’s in the name of course. Local. Council wards are a fraction of the size of MP’s constituencies and every one is represented by three members. This means that you’re far more likely to enlist a councillor’s help to replace a missing wheelie bin or stop the kids swigging cider at the local park.
    In terms of improving participation in local elections, it's not a case of having anyone over 18 frogmarched to the ballot box and ordered to do their duty because “people died for the right”. But maybe it’s time politicians proved to people that putting a cross in the box isn’t a waste of time after all.
    Councillors have their own part to play in all this. Many are hard-working and will be out and about on the patch a fair amount of the time. Others are rather more like the Olympics, in that they only come round once ever four years.
    Is it any wonder some residents don’t think much of their elected representative if all they see of them is a photo - three weeks before polling day - looking stern and pointing at a lamppost. Surely there is more to politics than pointing.

    OVERLOAD: Some residents get jaded by the sudden flurry
    of election leaflets
    Part of the way that councillors can do more is make use of new media. Start tweeting from the meetings, blog about black bin bags and, yes, get the video cameras inside the civic suite and stream committees in all their technicolour glory.
    Solihull has had mixed success with new technology. Many councillors, to their credit, have grabbed social media by the scruff-of-the-neck. Chelmsley Wood’s own Chris Williams and Nick Stephens are among those to have Twitter accounts. And Coun Ken Hawkins has set a precedent for Mayors who make their movements available online.
    But on the flip side of the coin, councillors were recently discouraged from reaching for their iPhone during planning meetings – in case anyone accused the members of not paying proper attention. Talks have also stalled over plans to follow Birmingham’s example and uploading videos of decision-making sessions to the council website. There is still, it seems, some suspicion of the internet age.
    One final thing that political parties should try to do to encourage people around election time, is to put forward a greater variety of candidates. At present every councillor in Solihull is white and just 14 of 51 seats are held by women.

    GENDER GAP: There are now three women councillors in
    North Solihull, but they remain under represented
    One area where there has been some success in the past few years is attracting more members in their 20s and 30s. There is nothing wrong with having older, more experienced councillors – no-one’s saying that the overview and scrutiny board needs to look like a boyband – but until a couple of years ago the youngest member of one of Solihull's political groups was 57. This would not encourage younger people – who traditionally vote less anyway – to visit the polling station.
    Getting people engaged is never going to be easy. But if councillors say more and voters think about listening then just maybe the turn-out at local elections can be lifted. 

    Bickenhill Parish Council's HS2 meeting tonight

    MARSTON Green residents are invited to a parish council meeting this evening (Friday, May 16) to discuss the affect of high-speed rail on the local area.
    With the creation of a new interchange station at the NEC, there are concerns about how the multi-billion pound project could impact on residents' lives.
    Bickenhill Parish Council will be holding the session at St Peter’s Church Hall, Bickenhill, at 7pm. All welcome.

    Thursday, 15 May 2014

    Push to get more people travelling to work by bike.

    SOLIHULL Chamber of Commerce hopes that a set of surprising cycling statistics will persuade more people to bike to work.
    The chamber is working alongside Solihull Council to encourage businesses in the north of the borough to take advantage of travelling on two wheels.
    Over 10 per cent of commuters in North Solihull already walk or cycle to work, often because they don’t have access to a car.
    But now construction is complete on 13km of new cycle routes, the local authority will be hoping to persuade people who would normally drive to leave the car at home.
    A new leaflet emphasises the benefits of bikes to health and the environment, but also tries to tackle the popular view that riding to work is inconvenient.


    It’s part of efforts by the council to try to increase awareness of the recently created North Solihull Strategic Cycle Network. The project is at the centre of ongoing efforts to improve safety and journey times for cyclists.
    Recruiting some of the area’s biggest employers is the first step to ensuring the new routes, which begin in Castle Bromwich and will link to existing cycle paths at the NEC, are well-used.
    Following the completion of previous cycle schemes, the council has had to answer accusations that, despite many months' effort putting in the provision, the paths are seldom used.
    Councillor David Jamieson (Lab, Kingshurst & Fordbridge) said last year that the best way to answer these critics was to ensure plenty of people take advantage of the latest project.
    To find out more about the strategic cycle network, call 0121 704 6429 or email cyclenorthsolihull@solihull.gov.uk

    Capital Sun rises: Band braces for debut album launch

    NEW DAWN: Capital Sun are part of a new wave
    of music coming out of the Midlands
    A CASTLE Bromwich singer is relishing the upcoming release of his band’s debut album, after enlisting the expertise of a Grammy nominated producer.
    Glen Boden, frontman of Capital Sun, made contact with Chris Tsangarides, who has previously worked with A-list acts like Tom Jones and Thin Lizzy.
    It was a 30-year-old family link that gave Glen a foot in the door, Tsangarides had collaborated with the singer’s uncle, Tony Boden, in the late 70s.
    Capital Sun started as a guitar duo in 2009, when Glen teamed up with fellow axeman Andy Smith.
    It wasn’t long before Luke Weston (bass) and Chris Taylor (drums) were added to the line-up.
    Five years on and with a trip to Tsangarides’ studio under their belts, the four friends are now just weeks away from the release of their 12-track album, Mr. Nobody.
    Glen, aged 28, has said that the band is influenced by the sounds of the 60s and 70s, with the likes of Led Zeppelin and Yes among their inspirations.
    And the former CTC Kingshurst pupil hopes that Capital Sun can capitalise on a renewed interest in music coming out of the Birmingham area.

    RISING STARS: (from left) Andy Smith, Glen Boden, Chris
    Taylor and Luke Weston
    Just two years ago Glen admitted that too few groups from the Midlands were making an impression on the national stage. Not since Ocean Colour Scene, in the waning days of Britpop, had the second city been able to boast about very much.
    In the short time since that has changed dramatically, with the arrival of indie bands like Peace and Swim Deep. Last year, the NME acknowledged the success of the so-called ‘B-Town’ groups, who cut their teeth on the streets of Digbeth.
    So it may bode well for Boden and his bandmates that in 2012 they chose the Rainbow as the venue to launch their first single. Who knows, B-Town may be about to get a whole lot bigger
    • Mr. Nobody is set for release on May 30. Capital Sun will play The Sun on the Station, in Kings Heath, on June 15, to promote their new material. In the meantime, find out more about the band at www.facebook.com/capitalsun

    Wednesday, 14 May 2014

    Spring concert in Chelmsley Wood on Saturday

    NORTH Solihull Singers will be in full song for a spring concert on Saturday (May 17).
    The group will be joined by special guests for the show at John Henry Newman Catholic College, Chelmsley Wood. Concert starts at 7.30pm.
    Tickets are £6.50/£5 on 0121 788 3402 or email tickets@northsolihullsingers.co.uk
    You must book in advance.

    Police and crime commissioner to hold Chelmsley Wood surgery.



    LOCAL residents will get the chance to chat with the West Midlands’ police and crime commissioner on Friday, May 16.
    Bob Jones (pictured), who was elected to the role in November 2012,  will be presiding over a surgery in Chelmsley Wood.
    People will have chance to raise concerns with the man responsible for holding the region’s police force to account.
    The session will be start at the Bluebell and Buttercup Room, in the Solihull Connect Centre, at 2pm. Book a place on 0121 626 6060. 

    Factbox:

    • Police and crime commissioners were elected across the country 18 months ago.
    • The Government introduced the roles to encourage “greater accountability” and provide a higher-profile, directly-elected figurehead to scrutinise the way the police operate.
    • There was concern about a lack of interest, following a dismal turn-out when the elections were held in 2012. Only one in eight residents in Solihull cast a vote.
    • Mr Jones, a former Labour councillor, came top of the local polls. While many of the commissioners represent an existing political party, others were elected on an independent platform.
    • He is one of several commissioners elected who made it clear they were opposed to the position for which they were standing. He has lobbied for a return to the police authorities, which comprised of councillors, magistrates and other individuals.

    Tuesday, 13 May 2014

    Kingfisher foodbank supports close to 1000 people in last year.

    URGENT NEED: Families feeling the pinch in North Solihull
    have turned to foodbanks for support.
    THE Kingfisher foodbank has helped more than 800 adults and children in need since it was launched 12 months ago.
    The service was set up in 2013 to help feed families who “have fallen into crisis”, with more than 6300kg of food dished out to local people. The amount is equal in weight to a male African elephant.
    Churches, schools and Tesco supermarkets across North Solihull and East Birmingham are among those to have donated dried and canned goods to the cause.
    Rev Jo Johnson, chair of Kingfisher Foodbank, said: “I am delighted with all the hard work of the volunteers and the generosity of people who have helped us provide people in crisis with food over the past year.”
    The Trussell Trust, the largest food bank provider in the UK, revealed last month that there had been a “shocking” rise in the number of people who had turned to the lifeline service.
    The number of food parcels handed out nationwide rose by more than 50 per cent to 913,000 in 2013.
    Chris Mould, the charity’s chairman, said: “Perhaps most worrying of all this figure is just the tip of the iceberg of UK food poverty, it doesn’t include those helped by other emergency food providers, those living in towns where there is no foodbank, people who are too ashamed to seek help or the large number of people who are only just coping by eating less and buying cheap food.”
    Solihull’s Citizens Advice Bureau confirmed last year that Solihull had not escaped the difficulties reported nationwide, with a huge surge in demand for food parcels.
    Some have blamed recent welfare reforms for the increase in people who are struggling to manage, but these claims have been denied by the Government.
    A celebration service, to mark the foodbank’s first anniversary, will be held on Sunday (May 18) at St Barnabus Church, Kingshurst. It starts at 3pm.
    To find out more about the foodbank – how to make a donation or get support – visit http://kingfisherfoodbank.weebly.com/

    Selfie craze is an inspiration for local artist

    ARTWORK: From iPhone to art gallery...

    THE ‘selfie’ is the inspiration for a new portrait exhibition, launched by a local artist.
    Alison Saint, who works at Kingshurst Art Space, has used the ubiquitous images as the basis for an entire collection of work.
    Using social media, Alison asked friends to send her random ‘selfies’ – for the uninitiated, that’s a photo you’ve taken of yourself, usually on a smart phone or digital camera.
    She then started to turn the pictures of people’s faces into hand-sewn portraits.

    A Stitch In Time will run at Solihull Arts Complex, until June 9.

    Man convicted of flytipping in Kingshurst car park

    A MAN who dumped rubbish on the site of a former Kingshurst pub has been ordered to cough up over £1000 by the courts.
    Chad Nugent, 42, who advertised his own waste disposal business, was convicted of the offence at The Mountfort car park.
    But the quick flytipping trip has cost him dear after Birmingham Magistrates fined him £200 and ordered him to pay more than £800 extra in compensation and costs.
    The court heard last week how a member-of-the-public had seen a van dump the rubbish at the site on August 31 last year and managed to note down the vehicle’s registration number.
    The details from the quick-thinking witness and a name and address actually found in among the rubbish led Solihull’s environmental crime team to the culprit’s door.
    It emerged that Nugent, of Kitts Green, Birmingham, had been paid £100 by one member-of-the-public to collect and get rid of the rubbish.
    In passing sentence, the court took into account the defendant’s guilty plea and the fact he was claiming benefits. A share of the compensation will go to Solihull Council, to cover the costs of their investigation, and Trust Inns Limited – who owned the site at the time.
    The council will now press for Nugent to be disqualified from holding a waste carrier’s licence.
    A spokesman from the environmental crime team said: “Although disappointed with the penalty, we’re pleased that this will limit Nugent’s opportunities to fly tip in the future.
    “We hope this case reinforces how seriously the council takes these offences, and that this will deter others from fly tipping.”
    The old Mountfort site, in Over Green Drive, had previously become a magnet for crime and anti social behaviour but is currently being redeveloped.

    * Figures for 2012/13 reveal there were 711,000 cases of flytipping across the country. Those convicted can face fines of up to £50,000 or even a six month prison sentence, depending on the severity of the offence.

    Monday, 12 May 2014

    Robert Wilkinson's Funfair cancelled

    ROBERT Wilkinson’s Funfair – due to pitch up in Meriden Park later this week – has been cancelled.
    Solihull Connect tweeted this morning that the popular fairground would not go ahead due to unsuitable ground conditions.
    The fair, which was due to arrive on Thursday, always draws a good crowd when it comes to Chelmsley Wood. It’s yet to be confirmed if the event has been rescheduled.
    The announcement comes after several weeks of unsettled weather, with more rain than is typical for this time of year. Although the Met Office has predicted conditions may pick up from Wednesday, with warmer temperatures and sunshine on the way.

    Series of wildlife surveys to start in Smith's Wood

    SURVEY: Warwickshire Wildlife Trust want residents to help
    catalogue local wildlife
    THE first of three events – highlighting the wealth of wildlife in North Solihull – takes place in Smith’s Wood tomorrow (Tuesday).
    Warwickshire Wildlife Trust are organising a bioblitz – a race against the clock to discover as many species of plants and animals in the local habitat as possible.
    The survey is part of an ongoing programme, run by the wildlife trust and funded by Solihull Council, which aims to get residents out and about in the area's open spaces.
    The nine-month project, which continues until the end of August, has helped highlight the variety of species which live in local parks and green spaces.
    Meet outside the post office in Arran Way between 10am-1pm. Similar events will be held in Babbs Mill Park (May 21) and Meriden Park (May 29).
    To find out more about the Your Wildlife initiative, call Simon Phelps on 07956993413 or email simon.phelps@wkwt.org.uk

    All creatures great and small:
    * Babbs Mill has a thriving ecosystem - wildlife blogger, Vinnyman, recorded 29 species of bird during one visit.
    * There are also a number of bat colonies. Silver birches, maple and rowan were planted at the Lowbrook development to create an ideal habitat for the flying mammals to feed.
    * Rare hairstreak butterflies have previously been recorded on local parkland.

    Sunday, 11 May 2014

    Campaign to restore Castle Bromwich bells gathers momentum.

    AS part of this weekend’s Castle Bromwich Heritage Festival, we scaled the heights of St Mary and St Margaret’s Church and got a closer look at the bells which are part of a £100,000 restoration project.

    When we reach the top of the winding stairs we’re shown the ropes – quite literally.
    The members of the church bellringing team point out the cords that hang down from the ceiling. Today our tour guides are going to teach us how to toll. This is the art of swinging the bell slightly from side-to-side.
    People approach the ropes with slight trepidation. For some of the visitors, memories may come to mind of the Mars Bars advert – in which a band of monks are carried all the way to the ceiling by some particularly rigorous ringing.
    This isn’t as fanciful as it sounds. The heaviest of the bells – the tenor – weighs around half a ton and the six bells together are something over a ton (the same weight as a Mini).
    Fortunately no-one gets carried away today, as we take it in turns to make the bells ring out. Dan Harris, the youngest bell captain in Birmingham, demonstrates the technique. Do it right and you’re rewarded with a deep dong from up above.

    CLAPPED OUT: The bells were last recast in 1952 and need
    a complete refurbishment.
    To keep the pealing going takes timing and co-ordination, it’s also good exercise. Although Dan admits that a few beers after a Wednesday night practise session probably puts the calories back on. A quick trip to the pub is apparently an old tradition in bell ringing circles.
    “We get to ring bells in churches all around the country,” says Dan, when asked about the appeal of pealing for someone his age. “And drink in a few pubs too!”
    The bells sound out for Sunday service and weddings, although they have also been rung to mark special events such as the London Olympics, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and to usher in the new Millennium.
    After a quick look at the Medieval roofspace, we’re taken up another set of steps (it’s quite a squeeze) and into the belfry itself. There aren’t any bats at the moment, but the wind whistles through the bricks and you can see trees thrashing about on the other side of the narrow grill.



    The bells themselves are something to behold. Bill Dargue, who has been part of the team for more than 30 years, says the chimes can be heard over a mile away and when they sound out, you can feel the reverberations run down through the whole tower. This is apparently a good thing, if the structure didn’t sway it could snap, but it’s still not a comforting thought when you’re halfway up a set of rough cut steps which date from the 1700s.
    It’s then up the final winding flight to the top of the tower, stooping to get through a rather low doorway. The view is incredible, you can see all the way to Birmingham city centre, with the Rotunda and Post Office tower, and out in other directions to the distant spires of Coleshill and Yardley.

    VIEW: You can see for miles from the top of the tower at
    St Mary and St Margaret's
    It’s then time to descend the 99 steps back down to the ground. Ben Sassons, another of the younger bellringers, jokes that his suggestion for a slide had been vetoed. Although you shouldn’t expect this addition any time soon, as it turns out there are still some ambitious plans for this historic tower…

    Ringing the changes: Church bell appeal
    Earlier this year, the team set up a charitable trust to restore the ringers to their former glory.
    When the bells were recast in 1952, the firm who did the job was on the verge of bankruptcy and many materials were reused from the early 18th century installation rather than being replaced.
    Consequently time has taken its toll and now the bells need a complete refurbishment. The trust has also revived an old proposal for two new treble bells - this was the original intention when the last work was carried out 60 years ago, but the plan was shelved.
    It’s hoped that the campaign can raise £100,000 and that the eight new bells can be in place in time for 2017 – the 300th anniversary of Bridgeman’s bells being hung.
    If you can help, donations should be made payable to the Castle Bromwich Bell Restoration Fund, send cheques to 42, Chester Road, B36 6BU. Or visit their website.

    Saturday, 10 May 2014

    New youth magazine to launch in North Solihull

    A NEW magazine with a difference is being launched in North Solihull
    Hybrid’s slogan is “by young people, for young people”, with the articles and features provided by local students.
    In the first edition there are articles offering advice to job hunters, suggestions for school leavers and a “survival guide” for people going to their first music festival.
    Also inside is a piece of creative writing by Siana-Rose Crawford, a Chelmsley Wood teenager and former CTC pupil who has recently published her first novel.
    The quarterly title, which will be available at local schools, youth centres and other facilities, is run by the Ashram Housing Association. It is hoped that future issues will feature photography, poetry and even illustrations submitted by the hungry young newsteam.
    Hybrid is edited by former journalist Simeon Bright, who previously ran S.L Magazine - a youth magazine with content provided by local sixth formers.
    The magazine has its official launch at the Bosworth Community Centre on Monday evening (May 12).
    If you would like to get involved in the project, email simeon.bright@ashramha.org.uk or tweet @hybrid_mag

    Friday, 9 May 2014

    Well-known councillors prepare to say farewell

    GRANDEES: Couns Alan Martin, left, and
    Don Cornock
    NEXT Wednesday, Solihull’s oldest councillor will sit down for his final meeting in the council chamber.
    This last session on the planning committee will bring to an end an 18-year stint by Marston Green’s Alan Martin.
    The Conservative councillor has represented his home ward of Bickenhill since 1996 and was Solihull’s Mayor nine years ago.
    Now 81, he has decided against standing for another four year term and will step down at this month’s local elections.
    Coun Martin held a number of positions during his time with the Tory group and is a long-serving member of the planning committee, where he has had to consider some of the most controversial applications in recent history.
    He will continue to serve the community as a member of the Marston Green Village Hall Trust.
    Also leaving the council this month is Smith’s Wood stalwart Don Cornock, who has held the seat since 1983.
    The Labour man, from Auckland Drive, has had the longest continuous run of the 51 members who currently make up the local authority.
    He also sits on the planning committee and in recent years has advised and debated the regeneration project which has transformed large parts of the estate he represents.
    Coun Cornock will not disappear from the political scene entirely and plans to continue on Smith’s Wood Parish Council.
    Labour have selected David Cole, who chairs the Kingshurst Parish Council, to replace their most experienced member.