A short History of Knowle’s Local Nature Reserve (LNR)
When 200 acres of farmland between Station Road and Tilehouse Green Lane were released for development, Dr Bower, Chairman of Knowle Society, recalled that the strip of boggy land bordering Purnells Brook beyond Jobs Close Park had always been renowned for its Spring flowers, with an abundance of Common Spotted Orchids and Marsh Marigolds. Miss Wootton (Knowle historian) remembered these fields behind Washpits Dairy farm (now St Lawrence Close) being full of cowslips in her young days, but these were lost to ploughing during World War 2, 1939-45, except for the boggy strip, thus ensuring the survival of the Orchids and Marsh Marigolds.
Dr Bower photographed the field views for posterity and alerted the Society to the threat to this last remaining bog site in Knowle where such a variety of Ancient Woodland marsh flowers was to be found.
Bryant Homes (the developers), Solihull Council and Arden School were all sympathetic to Knowle Society’s idea of preserving the site as a Nature Reserve. A flower count by Peggy Pontifex had revealed further species: Ragged Robin, Meadow Pea, Red & White Campion, St. John’s Wort, Meadow Sweet, various vetches, trefoils, thistles, sedges, rushes and bog grasses.
Provisional boundaries were pegged out and the grass cut with scythe and sickle by Bill Partridge and John Jarman. Hillmorton Road was built and all the springs sourcing Purnells Brook from the Starbold Road area were ‘culverted’ away and the brook filled in up to the first stormwater culvert leaving the frog spawning area stranded as a backwater.
Arden School, after re-organisation, now too busy either to help or to arrange field studies. Knowle Society formed a new Nature Conservation Subcommittee, chair Stella Jarman, to continue to manage the Reserve for Solihull Council.
The small Alder copse that had grown up in the war years had again spread out into both north-east and south-west meadows in the five years since farming ceased. Warwickshire Nature Conservation Trust advised on management and the young saplings were cut and treated. The meadows were scythed and cut again with a Flymo. Children took buckets of frogspawn from the backwater. Purnells Brook – the ancient medieval Manor boundary running alongside the Reserve, through Jobs Close, under Warwick Road and the canal until joining the River Blythe – is now fed solely from the stormwater drains in the Ullenhall Road area and is often contaminated with washing machine effluent.
Solihull Council say they cannot afford to replace Bryant’s temporary chestnut paling fencing.
January – The worst floods since 1953 brought down two old, large Alders on the brook into the Orchid meadow – removed by Bryant. Discussions to settle boundaries, fencing and footpaths. Bryant persuaded Council not to run two footpaths right across the meadows from the Ullenhall cul-de-sacs. Stella visited Bryant’s chief architect to agree lines and widths of footpaths either side of the Reserve. Bryant to erect No Dumping notices. Max & Beryl Ellerslie began their year-long photo-slides. Survey of the Reserve.
March – Knowle Cubs cleaned up Reserve and Brook with West Midlands Conservation Corps who also repaired fencing and damned-up the frog spawning backwater behind the first culvert to maintain the water level.
April – Council’s Richard Cobb met Stella and agreed a narrow footpath of 1.5m on the Ullenhall side and to include both banks of Purnells Brook within the Reserve together with extension of the Hillmorton apex boundary beyond the small Goat Willow. Topsoil dumped by Bryant 4ft high the entire length of the Marsh Marigold boundary was removed but led to later invasion of Willow Herb. Cubs rescued clumps of Marsh Marigolds and replanted within the meadow.
June – Large-scale maps received from Council and Bryant. Phoned to have mistakes rectified.
July – Species count revealed 17 tree and shrub and over 100 wild flower species. Council cut the meadows with tractor and cylinder leaving no ruts due to the summer long drought. Alder copse vandalised by children with choppers.
August – Stream and backwater dry and trees wilting in this prolonged heat wave. Our haystack burnt by children but Alder copse saved due to prompt action by Hillmorton Road residents.
August 30 – Heavy rain broke the worst drought of this century.
October – Ullenhall footpath laid to wrong width. Re-laid (!) after phone calls to Bryant.
November – Bryant erected new post and wire fencing round entire perimeter of Reserve. Knowle Society offered sincere thanks to Bryant for this splendid help and co-operation since 1971.
December – Knowle Reserve established at last but still to be formally adopted by Solihull Council, with management to remain with the Society in 1977.