Harborne Walks by Edward Chitham

Map of Walk Hagley Road to Moorpool

One of the society’s committee recently acquired a book called “Harborne Walks” by Edward Chitham. The book contains five walks around Harborne and can be purchased from Harborne Library for just £2.50. I asked if I could reproduce one of the walks in the Oracle and I must thank The Harborne Society for allowing me to.

Walk number 3 – Hagley Road to Moorpool

Begin at the King’s Head public house. This was the terminus of the only tram route running through Harborne proper, No. 34 (photo below)

Across the Hagley Road by the traffic lights, then Bearwood Road. Bearwood and the whole of Smethwick were once part of Harborne parish and manor. Cross Bearwood bus station and enter Lightwoods Park. This former Birmingham park has now been taken over by Sandwell Metropolitan Borough.

Across the park is Lightwoods House (photo below), dating from the late 18th century.

Walk through Lightwoods Park to Galton Road, named after Samuel Galton, a pioneer in psychometric science. You cross a slight depression in the ground marking the former boundary between Harborne and Warley. Cross Hagley Road West back into the City of Birmingham.

On the corner of Galton Road is the old public house “the Dog”, formerly the Talbot, an eighteenth century cottage which has been a public house for over 150 years. The southern carriageway of Hagley Road West was cut through gardens, some of whose trees are still standing. Turn left down Winchfield Drive, noting a row of oak trees marking the course of the former footpath replaced by the road in the 1960s.

This area of Harborne is Beech Lanes, a name which descends from the Beech Tree public house, later the Bass House and now the Amber Tavern, just west of Wolverhampton Road South.

A 1902 map showing Beech Lanes

Ye Olde Beech Tree Inne in the early 1900s

At the end of Winchfield Drive, cross to the green area formerly Lake Meadow and once flooded. Make your way leftward across the green to the road bordering it, Leigham Drive.

This pleasant suburban road was cut in the 1960s; the whole area is part of Calthorpe Estate, the centre of which is Edgbaston. At the end of Leigham Drive, cross Croftdown Road and take the passage almost opposite. This, like most of Leigham Drive, is part of an old field path. At the end, turn left past some bungalows. You reach Elm Tree Road, part of walk number 4 in the book. At the end, cross the zebra crossing. The yew tree beyond the bus stop, on the reservation in front of the 1930s houses, is the only relic of the workhouse which once served Harborne and Smethwick. After crossing the road, turn right for a short while along Lordswood Road, then left into Carless Avenue.

This is the beginning of Moorpool Estate, laid out by J. S. Nettlefold, beginning in 1908. The Carless family were well known in Harborne in the early nineteenth century. You will notice many old trees planted in 1908-1912 but there are also earlier trees, part of the wooded edge to farmland. At the end of Carless Avenue is The Circle, containing Moorpool Hall and tennis courts. Nettlefold wished to make this a self-sufficient village. You may wish to turn into Park Edge from which Moor Pool itself can be seen. There is a further opportunity as you come to the end of the first part of Moorpool Avenue, if you turn left for a few yards in Ravenhurst Road.

Moorpool Hall and Harborne May Day in 1910

After crossing Ravenhurst Road, continue along Moorpool Avenue. At the far end you will see the railway bridge which carried the Harborne railway to its terminus near Station Road (photo below). The railway was initiated in 1874 and closed finally in the 1960s. Walk under the bridge and turn left on to the footpath leading up to the old railway track.

Continue the walk along the railway, noting the Chad Brook below. Once you cross the brook you are in Edgbaston. On your left a little further along is the gate leading to the West Midland Bird Club’s site, and a little further on you can divert left to the brook itself (this path may be muddy and you may prefer to keep to the railway track).

The path by the side of the brook rejoins the main track. Shortly afterwards, take the left path leading to the Gillhurst Road exit. Cross the road and take a footpath between houses which leads along the top of the deep cleft in the terrain. A branch path leads down to the brook again. Follow this path round and across the brook where it is culverted under Gillhurst Road. The element ‘Gill’ in the name (based on an old local name) seems to be Danish/Scandinavian and refers to the deep valley you are now in.

Follow the twisting path through the wood until you come to a passage to your left, facing a gate which leads into allotments. The passage leads between houses to Knightlow Road. Turn right along the suburban road, passing the entrance to Lordswood Girls’ School. At Lordswood Road, turn right again.

The left hand side of Lordswood Road was once a “Lord’s Wood”, a common where peasants had rights to collect wood and probably in Medieval times, to allow their pigs to feed. Many oak trees survive here, in gardens and open spaces. At the top of the hill you reach the Crossways (Kings Head Cross) and have returned to your starting point.

Ed’s comment-Once again my thanks to the Harborne Society and Edward Chitham for allowing me to include the article (photos are from the QLHS Archive and Old Harborne website)

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