Many of my earliest memories are in someway connected to The Lickey Hills. I eventually knew them like the back of my hand and could, with painstaking detail, tell you where the “100 steps” could be found (though the number was somewhere closer to 127 as we always made a point of counting on our assent), how best to tackle the muddy path that ran adjacent to the golf course or the exact tree JRR Tolkien would sit under and create his own world of good and evil that would captivate many people for years to come. There is little wonder why people have found it a place of great peace and a constant source of inspiration.
I often find my self being captured most readily by literature that best describes the English countryside because I know, to an extent, that I have witnessed the beauty first hand. We would run in sun bathed fields through to shaded trees all in an attempt to spot more rabbits than the evening before (25 was the record). All of this to a sound track of bird song and voices in the distance, perhaps doing the exact same thing.
I also took great interest in the man made ponds that were dotted around The Lickeys. The smaller and more obscure ponds had succumb to the creeping ravages of nature and time and were now the occasional drinking area for foxes rather than the place to spend idling Sundays for Victorian well to do people that I imagined lounging around them in the summers of the past. The duck pond was also a favourite of mine, but not for the ducks. Much more interesting guests included the heron that would occasionally stalk the waters or the large carp that would calmly blow bubbles and if you were lucky, let their large browny green backs break the water’s surface, but only momentarily, to give you just a fleeting glimpse of their identity.
Though the ponds served testament to it’s short term man made history, the hills themselves showed the true power of nature. Around the time “Walking with Dinosaurs” came out on television I, like many other kids, became passionate about these prehistoric beasts, of course my father would revel in showing us the fern bushes that litter the hills, a direct link to the time of T-Rex. The most special of the many routes to the visitor centre was the most challenging, a breathless march to the top of a hill. At the top you were greeted by two things; a bench and the valley. Who ever placed the bench so strategically must have been aware of both the walk to the bench and the view it gave. The valley was stunning. It was due to a glacier that had spent thousands of years slowly carving it’s way through the landscape inch by inch. Though the feat of such a thing has only really impacted me in later years I was still aware that I was witnessing the aftermath of something special. There was something much more exciting along the way, however, the play area.
Though I don’t visit those ancient hills as much as I used to, I still think about them. Recently the whole family went to scatter the ashes of my grandfather who, like my parents had with me, had taken his kids out and given them a world of memories and joy. It served as a constant reminder of the generations of people and their families those hills have silently bared witness too. As the ashes were taken by the wind and blown away we were served by perhaps the most striking view of all, Birmingham city, a city which we had all invested a part of our lives into.
What do the Lickey Hills mean to you? Where’s your favourite spot? Let us know in the comments below!