Luke Dolan lives in Rubery. He blogs and is a member of The Black Bears. Here he shares his thoughts on the Lickey Hills and their importance in his life.

Lickey Hills - Woods
Lickey Hills - Woods | basegreen on Flickr | click for original

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.

Walk at Lickey Hills in spring -> obligatory bluebells photo
Lickey Hills in spring | Sas Taylor on Flickr

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.

Peace

Luke Dolan

What do the Lickey Hills mean to you? Where’s your favourite spot? Let us know in the comments below!

You can visit Luke Dolan’s regular blog site at http://lukedolan.wordpress.com/ as well as his band’s website at http://www.blackbearsonline.com/

Man at sunset
Man at Sunset | Beacon Hill | Fiona Cullinan on Flickr | Click for original

8 COMMENTS

  1. ahh the lickey hills was always my happy place, whenever i had a problem, or just wanted to forget the world for a while, i’d drive up to the beacon, and go sit on a bench, just stare & watch the world go about it’s days, & forget everything for a good hour or so :-)

  2. I grew up at the foot of the Lickeys in the ’60’s. I lived in Corinne Close and we would start out by crossing the ‘Orses Field (no one could ever remember ever having seen any horses there), then up the hill (we called it Blueberry Hill) to the copse at the top where we would spend the whole summer playing ‘hide and seek’. I was only trying to tell someone here the other day (I work in a hospital in Aarhus, Denmark) about how different it is for kids/parents these days. Back then, we’d go out after breakfast and mum would say ‘come back when you’re hungry’. We’d be out all day every day until 6 or 7 o’clock in the evening. Nowadays parents are afraid to let kids out their sights.
    I also remember spending many a winter sledging down from Beacon Hill. Remember clearly some bunch of idiots coming down in an inflatable dingy. Fine from the top, but then it hit the little ‘ledge’ and four people came flying out. Happy days…

  3. Hi Luke,

    Thanks for a wonderful post that brought back a lot of memories, and filled in some glaring gaps in my Lickey Hills knowledge!

    As a child I spent countless happy Saturdays dashing about the Lickeys with my younger brother and cousin. It seemed like every Saturday that my Nan and Granddad would pile us into the back of their little red Mini and ferry us to the fabled hills as we chattered away excitedly about the adventures in store. Gravel crunched beneath the tires of the car as it bounced over the stony lane on the approach to the car park. Almost as soon as my granddad had applied the handbrake the car doors would be flung open as we rushed off into a shady world filled with orcs and goblins, knights and wizards, and soldiers and robots. My cousin and I would arm ourselves with branches that became swords, staves or guns whilst my brother would invariably locate the largest, thickest piece of wood he could carry as his weapon of choice. We would career through the gloomy underworld beneath the looming canopy battling our invisible foes, or attempt to scale the smoking volcano that was the wood pile. On one occasion we got a little too enthusiastic in our questing and went missing for hours leaving my grandparents in a blind panic. We didn’t consider ourselves missing of course; we were having too much fun.

    We’d break off from the adventuring long enough to eat the sandwiches Nan and Granddad had prepared for us, or to play a game of cricket, or to investigate the plethora of plants and creatures that populate the Lickeys, until, exhausted and happy, we would tramp back to the Mini and fill its boot with our accumulated weaponry, much to my Granddad’s chagrin!

    More recently I visited the Lickey Hills last summer with my (then) new girlfriend. As we sat eating our picnic (our delicious picnic) and fending off wasps a group of kids ranging from about five to twelve darted by chattering away. They let out a collective whoop as they located what was obviously a favoured spot, a hidden cavern beneath the domed foliage of a tree. They were utterly oblivious to anything around them as they spun tales about their secret hideaway. I got to thinking that some things just don’t change. The Lickey Hills really is a magical place.

    Thanks again for a great piece that brought back some treasured childhood memories.

  4. In response to Steve of corrine close, I too grew upon that road & remember life exactly as you stated! The orses field was our football/cricket pitch depending on time of year! We played tracking all over the lickey’s and as you say were gone all day!

    Happy Days :-)

  5. what a lovely post about the lickeys ..i to spent lots of childhood time up there too i remember me my mum and siblings would walk from rubery up to the lickeys stopping at the general store to buy small fishing nets and frisbies and footballs and we,d go up to the lickeys most times the bridal path as we call it would be muddy so you couldnt always walk through it unless you,d got wellys on ! anyway we,d always take some bread for the bread for the ducks .. most of them would chase us the minute they saw the bread !!! and on a hot day we,d always buy fizzy pop from the cafe the golfers would always return to the cafe for a sandwich and a natter ..
    the lickeys is a super walk the one hundred steps ..if your brave enough .. or all the way to the top of the hill which overlooks the city centre .. fabulous views on a lovely crystal clear day .. infact where i live ive got a great view of the lickeys and the castle on the hill !!

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