by David Parker
The spaces of our childhood never leave us even if we move away from them. Yet more than the nostalgic afterglow of youthful sun-drenched summers spent on Hodge Hill Common makes me lament at the Common’s present state.
The Southern expanse between Coleshill Road and Stechford Road which previously played host to countless games of cricket and football, dozens of dog-walkers and strollers is being left to grow wild. Clumps of unkempt trees, tangles of Japanese knotweed, branches jutting onto the footpath are all evidence of a cycle of neglect – the more overgrown the Common gets the fewer people walk on it, the taller the grass, the trees and the weeds become, the less safe it becomes for children to play.
The larger Northern sections of the Common have occasionally played host to traveller caravans undeterred by the tokenistic fence posts and verge trimming which are the only traces of City Council care and attention. The demise of St Phillips and St James Church adds to the sense of relative abandonment.
Hodge Hill Common deserves better. It is both the heart of the area and a much-needed pair of green lungs. A 2005 Wildlife Trust report noted the Common’s value as a rare example of dry acid grassland in an urban area and called for its designation as a Site of Importance for Nature Conversation. At that time the Common provided a favourable environment for the house sparrow and supported a number of floral species rare for Birmingham such as Harebell and Small Timothy. In practical terms the Wildlife Trust recommended the removal of some of the sprouting trees and shrubs and a concerted effort to eliminate Japanese knotweed.
Given current public spending constraints such measures are unlikely to be a priority for the City Council, so perhaps the residents of Hodge Hill should take matters into our own hands and organise ourselves into a band of gardeners, seeking funding and tools, for example from Groundwork?
Unless something is done to correct the neglect, the current generation of children will be denied the simple pleasures of a precious open space on our doorstep.