A whole host of community projects in a West Midlands district – from restoring a rare natural amphitheatre in an area that inspired JRR Tolkien to helping youngsters read more – have been boosted thanks to funding from West Midlands Railway.
Various community groups in Hall Green, Birmingham, joined forces to enhance the area for residents and visitors with litter picks, planters and a link-up between the library and the railway station.
There was already a long-running poetry project, with verses posted on boards in the waiting rooms at Hall Green Railway Station for passengers to enjoy. That is now being extended with another notice board which will carry information and images of attractions in the area, including Sarehole Mill and Moseley Bog, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, both of which inspired JRR Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.
Other attractions include the River Cole; the Prefabs, temporary homes built after the war which are now Grade II-listed and some of the last in Birmingham, and Swanshurst Park, as well as many others.
The fund is also helping to carry out work on the ‘Withywindle’, a natural amphitheatre next to Sarehole Mill, which will be used by storytellers and local drama groups.
Hall Green Library has received a special collection of railway-related books and information about these will also be on the new noticeboard. Local litter-pickers have been given new high-vis vests, and new planters, which local school children helped plant, have brightened up the area.
The funding has also helped pay for a number of tablets to support workshops at the library to increase digital inclusion among older residents, a fitting project as Hall Green was once home to Mary Lee Woods, whose son Tim Berners-Lee later became known as the inventor of the World Wide Web.
A local poet visited pupils at Hall Green School and a poetry competition was held for youngsters judged by Birmingham Poet Laureate Casey Bailey. The funding has also helped provide prizes for local children taking part in the national Summer Reading Challenge.
The theme of this year’s reading challenge was Wild World Heroes and there were three prizes of family tickets to Seaworld, West Midlands Safari Park and the Birmingham Wildlife Conservation Park at Cannon Hill.
The winners were Amber Obadi, seven, Florence Woore, six, and Ibrahim Kazmi, aged 10.
The Friends of Hall Green Library group is leading the project, with Hall Green Station Adopters, Hall Green and District Amateur Gardening Society, Sarehole Environmental Action Team, Birmingham Park Rangers, litter pickers Hall Green’s Keepin’ It Clean, local businesses, artists and poets all involved.
Howard Hemmings, treasurer of the Friends of Hall Green Library, said: “It’s a wide range of projects that will benefit all sections of the community and make Hall Green a really lovely place for residents and visitors.
Lots of different groups have got involved and it’s great to see the community pulling together like this.
“The parents of the children who took part in the reading challenge were particularly delighted with the prizes and said they were a great incentive to get the children reading over the summer.
“We hope this project as a whole will raise awareness of and encourage more use of the library and help enhance the welcoming appearance and available information at Hall Green Station.”
The funding has come through West Midlands Railway’s Your Community, Your Fund programme. Hall Green is one of 21 community projects being supported in total.
Fay Easton, head of stakeholder and engagement for West Midlands Railway, said: “The project leaders’ central aim has been to inspire and support local groups and to enrich the community spirit across Hall Green. On a recent project visit to Hall Green, it was abundantly clear that this aim has been reached and surpassed. It is wonderful to see a community working together for the benefit of everyone.”
For more information about the project and the other 21 Stories community projects, visit www.21stories.co.uk