A City Dwellers Lament About Lost Greenery and Wildlife

Thoughts and reactions about building contractors moving into an area of Birmingham which has been allowed to regress back to nature for many years thus forming a very rare wild environment for non-human inhabitants and the enjoyment of human lovers of nature.

View before clearing:


View after clearing:

Words below by Judith Goddard
Europa Block, Sherborne Street


Scene Setting

At the corner of Sherborne Street and Grosvenor Street West for all the years we have lived here except the last there was an untouched wild garden where wildflowers and wildlife proliferated away from human influences.

Trees had been cut down at different times in which insects lived hidden away providing food for birds.  Trees that remained standing provided nests for birds, fruit for foxes.

There was an ornamental ironwork fence around two sides of the garden and a wild shrub that flowered and provided space for small animals.
The long rarely cut back grass was home to egg-laying insects like butterflies.
Taller flowers contained bees and dragonflies.
Night-scented plants such as buddleia and evening primrose attracted moths which were a feast for bats, although I never saw any.

At the end of this wild garden was vacant brownfield land that was a former council general storage and maintenance depot known locally as the bollard storage site. This part of the site which has been clear for several years is now being built on by Crest Nicolson and will be called Ultima at Sherborne Wharf.

In my mind, as I write this, and I hear the concrete mixer outside our window and the pile driver driving piles into the ground and those piles being filled up with metal rods and poured concrete for the foundation, I think of all the species that have been destroyed to ensure that urban regeneration projects with residentially led mixed use schemes on brownfield sites can go ahead.

Home building is a government priority, and I like understand the need for homes. The developer says that;

“The scheme will deliver high-quality homes arranged around high-quality landscaped spaces to provide much-needed residential accommodation on a previously brownfield site on a vacant and underutilised piece of land.
The flats would join an area of Birmingham already well populated with apartment blocks and be a stone’s throw from two major regeneration schemes.”

The operative words are vacant and under-utilized. If you think about it, the land wasn’t vacant or under-utilized if you consider the myriad wildlife that was there and would certainly have been destroyed?

My Lament

I have my spring garden memories. I shall always remember the blackbirds trilling in spring.

They made me feel less depressed as I walked back home from town sitting as they did in the cherry blossom trees.  The lovely cherry blossoms uplifted my spirits no matter how wet the weather.

My heart sank when another hoarding went up and yet another developer advertised it would be building flats on this land.
All the trees were cut down and only one remained at the corner of the two streets.

One day I came home to see it with its roots pointing up in the air laying on its side.

I had memories of the Great Storm when the Wandlebury Trees were up-rooted, and I cried to see them thus dead.  As far as the old bollard site is concerned, the council must have planted lots of buddleia as after all the buildings were taken away, buddleia sprang up everywhere, a little feral black cat went onto the site and every time someone came to clear the site in spring up sprang the buddleias again.
A highlight was seeing the fox just as the last of the site was cleared.

It was as if he was saying goodbye.

Recently on the 11th May the demolition men found a suspect object, and an area was cordoned off, the police called and after four hours the bomb disposal unit came. (See photos).  When we saw a police car and police van we had thought at first it might have been a body but then we saw what looked like a landmine.

The bomb disposal people x-rayed it, found it uninteresting and one of the demolition people destroyed it by bashing it with his JCB hopper.  People dig up their gardens in spring and we all forget it isn’t just roots that are exposed.

So for me my garden in spring is gone and in its place is a building site.  We had a little group that tried to save the wild garden.  We told the council that we wanted to have allotments there but we were not listened to as housing must be found for more and more people.  Isn’t ironic that people who have back gardens are being urged to put aside a portion of them as wild gardens and plant “sunflowers, foxgloves, thyme, lavender, honeysuckle, rowan, ice plant, firethorn, barberry and purple loosestrife.”  I wonder how many species were in our wild garden but I’ll never know now.