Bostin Day at Bumble Hole

Bumble Hole Nature Reserve

5th June 2016 and a glorious, sunny day to take a group of visually impaired people, our friends, families and dogs for a guided and audio-described walk around Bumblehole Nature Reserve, Dudley. The walk, and a variety of fundraising activities, had been organised jointly by SVI and the Friends of Bumblehole. After the walk, some of our group made our way to The Old Swan in Netherton, known locally as Ma Pardoes, for lunch. It was a brilliant way to have a fun day out and raise money for both organisations at the same time.

Guide dogs and owners start to assemble

We met at the visitor’s centre and were joined there by Norman, our guide and describer from The Friends of Bumblehole. Norman explained the history of the area and its surroundings (more on this below). So that we could understand better without sight, he had designed a cut out template in the shape of the route we were about to take. He was extremely knowledgeable and told us how the area had been fields until early in the last century when it became a site for heavy industry and mining, as the land was rich in minerals. Now it's a beautiful place to stroll and be at peace with the world. It's one of the Black Country’s secret beauty spots - some people had lived nearby for years without knowing it was there.

Norman explains where Bumble Hole got its name

Everyone, including the dogs, enjoyed themselves. Sam (one of our volunteer Gym Buddies) summed it up in two words: “Bostin’ day!”

Tony Averis (SVI Chair) said: “What an excellent opportunity to work in partnership with the Friends of Bumblehole in introducing audio-described walks around the nature reserve, ending up in a local hostelry partaking in the local Bumble Hole ale.”

Here's more from our walkers

Lisa: “Norman was very informative and interesting; he was a sound chap, proper Black Country.”

Rob: “The weather was nice and the guided tour was excellent, with plenty of time given to get from A to B and to answer questions. The organisation was good and the help and support available was amazing.”

David: “It was a very pleasant day." He jokingly continued: "My only criticism would be that there weren't more choices for the tiger’s name - the name that I would have picked wasn't there.” (He did settle for another)

The funds raised for the 'Guess the Name of the Tiger' competition, a raffle for a bike and a tombola all supported SVI.

John: “It was a lovely day and thank you to all involved. I know a lot of effort has been put into organising it. “

Guide dogs off the lead

A few of the group went off to explore the park on their own, with their boisterous dogs. Robin said: “It was lovely countryside and the dogs really enjoyed it. Billy (guide dog) whined though: “But they wouldn’t let me go for a swim!” (It's a dog's life!)

Sara: “It was an excellent service for dogs; very dog friendly. I thought it was brilliant, a nice steady walk, it’s well maintained and would suit walkers of all ages and abilities.”

Cobbs Engine House

Faye, who lives locally: “The staff at the Visitor Centre were exceptional…ooh and that lemon drizzle cake!” Martin (volunteer Gym Buddy) and Faye grew up in the area and played there when they were young. They agreed that: “Some of us, despite growing up around here, have learned so much that we never knew about the area.”


Liz, her daughter Caroline and her husband Stuart said they thoroughly enjoyed the day. Liz and Caroline got the opportunity, along with other walkers to meet (and be perched on by) Peppa, a young Cockatoo whose owner brought the bird to the park on a regular basis. Peppa was adorable and so friendly. Not the kind of wildlife you would expect to encounter along a Black Country 'cut'!

We contacted our wonderful guide Norman, to thank him for all the effort he and the other Friends had put in to make the day such a success.

He said:

"Thank you for your positive comments and feedback; I'm really glad the group enjoyed the day and that the template helped. I tried to put myself in the position of a group member and focus my approach on description, tactile and audible senses. As you probably know we did a pre-walk with a small group of members to check out route, style and practicalities. That was really useful and led to the idea of the template. I thoroughly enjoyed doing the tour, group members' enthusiasm, interest and questions and their sense of humour. I wish I could have spent more time getting to know individual members, but that's not always possible with a large-ish group."

The total raised for all activities was £382. We plan to be using this money for our Annual Forum day in November.

Lunch at Ma Pardoes

Everyone was impressed by the staff, food and service at Ma Pardoes'. "The staff were really friendly and helpful and the food was as always, excellent."

More background - a report from Norman

The weather was sunny and warm, enabling an outdoor brief historic review to give context to the walk by describing the landscape development from common land, to farming, and the later extraction of minerals including coal, iron-stone, clay and stone and their industrial processing and use. Between the late 1700s and the 1960s the area was the site of blast furnaces, iron foundries, boiler works, timber yards, saw mills, boat yards, brick-works, canals, toll roads and railways, and is now a nature conservation area.

Toll End Bridge

A card profile was used to demonstrate the location of canals, bridges and the walk route, including the original Dudley No. 2 ‘contour’ canal, built 1793-1798, the later canal embankment leading to Netherton canal tunnel, built 1855-1858 and which shortened the Bumble Hole Loop, and the canal to Halesowen.

We could hear cyclists, walkers, narrow-boats and crew navigating the canal, water running through culverts from streams on the Rowley hills. Bird song on the canals and lake included chiff-chaffs, coots, ducks, moorhens, swans, Canada geese and heron.

Geese and many goslings

The two-hour walk was designed to pass heritage features and evidence of past industrial activity; areas where trees, flowers and shrubs grew; seats for resting, and areas where guide dogs could be allowed off-lead. We explored heritage structures and features by description, touch and hearing - canals, bridges, walls, lakes, buildings, machinery remains and iron sculpture art-work.

Tactile exploration

Features visited and described included listed structures and scheduled buildings such as:

  • Cast-iron bridges (c1830), with names inscribed on brick-work related to near-by clay-pits and brick works
  • A canal sign-post & tow-rope grooves in Boshboil Arm Bridge
  • Site of the Old Hill-Dudley (Bumble Hole’ railway line & bridge (1878-1969)
  • Boshboil canal arm (1793-8)
  • Bumble Hole wild-life lake/reservoir (previously coal & clay pits), where the origins of the name ‘Bumble Hole’ were discussed
  • Boshboil Pool & iron slag (waste)
  • Netherton canal tunnel & entrance (1855-58)
  • Site of Windmill End pit (1830), & Cobb’s Engine House & chimney (1836)
  • Windmill End bridge, toll island, canal basin & coal-truck cable tramway

And finally...

A big thank you to all the volunteers from Friends of Bumblehole and SVI who made the day such a brilliant one for all involved.

We can't wait for another trip next year!

Meanwhile, why not check out Bumble Hole yourself.



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