Walks in Sutton Park
Bracebridge and Pool Hollies Walk
This circular walk, marked in BROWN on the maps above, is based on Bracebridge Pool and the woodlands of Pool Hollies. The marked route is approximately 2 km or 1.25 miles.
If coming by car, enter by the Four Oaks Gate and park where marked on the map above.
1 Starting at Bracebridge car park, follow the tarmac path down to Bracebridge Pool. As you approach the pool you will see one of the finest views in Sutton Park. Bracebridge Pool looks beautiful at any time of the year from this vantage point, cradled as it is in a woodland setting, with its trees reflecting in its waters.
Bracebridge Pool takes its name from Sir Ralph Bracebridge who, having obtained a life lease on the Manor and Chase of Sutton Coldfield in 1419, had the pool made to ensure a good supply of bream for himself and his friends. Bream at that time was customarily baked in flour with spice, pepper, saffron, cloves and cinnamon, and was a costly luxury. There was a fulling mill (a mill in which woollen cloth is fulled or cleansed) at Bracebridge Pool in the sixteenth century, coinciding with the period when Bishop Vesey was trying (unsuccessfully) to introduce weaving into Sutton Coldfield from the West Country.
2 At the Boat House Restaurant take the woodland path that follows the right hand or eastern edge of the pool. The woodlands you enter are the lower slopes of Pool Hollies. You will immediately start to cross the old drainage channels that were at one time cut to assist drainage of the higher ground and woodlands. It is almost an unwritten rule to count the bridges as you walk in this area of the park and it is surprising how many variations there seem to be in the final total.
The woodlands that you pass through are very mixed, but of particular note are the oaks, Beech, Whitebeam, Alder, Scots Pine and Corsican Pine. Wherever you look there is a dense understorey of Holly.
As you cross the bridges, at the tenth one you will see to the right a very splendid Scots Pine, with its dead lower branches projecting like the antlers of a deer. Between the eleventh and twelfth bridges there is a strangely formed Corsican Pine that many years ago was partially blown down. Notice how it has over the years straightened itself once again. Part way up this tree is an old nest box. Grey Squirrels have over the years opened up the entrance hole, making it unsuitable for occupation by its intended occupants. Nowadays nest boxes have metal plates fixed onto the entrance to prevent this from occurring.
The drumming of a Greater Spotted Woodpecker has been heard along this path. Perhaps if you listen out you may also hear this distinctive sound. Between the seventeenth and eighteenth bridges look out for the remains of Scots Pine cones which you will see scattered around. These have been removed and stripped of their seeds by Grey Squirrels.
The Grey Squirrel is not a native species but was introduced from North America around 1876. Its successful and rapid colonization of most of Great Britain has led it to be regarded as a pest species in many woodland areas. It is equally at home in people's gardens, often breeding in roof spaces. The native Red Squirrel is unfortunately no longer found in the park. The most recent records for this species suggest that it died out in the early 1950's.
Between the 22nd and 23rd bridge there is a splendid oak tree. It measures some 8 feet (2.4 m) in girth and is probably in the region of 150 years old. Adjacent to it is a Corsican Pine of the similar girth. However, due to its more rapid growth, being a softer wood species, it is probably considerably younger than the oak.
3 Finally, the path leaves the woodland and enters an open area. How many bridges did you cross?
The ground slopes down to the pool edge, forming "Sutton's beach". You may see some of the various water fowl which are resident in the park.
Follow the main pathway that runs away from the pool, at right angles to it. As you will be able to see, rainwater has washed down this steep path exposing the natural stones or pebbles that lie beneath the shallow top soil. These were deposited in early periods of the earth's history and many different types can be found, some of which are very attractive when they have been polished. To your right you will be following one of the original woodland boundaries formed from an earth bank and ditch. There are many splendid Scots Pines along its length and beyond them you will see a mixed coniferous plantation which dates back to the 1960's. Notice how some trees are doing better than others, depending on light and soil conditions.
4 Keep following the pathway up the hill until you meet a crossing track. Turn right at this point. After a short distance, you will pass on your left an interestingly formed double-trunked Scots Pine. In the early stages of its development this tree would have been damaged, resulting in its present rather unusual form. Keep following the path, which bears left. This area of young woodland contains such species as Larch, Scots Pine, Corsican Pine, Sitka Spruce, Norway Spruce and Beech. Notice how lack of light has suppressed the growth of many of the slower growing Beech. Some of them, although still alive and of the same age as the surrounding trees, have almost stood still in terms of their growth rate.
5 You will meet a major pathway joining you from the left. Turn right along it, downhill. (Ignore a smaller path to the right just before you join the main pathway.) Shortly afterwards follow the main path when it forks left. You are once again in the area of more ancient woodland with predominantly oak trees and Holly. This will be far richer in wildlife, so therefore pay particular attention to the various woodland birds that are likely to be about. Eventually this track leads via a metal gate to the far end of the Bracebridge Car Park. Turn right onto the road for the end of your walk.
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|Based on original web sites designed by Lynn Pearson and Brett Horton.|
|Content last updated: 6 May 2013|