Bluebells Saltwells And Mordor

“Halfway up Brierley Hill, he points to the quiet street-lit valley below. All empty industrial estates and small, coiled ribbons of housing. ‘When I was a kid, you’d come up this hill, and all of that’ – and he gestures to the valley in front of us – ‘was on fire. The foundries and the forges and the ironworks. The potteries. The whole place glowed – sheets of sparks, 50 foot high. The fires never went out. It looked like hell. That’s what your Lord of the Rings is about.
Tolkien was from round here. He was writing about how the industrial revolution turned the Midlands from Hobbiton to Mordor.’–How Lord Of The Rings Was Inspired By The Black Country.

Dear Merry Hill Folk

I am writing to you, in hope you will consider supporting a campaign to preserve the last relatively undisturbed natural landscape, in the vicinity of Merry Hill Shopping Center.

The Saltwells Nature Reserve has been able to survive the industrial / technological transformation seen by the rest of the Black Country and Dudley area over the last 30 years. The Merry Hill complex buzzes right next door, and before being an open cast mine and the site of a steel works it was very much like, if not exactly the same as, Saltwells Nature Reserve. A home to fauna and flora, teaming with wildlife, birds, dragonflies, owls, Doulton clay, 13th century mining relics. Merry Hill, back then, might cast the image of a wooded hill into the imagination, like a scene from J.R.R Tolkien’s Hobbit? I’m not the first to compare Lord Of The Rings with the descent into industrialism of the Black Country, and at the expense of our natural woodlands, wildlife, the great old trees and brooks and mines. Heritage. The buck stops here.  

To clarify, a consortium of interests have made a proposal to build 9 private houses in the middle of the current designated nature RESERVE. It’s application reference: P18/1373 (Google it) A petition already has over 5000 signatures from others who oppose the housing development, plus a rapidly expanding facebook group with 5000 members, again all overwhelmingly opposed to the housing project. Take a look, and if you have not visited the reserve, take a walk over there and see for yourself. It’s a hidden Black Country gem, something worth fighting for, and to preserve for posterity. A codex to local history. I, like many others have childhood memories of this place, and studied it closely while at Thorns School in Quarry Bank, Saltwells was a celebrated sanctuary. May it remain undisturbed by urban structures, no shops, roads, mining, or housing. A nature reserve to mean a reserve for nature. Simple. Not private housing in particular.  

As a business owner, or worker based at Merry HIll, please consider not only lending your support to the campaign to keep Saltwells Nature Reserve Green, but also pledge support to help make Saltwells a bigger and budding hive of undisturbed natural beauty. A number of exciting alternative plans are in the air, such as an open permission garden project, or plans to simply plant a tree, or sponsor tree planting, workshops, tours, art class, music projects, film and ceramics. Consider your pledge of support as a gift, a gesture to help save the land that once occupied the site you’re on. Link up and help strengthen a community nature reserve, surrounding the Merry Hill shopping complex. And think of the good press and raised public profile locally.

Let’s make sure Saltwells is free from ever ever having to worry and fight developers who wish to use the Nature Reserve for anything but the reservation of the space for nature to do her thing. I would like to request written confirmation that Saltwells Nature Reserve will be immune from any development for 60 years, no make that 90 years. Furthermore, I demand a new plaque for the reserve, a testament to the will of the people who demand that no private housing be built.  

To go further, I might encourage others to look at this as the beginning of a new grassroots campaign to protect our last remaining piece of unspoiled natural beauty i Dudley. And to explore new ideas, like providing free food for local people, or for anybody who visits. Locally and globally begin to weave a new story of how we integrate nutritious foods back into urban environments. A new conversation, starting right next door to one of the biggest shopping centers in Europe: Merry Hill.

“There’ll be bluebells blowing in salty sepulchres the night she signs her final tear. Zee End.–James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, pg. 28

Toward A Protective Treatise For Saltwells Nature Reserve

By the powers invested in me by the Tawny Owl, Dragonfly, Sparrowhawk, Badger, Dove, Jay, Bluebell, Oak, Silver Birch, Mycelium and all the creatures and plants of the woodland, I demand a new protective treatise to ensure that no private housing development can ever ever be put forward again.

To be signed by a delegate of local citizens, business people, politicians, environmentalists, historians, heritage foundations, lottery funds, art enclaves, church groups and all like minded individuals. Our collective focus and word is unity. Saltwells Nature Reserve could be the literal common ground where all political and cultural differences are set aside. Unity over the issue of eternal preservation, genesis and possible expansion of this model of a Nature Reserve.

Here, we can lead the country and show the whole world that some people, a large majority, can agree that Dudley needs a re-greening project, and its natural habitat has suffered irrevocably from 200 years of industrialization. We, or better yet I (as I do not claim to speak for all the people of Dudley) feel that climate change is just like a block of flats in the bluebell fields, a challenge to future generations of domesticated primates, and all creatures great and small. Saltwells Nature Reserve is ground zero for a new movement based on unity, diversity. I want to see a permanent solution. A binding protecting status to prevent any commercial development. Nature Reserve means just what it spells out in plain English. 

Sixteen species of dragonfly are found here on the Daphne Pool, making this one of the best sites in the West Midlands for these ancient insects.”–Dudley gov/saltwells

Dear Dudley MBC, councillors, ladies and gentleman. To who it may concern.

I join the chorus of voices in opposition to the proposed housing development project within the Saltwells Nature Reserve. I see tens of thousands of reasons not to disturb the pearl of Dudley, and more than 5000 names on a petition, plus a growing facebook group. No means no housing development anywhere on the nature reserve. Clear and simple.

The argument for the development seems vague at best, greedy at worst. The argument that Vandals are somehow the reason why the housing development should take place, seems weak to me. However, I agree, we should hear out the arguments for the development, and take the strongest arguments seriously. Questions of ownership and responsibility, environmental protections, and the UNESCO status of the Saltwells might be worth looking into.

My recommendation purely from a personal point of view is to make your own detailed, balanced overview. Write a personal testimony to why you love Saltwells Nature reserve, and why you think the housing development will be detrimental to it. Easy, clear, simple. Have fun, organize. Speak up.

Keep yer’ peepers on those who blame the opposition for what they are doing themselves. If you want to curb vandalism, how about you provide a huge canvas outside the entrance to the reserve, and invite the local community to vandalize it with thoughts about a housing development project on the nature reserve? At the same time, get in touch with some artists who can make it clear that ANY vandalism within the Saltwells Nature Reserve is just not cool. Both vandals and some Dudley MBC folks need to go on a course to learn the value of some historical buildings and areas of Dudley….and the UK. imho.

Alternatives, well, how about you start having events and happenings at the reserve, a new saltwells nature trail, bird watching tour with historical trips. Songwriting workshops, drawing and art and sculpture, ceramics, botany class / tours. How about you open up the space to the people as an ecological art park, featuring an incredible edible garden, make an outdoor paradise, a full blown Shangri La of Dudley. Or just leave it as it is. But… private housing, really, this is your proposal, that’s about as imaginative as building a car park.

–Steven Pratt


“The Dark Lord has Nine. But we have One, mightier than they”–J.R.R Tolkien

And happy Halloween

Then Merry heard of all sounds in that hour the strangest. It seemed that Dernhelm laughed, and the clear voice was like the ring of steel. “But no living man am I!”–J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings


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