The high ground of Rowney Green was formed by a terminal moraine in the last ice age between 18,000 and 14,000 years ago. The glacier had carried rocks, gravel, sand and clay with it as it drifted along. By the time it reached this area, the atmosphere was sufficiently warm for the ice to melt. The drift material was then deposited onto the underlying Keuper Marl; the stones you see all around you therefore could have broken off rocks hundreds of miles away.
Peck Wood contains a large area of ancient woodland. It has been woodland for about 12,000 years; ever since trees started to grow here after the last ice age. It gives food and shelter to a large variety of wildlife. It is bisected by a very well preserved section of the boundary ditch and bank of Alvechurch Park. It was given to the Methodist Church in 1948 to provide holidays, training and education opportunities for children, young people and the general community. The facilities may be booked.
Newbourne Wood is 11 acres and became the property of Worcestershire Nature Conservation Trust in 1970. It was planted with trees in 1958 after the area had been quarried for gravel. The conifers are being grown on for timber and eventually a deciduous wood will be established.
Rowney Green is in the parish of Alvechurch. Looking across the valley from Newbourne Wood to Tardebigge Church and the Lickey Hills, you can see the village of Alvechurch, once an important medieval town, which was first mentioned in written records in 780. The River Arrow rises in the north of the parish and in former times it provided water for fishponds and power to run a number of mills in the area, some of which still exist (notably Forge Mill, now part of the National Needle Museum). About one hundred years ago, many of the people in Rowney Green worked in the needle mills of Redditch. The public footpath from Rowney Green across Bordesley Park was then known as the Needlemakers’ Path. There are forty listed buildings in the village and the parish, showing a gradual development through the centuries. The most famous of these being Seecham Manor, dating from medieval times.
The medieval park of Alvechurch
The Bishop of Worcester built a wooden palace in Alvechurch in 1168 and fenced off about 3 km2 to keep fallow deer. The estate manager (the ‘parker’) probably lived at Alvechurch Lodge Farm. This is on relatively high ground where most of the park and field systems can still be readily identified. An inner ditch and a bank a-topped with a stout wooden fence kept the deer from jumping out.
Remnants of the bank can still be seen as you walk along Rowney Green Lane, in various parts of the village of Alvechurch, in Peck Wood, at the end of Newbourne Wood and near Longfield Manor.
Associations with Bordesley Abbey
Bordesley Abbey (in present day Redditch) was a Cistercian Monastery whose foundation stone was laid in 1138. Excavations have shown that it is a valuable archaeological site.
It is said that the monks of the Abbey once grazed animals on the eastern hillsides around Rowney Green and that the foundations of their shelter still exist, alongside an ancient oak, known locally as the ‘Calling Oak’, beneath which, it is said, people used to congregate for meetings.
An area described in records of 1244 can still be identified. It is bounded by the areas we now know as The Holloway, Storrage Lane, Pot End, and the old Alvechurch and Bordesley Park boundaries. At the present time it includes some ancient woodland in Peck Wood, and also an important area of wet and dry acid grassland and a valley which has many springs originating from the gravels capping the hills around. These have formed wet flush sites which have developed layers of acid peat; parts of these have been colonised by alder trees.
Folk memory says that it is to this valley that the dead were brought and buried after the battle of Evesham in 1265, between Prince Edward (afterwards Edward 1) and Simon de Montfort and his son Henry, backed by the Bishop of Worcester. The burial place is now locally called ‘The Spinney’ but once called ‘The Lych’, later Lych Meadow, then Lydd’s Meadow. In this meadow wild king cups, wood sorrel, bluebells, ransoms, celandine and lords and ladies still grow.
In 1538 Bordesley Abbey was surrendered to Henry V111 who gave the estate to a Roman Catholic family, the Windsors (ancestors of the Earls of Plymouth) in return for seizing their estate near Staines.
About sixty years ago a tryptitch – a travelling altar used by priests at the time of the Reformation – was found hidden in a large cavity situated at The Homestead at the bottom of Gravel Pit Lane on the boundary of the Bordesley estate.
The Roman Road
Icknield (or Rycknild) Street passes along the eastern edge of Rowney Green, linking Redditch with Forhill on the North Worcestershire path. For most of its length it is a country lane – a hollow way, as indeed is The Holloway which connects Rowney Green to the Redditch Road. The hollow way was a track along the boundary between two landowners. Each landowner dug out a ditch and threw up the earth into a continuous bank along his own side. This formed a track several feet below the level of the field on either side.
Icknield Street was the main route from Cirencester, forking left from the Fosse Way near Stow-on-the-Wold through Alcester, then Streetly (near Sutton Coldfield) to Watling Street at Wall (the A5) and then on to Derby and the north. Folk memory identified Barton Farm as a coaching inn when it was still a main route in later centuries.
The field systems
The fields in the neighbourhood have been somewhat enlarged during the last twenty years, but aerial photography suggests that many of today’s hedgerows follow very ancient field boundaries. Indeed, it has been recently established that much of the English countryside (such as the sites of farm dwellings and field boundaries) has not changed since before Roman times. This suggests that the landscape of pre-historic Alvechurch might still be recognisable today.
Eighteenth century maps describe field boundaries which can be identified with existing hedgerows and hedgerow trees. Although farmers have removed numerous hedges in recent years to enlarge their fields sometimes isolated trees are left, so marking the hedgeline of former fields and particularly the deer park boundary.