Sandwell is celebrating two new Green Flag Awards this year – with the Birmingham Main Line Canal and the Lions of the Great War memorial in Smethwick joining a dozen other green spaces across the borough.
Sandwell has 14 sites in total receiving a prestigious Green Flag today (Wednesday 14 October). They are among more than 2,000 sites across the country to collect the award for 2020.
The Green Flag Award scheme, managed by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy under licence from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, recognises and rewards well-managed parks and green spaces.
The awards set the benchmark standard for their management across the United Kingdom and around the world.
Twelve awards in Sandwell have been retained this year, with a Green Flag Award for Birmingham Main Line Canal and a Green Flag Community Award for Lions of the Great War taking the total to 14.
These new awards were secured by the Canal & River Trust and Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwick respectively, working closely with local partner organisations including Sandwell Council.
Sandwell's Green Flag list includes a park in each of the six towns, a cemetery and crematorium, as well as Sandwell Valley Country Park and community-run Warley Woods.
Sandwell’s Green Flag sites for 2020 are:
Sandwell Council Deputy Leader Councillor Maria Crompton said:
“I am so proud that despite all the challenges of 2020, Sandwell has kept its existing 12 Green Flags and added two new ones.
“This is a real tribute to the hard work of everyone involved, including council and Serco staff, Friends groups and many community volunteers.
“Well done to everyone involved in this achievement. Special congratulations go to the Canal & River Trust charity and Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwick volunteers on the first awards for the Main Line Canal and Lions of the Great War.
“As well as our fantastic parks being recognised, we have Sandwell Valley Crematorium, Tipton Cemetery and Lions of the Great War which are all important places for people to reflect and remember.”
Councillor Jackie Taylor, Sandwell Council’s Cabinet Member for Sustainable Transport, welcomed the Main Line Canal being recognised. She said:
“Our many miles of canals are such a fantastic resource, with towpaths offering peaceful green corridors where people can experience nature and take their daily exercise, whether that’s walking or cycling.
“We are working closely with the Canal & River Trust and other partner organisations to get more people using and enjoying our canals.”
Keep Britain Tidy Chief Executive Allison Ogden-Newton OBE said:
“This year, more than ever, our parks and green spaces have been a lifeline and we know that millions of people have used them to relax, meet friends, exercise or simply escape for a short time.
“It is testament to the incredible dedication and hard work of parks staff and volunteers.”
Lions of the Great War in Smethwick features a 10-foot high bronze Sikh soldier standing on a six-foot granite plinth in a paved public space with seating and lighting. It is the first full statue of a South Asian First World War soldier in the UK and was unveiled in November 2018 to mark the centenary of the end of the Great War.
Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwick commissioned Black Country sculptor Luke Perry to create the statue to honour the sacrifices made by South Asian service personnel of all faiths from the Indian subcontinent who fought for Britain in the First World War and other conflicts.
The site is maintained jointly by volunteers from Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwick and Sandwell Council, and the landscaped mound behind the statue has also recently been improved.
The Main Line Canal from Birmingham to Sandwell (Revolution Walk) is the first Green Flag Award for the Birmingham Canal Navigations since they were built 250 year ago.
The award to a 4.5 mile stretch of the Main Line Canal from central Birmingham to Smethwick, which forms part of the recently created UNESCO Geopark in the Black Country, marks a remarkable transformation for the canal which is used by local people for commuting, exercise and as a valuable green space.
This award follows a long period of work to turn an area once better known for fly-tipping into a place where wildlife can begin to thrive. Working with a wide range of partner organisations and community groups, as well as Canal & River Trust colleagues and volunteers, has resulted in a huge range of improvements.