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En-route to big change

PASSING through Sixteen Acre Wood, near Balsall Common, and there’s not another soul in sight.

PASSING through Sixteen Acre Wood, near Balsall Common, and there’s not another soul in sight.

It’s hard to believe that in a few years’ time, a line to carry 200mph trains will be cutting straight through the crop of trees.

I’m joined on this stretch by journalism student and Solihull resident Elkie Maddison.

Our journey began a couple of hours and a few miles earlier, at the point where the line will enter Solihull borough.

As trains cross the boundary, near Burton Green, they will follow what HS2 documents describe as “a disused rail-line”.

But Berkswell Parish Council argues that the Kenilworth Greenway is a popular route for walkers, cyclists and riders.

We come out at Berkswell Station, near where the HS2 will cross over the existing West Coast Mainline.

Campaigners claim the concrete viaduct will stand 10m tall, effectively cutting the village in two.

A photo has been circulated showing what this might look like, but supporters of the scheme claim the image is misleading.

There are also reports that residents living in nearby Riddings Hill are already struggling to sell their homes.

Taking a footpath behind the station, we cross a series of industrial units which will be destroyed by HS2.

We emerge on Lavender Hall Lane, which is likely to be diverted north-east, eating into gardens at Fern Bank.

Graham Lock, who lives on the lane, described the HS2 project as “the kiss of death”.

“Think of all the strain on local roads, it’s going to completely kibosh the Kenilworth Road,” he said.

We come out on that very route, which is heaving with cars even as mid-day approaches.

Crossing over the road, we head down Wootton Green Lane to meet a parish councillor Paul Lucas, who has lived in the area for 37 years, said the vast majority opposed the proposals.

“A recent survey by Balsall Common Residents’ Association said that over 90 per cent were against,” he told us.

“But actually a lot of people think it’s such a daft idea, that it’ll never actually happen.

“People might call us NIMBYs, but actually the national case for this doesn’t add up.”

His neighbour David Disbery also took issue with the Government’s claims about jobs.

“The money would be better spent encouraging big companies to come to this region and invest,” he added.

Back on the Kenilworth Road, we turn down Park Lane and then onto the famous Heart of England Way.

A “No to HS2” plaque has been screwed to the gate and on every signpost that comes after.

On this section, trains will slice through some 900m of arable land, affecting Marlowes Wood and the aforementioned Sixteen Acre.

In fact the very footpath we’re walking, an ancient-packway, will disappear as part of proposals.

After cutting across fields, past grazing cows, we arrive back on the A45 and set off in the direction of Marsh Lane.

The trains meanwhile will thunder on, towards Berkswell Marsh, a site of special scientific interest.

Whether you’re a supporter or opponent of the scheme, it’s quite clear the line will be a significant change to the local countryside.

 

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Cathrina Hulse
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Annette Belcher
Multimedia Journalist
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