Sheepwash and Rattlechain- Midlands Outdoors Explores

There are a couple of good Youtube videos from the Midlands Outdoors channel which explore Sheepwash and the surrounding Canal and Rattlechain lagoon area. Be sure to give that channel a subscribe and like.

Obviously locals will venture over here every day, to walk their dogs, go to work or for exercise, but these videos offer a newby’s experience to the area and a genuine unbiased commentary on what he sees. Using drone footage, subtle music and a gentle narration, it captures a moment of reflection about the industrial past and the changing face of nature within it.

Some links to complement the videos can be seen below under each.

First a visit to Sheepwash entering at John’s Lane. The “derelict house” is of course connected to the former farm and currently houses two businesses.


The bird flight diverters, and the story of how those were added by National Grid can be read HERE. 

♥ The overview history of the site can be read HERE. 

The story of the two brickworks once occupying the site can be read HERE. 

The Haines branch canal story is HERE. 

The transformation of the site from industrial to nature reserve recovery is discussed HERE. 

The next video explores more of Sheepwash, but also Rattlechain lagoon and connecting BCN mainline.

There is considerable history and controversy surrounding the white phosphorus chemical waste dump of the former Albright and Wilson. 

♠ Further sightings and discussion of The Netherton tunnel can be read HERE. 

♠ The Rattlechain brickworks story can be read HERE. 

♠ Historic pictures/maps and discussion of the Rattlechain brickworks/lagoon are HERE. 

♠ This can be read in conjunction with how John’s Lane has changed HERE. 

♠ Discussion of the two tunnels into Sheepwash can be found HERE

♠ An overview of someone who carried Albright and Wilson’s toxic waste by canal barge from their Langley factory can be read HERE

♠ An updated “what’s left” of this “toxic trail” journey is HERE. 

♠ Some of the views from the hill overlooking Rattlechain lagoon are discussed HERE. 

♠ The issue of white phosphorus poisoning wildfowl on the lagoon, and the story of how campaigners had to take on this muti-national company can be read HERE. 

♠ These birds were found to be being systemically poisoned, see HERE and HERE by the waste chemical contained in this lake. 

♠The Friends of Sheepwash remain committed to campaigning against building any houses on or adjacent to this contaminated land which directly threatens the nature reserve and connected wildlife. 


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Sheepwash Volunteer day

On 22nd November The Friends of Sheepwash Local Nature Reserve and volunteers will be planting wild flower bulbs in an area of the reserve near to the main entrance in Sheepwash Lane.

The event will be led by Sandwell’s Countryside Rangers, and we also hope to be joined by Litterwatch on the day between 10 am-12pm in a litter pick in the vicinity.

The Friends of Sheepwash have purchased 500 bulbs, with 100 each of the species

English Bluebells    Hyacinthoides non-scripta 

Common Snowdrops  Galanthus nivalis

Snakeshead Fritillary    Fritillaria meleagris

Wild Daffodil      Narcissus pseudonarcissus:

Wood Anemone Anemone nemorosa

We need help in this Autumn planting trial event to see how they fair on the site, and hopefully the area will look brighter between February- May next year and increase biodiversity for pollinators.

All equipment will be supplied on the day, but the rangers advise volunteers to wear suitable clothing and footwear in case of adverse weather or ground conditions. Please support this event if you can.

A guide to planting can be read below, but instruction will be given on the day.




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“PROTECT” Sheepwash Local Nature Reserve

Sheepwash is a Local Nature Reserve, and we want to keep it that way as a friends of group.

I deliberately chose to use the word “protect” in the domain name for this website, and not “The Friends of Sheepwash” as I believe that the site and its designation to be more important than a group of people who use the name. There will never be any promotion of individuals or their business interests and nor are we here to promote the interests of Sandwell council- this is about the history of the site, and a celebration of what has been achieved, and a campaign to keep it from being turned into something else.

As an “urban park” the site was not protected, from development, from external users and from individuals within the council itself; it wasn’t that long ago that some bright spark was talking about creating a nine hole golf course- no thanks, not then, not now, not ever!

It is also recognised that green space within Sandwell is coming under widespread attack from development, attack because politicians are using the term “brownfield land” to describe areas that have re-wilded which could become local nature reserves like sheepwash instead of more monopoly box houses to line the pockets of the construction industry.

You only have to look at the former Black Country plan to see the proposals of how many houses have been prescribed in the Lower Tividale area that borders Sheepwash to see that Sheepwash is under pressure from multiple sides, including the wildlife corridor of the canal.

We made representations at every stage of that plan, and have again in the Sandwell plan, opposing these development proposals, and talk of “garden cities” and anything else to window dress such developments will be opposed at every stage of the planning process to protect sheepwash.

There have also been other sites such as the Londonderry Playing fields, ripped up to build the aquatics centre, and the axe hanging over Lion Farm Playing Fields, and the highly controversial Brandhall Golf course development where it was clear that the majority of local people responding were against those plans.

Even though we have sort answers as to rumoured car parks on Sheepwash and have voiced our total opposition to such schemes, there are individuals who used to be in Sandwell Council who appear to have pushed this agenda privately outside of our group, and we would say to them, you have no business case to use tax payers money in this way, are pushing something which evidentially attracts anti social behaviour on every other Sandwell open space site where there are car parks, and go against the council’s own “climate emergency” and air quality agenda when the majority of site users visit the site by foot- which is to be encouraged is it not?

Let us also see how Sandwell Valley has eroded over the last 20 years from a nature reserve status into a “country park” free for all where competing uses, multi events and mass gatherings of people including disposable barbeques and swimming with dogs in swan pool are now the norm there every weekend. We will never want to see any of this at Sheepwash, and we wish to “protect” it from anyone who does.

And let us also raise the issue of how we as a friends group found out that Sheepwash had no bye-laws, when someone in Sandwell council failed to enact them when the site became a nature reserve in 2001, despite written evidence from officers at that time that this would be a formality!

In this regard, we use the term “protect” with good purpose and intention, and reserve our own counsel on what to call this website, thank you very much!

As for The Friends group, I wish to carry on the work of previous Chairs, Geoff Williams, Malcolm Beckley, Fred Perry and Chris Adams in recognising that Sheepwash is a resource to be used for education and to protect and preserve nature first and foremost, and where conflicts of interest arise, the needs of wildlife will take priority- as per our constitution.

Some individuals who have never even attended any of our meetings have previously bad mouthed us via social media and have no idea as to the hundreds of hours put in by campaigning, rescuing wildlife, reporting incidents and giving statements, to dealing with pollution incidents. Not everything we do has to be a self publicity photo opportunity or rolling progress report and much of the time it is just left to a couple of individuals who do more than moan.

We will continue to press with your support a site that is welcoming and has the facilities and fair share of the cash that it deserves. We will always hold the council to account and not stop campaigning to keep Sheepwash a place where wildlife can thrive and is protected.


Ian Carroll. Chair The Friends of Sheepwash Local Nature Reserve.


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