by Angus Dickie
progress was slow, but a fledgling Valley Park Bird Group was able to help defeat potentially disastrous plans to turn Dunstall Park racecourse into a shopping and leisure complex. At the same time it was establishing a relationship with the then Wolverhampton Borough Council, which was responsible for the linear park's upkeep.
The publication of the group's first annual bird report in 1989 told other West Midland birders and the wider public of it's existence (in the early 1990's the report was on sale at, among other outlets, Stars News shops and the Beatties department store, and copies have been sent annually to the British Trust for Ornithology, the West Midlands Bird Club, to the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country, and to Wolverhampton Council's archives section).
Resources were limited, but the group was able to arrange site visits and hold slide shows for it's members, and man it's own promotional stall at RSPB film shows, regional bird fairs and at council-run green festivals at West Park and elsewhere. It helped run council narrowboat wildlife trips for the public along the Staffs & Worcs canal, and in May 1990, organised, publicised and ran a hugely successful Smestow Valley open day from the old Tettenhall railway station.
The countryside management post was eventually created and filled in 2004, but campaigners' hopes that this would mark the start of a new and productive era for the valley were shortlived. Management plans for the nature reserve were not implemented, the advisory group went into limbo, and important wildlife initiatives, like the reedbed created alongside the Smestow Brook, North of Compton were allowed to wither and die. Council staff with specialist wildlife and conservation knowledge left and were not replaced (the post of countryside management officer disappeared), and by the start of this decade, cutbacks in staffing and funding for all of Wolverhampton's green spaces meant that work on the Smestow Valley reserve was restricted to basic maintenance.