Barr Beacon Local Nature Reserve
If you fancy getting away from it all, Barr Beacon might be just the nature reserve for you. Its only 3 miles from Walsall town centre, and its one of the highest points in the West Midlands. It offers spectacular panoramic views, and from the top you can see surrounding landmarks including the Wrekin, Cannock Chase, Lichfield Cathedral, Birmingham City Centre, and the Lickey Hills. Its the high-point of the Beacon Way and a favourite walking spot for locals.
All in all you can see at least 11 counties from up there: West Midands, Warwickshire, Staffordshire, Shropshire, Leicestershire, Gloucestershire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire and even Powys Wales!
Car park opening times
Barr Beacon is open to the public on foot 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. However, the car parks have strict opening times which change depending on the time of the year. The gates will close at the times below, but there is no risk of being locked in as you can exit the site over one-way exits onto Beacon Road.
- January - 3.45pm
- February - 4.15pm
- March - 5.00pm
- March (after the clocks go forward) - 6.00pm
- April - 6.00pm
- May - 7.10pm
- June - 7.50pm
- July - 7.50pm
- August - 6.45pm
- September - 6.15pm
- October - 5.15pm
- October (After the clocks go back) - 3.45pm
- November - 3.45pm
- December - 3.15pm
And the views are just the start; Barr Beacon is one of the few remaining lowland heaths in the area (the others being Pelsall North Common, Brownhills Common and Shire Oak Park) that used to cover the region from Sutton Park to Cannock Chase.
The two mile circular nature trail will lead you past the historic Scott Plantation, through purple blankets of heather, golden flowering gorse and flower-rich meadows, alive with butterflies, mining bees and other heathland wildlife. The birds love it up there too, and ravens and buzzards are regularly seen by visitors.
From the Stone Age to the Space Age
We know that Barr Beacon was used by Stone Age Man because A Neolithic mace head and Neolithic or Bronze Age stone hammers have been found by archaeologists! Roman coins have been found up there too, as well as evidence of 12th century ridge and furrow farming. These days however, Barr Beacon is more 'space age' than 'stone age', as its a popular spot for Stargazing, used regularly by the Walsall Astronomical Society, and has been designated a 'Dark Sky Discovery Site'. If you'd like to know more about astronomy in Walsall, visit the Walsall Looks Up.
A beacon of light
Throughout history fires have been lit on hills to send messages, warn of danger and commemorate significant events. Barr Beacon's fires have been lit to warn of the attack of the Spanish Armada, to celebrate Queen Victoria's golden and diamond jubilees, when hilltops all over the country were ablaze.
More recently there was a bonfire for 1951’s Festival of Britain, and the Beacon was lit up with floodlights for Queen Elizabeth II's coronation, and a fire for her silver jubilee. A fire was lit on the Beacon in 1995 for the 50th anniversary of VE Day, and the most recent fire was part of the 'People's Millions' project in 2009.
It is even thought ‘Barr Beacon’ means ‘a hill used for fire signals, because ‘Barr’ is Celtic for ‘hill’ or Old English for ‘‘summit’. ‘Beacon’ is Old English for ‘signal’ or ‘fire beacon’.
Lest We Forget
Of course the focus point of Barr Beacon, and one of Walsall’s most recognisable landmarks is the War Memorial. This symbol of remembrance for the men and women who gave their lives in WWI is now the focus of a fantastic new project to restore the memorial and other heritage features of Barr Beacon, and to provide a focus for engaging the community. If you’re wondering what this will mean in practical terms, it will mean lots more activities and events, remembrance ceremonies, and education materials focusing on landscape, geology, wildlife, history, and all the other things the Beacon has to offer. It’s an exciting time to be involved with the project. Visit the ‘Raising the Barr’ page to find out more.
The memorial dates from 1933, and is made of Portland stone. The roof used to be made of copper, but due to theft and vandalism, the 'Raising the Barr' project has included restoring the dome with zinc. It looks just the same, only less valuable, and therefore hopefully less tempting to thieves!
Inside the memorial is a pedestal which used to house a mounted ‘direction-finder’ or topographic disk. The original 1920 disk was destroyed during the war, and there have been several versions since. The 'Raising the Barr' project will replace this, too.
A Hill for the People
Barr Beacon was opened to the public by Colonel J.H. Wilkinson on Easter Monday in 1919, after centuries of private ownership by generations of the Scott family (who also owned Great Barr hall and Merrions Wood). It is now held in Trust and managed by Walsall Council.
Parking: Two car parks off Beacon Road, use Monument Car Park for the Memorial
Buses: numbers 76, and 997 run from Walsall, alight on Beacon Road
Nature Trails: The Beacon Way, Orienteering Trail, Circular Walk
Wildlife to see: Heathland butterflies and bees, Ravens and Buzzards, Rabbits
This site is great for: Health walks, dog walking, picnics, geology, amazing views!
Grid Reference: SP 060 973
- Download the Google Earth location files for Barr Beacon, Beacon Quarry and the Spinney (KMZ 3kb)
- Download the complete set of Google Earth location files for Walsall’s Countryside Sites (ZIP 26KB)
- Visit the 'Raising the Barr' page to watch the 'Raising the Barr' video
- Visit the 'Walsall Looks Up' page about Astronomy on Barr Beacon
- Visit the Barr Beacon War Memorial Facebook Page
- Visit the Bands on the Beacon Facebook Page
- Visit the Walsall Looks Up Facebook Page
- Visit the page of the Walsall Astronomical Society
Please note - you will need to have Google Earth installed on your computer to open some of these files.
Walsall Countryside Services
Clean and Green Environmental Depot
200 Pelsall Lane
Telephone 01922 65 4240
Catch regular updates on Twitter by following @walsallwildlife and @BarrBeacon and on Facebook by searching for Walsall Wildlife
This page was last updated on 22 August 2014