“What pictures of wild battle do these overgrown dykes suggest! What skin-clad barbarians fighting with strange weapons in peaceful-looking Sutton!”. William Midgley was inspired to write these stirring lines in his 1904 History of the Town and Chase of Sutton Coldfield by considering some of the low banks and ditches to be found in Sutton Park, which he took to be prehistoric defensive earthworks. Since Midgley wrote, the archaeological features of Sutton Park have been studied in detail, notably in Dr. Mike Hodder’s recent book, The Archaeology of Sutton Park.
Some of the earthworks were proved to be deer-park boundaries, some were woodbanks, some the traces left by military training exercises; some features were prehistoric, while pride of place must go to the one and a half miles of Roman road (Ryknield Street) which can be traced through the park. However, the origin and purpose of the so-called Ancient Encampment have never been satisfactorily explained despite intensive investigation by archaeologists.
Sutton Park having remained undeveloped and uncultivated for centuries, any traces left by previous generations have remained undisturbed, and most of the park was designated as a scheduled ancient monument in 2002. This both recognised the national importance of the site and gave it statutory protection for the future. In order to make it easier for visitors to the Park to find and appreciate the archaeological remains, the Friends of Sutton Park Association and the Sutton Coldfield Civic Society established three trails in the park, each about 2½ miles long, with a display board at the beginning, markers on the main items of archaeological interest, and an explanatory leaflet.
This was in 2003, and the boards and markers were beginning to look the worse for wear by 2015, when FOSPA received a bequest of funds to refresh the scheme. Working jointly with the Civic Society, and with the help of the rangers, the renewed project, entitled “Walking through Time” is now complete. The original three trails have been renewed, with some additions, and three new trails added. The site of each feature is marked with a pyramid with explanatory text - before there were eleven, now there are twenty-eight, and there is an information board at the beginning of each trail - the three original ones and three new ones.
Come to the launch of “Walking through Time” next Friday 28th July in Sutton Park at Town Gate at 10.00 a.m. MP Andrew Mitchell will declare it open, and you will be able to win prizes by answering questions on a “Quizzical Walk”, or by entering an archaeologically themed photographic competition. You will be able to follow one of the trails in the company of Archaeologist Dr. Mike Hodder.