Bartley and Frankley Reservoirs
Frankley and Bartley Reservoirs were both constructed to accommodate the drinking water needs of the growing population of Birmingham following the industrial revolution. The city's expansion resulted in regular outbreaks of water-borne diseases such as typhoid, cholera, and dysentery because of the lack of clean water. Frankley Reservoir, which is not accessible to the public, was completed in 1904, and Bartley Reservoir in 1930. Water is supplied from the Elan Valley in Mid-Wales where five lakes were created by damming the Elan and Claerwen Rivers. The water from the lakes is transported along the Elan Aqueduct which is 73 miles long, via gravity alone, to Frankley Water Treatment Works (WTW) before being stored in the reservoirs. Frankley WTWs is just 52 metres lower than the water's starting point in the Elan Valley. It takes almost two days for the water to travel the 73 miles.
When the reservoirs were built, all the surrounding areas were rural countryside without the suburban housing now prominent. It was chosen due to it being a natural valley that could be dammed, as can be can be seen in the picture above with the hills surrounding it. Along with St Leonard's Church and some formal estates such as Bartley Manor and Ley Hill House, there was a large farming community made up of small farm landowners, for whom some of the surrounding places now take their names (Genners Farm Field, Banghampit Farm Recreation Ground, Ley Hill Farm Road). Because of this remoteness the reservoirs did not have the perimeter fencing they now have required to protect the water from contamination. Mrs Jones, a congregant of St Leonard Church, recalls her father Mr West telling her about when Bartley Reservoir was being constructed "...the children would walk all the way over from Ladywood to see it being constructed. The boys would play cricket in the base of the reservoir before it was filled with water, as it was just one giant concrete basin, and they would all play in the dam walls where Genners Lane now goes across".
Whilst some of the local natural heritage was lost to the reservoirs' construction, most notably a significant chunk of Bromwich Wood and Cuttlers Rough, it provided new opportunities for nature, and later became an important migratory stopping point for birds due to the available water and nearby wild grasslands. Bartley Reservoir is a designated a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC), with the drainage around the edge and the small woodland inside the fence permitter being designated as Sites of Local Importance for Nature Conversation (SLINC). Because of this it is of interest to bird watchers, and Bartley Reservoir became a place where the naturist and conservationist Bill Oddie did much of his early bird watching, and features in his books and television programmes. His very first published article for the West Midlands Bird Society's annual report in 1962 was about the birds of Bartley Reservoir, and birders come to the reservoir to this day.
The reservoir has also brought other opportunities, with Bartley Sailing Club being created in the 1970's. The Sailing Club website states ...local sailors saw the potential of the size of water and the wind accelerating down the hill at the top end of the reservoir in the prevailing South-Westerlies... In recent years a very active SUP (Stand Up Paddle Boarding) Club has been established, and in 2022 the Andrew Simpson Charity Midlands Watersports Centre has been established that now uses the facilities to run water sport training programmes and to engage local people and promote their access and participation in water sports.