Until the Railway line closed in 1965 the embankments were
mostly grassed and kept open by clearing,
grazing and regular cinder fires. Since the closure a scrub layer
and immature woodland has established over most of its
The predominant species are oak, ask, hawthorn and sallow with
sycamore, birch and elm. One significant exception to this is at
the Himley to Holbeache section. There is along stretch of Corsican
Pines which were planted so that the Earl of Dudley's view from
Himley Hall was not spoilt by the sight of the trains. Other
features include the heathland plants, flower rich glades, streams
and watercourses plus bare sandstone cuttings.
A substantial resident bird population can be found which is
largely characteristic of woodland or open farm land. In winter,
migrants from northern Europe are found such as Redwings,
Fieldfare, Redpoll, Siskin and Brambling. Spring brings the
Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Chiff Chaff, Willow Warbler and
Whitethroat. Birds of prey such as Sparrow Hawk, Kestral, Barn Owl,
Buzzard, Tawny Owl and little owl have all been recorded.
Lapwing and Skylark were once common singing and displaying,
especially near Orton. However national decline in these species
due to modern agricultural practices mean you have to be a bit
luckier to see them these days. Linnets nest in the cuttings where
the Gorse grows, whilst common Whitethroat and Yellow Hammers bread
in the scrubby areas. In Winter large flocks of finches such as
Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Tree Sparrow and Goldfinch congregate in
neighbouring fields. The occasional
Brambling may be seen with these flocks.
Over 280 species of wild plants have been recorded, including
some local rarities. Some of the more significant and rare include
the Early Purple Orchid near Castlecroft and Ploughman's Spikenard
near Lower Penn. Most common mammals frequent the area including
mice and voles. Badger frequent the walks as do fox, stoats, and
weasels. Even polecat have been noted.
There is a good record of 22 species of butterfly such as
Speckled Wood, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Brimstone and large
white. It also includes the scarce Purple Hairstreak. This is very
difficult to see due to its habit of flitting in the tops of oak
trees in July and August.
The walk as a whole is managed as a 'Woodland Ride' for its
whole length. This is a feature of managed woodlands where a track
is bordered by mown grass, scrub and then woodland. This is perfect
for butterflies allowing shelter from the wind, sunny spots plus
food plants for the caterpillars and nectar for the adults. Indeed
the whole in line now forms and excellent shelterbelt and green
corridor through the intensively managed agricultural area and also
the urban area of Wombourne.
The site is managed by Leisure Services and its ranger
service. The diversity and range of habitats is managed to
improve the potential for wildlife and creating a beautiful and
pleasing feature of the South Staffordshire Landscape.
If you wish to discuss the wildlife or the management of the
Railway Walk then please contact the rangers on 01902 882605.