POTOC logo

Potteries Orienteering Club

West Midlands Orienteering Association

Clubmark logo

First published in The Potter July 2005
Text © Copyright John Heaton 2005

Park Hall Country Park

Introduction

On the Stoke-on-Trent website Park Hall is described as “one of the city's most important natural sites”. In 2002 it was declared a National Nature Reserve and the sandstone canyons are a Site of Special Scientific Interest for their geology. In my childhood I lived close, and to venture beyond the immediate vicinity of the road at the south side of the area was a daring adventure risking falling down bottomless cavities.

Geography

The north west quarter of the area actually lies outside the city boundaries and the highest point in the city lies somewhere on one of the embankments on the west of the road to the village of Hulme at the top of the hill. Park Hall is a sandstone hill about 2km by 2km rising about 40-60m from the surrounding area. The area is drained underground through the porous rock. The area is bisected by the minor road to Hulme. The geology is of triassic sandstone with numerous gravel beds formed by 230 million year old flash floods.

History

Prior to the C17th the area was a small deer park. In the C19th coal mining took place on the western fringes and small scale gravel extraction began. Major gravel extraction began in 1939, initially this was without planning permission and caused the damage to the landscape. Later work which formed the canyons was planned and was accompanied by planting of woodlands. Extraction ceased in 1970. The western segment was taken over by the City Council who constructed a 9 hole golf course in the 80’s which covers about 40% of this section. The eastern part, including a large portion in the city boundaries, was managed by the County Council up until unification of the City in the late 90’s. The name Park Hall is taken from a large house that existed up to the early C20th and was located just off the south edge of the map across the Hanley to Weston Coyney road.

Mapping and Event History

In 1981 Roger Smith produced our first map which covered only the eastern portion. It was used for Local events most years and for two what we now call District events up to 1990.

In 1990 Paul Graetz updated and extended the map to include the western section and a third District Event was staged in January of the following year. Annual Local events continued to be staged and in 1993 the West Midlands Relays were staged there. I can also vividly recall a Night Event being staged in 1997 on a very cold and foggy night. By 2000 it was clear that the map wasBarbecue much in need of updating. Land management and growing vegetation gave us a map a different colour to the old one. The 1990 map was about 10% green or white, the 2000 map is close to 40% if you include the extensive areas of gorse. This map was produced professionally by Dave Peel. We then used the map for the West Midlands Relays and a further District Event in 2001. Each year from 2000 we have staged a Score Event/BBQ in July at Park Hall.

Wildlife

Most noted, little owls nest on the quarry faces and short eared owls in the coniferous plantations. A number of unusual beetles inhabit the sandy areas including the striking Green Tiger Beetle.

John Heaton