It is easy to pass-by the wilderness aback The Warehouse, off Shaw’s Passage. A rich habitat amid trees and shrubs restrained by dull steel fencing, inaccessible to folk, nevertheless a hideaway for wildlife.

Frequent ‘twitching’ from the overlooking window of BTCV have noted sparrows, tits, dunnocks, dragon and damselflies. As elderflower boughs creek sedately to the low hum of parking cars in the Digbeth breeze, creatures remain undisturbed. And maybe that’s how this segment of wild Birmingham should stay – undisturbed.

The importance of maintaining sites like this in Digbeth was set-out in 2005 by the Eastside Biodiversity Strategy, a document informing decision-makers, landscape professionals and those who live, work and play in Digbeth. In short, it suggests that post-industrial wildlife habitats, like behind the Warehouse, should stay as they are. If it is felt appropriate to do so, sites could be enhanced. If a wild-space has to be lost and there is really no other alternative then they should be replaced on a like-for-like basis it advises.

At the time of surveying for the 2005 report, during summer 2004, access from Shaw’s Passage to the site was locked, and still is. In fact the report says little about the site specifically, except that it is almost entirely composed of buddleia. This is popular with butterflies, perhaps on their way to cherry blossom in Park Street Gardens.

Since the demolition of the crab-boiling factory, this waste ground site has been colonised by ruderal plants, from the Latin rudus meaning rubble. Nowadays we witness it evolving. Fuzzy willow catkins and stark red birch branches look down on buddleia, the great coloniser. The emergence of berry-bearing trees like elder is important for birds also, adding to the species reservoir. How many offices in Birmingham can say they hear the twittering of birds over their buzzing computers?

This is an island of wilderness at the heart of our conurbation. Its value is as a bank of wild species for the city. With the development of a new park in Eastside the role of our neighbouring wild area is going to be as a species bank, a source of colonisation for other areas. It is vital to ensure that the Shaw’s Passage wild-space stays as it is until we can review, in a few years, what species have moved-on into areas like the new park.


BTCV is a national conservation charity. BTCV Birmingham offers volunteering opportunities in practical environmental improvements for the local environment.