A beauty spot in the heart of Stoke-on-Trent has been described as ‘a bit of countryside in the city’. Berryhill Fields nature reserve – which sits between Berryhill, Bentilee and Fenton – is a haven for dog walkers and boasts an abundance of wildlife.
It covers an area of 160 hectares while horses are kept in paddocks on the land. In addition skylarks, brown hare and lapwings live there and it is also home to ponds filled with fish.
Coined as ‘the lungs of the city’, Berryhill Fields also has enormous archaeological significance. A 13th Century moat-protected manor house was discovered there in 2000 which is thought to have once been the manor house of Fenton Vivian.
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Several archaeological investigations revealed the substantial rectangular stone built structure of the hall with a cross wing, a circular stone structure thought to be a dovecote and another stone structure believed to be a corn drier or malting oven. The site also has a history of coal mining. It is now home to a number of art features that were built as part of £2 million regeneration project for the Millennium.
The site has a three-mile walk, with views across the city that will take around an hour to complete. It has a pathway which allows easy access for wheelchairs and pushchairs. It also has free parking.
Visitors to the nature reserve say it is ‘a bit of countryside in the city’. Mick Titterton, from Berryhill, walks his five-year-old dog Sid every day at Berryhill Fields.
He said: “I’m here everyday with my dog. It’s brilliant. It’s very peaceful, you could be anywhere. You wouldn’t know you were in the middle of Stoke-on-Trent.
“There’s three to four pools where the lads come fishing and you can hear the owls at night time. If you go to the top by the tower you can see for 30 to 40 miles. It has a lovely path that people with wheelchairs can use and goes all the way round.
“It’s very important, but a lot of people don’t know it’s here. I love it here, I bought my house here two years ago and half the reason was being able to walk my dog here. It goes for miles and miles.
“It’s a haven for dog walkers. On a sunny day you will see 15 to 20 people walking dogs in and out of here all day. The only bad part is that we’re getting lots of kids on motorbikes coming here.”
Stephen Bott, from Bentilee, has been going to Berryhill Fields since he was a child. The 61-year-old said: “I’ve been coming here since I was a kid.
“It’s good that we’ve got such a huge green space so close to the city centre. It’s really like being able to get out to the countryside, which I do a lot as well.
“It’s a bit of countryside in the city. I’ve seen quite a lot of interesting wildlife across here.
“It’s one of the best places in the city to come and get out into nature. I come here three or four times a week. Even more in the summer.
“It’s very relaxing and a good shortcut to various places.”
And Sarah Hamilton, aged 35, from Berryhill, said: “I walk here every day. It’s peaceful and the people walking through here are very friendly.
“I used it a lot in lockdown, it’s really important to the community. I love hearing the birds, my house backs on to the fields and there is a tree near our house that has got lots of nests.
“I have five children and they play football on the field and have picnics.”
Berryhill fields was earmarked for 1,300 homes during a local plan consultation in 2018. Families have been fighting to protect the fields from future development ever since.
Last year more than 2,000 people backed a campaign calling for the council to ‘completely and unequivocally rule out building on Berryhill Fields’. Dave Burgess, vice-chairman of the Save Berryhill Fields Action Group, said: “Berryhill Fields has a viewing point with a sign saying ‘the countryside comes to town’ and that’s how people regard this site.
“Especially during the pandemic and the first lockdown in particular, when people couldn’t go anywhere, the importance of the site grew even more and gave people a chance to get fresh air and a place of sanctuary.
“The site has become known as the lungs of the city. It’s not just important for the people who go there, but also the birds and wildlife there. It’s one of only two recognized principle bird watching sites in the city with 167 different bird species that use the site. It’s used as a grazing spot for lots of horses. It’s basically a wildlife haven.”
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