The Friends of Sot’s Hole
Sot’s Hole is a small fragment of ‘semi-ancient’ woodland that covers an area of about 5.5 hectares, just off Dagger Lane/Church Vale in West Bromwich. You may well have passed it without realizing it was there.
Most of the history of Sot’s Hole is anecdotal, but the recently formed Friends of Sot’s Hole, helped in particular by Sandwell Valley Naturalist Club, is beginning to put together a very interesting background to the woodland.
Perhaps the reason why the site has remained undeveloped for so long is because of its shape, a fault line that provides steep sides best seen near the golf club tee that splits the reserve into two. Originally there were also coal seams. Sand and gravel deposits suggest that a long time ago the area was under water and the springs that appear at various points in the woodland did not go unnoticed, clearly focusing the attention of earlier settlers. There is a flint mound in the field above the woodland, on the south side, and a Bronze Age burnt mound, on the reserve edge to the north west. No one really knows, but it is believed these mounds were the result of either cooking activities or early saunas.
You may be wondering why the name Sot’s Hole. The reserve is known locally by a number of names, but we do know that an alcoholic publican by the name of Richard Reeves ran a public house in Church Vale, next to the site, in the eighteenth century, and he was the old sot. In a similar vain the Sots Hole name could originate from the very heavy drinkers from the "Bear and Ragged Staff" a public house which was in Church Vale from around 1719 to 1769, who might have ended up in the woods
Our earliest map is one dated 1837. It does help to explain some of the current site features.
One can see clearly that there were two pools in the reserve, and these were used to provide additional supplies of water to the mills along the River Tame, where iron was produced for items such as buckles, nails, and rings.
As well as flint implements several structures dating to the Bronze Age have been found in Sandwell including Sots Hole. They are "Burnt Mounds" and consist of heaps of heat-shattered stones and charcoal next to streams. They seem to have been the remains of cooking or bathing activities and one has been dated by radiocarbon dating to about 1100 BC.
Although the woodland hasn’t changed the surrounding area has. Because the woodland is such a special place, in 1996 it was officially designated a LNR, and as such became protected. As a Local Nature Reserve, Sot’s Hole is for both people and wildlife, offering people special opportunities to study or learn about nature, or simply just to enjoy it.
John Wood’s Plan of West Bromwich 1837
Click to enlarge
Ornate gate at entrance