On a cloudy Thursday in May 2023, the 18th, I took myself down the Cross-City Line again, this time to Four Oaks and the Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield. It took three trains to get there, changing at Tamworth and Lichfield Trent Valley.
Four Oaks railway station opened in 1884, and was the original northern terminus of the Cross-City Line when it was inaugurated in 1978. The line was extended to Lichfield Trent Valley in 1988. It has three platforms, serving up to four trains an hour in both directions. There is a staffed ticket office, as well as help points and waiting facilities.
Four Oaks is an affluent area of Sutton Coldfield, which I keep calling Kings Oak, which was the fictional setting for the long-running ITV show Crossroads. I left the station and walked through a main road with gated properties all along it. I saw the area’s war memorial on my way to stopping off at a local supermarket to stock up on supplies for the walk around Sutton Park.
I entered Sutton Park at the north end. It is one of the largest urban parks in the United Kingdom, measuring around 2,400 acres. There are seven lakes and various ancient woodlands. It has several restaurants, car parks, a private golf course, and it even has a railway line running through it. It was served by its own station, but this was closed in 1964, and the line is a freight-only line nowadays.
The first place I walked to was Little Bracebridge Pool, a small lake named after its much larger neighbour nearby. I then walked to Bracebridge Pool, one of the largest lakes in the park. I took in the views of the lake, and walked to a bench to eat lunch, making sure there were no hungry dogs around. The park was surprisingly busy, with people taking young children and dogs for a walk. Close to Bracebridge Pool is a path called the 40 Bridges, comprising a lot of wooden bridges, some of which were in a better condition than others. After walking over some of them (and taking care not to fall into the mud), I arrived at a sandy area close to the lake, where wild Exmoor ponies were grazing.
There is a sign at the park telling visitors not to feed the wild ponies, and to keep their distance from them. They are not aggressive, but if they become tame, then there is a risk they will become ill and have to be put down. They were introduced to the park in 1999 to replace cattle which used to graze in the area, helping to maintain the heathland and grassland.
The last part of the park which I visited was Blackroot Pool, which is another large lake within the park. This one is used for water sports, and there are pedal boats for hire, should patrons wish to explore the pool by boat.
I left the park and headed to Sutton Coldfield railway station to catch the next train back to Lichfield Trent Valley.
Sutton Coldfield railway station was opened in 1862 as the terminus of the London and North Western Railway’s line from Birmingham. It became a founder member of the Cross-City Line in 1978, at which time there were plans to demolish the station and rebuild it, but this was thwarted by people power. It has most of its original Victorian buildings, with a staffed ticket office on the concourse, little changed from its early days. There are two platforms, waiting areas and train information displays.
I wanted to explore Sutton Coldfield a bit more, but time was running out, and so I will be back when I do the next station down the line, which is Wylde Green. When that will be, I don’t know at present, but you can keep up to date with new posts by liking the page on Facebook and Instagram. All the links can be found here. Thank you for reading.