Situated on Solihull’s border with Birmingham, Olton is among the most urban areas of a borough which carries the motto ‘The Town in the Country’. However, Neil Connor finds that there is still much greenery in this most sought-after location.
Looking at a map of the West Midlands conurbation, one might surmise that Olton is somewhat sandwiched in the middle of this giant urban sprawl. But there is still the feel of an idyllic setting and a quiet environment in Olton.
In fact, one of Solihull’s most unspoilt and pleasant natural landscapes is located at Olton Mere. This natural habitat is next to Olton Reservoir, which was originally built as a feeder for the Grand Union Canal, but is now the base of one of the most popular sailing clubs in the Midlands.
The Mere is an understated gem that even some of OIton’s longest serving residents have difficulty finding. (Just for information, it is located alongside the A41 Warwick Road, down the drive opposite the BP garage close to the metal railway bridge).
Apart from the boating activities, which attract canoeists and sailors alike, the Mere is also a Mecca for those interested in nature as it is a protected haven for wildlife.
With some minor restrictions, residents of Olton can experience this wildlife which is just a stones throw from their homes.
Other green areas include the two golf clubs in Olton: Robin Hood Golf Club and Olton Golf Club. There was talk a couple of years ago that some of the land at Robin Hood Golf Club was to be built on – but this was dismissed by those involved with the club, which is situated around the back of Langley School on Kineton Green Road.
The centre of Olton life is widely considered to be close to the railway station, which is located behind a row of shops and a library on Warwick Road.
The library is a focal point for the educational life of the neighbourhood – as it boasts five computers providing free internet access.
There is also a meeting room in the library, which can be hired by community groups and for commercial purposes. It is frequently used by local councillors for monthly surgeries.
From the railway station, there are frequent Central Train services into Birmingham, Solihull and Leamington Spa. There are also Chiltern Railways services to High Wycombe and London Marylebone.
This vital transport link is a primary attraction for many city centre commuters moving to the neighbourhood.
Olton station also boasts some of the finest floral decorations of any station in the Midlands, which is a tribute to the local volunteers who spend so much of their free time to create a picturesque gateway to their neighbourhood.
On the Warwick Road you can go one of two directions; towards Solihull and the nearby Dovehouse Parade or towards Acocks Green village.
Towards Dovehouse is where some of the most popular residences are located; an area within the catchment area of some of Solihull’s finest schools.
The parade of shops on the Warwick Road also boasts one of Solihull’s best men’s designer shops – Redferns – and one of the only fish and chip shops in the immediate area.
Just a couple of miles further down the Warwick Road is Solihull Town Centre, with the vibrant Touchwood shopping centre. Beyond that is easy access to the M42.
Behind Dovehouse Parade is Hobs Moat, which is just a stones throw from Birmingham International Airport.
Back towards the direction of Birmingham, the Solihull side of Acocks Green is rich in character and still attracts house prices bordering on those expected for the more leafy side of Solihull.
The range of Edwardian properties on offer attract many who aim to live in an area near to the city centre, which still has a village feel.
But it is in the Olton neighbourhoods that border Shirley and Hall Green that perhaps the most splendid properties are found.
Indeed, Solihull’s largest conservation area is centred around the large houses built in St. Bernard's Road and Kineton Green Road in Victorian and Edwardian years.
The tranquillity of both roads has been increased in recent years thanks to the building of road humps.
However, the mansions that line particularly St Bernard's Road, have enough room to provide respite from any type of daily urban grind.
Nearby, and alongside the West Warwickshire sports club, is the prestigious St Bernard’s Lawns Cala Homes development.
The individually designed homes – which are already starting to sell – range in price from £498,000 to £675,000.
Further towards Shirley is the Olton Friary, one of the largest and most beautiful churches in Solihull. The grounds of the Friary also contain much open green space.
The Friary is a focal point for Olton’s substantial Catholic community and one of Solihull’s most historic buildings.
Solihull is often considered to be a ‘true blue’ area politically as the Tories have controlled the borough for some years now.
But the Liberal Democrats have made inroads into large parts of Olton in recent years in the council elections, which has left the Tories with no overall majority of the borough.
Furthermore, they also stole the Parliamentary seat from the Conservatives at the last General Election.
The office of Lorely Burt MP is situated on Warwick Road adjacent to the border with Birmingham.
"Of course the Liberal Democrat office was there before I was elected, but it really is a lovely part of Solihull," she says.
"The landlord of the parade of shops where we are based is constantly putting flowers up. He is really is proud of our little corner of Olton, but that is really why Olton is such an attractive place to live – because the people who live here take enormous pride in the area.
"You only have to look at the houses on St Bernard’s Road to see that Olton really has some of the most attractive properties in the Midlands."
Ms Burt said that the library played a major part in the community life of Olton.
"It really is the centre of most things," she explains. "Although there is an excellent community spirit in Olton, which is noticeable every time you speak to residents here. I think that is what makes Solihull such an enjoyable place to live – that we are all proud of our surroundings and all work together to ensure that our communities remain pleasant."