William Dargue  A History of BIRMINGHAM Places & Placenames from A to Y

Balaam's Wood

B31 - Grid reference SO994783

Balaam's Wood in 2011 - Image from the BirminghamLive website
Balaam's Wood in 2011 - Image from the BirminghamLive website

This wood has stood here for at least 400 years and probably for very much longer. Located off Rubery Lane, the 3-hectare site has been designated by English Nature as Ancient Semi-Natural Woodland which is woodland dating from at least 1600. This classification recognises that the site was not deliberately planted and has retained cover of native tree and shrub species, predominantly oak and hazel.


It is described as 'semi-natural' because it has been managed productively over the years by coppicing or felling and was then left to regenerate naturally without further planting. Because of its status and its diversity of habitats, in 2008 the wood and adjoining grassland were designated a Local Nature Reserve. The River Rea runs along the south of the site.

The story of Balaam is found in the Book of Numbers in the Bible where he is portrayed unfavourably as a gentile prophet more interested in fame and fortune than in proclaiming the word of God. Balaam's donkey speaks to him in the Bible story, and this is the origin of an old slang expression, 'balaam', a term for horses and donkeys. This may explain the origin of the placename.


William Dargue 03.09.2008/ 30.07.2010


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