Christian Fields is an area of approximately 6.5 hectares, situated to the north of Eastern Avenue on the north western border of the city of Lichfield. The site consists of a mixture of semi-improved grassland, tall ruderals, scrub, woodland and hedgerows. The history of site is long and colourful and its name is indelibly linked to the history of Lichfield.
The site attained its name Christian Fields through being the supposed site of the massacre of 1000 Christians (St Amphibalus and his 999 followers) under the order of the Roman Emperor Diocletian in between 284 and 305AD.
However, this tradition is a development of the medieval fabrications of scholar Geoffrey of Monmouth. The story of the Christian martyrs of Lichfield continued and was exaggerated upon throughout the 12th century when Lichfield became an important location on the pilgrimage route but had largely been forgotten by the 1500s.
However in 1548, Lichfield was incorporated as a borough and its newly created civic body required an image. Anxious to break with the Catholic image of St Chad the corporation elected to use an illustration of the 999 Christian martyrs as its coat of arms and so rekindled public interest in this false history.
In the 17th-century the antiquarian Robert Plot declared that the area, now known as Christian Fields, had been the site of the martyrdom and it has born the name ever since. Needless to say Robert Plot's claim has never been substantiated and no archaeological evidence has ever been presented in its support.
The site does however retain some note worthy archaeological features in the Dimbles that defines the eastern boundary of the site.
The Dimbles is the remains of a Saxon walkway (a dimble is defined by a raised earthen walkway flanked on either side by a ditch) that ran from the village of Elmhurst to the north into Lichfield .
Although the exact date of the Dimbles construction is unknown it can be assumed to of been constructed after the Saxon conquest of the area in 600AD. The pathway is still in use today and is a BOAT (byway open to all traffic).
In more recent history the site was used as a landfill site until it was capped and restored during the late 1980s. The site was then restored for outdoor leisure provision and maintained by Lichfield District Council (LDC) with assistance from the North Lichfield Initiative (NLI), who's environmental group has enacted numerous site works and litter picks over the previous years.
During an on-site consultation day in early 2009 (which was attended by LDC officers, the NLI, member of the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust and other groups), local public opinion was gauged and support for transforming Christian Fields into Lichfield's first Local Nature Reserve was found to be very strong.
The local population's desire to see Christian Fields find new life was reflected by the LDC Cabinet when in late 2009 they put their full support behind declaring the site a Lichfield's first Local Nature Reserve and the site was declared in early 2011.
However, even before Christian Fields declaration was completed the work to turn the area into a haven for the local community rich in wildlife began in earnest.
In the winter of 2009-2010 the countryside team led conservation groups and local residence on a number of fun practical conservation days at Christian Fields were overgrown brash and bramble was cut back and thin a sickly hedges were laid (a traditional countryside practice) to improve the habitat.
Volunteer work continued throughout 2010 and 2011 whilst the countryside team and its partners applied for grants and raised funding to improve the infrastructure and habitats on the site. After raising over a hundred thousand pounds, the countryside team and Forest of Mercia started work in mid 2012 on installing over 500 metres of new footpath, new ponds and boardwalks, reinstalling sleeper steps, creating new entrances to the site, installing information panels, installing sculptures, planting a new woodland and seeding to create new wildflower areas. This work will be completed by mid 2013 providing Lichfield with a nature reserve designed, supported and maintained by its local community.