BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

On a bike, riding somewhere. Every day, rain or shine.

Posts tagged ‘Aston’

#365daysofbiking Really Greet

Wednesday, October 7th 2020 – I was once again visiting a client near Tyseley, and the meeting was done and dusted quickly. I’d got there by hopping onto a train to Aston, and dropping on the canal. On my return, I visited one shops in the Balti Triangle for snacks, treats and ingredients, then rode back on the canal home.

Birmingham’s inner city captivated me as it always does – but the plight of it’s Victorian pubs is concerning me, with the Swan and Mitre in Aston up for auction again, and the Marlborough in Greet still decaying, slowly.

Few things comment more eloquently on urban decay than stopped public clocks.

It was, of course, the canal and its culture that was the star. Nice to see Anatomix’s Tangram Fox is still proud on the side of the Bond, and Bill Drummond has been at it again under Spaghetti junction. But the colour was not limited to the graffiti: Autumn is really setting in now.

A lovely ride on a nice day – but quite chilly.

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#365daysofbiking Splendid isolation

May 8th – I’d had to ride into Brum to check out something for work. Public transport is unusable, and the day was lovely so I rode all the way on the canal.

At Aston Junction there’s a garden ruin of mown grass just by the canal bridges there, and within, I noticed an artist.

Clearly busy under his straw hat, he seemed engrossed in his work.

I didn’t think he had noticed me at all, and the dedicated, solitary pursuit of his art was fascinating and just a little sad.

As I left, I bid him a cheery goodbye and without looking up, he wished me a good ride.

Lockdown is doing odd things to us as a society, and I kind of like it.

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#365daysofbiking Into the blue

July 23rd – I was in Birmingham for work and was planning on catching the train home. But there was trouble with the signals and all trains I could have caught were messed up.

I decided to ride home – it was a nice evening, after all. I decided to hit the canal near Lancaster Circus, but heading out of the centre I found the new segregated cycleway up the A3 to Perry Barr. It’s absolutely brilliant. I was so enamoured, I kept on it and rode home over Kingstanding.

It’s fast, largely well thought out, has it’s own traffic signals (with repeaters at bike eye level) and was really quite busy.

Some of the routes over major junctions are a bit tortuous, but it’s far better than I’d ever have imagined.

Sad to see it ends abruptly at Perry Barr, but I suppose with the junction being remodelled there it would be folly to continue it yet.

A fine thing, very pleasing to ride.

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#365daysofbiking Exorcising ghosts

July 7th – The sunset was the culmination of a glorious golden hour.

Birmingham and Aston shone and shimmered in the gathering dusk.

A train caught the sky and was golden: Britannia fought a pitched battle on the former hotel roof with the TV antennas. The skylines and canal spoke of quiet dignity, worship and daily life.

I spent many hours as a young man in these streets, on the canals and at this station. The ghosts that haunt me here are not scary, or hostile, but warm and comfortable like enveloping sheets of memory.

My place, my past, present and future.

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#365daysofbiking Back in the city

March 2nd – After the bike jumble, the traditional ride into Birmingham on the canal for tea, cake and to marvel at the the art and history.

The towpath quality has improved vastly since last year, the architecture, including the wonderful view of St. Chad’s Cathedral, newly liberated by the demolition of the insulation factory, was stunning near Snow Hill. And oh, the faded grandeur of those imperious Birmingham pubs.

Pleased to see Bill Drummond has a new message for Birmingham, and the lovely calm of Brookvale Park and Witton Lakes was as wonderful as ever.

I returned a way I haven’t been for quite a few years – up the canal through Tyburn and Minworth to Middleton. Formerly the towpath through Minworth was dreadful in the winter, but now the bad stretch is limited to about a mile or so, and is ridable on a decently stout bike.

One shock though: The formerly monolithic and impressive Cincinnati works – empty and subject of great development promises by Urban Splash – has gone, including it’s iconic entry bridge over the canal. It’s now a perfectly decent but dull housing estate, so the Urban Splash dream was hot air. The bridge has gone Now only dull units remain to the east to say this huge factory ever existed.


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#365daysofbiking Beautifully forged


January 21st – Heading out for a meeting in Birmingham, I had a little extra time in the morning, so I rode to the station via the backlanes – taking me past Little Aston Forge.

The precarious hairpin bend and hump bridge here are a remarkable feature of the lane, and I’m surprised there are not more accidents.

The cottage and countryside here are beautiful though, I must say.

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February 8th – I’ve not ridden through Little Aston Forge for ages – and this curious hairpin over the Footherley Brook on the plain between Stonnall and Little Aston hasn’t changed a bit.

The brook still flows noisily, and those cottages still sit at an oblique, alarming angle to the lane on a series of nail-biting bends around them and over the hump bridge. 

This is aways a good spot for early spring flowers in the hedgerows of the copse-lined lane, and this evening didn’t disappoint – just as the light was dying, a beautiful patch of wild snowdrops to compliment a pretty decent sunset.

Must start coming this way more often again.

February 1st – On my way back, the weather was more patchy, but changing trains at Aston midday, I thought of the great genius that was Nuala Hussey’s Stranded in Stechford (she lived for a while near the station) and of the incongruity of the Britannia Hotel, still with the great lady resplendent, enthroned on the roof, but no longer atop a hotel with dreams of majesty but a backstreet cafe.

Aston has changed since I was a teenager, exploring this place and the love I found near here. We drank in pubs long closed, and laughed and dreamed and made friends and argued and loved. We still do most of those things, of course, but Aston, like many places of my youth, is lost to me now. All of the faces I knew here except one have gone as I grow old, either lost, separated or drifted apart, but whenever I stand on these platforms, high above the sprawling morass below, I remember those days and it makes me sad.

Although I’m sad for the people I no longer see, I’m most sad for lost sense of belonging, and for my youth. But all through my life I’ve passed through places like this, made them mine for a while, then life took me to other places, with different horizons, and life moved on.

Aston is just a wind-blown, suburban and somewhat desolate railway station; two platforms and a junction. But there are ghosts here. And they haunt me so.

I felt old. But like my ghost, my spirit remains. 

The train came, I hauled my bike onto it and I sat down.

‘Are you OK?’ asked a lady in the opposite seat.

Caught unaware, I wiped my eyes. ‘Just the wind I think’ I said, ineffectually.

‘It’s getting colder’ she replied. And offered me a tissue.

September 17th – I left at lunchtime and headed to Wolverhampton, hopping on to the canal at Wednesfield, then heading to Tipton at Horseley Junction. I was going to Tipton Canal Festival, a do I’d heard great things about but never been to. 

Despite the periodic rain, there was bright sunshine too and it was indeed a great event – more on my main blog later in the week. From Tipton, I meandered on the old line into Birmingham via the Toll House Loop, past the M5 viaduct with it’s maze of fascinating scaffolding and derelict dignity of Chance Glassworks.

The cats stayed out until the rain came, and the weather worsened as I approached Birmingham. The peculiarly black, wet heron summed up the feeling of the waterfront at Gas Street perfectly. Is it common for herons to be so black?

By the time I reached Aston the light was failing, the pavers on the towpath were treacherously slippery and the rain was penetrating, so I hopped on a train to Shenstone.

A great ride, despite the weather, that reminded me of why I love Birmingham and the Black Country.

May 29th – A dreadful day, and an awful ride.

Being bank holiday, I wanted to get out, and checking the forecast, convinced myself that the heavy showers predicted wouldn’t come to much. I needed some bits for the bike, so decided to ride into Birmingham along the Stockland Green/Brookvale route and on to the canal, then ride back.

The rain started as I left home and didn’t stop. I spent 45 minutes waiting for a break in the rain in a subway under the m6 at Witton. I was soaked to the skin, my feet were wet and I was miserable.

Arriving in Birmingham the rain eased off a little, I got what I came for and had a coffee and something to eat. I decided to get the train back to Shenstone as the rain was coming on again.

It’s a long time since I’ve seen such a bank holiday washout. I really felt for anyone who’d organised an event. A wet, soaking and sodden afternoon.