BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

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

Posts tagged ‘Birmingham’

#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 A face as long as Livery Street

July 19th – I was in Birmingham for the afternoon on a grey, wet afternoon. The riding wasn’t great but the city was as charming as ever.

On days like this you can really see the origins of the local saying ‘You’ve a face as long as Livery Street!’ – you’d never know it was cut in two by Great Charles Street Queensway and actually traversing the full street is quite a challenge.

I’m also amazed by the transition of the failed fountain ‘The floozy in the jacuzzi’ in Victoria Square into a beautiful flower bed. Civic fountains never seem to last long – Walsall’s and earlier Centenery Square water features are long dry, and this one continued to leak despite months of work to rectify it.

The lavender that grows there now, together with the other beautiful flowers are a credit to those that tend them and amazingly, the transition works beautifully.

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#365daysofbiking Route canal

July 12th – Wanting to ride the city canals the day before but unable to, I broke out of work, collected a mate and went for a spin down the Plants Brook/Newhall Valley and into Brum, returning via the Tame Valley.

The canals were as wonderful and peaceful as ever, and the wildflowers – those that have escaped the fanatical dedication to mowing the Canal and River Trust seems to have – are looking fabulous.

As was the Gas Street black cat, disturbed from it’s slumbers by our happy chatter.

Summer is all about rides like this.

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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 What lies beneath

July 7th – It was indeed a better day. The sun was out, the wind had subsided as had the discomfort in my stomach.

I headed out on the canal to Wolverhampton, taking a slow but enjoyable potter down the mainline canal to Birmingham. From there to Aston, where I left the canal and got on a train back to Shenstone.

I noted the Dudley Tourist Board had been working hard to improve it’s customer service at Coseley Tunnel, where I doubt I’ll ever negotiate the southern portal steps with a bike again, although it was certainly an adventure.

Calling at the heavily secured, ghostly Rattlechain Pool, the lagoon concealing many thousands of tonnes of the worst toxic waste was a strange experience: It looks so serene and peaceful, yet the pool – itself just a cap to the material beneath, separated by a thick impermeable skin – is securely fenced and covered by many cameras.

It’s a ghostly and controversial place.

Under the M5 viaduct and Telford’s magnificent Engine Arm aqueduct, the canal is a peaceful, gentle and serene refuge from the mad urbanity above, and the street art is, as ever, fascinating.

Passing on the canal down the Snow Hill flight, I see the view is a matter of opinion. But why? What’s that all about?

A great restorative ride.

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#365daysofbiking Mallow moments

July 5th – Spotted just in the shadow of Spaghetti Junction on the canal, a glorious lavatera or mallow. This shrub grows here every year completely untended by humans and is always absolutely gorgeous.

I still find it stunning that such beauty can be found in such urban spaces.

A true wonder of nature, and good to see it’s still in rude health!

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#365daysofbiking Subterranean sunny station blue

March 28th – Always nice to get a glimpse of blue, sunny sky from the dark platforms at New Street Station in Birmingham.

Today I was waiting for a connection early, and although there were loads of trains, there weren’t seemingly too many people around. I killed time with a snack, and peered up out of the tangle of steel, concrete, wires and machinery to the surrounding architecture – always fascinating, always in transition.

And then beyond that to a blue sky – and even in this urban morass devoid of anything natural – the promise of a beautiful, sun-dappled spring.

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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.

Sad.

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#365daysofbiking Oddly empty

February 5th – Passing through Birmingham New Street Station on my way home, it was rush hour and the place was rammed, as usual.

Being a cyclist, I tend to hang out ant the periphery of the crowd, better to not get in the way.

I looked to my right as the train came in from my left, and realised that at peak time, the station had nobody visible and all the signals were on red.

A few seconds later, people appeared and broke the spell…

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#365daysofbiking Hanging around

December 19th – Spotted high above the street, steel erectors chat and dangle whilst working on the new Primark in Birmingham, seemingly oblivious to life below, and completely unaware of the fear such feats inspire in many of their audience.

The new store is what used to be the Pavillions shopping mall, and the conversion symbolises the malaise in these 80s temples to consumerism – so far Birminham has lost 4 – The Pavillions, City Plaza, Paradise Forum and Fletchers Walk. I find this shift in retail thinking interesting.

The aerial daredevils had safety gear, and were confident and clearly competent. But the lad dangling from the sliding support in the C channel: Looking at how that’s fixed, that’s a lot of confidence in someone else’s mechanical engineering skills.

My respect and best wishes to them. I respect anyone who can work at heights.

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