BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

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

Posts tagged ‘Birmingham’

#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.


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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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#365daysofbiking Never say never again:

December 19th – Recovery, and finally getting things done. Catching up with stuff, then Christmas shopping in Brum with good companions.

Every year I say I won’t do the Christmas Market again, but every year I do and I always fall for the lights, the pricey but tasty food and the atmosphere.

Birmingham is still changing as it has been since I first came here 40 years ago. I love this city. I  adore it’s quirks and festive foibles.

A great evening rounded off with excellent saag paneer and lamb tikka on the Soho Road.

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#365daysofbiking Stationary traveller:

November 28th – Birmingham New Street, not long after dawn on a grey, wet, miserable winter morning.

Despite it’s faults, despite it’s awful turd-polishing in the Grand Central fiasco, despite it’s continual propensity to be host to disappointment and frustration, this subterranean station is in my heart and soul, and feels like home.

The lights, the people, even, no – especially the steel horse.

I love this city. I love this place. With all my heart. But often, it feels unrequited.

#365daysofbiking Electric night:

November 26th – A quick shot passing through New Street station in the evening.

The skyline from here, considering how low you are from street level, is remarkable, and I love the way the machinery, lights, signals and surfaces mix.

A real late night feelings shot.

#365daysofbiking The sound of music:

November 20th – This is the coolest bloke I’ve ever seen on a commuter train. 

Bar none. 

We were sharing the bike space on a Birmingham commuter service. He’s on an urban flat bar; partially consumed coffee in the cup holder. He clearly works in something musical as he’s playing a small, portable electronic keyboard of the musical variety, and listening on headphones whilst reading sheet music.

He was playing the keyboard in total silence to the outside world, pensively and in the considered way someone might type an email on a laptop.

I’m not sure if he was learning music, marking it or writing it, but I have to say, you are a seriously cool man. Fascinating.

#365daysofbiking Warm rain and what lies beneath:

September 22nd – Thanks to a reminder from the most excellent Stymaster, I got to attend the Tipton Canal and Community Festival, all be it on a really wet, rainy dray. The weather notwithstanding, I had an excellent time, as can be seen on my main blog here.

Having ridden to Tipton from home in the rain, I decided to carry on down the canal into Birmingham following the old mainline into Birmingham.

This time of year, the Galton Cutting is gorgeous, and it’ll be even better when the leaves really start to turn.

The huge maze of scaffold under the M5 viaduct at Oldbury is hugely impressive from underneath, too. I wonder how many delayed, queueing motorists above know the complexity of what lies underneath them?

August 16th – Thankfully New Street is a rare delight these days, but on this grey and wet Thursday morning I wallowed in the damp brutalism of the concrete and metal, and the sounds of the people and traffic.

I spend many years now passing through this place, waiting or anticipating. It’s by turns grim, ugly, wonderful, fascinating and homely.

A real love-hate relationship.