BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

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

Posts tagged ‘Birmingham’

#365daysofbiking Hard days

Monday January 18th 2021 – I’d had to go a long way for work. It was tough. I left early and called in to Birmingham on my way back to collect my bike which had been left in safe keeping for my return at a nearby work site, the better to avoid commuter trains.

It was around 6pm, and the city I’ve always loved, my home, my heart – was dead. After a day of travelling, empty stations, closed cafes and lonely trains, a deserted, almost post-apocalyptic Birmingham was very nearly the straw that broke me.

There were people about. People who were fearful of contact and closeness of others – understandably. I was like that too. Masked, hostile people.

Trams and buses swept past, nearly empty each one.

But then I stopped, and I looked: The lights were the same, the wet sheen on the tarmac. This is still my place. It’s still beautiful – if now more eerily so in it’s sparseness – but it will return. The spirit lives on. We’re just in hard days.

I did what I always do – got on my bike and rode home.

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#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 That’s hall

Thursday, September 17th 2020 – I used to work around Tyseley a lot, and got to know it well – but when the company I work for stopped renting space out there, I rarely had cause to return.

I had business near the Warwick Road so passed through on a sunny day, rekindling memories – one in particular was the remarkable spectacle of Hay Hall, still buried unexpectedly between factories in the middle of an unremarkable industrial estate.

This 15th century, once moated hall is a historic, grade II listed building and in very good condition. Last time I was here around 2015 it was still in use as offices.

You can find out more about it by clicking here.

From signage outside, it seems to be currently vacant, sadly, but this lovely building is one of the reasons I love Brum – you find wonderfully unexpected things in the most mundane of places.

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#365daysofbiking Canal dreams:

May 24th – A beautiful, much less changeable day than the one before saw me saunter into Wolverhamton on the canal, then into Birmingham on the old line via Oldbury, Tipton and Smethwick.

With nothing open to dawdle at, Birmingham was a fleeting visit and I headed out towards Tyburn and Castle Bromwich on the canal, transferring to the Plants Brook/New Hall Valley cycleway to Sutton, then through Sutton Park home.

As usual, nature, and it’s relationship with urbanity was the star. Even if one particular rarity at Birmingham was made entirely out of Lego…

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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 Dead quiet

March 18th – Every day the streets are a little bit more dead. People are wary of each other. Public transport is emptier and emptier as worried people abandon their journeys and work from home.

I had to go to Telford.

I’m using sanitiser, obeying instructions. New Street and the train services I caught were eerily quiet.

This is a momentous time, yet it feels like it’s arriving by stealth. While everyone is… Out.

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#365daysofbiking Off the wall

February 19th – I don’t find myself in Digbeth much these days, but on my return from Sparkhill I had a quick spin around the Custard Factory and creative quarter to admire the street art and giggle at the hipsters.

When the Custard Factory opened as an arts Centre in the 90s it had a very slow start, but over the subsequent three decades it’s developed an inertia and community of it’s own, with businesses here selling vintage and fashion clothes, art, art materials and all kinds of stuff like that – punctuated by fashionable cafes and business places for startups.

The art here is indeed stunning and the atmosphere fascinating and engaging. It’s like a world within, encased as it is in industrial, backstreet Birmingham. The surrounding grit seems to reinforce the impression of a down at heel but humming artist’s quarter.

Another place I must return to when I have time.

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#365daysofbiking Old friends

February 19th – In Birmingham for a meeting, I found myself at the top of Moseley Road where it meets Highgate Middleway, and I noticed a building that’s stunning, yet I can’t recall every studying before.

It’s the Birmingham Friends Institute, and when I have more time I shall take a closer look. It’s still a busy community hub and centre, and is architecturally stunning in that busy, late Victorian Gothic urban style.

An unexpected find on a grey morning. Utterly charming.

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#365daysofbiking Things that happen when you’re not looking

February 14th – I haven’t been to Birmingham much this winter, and the first time passing though overground since Christmas in daylight made me stop in surprise at a building growing in the Colmore Row business area.

This office block has grown on the site of John Madin’s now demolished brutalist gem 103 Colmore Row: The former Birmingham Natwest Tower.

103 had passed its time and it is right, I guess that it has gone and change is happening. But I do miss it, it was a startlingly beautiful bit of brutalist design – a priapic monument to mammon.

The building replacing it is so far unknown to me: But it seems huge. In my head 103 fitted perfectly, in a forest of towers, but it clearly never was so, and the rising of a replacement is somehow shocking in size and imposition.

This is what change looks like. I’ll be interested to see this develop.

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#365daysofbiking – The ends of the day, beginning

February 12th – Really getting back into the swing now, but tiredness is a big issue, it has to be said.

Up at stupid o’clock to get a train to Leicester, not many were around New Street Station when I arrived before the commuting day was really kicking off.

I like this place empty, it’s atmospheric and oddly beautiful.

All I needed now was a train…

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