Tag Archives: Birmingham

In the pink

For a few weeks in April and May, the cherry trees in Bournville explode into a spectacular mass of pink blossom.  Although short-lived, it is a sight worth seeing and if you feel so inclined, photographing!  Each year, I imagine I amuse more than a few passers-by as I wander around the trees along the verge with my camera.  Each tree is a positive smorgasbord of opportunity. It is hard to know where to start.

Of course, when I get closer, the individual clumps of blossom resolve into flowers and then there is the question of finding an appealing composition.  What jumps out at me?  Although from a distance they may seem still, the individual branches of blossom are invariably bouncing around merrily in the slightest of breeze, causing a certain amount of frustration as I attempt to find an appealing arrangement of my favourite blossoms that doesn’t include a school, houses or road signs.

Of course, it takes just a short spell of the stormy weather so prevalent at this time of year to cover the ground in a confetti of pink petals in a strident reminder of transience at its best.

Exploring: Edgbaston Reservoir

Despite having lived in Birmingham some 14 years now, I have not previously found my way to Edgbaston Reservoir.  Given that I was visiting on one of the first really sunny Sundays of the year, I should have expected the car park to be busy!  The path around the reservoir’s edge promises to provide a level walk of just under 2 miles; ideal for an afternoon stroll. Having managed to grab a parking space, I turned right, towards the dam at the reservoir’s eastern edge.

Built by Thomas Telford in 1827, the reservoir still serves as a source of water for the Birmingham Canal Navigations, and indeed, the Icknield Port Loop curves close to the reservoir’s dam, serving the British Waterways maintenance depot.  Beyond the port, an industrial view of canal heritage and modern developments create an historically-varied vista across the city.   The skyline beyond the dam is dominated by the BT tower, with the new Library of Birmingham glistening in the afternoon sunshine and a local temple adding in to create the bizarre mixture of architecture I have come to expect of Birmingham.  According to Wikipedia, “Birmingham City Council has plans for the regeneration of the area, including moorings, 1,150 new homes, shops, park and playground, and a ten-storey hotel”, so this derelict remnant of canal history may soon be remodelled, to change the view below the dam yet again.

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Once having crossed to the far side of the reservoir, beyond the watersports club, there is a fabulous view across the open water to the city skyline beyond.  There is a real sense of space, something I find myself craving since moving to the UK’s second largest city.  To the east of the reservoir looms the imposing tower of Edgbaston Waterworks, thought to have influenced JRR Tolkien in writing The Lord of the Rings.  Close by is Perrott’s Folly, the second tower referred to in the trilogy.  This 29m tower was built in 1758, when it would have dominated the surrounding open countryside.   Today it is a Grade II listed building trapped in suburbia, reaching up for air and light as a woodland seeding might strive to survive.

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I found myself fascinated by the reflections in the water, particularly the effects created by the partially submerged trees along the water’s edge and the repetitive lines of railings that protected inlet channels supplying water to the reservoir.  A pair of swans idling around the western edge of the water caught the late afternoon light to make the water droplets glisten on brilliant white feathers.  Almost back the car park, I was transfixed by the smooth surface of the water and the plaintive cries of seagulls jostling for sandwich crusts.  In my imagination the distant reservoir dam became a harbour wall and I was transported to the coast, drinking in the splendour of the open sea in this landlocked city of the middle shires.

Yes, I think I shall have to visit again.  There is more yet to see in this little oasis.

Exploring Eastside: the Digbeth Branch Canal

In my wanderings in search of Curzon Street Station, I bumped into the Digbeth Branch Canal, a gap in a wall and a finger signpost showing me the way down to this hidden gem within Birmingham’s industrial heart.  This short stretch of canal ultimately became the focus of several more sorties into town.  The Digbeth Branch Canal was completed in 1799 and is just 1 ¼ miles long, with two tunnels and 6 locks.  It links the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal with the Grand Union Canal and still retains evidence of its industrial past.  From Fazeley Street near Digbeth Junction you can look down on the Typhoo basin, which as you might expect was used by the Typhoo Tea Company.

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Another interesting feature is the Warwick Bar Stop Lock which controlled the water of each canal companies where the two canals joined.  Adjacent to the lock is the Geest banana warehouse, now a Grade II listed building.  Walking along the Digbeth Branch Canal you soon arrive at the Curzon Street tunnel which brings the trains in and out of Birmingham.  Although the tunnel is wide the rumbling of the trains overhead is almost deafening.  You now begin to pass the Ashted locks.  I grew up in the East Midlands, where the canal locks were frequently built for 2 boats but here they are scarily deep and narrow, just wide enough for one boat, and there is often a ‘lay-by’ on the far side where another boat could wait.

On the far side of the canal, away from the towpath, nature is flourishing and I was pleased to see two brown hawker dragonflies darting around in the sunshine.  Sadly there is plenty of evidence of human life, in the form of less-than-biodegradable rubbish.  However, this in itself gives me pause for thought, musing on the nature of close encounters the scene has experienced in previous moments and who has been drawn to eat, drink and leave their unwanted wrappings here.

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Alongside the towpath are the walls of derelict buildings and through the gaps you can see nature busy at work reclaiming the land.  I found myself attracted to recording images of the various windows and doors that I saw along the route as well as the scenes that the open ones framed.  I can see this might be developing into a theme this autumn.