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.
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.
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.