July 1st - There was a huge fire at a plastics recycling plant in Smethwick, on the Birmingham/Black Country border, caused by a Chinese lantern. As I went to work that morning, smokes, although several miles away, hung over Birmingham City Centre. From Tyseley, even further away, it had echoes of great disasters.
A terrible thing, and an environmental disaster. It really is time we banned the sale of these idiotic items.
November 20th - It’s all about stations this week. Off to Telford for a meeting early, then back to Tyseley. A day of delays, missed connections and grim, grey weather. I get to see a fair few of the local rail stations around Birmingham and the Black Country, and they’re a varied bunch, from the Victorian to the modern, from the beautiful to the pug-ugly. This one is Smethwick Galton Bridge, built adjacent to the imposing, remarkable iron bridge canal crossing it’s named after. Straddling two canals, the station sits at the crossing point of the Snow Hill former GWR line and the Stour Valley Line between Wolverhampton and Birmingham. Everywhere you look from this complex, multilevel edifice there is history, be it Chance Glassworks decaying nobly down the line, or the historic, grim 60s architecture of Smethwick.
A station so complex, I’m not sure how it was planned, in a place who’s history is far more convoluted. Not bad for a grey Tuesday waiting for a late train.
April 6th - I came out of Birmingham on cycle route 5, up the canal to Smethwick’s Galton Bridge, then up through the Sandwell Valley to Rushall Junction on the canal. Galton bridge is a historic, very high bridge over the mainline canal. Built in 1829 by Thomas Telford, it’s a classic of its kind and the views from it are fantastic. The canal here is lovely to cycle, and steeped in industrial history. Well worth a wander if you get chance. Travel writer and culvert crawler Nick Crane came this way in his book ‘Two Degrees West’ and pointed out that the arrangement of canals (2, side by side at different levels), Railways (2 different lines at different levels) and road bridges made the physical geography here so complex that he had to draw it out on paper. He’s right.
March 12th - Half at work, half not. Just doing a few bits and pieces that matter, then going my own way for a few days. Today, I popped to Darlaston for an hour or two at lunchtime, then headed off on the canal to Birmingham. The sun came out, and Birmingham and the Black Country performed beautifully. Anyone who says this place is ugly hasn’t looked. This is a gorgeous place, and I want to shout it from the rooftops. Up yours, London…
July 2nd - Gratuitous heron picture alert.
Herons abound on the canals of the Black Country right now. They used to be quite a rarity, but as fish populations increase, so do the numbers of birds that live on them. This chap was spotted in inner-city Smethwick. I love herons.
June 9th - A free afternoon and a bimble along the canals into Birmingham, via Great Barr and Saltley, a stop for tea at the wonderful @urbancoffeeco before heading home on the the waterways through Smethwick, West Brom and Darlaston. I love cycling the urban canals here - a 45 mile run around the best - and worst - our conurbation has to offer. The sheer variety of texture, surface, architecture and wildlife has to be experienced to be believed. The day was changeable with sun, overcast periods and light showers, and thankfully, little wind. A fine ride.
April 15th - peace beneath the city. After some business in Great Bridge, I hit the canals for a meeting mid-afternoon in Brum. Here, not far from Smethwick and the old Chance Glassworks, the bridges - old and new - are hugely impressive. Nice to see the trees greening up in the inner city, too.