Jo’s Monday walk : City of Birmingham (24 hours in Brum)

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Britain’s second largest city, Birmingham, stormed my senses from the moment I first saw it.  Approaching by coach from the north, I gazed in horror at the piles of rubble and the cranes, skulking behind billboards.  In these testing times, it felt not a little like the scene of a recent disaster. But I needn’t have worried.  Apparently Birmingham is constantly reinventing itself, and I very much liked where my footsteps led me.

Frugality being one of my traits, I was staying a little off the beaten track.  As I raised my camera to take a shot of some Lemonade Fizzballs in a shop window, I was unaware that I was colliding with the city’s industrial past.  The Back to Backs on Hurst St. are all that is left of the cheap housing, swiftly erected to cope with the boom times of the Industrial Revolution.  Every imaginable type of industry thrived in Birmingham at that time.  James Watt, Matthew Boulton and William Murdoch, the luminaries in my lead photo, were pioneers and members of the Lunar Society- a melting-pot of scientific and industrial ideas.  I hesitate to admit that ‘rag rugs’ are part of my childhood memories.

Directly opposite, ‘The Old Fox Theatre Bar’ gave me a warm welcome, as it waited for customers from The Hippodrome Theatre.  The area adjoins Chinatown.  Noodle bars galore and a feast of eating opportunities.  The following morning was not quite so welcoming, and I returned to the city in a fine drizzle. Still, I had a smile on my face, for I was going to be Meeting Gilly.  The couple of hours till her arrival time were not to be wasted, and I set off in a clockwise direction.  The landmark buildings The Mailbox and The Cube were on my agenda.

Cheerful lanterns lit the path beneath the subway, then I dripped my way up The Mailbox steps.  What a revelation!

The Mailbox is a combination of art gallery and shopping complex, within the structure of Brum’s old postal sorting office.  I was in need of a little warmth and comfort, and the tulip-shaped chairs of the Bellini & Espresso Bar were pure invitation.

Just as I was settling in to a mouthful of luxury, the alarm bells began to ring and a stern voice announced that an investigation was taking place. Evacuation might soon be called for!  Fortunately, nothing further occurred, but just for a moment…

All too soon I was back on the streets, if anything, even damper than before.  Well, if I was going to be wet, I might as well head for the canals. Boats always boost my mood.  As I turned the corner to The Cube,  I glimpsed water.  Closely followed by soggy boats and dripping padlocks!

You might recollect that this pub in Gas Street Basin is where, later, I ate with Gilly.  The vegetarian menu looked promising, if a little damp!  As I looked back at The Cube, I thought I saw just a hint of sunlight.  Was I fooling myself?

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Back under the subway, I headed along Navigation St. in the direction of New Street Station.  This building had been beckoning to me for a closer look ever since my arrival in Birmingham.  A futuristic train shape, from a distance it intrigued.  Close quarters revealed a multitude of reflections.

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And THEN my eyes lit up.  Trams!  A source of much childish delight for me.  I studied their comings and goings for a few minutes, but it was almost time to go and meet my accomplice for the day.  The skies had brightened at last as I headed towards the coach station.  Just as I was consulting my map, looking for an elusive Mill Lane, a burst of sunny rain hit me.  Up went the brolly again, and I hopped onto the steps of a small, friendly-looking police station.  Seconds later, my phone rang.  ‘Where are you?’ a smiling voice asked.

Now I don’t know quite why, but a little voice inside my head was singing ‘if you want to know the way, ask a policeman!’  Well, why not?  In I went, and the police were every bit as friendly as their station looked.  They insisted on going online to find Mill Lane for me. By the time they had done so, my ray of sunshine had arrived.  Grinning from ear to ear.

Meeting Gilly tells the story of our day.  Linking arms we set off, first in search of refreshment, and then in the general direction of Birmingham Library.  A peep inside St. Martin in the Bullring was just enough to reveal the ravishing stained glass windows by local artist, Edward Burne-Jones. (Sorry- no photos allowed).  Bypassing The Bullring, reincarnated in style, and on into New Street, where we both delighted to find old style shopping arcades with beautiful ceilings.

So much to love about Brum!  By now I was starting to take the cranes and the billboards for granted.  I could forgive much in a city with a library like this one.  I wish I’d had time for the Secret Garden on the 7th floor and more than just a glimpse at the Shakespeare Memorial Room.

I guess what I’m saying is that 24 hours in Brum is not enough!  I still need to know more about Brindley Place and the sensory clock. And we never did manage to fit in St. Philip’s Cathedral with it’s Burne-Jones stained glass masterpieces.  Nor even try Fumo’s restaurant, recommended by my good friend Richard (A Bit of Culture) and the Rough Guide.

Get yourself a city map and take a walking tour.  You won’t regret it!  And now, for goodness sake, where’s the coffee?

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Thank you so much everybody, for putting up with me and my rambles.  I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Birmingham with Gilly.  If you have a walk you’d like to share, you can join me anytime.  The details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page, or just click on the logo. And now the best bit- some wonderful shares!

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First past the post again this week!  Drake’s lovely ‘home’ island :

Same style, but different

I missed one last week so humble apologies to Liesbet in Massachusetts :

(Super)Natural Wonders around us

Becky made me smile with some wonderful memories of Lisbon (and a bit of humph-ing!)

It’s a Monday so it must be time for a walk

And from the Azores… be still my beating heart!  Thanks, Susan :

Walking and Walking and Walking in Ponta Delgada, Portugal

Prepare for a lot of knowledge about the Hurons!  Jackie’s on the case :

Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons

Something a little different from BiTi this week :

Let’s hike the Stanford Dish Loop Trail

And Geoff is ambling along a river bank, being smug.  With Dog, of course!

Summer strolls#walking#suffolk

Violet Sky has found the nicest garden to match that nice town.  Have a wander!

A nice garden in a nice town

Cathy’s latest is huge!  Check out the Orangery :

Philadelphia’s Longwood Gardens

Jaspa’s building up a sweat in among some beautiful Mayan ruins :

Climbing an Ancient Mayan Pyramid at Coba, Mexico

And cooling down by the water in a lovely Cornish village.  Different, huh?

Boscastle Harbour, Cornwall, 12 years after the Floods 

One of the loveliest walks it has ever been my privilege to feature.  Meg, you’re a love!

Vignettes from a morning walk, 5

What a corker from Corey!  Jude, you’ll love this one :

Westchester’s Hidden Gem : Untermyer Park and Gardens

Carol in Cairns!  Has a good sound to it, don’t you think?

Riding The Waves

And an encore from Badfish!  Only now he’s playing at Knight’s Templar in a sublime setting :

Another Side of Malta : Day One

Sorry if I’ve walked you to exhaustion this week.  I promise to be kinder next Monday.  Have a great week and take good care of yourselves.

P.S I just popped over to Monday Escapes and it reminded me to say ‘White Rabbit’!

 

 

159 comments

  1. What an interesting walk! Birmingham has not been one of my favourite cities but I do like old time industrial charm so perhaps it is worth a visit?

  2. What a fabulous tour Jo! This time I enjoyed your narrative even more than your delightful images. Would never have thought to include Birmingham in an English itinerary, but it seems like a must do now 🙂

    1. I was very taken with the Brummies, Madhu. It’s all thanks to Gilly, because it’s not somewhere that would have sprung readily to mind, but I can recommend it 🙂 🙂

  3. Good post Jo. I remember Birmingham as a grimy, concrete, unwelcoming sort of place but I went there last year and was bowled over. Shame about those love locks – I hate love locks – graffiti in my opinion!

    1. I had fairly low expectations, Andrew, but I was very impressed (apart from the demolition 🙂 ). Thanks for reading this. I just wanted your verdict. Busy finishing off tomorrow’s walk so I’ll come and stroll around yours tomorrow.

  4. Ah you’ve reminded me that I haven’t been to Birmingham for too long! I used to live not too far away and I loved it. I’m such a history geek, especially fascinated by the industrial revolution etc so find it an amazing place. I really need to visit the library and the the new New St station! #MondayEscapes

  5. Hi, Jo. I was really excited to find your blog through Liesbet on Roaming About because (1) I love walking and (2) my husband, who’s from NE Yorkshire, and I plan to move back to England to travel the canals in a narrowboat in the next year or so and your walks are a great way for me to become acquainted with our future cruising grounds. I have a walk for you that I just posted. It’s through the downtown area of what’s now a ghost town in Ocean Falls, British Columbia. I hope you enjoy it! http://www.svcambria.com/2016/08/a-walk-on-wild-side-downtown-ocean-falls.html

    Cheers,
    Stephanie @ SV CAMBRIA

  6. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this, and looking at your photos.
    I think you’ve seen more of Birmingham in a day than I’ve seen in years, and I only live 15 miles away.
    Last time I visited, it was full of cranes and billboards, but they were in the middle of a full revamp of New Street Station.
    I do love the canal network (https://vicshill.wordpress.com/2012/02/19/289/), which is where I always seem to end up when I visit, though a few years ago we did go to the Jewellery Quarter, which I blogged about:
    https://vicshill.wordpress.com/2012/10/13/the-jewels-of-birmingham/

    1. Hi Vicky! Lovely to have you here 🙂 Kate mentioned you the other day (on the Meeting Giily post) and I wondered if you’d started blogging again. Time slips by, doesn’t it? I’m just back from a riverside walk at Ruswarp, near Whitby, and we got drowned in the last couple of hundred yards 🙂 🙂 Happy days! I’ll pop over yours when I’ve caught up with comments.

      1. I haven’t blogged for months, I just can’t seem to get back into it 😏
        I do pop into WP occasionally though, and if a title draws me in I’ll have a read.
        You’re doing well recently, what with Spanish City and Birmingham 😉

      2. I’ve done a lot of Yorkshire gardens this year, some still to post. I do sometimes think I should get out of WP and do something better with my life, but so far… 🙂 🙂

  7. Thank you for taking us to Birmingham for a walk. I had a colleague who came from Birmingham. Your tour reminded me of sweet Peter. 🙂

  8. My favorite is the pink tram! I love trams and I love pink, so it works for me. Birmingham looks like a pretty cool place to visit. Next time I am in the UK. Glad that your ‘Alarm/Investigation in the cafe did not turn into an evacuation or anything more serious. Off to read your post on meeting Gilly now.

    1. I have loads of shots of the pink trams. 🙂 I have a bit of a thing for them, too, Lisa. Lovely to have you around. You must be back in smooth waters for a little while?

  9. what an amazing walk, Jo! your photos speak highly of Birmingham. a wonderful surprise when your enter the non-descript Mail Box. I think I will love it there. Jo, thank you for taking us to this lovely city. 🙂

    1. I think most people could find something there to like, LolaWi. 🙂 Funny, my son is there this week, to take an exam. He has a free day tomorrow and was wondering what to do. My husband said ‘read your mother’s blog!’ 🙂 🙂

  10. You know, I don’t think Ive ever been to Birmingham. I don’t think I’ve been that far north. Did get to Jane Austin’s house. Love the photos, love the fizzballs…never had one of those either. And the trams are really pretty! I hear you about the coffee! Who doesn’t need a coffee after a hike like that?

    1. Oh no! Jane Austen’s house? I hate when this happens and I miss something. You realise I’ll have to sit on that pesky Megabus all the way back there again now? Ah well- it’ll give me time to see the stained glass in the cathedral. Always a bright side 🙂 🙂

  11. Amazing walk, so inspiring – I just know nothing about Birmingham, except ihe city was the home of one of my favorite bands – The Moody Blues – really enjoyed the walk… 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Drake! I love them too 🙂 🙂 Such a distinctive sound. You could never mistake them. This is a beautiful video. Thank you very much for making the time to source this for me. It’s a lovely share. Hope the week is going well?

  12. Great post Jo and some very interesting insights. You’re right: Brum is very good at reinventing itself. I was born 15 miles away, and in the 1960s, Birmingham, and especially the area around the Bull Ring, was dark, dismal and depressing. I really must return. I wouldn’t recognize it.

  13. Jo your eloquent description of the city and lovely photos definitely show that one shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover. Wonderful to a city re-inventing itself.

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