Thursday, 31 January 2013

Big Brum Buz Tour!

During Artsfest 2012, my friend and I decided to go on the open top Buz!

It was a lovely, sunny (hot!) day – yes we did have sun last year – and the top deck of the bus was full. We set off from outside the Council House and began our tour! I was sat near the back of the bus so most of the pictures feature backs-of-heads, and any attempt at getting pictures have buildings have resulted in photos of the top storeys only.

We went along Waterloo Street and Newhall Street first – the architecture around here is amazing! I need to spend more time looking up in this City.

A little while later, we passed a building with a pelican on the top of it! The man doing the commentary on the bus said that the pelican was placed here so the delivery boys would know which building to go to – hardly anyone could read, so buildings had different identifying features on them! Very clever.

After passing through the Jewellery Quarter, we headed down towards Edgbaston via Broad Street. 

We went down the Hagley Road and saw J.R.R Tolkiens house!

On the way back into the City, we passed a delightful building just off Camp Hill Middleway – The internet tells me it is called Stratford House (because it is on Stratford Road), and it was built in 1601! You can read a bit more about it here – I hope to go back and get some better photos of it sooner rather than later!

We then came back in Birmingham via Deritend and Digbeth, where we saw even more examples of grand architecture!

I’d recommend the Big Brum Buz tour if you’re interested in the history of Birmingham – it only took about an hour so it’s not very in-depth information, but it’s enough for you to want to dig and find out more. It’s also a good whip around the city for finding new places to explore, or places to photograph. All in all it was a good way to spend some time, especially with decent weather – but watch out for the low trees!

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Local Explorer Walk - Rea Valley Circular

I walked this route on a lovely, sunny, freezing cold day in December, following a route in the Local Explorer Walks booklet. I started at Fairfax shops, but the route can be started anywhere. The booklet states that the walk is 13km (8 miles) long, but after walking it and tracking it with Endomondo, and then working it out on Google Earth, I can confirm it is a little over 5 miles long, which is 8km. Ish. (Therefore I assume the leaflet has a typo!)

The Fairfax area is a relatively new area of Birmingham – this area was still farmland in the 1940s – and it is mainly low rise flats with some blocks. There is a row of shops, which is where I started the walk. They also sell white Kit Kat chunkys, so it’s worth knowing ;-)

From Fairfax shops, I followed the route North, simply because it was going away from the sun and it would be more pleasant. Follow the road towards the pub, then turn right. This road takes you towards the Fordrough. Head up here towards West Heath Park.


You will then pass through the Fairway – this area is also covered on the previous LEW I did, though this time I missed out Merecroft Pool due to recent weather conditions, and I walked down the road towards Wychall Lane, and then onto King’s Norton Nature Reserve.

If you have been following this blog from the start you will recognise this part of the route. Follow the Rea through King’s Norton Nature Reserve, past Wychall Reservoir and up the back of Staple Lodge Road. You will emerge onto Middlemore Road, near Northfield Railway Station. You now want to follow the route of the railway line – another side note, the chippy on the corner here does a hog roast every Saturday – down Station Road. Go under the railway bridge and then immediately cross the road. There is a small gate on the left – this takes you along a river path called the Mill Walk, which (incidentally) was one of my first posts on the blog! There is a small flight of steps here, or you could carry on up the road to bypass these. Just before the steps is a notice board about the mill that once stood here. Apparently there are remains of the building in all the undergrowth but I’ve never seen it!

This is a 4-way traffic light controlled junction with no proper crossings for pedestrians. Take care crossing here!

This part of the walk is pretty much straight along the river now. Take care when crossing near the ford, and continue walking towards the new estate. This part of the path is now the Daffodil Path, and will take you to Tessall Lane.

Follow the road around to the left and up alongside Longbridge railway station. At the junction turn left, and walk up Longbridge Lane. Keep heading in this direction until you pass a park on the left – you’re nearly at the end!

 Follow the road to the left, and this will lead you to a path, which in turn leads you back to Fairfax shops and the lovely chippy! (What! You need a reward after that walk..)

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Northfield Railway Station

Northfield railway station gets a blog post all of its own because I think it’s rather spectacular. It has 4 platforms, but only two are used. It has bricked up subways (that most people don’t know exist) and has completely changed in the ~140years it’s been here.

When the station first opened in the late 1800s, the passenger trains originally used the central platform, with the outer tracks being used for freight. Platforms one and four didn’t exist then! Access to the central platform was gained via the subway under the bridge on West Heath Road (near the petrol station) – you can still see the bricked and boarded up holes today (the other is in the subway at the ticket office end). At the time, Northfield wasn’t part of Birmingham, so the railways brought people, jobs and goods to the rural areas, and subsequently modern Northfield built up around this.

The passenger subway at the ticket office end is now the only subway here, and it has recently (late 2012) had a refurb – lifts have been installed, more lighting, steps and hand rails. There are also two strips of neon green ‘stuff’ on the floor. One of these patches covers the numbers ‘1892’.  My brother (who is a train geek) and I have decided that this date marks the opening of the subway, as the station as a whole was already open for a while before this.

I love looking at old pictures of this area and seeing how little it has changed – the road layouts are pretty much the same, and you can really imagine what the area was like one hundred years ago. Some old photos of the station can be seen here and here.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Brummie’s Guide End of Year Summary!

Hello Everyone!

Looks like we all survived the apocalypse eh? Well done us :-)

I thought I would take some time to write a blog post about the blog, to restate its aims and intentions, to share some stats, to give my thoughts and thanks and all that, and then to maybe write a bit about the future of the blog.

The support, feedback, comments, tweets and words in person have been overwhelming – I never thought I would get this response. It really was just an idea that I just fancied doing out my own interest, to pursue my own interests in my local area in South Birmingham and to increase my own knowledge of the history of the area. I started blogging it purely so it was stored away somewhere, but secretly hoping someone would stumble upon it and make it go viral. I mentioned it to a few people and they gave their thoughts on it; my mother was and still is a massive supporter of the blog and she often appears in my bedroom to give me titbits of information and suggest new places for me to visit. Pete Ashton also, for giving me the e-nudge via twitter to just go for it – look what you started.

I love this City, I love all the secrets and I love uncovering them. There’s so much more to this place than most people know, and if I can begin to make a dent in showing off this other side to Birmingham, then I will try my best. The aim of this blog was and still is to show off what else there is here aside from the usual tourist attractions and shopping plazas. I hope this blog has inspired some of you to take a walk along the river, or to explore the towpaths of the canal network. Despite writing over 70 blog posts, I’ve only covered a small percentage of what there is to do here. I’ve only really visited 4 wards in South Birmingham and even they have more to be written about. I realise that there’s so much for me to cover, and I’m sure some of you sit at home wondering why I haven’t been to x place or the other – I’m only one person, and the weather hasn’t exactly been great photo taking weather. I would be out all day every day if I had the weather (and boots that didn’t blister my toes!) – but I am getting there. I want to blog about everything! I want to explore everywhere! I want to know everything there is to know about this City and to share it and show it off to the world.

This year, the blog may slow down, and may even stop for a short while over the summer – I took a leave of absence from my undergraduate degree last spring, and now the time has come for me to go back and start attempt number two at getting a degree, and this will have to come first. I have a list of articles ready to be written and another list of places to explore, so when I get a free moment I will get them all written up. If things seem sporadic, they probably are! In the summer I will be off gallivanting somewhere in the British Isles in the name of geological mapping for my dissertation. I will try (I am intending to!) get some blog posts written and auto-scheduled to go live while I am away, but we’ll wait and see how that one turns out.

There has been a bit of a blog silence for the past month or so – I didn’t realise/knew but completely forgot about the photo limit on blogger, and it seems I have hit it. I dislike blog posts without pictures, so until I can pay to upgrade (which will hopefully be soon – c’mon payday!), there will be no posts. I am working on a few though at the moment which require more background research, and they’re coming along nicely.

So! I said I would mention some stats. They’re not really that impressive, but I think for a little blog that I did for my own pleasure it’s something to be proud of.
  • ~7000 blog views since I started it, which was at the end of May 2012. So that’s 1000 views a month for seven months? Well done to you guys, and thank you for returning whenever I post a new write-up! (I realise lots of these are probably me checking the formatting, typos, pictures etc.)
  • I also have 159 followers on Twitter, which isn’t bad really considering its main use is to tweet links to the blog posts!
  • Four of my posts have also had over 200 views! They are TheCoat of Arms, King’s Norton Railway Bridge, the guest post from Rhys, Exploring Birmingham’s Heritage and Old Joe.

I’m not entirely sure how a lot of you find the blog – is it word of mouth? Do you google it? Did you get talking to me at Stirchley Stores and I couldn’t shut up about it? Whatever way you come across my blog, I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have – I don’t think I would keep writing if the figures had dropped off, so please keep coming back!

I hope that this year I will be able to continue this blog to the best of my ability and keep up with regular posting. I hope you all keep coming back and reading and sharing and telling your friends and family about it. I hope I keep discovering new places to visit and write about! Though I think for a City such as this, this blog will never run dry. It’s been good fun writing it, and it’s also been really good therapy for me in terms of my illness that made me drop out of uni. It’s given me a reason to get out and explore, and to write. It’s been a productive use of my time! It’s also helped me reconnect with parts of Birmingham I had neglected, mainly the river. I spent so much time playing down by the river when I was younger, or paddling in it in wellies at the ford, or on bike rides with my brother, or causing trouble as a teenager in the fields.

That’s enough ramble – thanks to everyone for the last seven months! And here’s to 2013!