In case you weren’t aware, the second city of England is blessed with more miles of canals than Venice. Incredibly it used to have around 160 miles that were navigable, but currently has ‘only’ 100. I’m betting the majority of folks, when asked what Birmingham is famous for, wouldn’t initially say ‘canals’.
Check out Jim Shead’s amazing website on his BCN page for a whole heap of history and publications on the BCN if you want to know more.
I’ve lived in and around the Birmingham area for a large proportion of my 54 years. From 1964 to 1972 we lived in Walmley, when it was a small but growing village. The Junior school was in an amazing old building in the heart of the community, that’s now sadly been demolished to make room for a large doctor’s surgery.
We subsequently moved right into the heart of Sutton Coldfield, where I remained until 1978 when I left to do my general nurse training in Kidderminster. I should actually say The Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield (as an aside I did my history ‘O’Level project on that very subject), as we were granted a Royal Charter by King Henry VIII. His Royal Highness is reputed to have drank and slept overnight at The Three Tuns, a historic establishment reputedly dating back to the 16th century. During that period, he granted the status of ‘Royal Town‘, which was cruelly stripped from the title when we were ‘forced’ to join Birmingham some years ago, having previously enjoyed being a part of Warwickshire.
The good King Henry was extremely generous, and in 1528 bequeathed permission for any Suttonian to graze their cattle in Sutton Park, a vast expanse of natural and mostly unspoilt or built upon parkland, now a designated National Nature Reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest, in the centre of the town.
It won’t surprise you to hear I never did have any cows to roam freely in the park. I did enjoy many happy hours there walking, going to the annual Sutton Carnival, eating in the cafés and restaurants, and generally adored finding a haven of peace amongst the claustrophobia I frequently felt living in a city. It’s no wonder I chose to move to New Zealand, where I could experience that feeling daily whilst at home or anywhere I roamed.
It’s said that Oliver Cromwell and Shakespeare frequented the The Three Tuns establishment too, and it’s now managed and run by two brothers (Paul and David Raworth) who I used to go to Grammar School with. Oh goodness, I’d forgotten how much history there is in my old home town …
Anyway, I digress.
Back to Barry’s photography.
We moored for the evening in Gas Street Basin, where we’ve stayed overnight on four previous occasions. There’s only two 24 hour spots there, and they were both available despite the canal being fairly busy. We suspect many people don’t even know there’s moorings there.
The next picture post will be the 13 fabulous Farmers Bridge Locks, which pass underneath a number of buildings and provide amazing opportunities for Barry’s camera lens …