Archive for the ‘Birmingham’ Category

A Visit to Birmingham

Near Brindley Place and the old Gas Street basin

In early December we went to Birmingham for a few nights. In recent years we’ve had a short winter holiday instead of giving each other Christmas presents; this year we mixed that with the opportunity for a family get-together and lunch. We stayed in central Birmingham – that’s an easy place for family members living in the midlands to get to.

We stayed at Hotel Indigo in The Cube, a modern building close to Brindley Place. That in turn is a restored/converted canal area, close to the former Gas Street Basin. This used to be the heart of the Birmingham narrowboat canal ring, about three-quarters of a mile from the city centre (New Street/High Street area). Once it was very industrial, with lots of small-scale factories and warehouses alongside the canal; then as the canals fell out of use it became increasingly derelict; but today it’s an entertainment/restaurant hub. Some of the buildings are converted/restored old buildings, others are new developments. It’s a busy and attractive area.

One afternoon during our stay we went for a walk along the canals. This turned out to take the best part of two hours. We walked through the former Gas Street Basin, continued along the canal through the heart of Brindley Place, and then turned right onto the Birmingham and Faiseley canal, eventually ending up near Digbeth. This canal runs around central Birmingham, first just to the north of the city centre and then to its east. The industrial architecture on view is impressive. Along one stretch the canal drops through a series of locks, some of which are effectively underneath buildings overhead. Some of these look like restored former industrial buildings, while others look as if they are new builds, both commercial and residential. It’s extraordinary to think that the canal, which just 30 or 40 years ago was decried as an eyesore and a waste of space and resource, is now regarded as a desirable thing to have in the basement of your development, or at the least alongside it!

I think that what Birmingham has done with its industrial heritage is interesting and worthwhile. Better to find a use of the old facilities and preserve/maintain them, than destroy them. Well done Birmingham.

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