I first started coming to Birmingham when I was 16 in college studying professional cookery. I would get up before dawn, grab my giant backpack with my chef whites in and drag my weary self to the train station. When I got out at New Street I would weave my way through masses of building works until I arrived at Summer Row. Back then, my impression of Birmingham was it was big, noisy and lacking in green spaces. Now however, I realise that all I needed to do was look at the city from a different angle.
The Birmingham of five years ago is completely different to Birmingham today. The massive road works outside University are completed as are most of the works around the route from New Street to Summer Row. Beautiful new restaurants and cafes now line that route and the whole city is much quieter and friendlier. But the main issue with the way I was experiencing the city before was I wasn’t venturing off the same route and exploring the place. Last year living in Uni halls in the city centre really gave me the opportunity to find the best ways to explore the city.
More canals than Venice!
This refrain is plastered over anything used to advertise Brum. It’s both technically true but wholly inaccurate – this isn’t Amsterdam, Venice or Copenhagen, but it also doesn’t need to be. The canals here were built for the industrial revolution, and they cut through the city in many unexpected ways. They don’t feature in the street scape of Birmingham, rather they are hidden behind the towering buildings, through tunnels and under bridges. This is why they can change your whole perception of the city – at the water level you can find routes that show you a different side to the busiest streets in Birmingham and replace the cars with meandering barges and cyclists. You’ll look up and start to notice the incredible skyline of the city.
As well as using the canals as a way to get around everyday, I also sometimes go running along them. The completely flat towpaths are brilliant if you want a simple route. You have a more scenic run than anybody on the road and you can easily work out how far you have gone. From The Maltings you can reach the Vale village and do a couple of laps of the park to achieve a 5k. Or by running towards Ladywood you can find some beautiful wild urban spaces.