October 18, 2008 – 10:26 am
I received my free walking and cycling map of Birmingham a couple of days ago, and yesterday I decided to try cycling to work using the canal tow path routes. It was a little tricky to figure out from the map, simply because everything’s in such a tiny scale.
In particular, it was difficult to figure out where best to get onto the canal – and the entrances are virtually hidden from view – but since I was in no particular rush (remember, I was going to work) I ambled around looking for an access point. There are plenty of places where you can SEE the canal – but usually through locked gates, tall fences and industrial property.
Eventually, I made my way around to Small Heath bridge, and carried my bike down the steps. And suddenly, it felt like I had gone on holiday. The trip was leisurely, mostly flat, untroubled by traffic and punctuated by friendly waves and cheery chats with people who were slowly making their way through Britain’s waterways, having cups of tea and navigating the locks.
I have to say, it was all heightened by an absolutely gorgeous day, but I’m so doing that again. Yesterday, it added half an hour to my journey, but that was only because I dawdled, took photos, talked to people who genuinely were on holiday and checked the map to try and figure out where I was up to. It’s difficult to get a sense of Birmingham’s geography when you’re not on actual roads. Birmingham is pretty much made out of roads. The canal route’s another world entirely.
And while I can’t get all the way to work this way, I can get from Small Heath to Aston, which is a couple of suburbs short of the start and end points.
I have no particular plans for today. It’s Saturday and it’s a beautiful, sunny day. I might get on my bike and go most of the way to work again just for fun.
UPDATE: More canals
I did decide to go back along the canals for a leisurely ride, but instead of going to Small Heath and heading along Grand Union Canal, I cycled to Yardley Wood and jumped on the Stratford Upon Avon Canal, which I rode along until it joined the Birmingham/Worcester Canal at Kings Norton Junction.
In short – it was frickin’ awesome. Really lovely. People fishing, people feeding ducks, people on canal boat holidays. All of them happy to chat. Even managed to stop at a nice pub on the way back for a pint.
I’ve taken some more photos and added them to the Flickr set.
It’s such a cool thing to do. If we get another sunny weekend like this one before winter kicks in, I’m seriously considering doing the length of the Stratford Upon Avon Canal (as far as Stratford itself, that is), starting at Kings Norton, heading down to Stratford, spending a bit of time there, then maybe catching the train back.
It’s a 25 mile cycle – but it’s a largely non-hilly route, for fairly obvious reasons. Anyone want to join me? No athletes allowed.