Confession: I have lived for eight and a half years in walking distance of Moseley Bog and had never actually visited until this morning. Not entirely sure why that is, or what it was I’d pictured that had prevented me from setting foot inside until now (despite having been past thousands of times), but it’s where I’m going to be going walking pretty frequently from here on out.
It was a lovely way to start a crisp, overcast spring morning and it’s only going to get nicer as the weather improves (assuming it ever will). The place is far bigger than it appears from the street. These things, I’m starting to find, usually are.
There are multiple paths and walkways through Joy’s Wood (named after the woman who spearheaded its preservation from the threat of developers just 15 years ago), some signposted and boardwalked, others more of a dirt trail through thin, moss-laden trees that lead to open grass areas.
You don’t have to venture far from the road to lose the sense of suburban South Birmingham. The traffic noise in the distance fades into the constant rustle of the trees and disappears beneath the bubbling songs of the finches and jays and the repetitive rapping of the woodpeckers who live there.
Didn’t even know we had woodpeckers.
I’m led to believe there’s also an incredible display of bluebells in Spring, if that’s your kind of thing (and it’s starting to be mine), though they’re late this year because of how cold it’s been. Something to look for each time I go back, I suppose.
I picked a tree stump on the edge of the wood as a place to sit, drink my flask of coffee and write. I’ll be doing that again, weather permitting. Perfect spot. The occasional dog walker to say hello to, but other than that, quiet and fairly isolated – a broad, undulating grassy area on one side, a tangle of trees on the other.
It made me think about the fact that these places – the woods, the parks, the rivers – are not situated in neighbourhoods, but rather – the other way around. Neighbourhoods are cut out of these places. Built around and within them. The further I walk into the green areas around South Birmingham, the more I realise that the terraced houses and suburban streets are more of a facade than they are representative of the area.
And while we may have tamed these spots, built barriers around them, constructed pathways and erected helpful signs, I’m increasingly reminded that they were here before we were. And the more time I spend in these places, the more I feel like this is my neighbourhood rather than the Poundland on the Kings Heath High Street or the endless wall of brick houses on every side street.
Yesterday, I managed an eight mile hike that took me alongside streams, out the back of Sarehole Mill, along the river Cole on trails through woods and then onto the canal system through the back of Digbeth and into town. I was never far from civilisation, but it felt like a different part of the country. A different part of the world.
Or maybe I’m only just starting to figure out what this part of the world is actually really like.
Anyway… today, I walked less than half that distance, and the fact that I was so incredibly close to home the whole time was the thing that really stuck in my head. This has been here all along.
I should probably make the most of it.