On The Road Again

LETJOG – Day 21: Monday 7 June – BIRMINGHAM to TAMWORTH (18 miles)

As I’ve said in earlier posts, I am surprised that nearly all written guides to the Land’s End to John O’Groats walk, or ‘End to End Trail’, seem to go far out of their way in order to avoid city centres. Perhaps the sprawling grey mass that seems to be the notation for such population centres on most roadmaps is responsible for such reticence? My instinct to include some of our cities in LETJOG, even those as large as Bristol and Birmingham, is borne partly out of past professional involvement in these centres during my career as a chartered surveyor dealing in commercial property, but mainly out of an interest in the history of our built environment. Travelling intimately through these cities really is the perfect foil to the many days I have spent, and will spend, in the wonderful British countryside.

So for me today, after rather reluctantly saying goodbye to Rachel and Alistair at home in Berkhamsted, my day began with an early train back to Birmingham New Street, before following the Grand Union, and then the Birmingham and Fazeley, Canals out of the city. This chosen route not only indulged my inquisitiveness, but also provided a pleasant and practical path that proved, by and large, to be flat, straight, and (perhaps a little ironically) navigation-free. I have previously described finding hidden gems near Bristol city centre: here the canals might hide fewer surprises, as, generally, adjacent sites have been developed with industrial buildings and warehouses directly abutting the canal or towpath. Once again, though, life along these waterways takes on quite a different perspective to that seen from a passing car or train, as narrowboats sail beneath spaghetti junction and as my towpath traced its way, for a good few hundred metres, directly under the elevated M6 motorway deck. And, again perhaps surprisingly, all along these urban canal margins families of water birds, particularly moorhens, choose to make their nests.

A soggy strand of Spaghetti, and . . .
. . . a shady towpath

Leaving the motorways behind, the second half of today’s walk, exclusively along the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, took me through pastures and cultivated agricultural land, down the Curdworth flight of locks, and alongside the RSPB Middleton Lakes wildfowl reserve, on a path most encouragingly (for me) forming part of ‘The Heart Of England Way’.

I completed a straightforward day’s walking with a tour, on foot of course, of Tamworth, the ‘Ancient Capital of Mercia’, its medieval castle and the River Tame resplendent in the late afternoon sunshine.

Irises by the canal
An unusual design of footbridge, perhaps taking inspiration from . . .
. . . Tamworth Castle

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