Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Picturesque Birmingham and around

Sorry, it's a long entry, I can't write short one's and Jackie wouldn't cut it down!

It’s been a week or so since our last entry and we’ve been relatively busy. Quite a few visits to the gym and a really cold 15 mile (24km) cycle ride round the lanes to Earlswood Lakes and back were our planned exercises, but we added a number of walks and even a Park Run to that.

All Saints Church Kings Heath
The weather is pretty cold here now, but we haven’t had a lot of rain, so it’s either been really cold (1 or 2⁰C) and clear blue skies or not so cold (6 to 8⁰C) and cloudy, with not much wind, so it’s been pretty conducive to getting outside. The bike ride round Earlswood was really cold though – bitter is probably the word and halfway round we were chilled to the bone, stopped for a hot chocolate with whipped cream, marshmallows, the lot, but then we didn’t want to leave to carry on! The later session down the indoor climbing wall didn’t help as it’s always cold there, so we didn’t warm up until we got back to the hot house we’re in.

Volunteering work in Cannon Hill Park That's Jackie!
The Park Run was fairly interesting, only I did that, Jackie stayed in bed! Park Runs are international events and occur at 09:00am every Saturday in local parks in towns and cities. They are free to enter, but you must pre-register on-line to get a printed bar code in order to be placed. You just turn up just before 09:00am and join the others for a 5km jog (or in some cases a walk) round the park with 400 or so. They are fun and friendly and I can highly recommend them. Here’s a link to the website if you’re interested in having a go: This was my second run, as I did one in October 2012, just before we went away. 
Jackie in the multi coloured top, Ian in the foreground
That one was in Brueton Park, Solihull and I did a time of something over 26 minutes, but this time I went over our local Cannon Hill Park. It was a beautiful clear blue sky but about 3⁰C, so the 15minutes I spent chatting with people before the start really made me cold. A quick walk to the start and off we went, me choosing a place near the back and starting off with a very gentle jog, trying to get warm, then increasing a bit and overtaking a few people, before going past the bandstand to start a second lap. This time we went off on a longer lap, me getting stuck behind people as the leaders were coming back the other way, restricting the path width, but after a while I managed to overtake, run round past the lake and the MAC arts centre with the morning sun glistening through the trees and off the lake and thinking how pleasant it was. 
Cannon Hill Park at dusk
A final run up a slight hill, past the tea shop and, feeling pretty good, I increased my pace, overtook 2 older guys and increased again to a run on the last 100m or so. Just before I reached the end one of the two older guys came sprinting past me to finish right in front of me, oh well, I guess I upset him by going past! Feeling pretty good I was a bit disappointed to find my time was just over 29 minutes, guess I jogged a bit too slow and could have gone faster. Never mind, there’s always another time, even though it may not be until next summer! My ‘result email’ told me I was 267th out of 368 runners and 8th in my age category of 55-59. Here’s the full set of results:

Denise demonstrating her new coffee machine
Saturday continued in the exercise department as Jackie wanted to walk into Kings Heath to visit a craft fair, a bit of shopping and then onto Highbury Hall for another craft fair, a distance of about 5 miles. The walking pace was brisk, but the views particularly though Highbury Park were fabulous under the clear autumn sunshine. Who says Birmingham is uninteresting? Kings Heath is a town that dates back to the early 18th century, but its biggest expansion came in the late Victorian 19th century when many of the architecturally interesting buildings in the town were built, including Highbury Hall, giving it its present day look. One notable resident in the 1901 census was the 9 year old JRR Tolkein who was said to have been inspired to write The Hobbit from his many visits to nearby Moseley Bog ( The continuing brisk walk back was becoming too much for me after the earlier Park Run, my knee and feet were hurting so I asked Jackie to slow down, much to her delight!

Lapworth canal. Turn the handle to listen to a commentary
The exercise continued into Sunday, when we went back over to Cannon Hill Park to do a bit of volunteering with Ian and Helen who, living in Elizabeth Road, back onto the park, so once a month spend a Sunday afternoon clearing paths and cutting back undergrowth. We spent about 2 and a half hours with spades and edge cutters clearing about 50m of path with about a dozen other volunteers. The target was to get to a small wooden bridge over a stream, but it wasn’t to be as daylight was fading and the temperature was dropping like a stone so, after taking Rudi for a 5km or so walk (more walking!) in virtual darkness, we sat down to fish pie, followed by apple crumble and custard at Ian and Helens – yum! This is the link to the volunteering website which last time I looked didn’t have Helen’s write up of our day on 1st December, but it might do soon…

It's cold but dry
I’d like to say that we had a rest on Monday, but we didn’t, we went out for another walk with Denise (my sister) and Paul in Lapworth, 8 or 9 miles according to Paul who was map reading, starting at The Boot Inn and walking along the canal to the junction of two canals, the Stratford and the Grand Union, now restored to their original condition.  The two canals, which connect entirely separate places, were very close together at this point and so were connected by a linking canal to open up the canal network. 

Here's the bridge with the gap
Our walk took us through this canal network and over a special bridge that has a gap in the centre, designed to allow the rope of the horse drawn narrow boat of old to pass the bridge without having to unharness the horse. Into the countryside, we passed the 15th century moated manor house at Baddesley Clinton ( and the 13th century Church of Saint Michael, which happened to be open. It’s a splendid old church and there is evidence that it existed in 1217AD, but may have existed at the time of the Doomesday Survey in 1086AD and probably before the Conquest ( We kept going past Wroxall Abbey (, back through Hay Wood and, in fading light, returned along the canal and back to the Boot Inn for hot chocolate rum! A really pleasant day out.

13th century St. Michaels church

Inside the church
Hay Wood

Birmingham Town Hall
Tuesday was car service day to get it ready for our winter season in the Alps, so we caught a train into Birmingham with Pauline, Jackie’s mum, for a bit of sightseeing and shopping at the German Market, which is now a regular Christmas feature in New Street by the Town Hall. We’ve been to Birmingham city centre many times, but this time we looked at it as a visitor would and, despite the fact that a lot of people run Birmingham down and it doesn’t feature in travel guides, it does have a lot to offer. The buildings are quite fabulous, the Town Hall, built in the early 19th century, is recognised as one of the most impressive examples of Roman Revival architecture, its design based on the Roman Temple of Castor and Pollux. 
Museum and Art Gallery
I remember going to many pop concerts there in my youth, Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull and Genesis to name but a few, ah, those were the days! The Museum and Art Gallery is another iconic Victorian building dating from 1885 and, through to Centenary Square the new Central Library which, along with Selfridges provides Birmingham with new cutting edge iconic buildings. 

The blue and yellow building is the new Central Library
Afternoon tea and cake stop!
I think we’ve got something to shout about and Birmingham should be on overseas visitors lists, that’s why I gave this entry the title ‘Picturesque Birmingham’! That’s my bit of campaigning.

Museum and Art Gallery left and centre, Town Hall right
The clock tower in Birminghams Jewellery Quarter. With Jackie and Pauline
Discussing in Bickertons Jewellers
Our final visit was to Bickertons Jewellers in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter, to take in some of Jackie's sapphires, that she found fossicking in Australia and we then took into the factory in Bangkok for cutting. She is now going to get them set into some Jewellery that she and he designed between them so, not only will it be unique, but Jackie has been involved in every stage of its production, right from finding the stones in the ground!

1 comment:

  1. Lengthy Brian, but well documented and nice photos too! I like your fluffy white hat Jackie. You have reminded me that I need to decide what to do with my sapphire too :-) (nice problem to have). xx