Human rivers - drawing a dizzy landscape through Birmingham
Cycling, walking and running along the towpaths of Birmingham and surrounds' many miles of canal is quite an uplifting and contrasting experience. You can leave the bustle of the city and find yourself immersed in the wonderful world of nature, beautiful reflections and the buzz of fellow users and not forgetting the passing barges.
I dreamt I saw a huge grey boat in silence steamingDown a canal; it drew the dizzy landscape after;The solemn world was sucked along with it—a streamingLand-slide of loveliness. O, but I rocked with laughter,Staring, and clinging to my tree-top. For a lakeOf gleaming peace swept on behind. (I mustn’t wake.)And then great clouds gathered and burst in spumes of greenThat plunged into the water; and the sun came outOn glittering islands thronged with orchards scarlet-bloomed;And rosy-plumed flamingoes flashed across the scene...O, but the beauty of their freedom made me shout...And when I woke I wondered where on earth I’d been.
The following map, reproduced from the 1950 Birmingham and Its Regional Setting: A Scientific Survey, p.39 shows the many stream courses in the region.
Canals were built for industry and the first section of the Worcester & Birmingham Canal completed in 1769 linking Birmingham with the mines at Wednesbury is said to halved the price of coal,
During the 18th century Birmingham became a magnet for canal promoters with the the Birmingham Canal Navigations being formed in 1794 with 160 miles of waterways, 100 of which remain navigable.
From the gains of industry canals are now used for leisure and offer visitors an immersive experience of Birmingham connecting up districts and areas and offering vibrant canal fronted bars, restaurants, hotels and housing.
The following photos are a love affair with the canals i've cycled run and walked along and the diverse Birmingham and surrounds they show. Not having a main river isn't a bad thing when the legacy of industry is a network of canals criss crossing the city as human rivers that people can enjoy across the city.
In the words of Sassoon, "Down a canal; it drew the dizzy landscape after"