One of my favourite discoveries since moving is the discovery of how close I am to the Birmingham & Worcester Canal. It feels like this marvel in the city; cutting right through the heart of it, as it largely follows the cross-city train line, at least from Bournville to town, but yet it feels impossibly serene, even as the trains go chortling past.
I must have walked it a dozen times now, it takes me right into the centre of town, to the Mailbox with it’s bustling canal-side cafes. But mainly I like the feeling of peace that comes with the five or so mile walk. The space is used by people walking their dogs, joggers and those cycling, so it’s prudent not to wear headphones as to avoid a collision.
And it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve repeated the walk, something about the tranquility hidden amongst the city buzz makes it feel like an adventure, simultaneously exciting and soothing.
People talk about mindfulness and its benefits, the idea of focusing awareness on the present moment, learning how to live with more appreciation and less anxiety. It’s something I struggle with; my brain is seduced by ideas, curiosity, and learning and I’m not good at doing nothing. But walking along the canal feels like having a purpose, doing something, but also time to notice all the little things, like the smell of the chocolate as I pass the Cadbury factory, the ducks and geese, the canal boats sailing past, even the litter.
It is, for me, the perfect balance.
My favourite bit of the walk is an aqueduct near the university and Selly Oak. From South Birmingham into the city centre there are plenty of little bridges that loop over the canal, those old Victorian ones with brick arches that make me think of the Railway Children. But this is a modern bridge where the canal flows over the Selly Oak bypass. It is, I’m sure, even if you understand science and engineering more than me, an impressive feat of engineering, but every time I walk on it, it reminds me that science is real-life magic.
The Edgbaston tunnel is another highlight; a long, narrow tunnel which reminds me of the entrance to a pirate ride at an amusement park we used to go to when I was younger. For ages the lights on the tunnel didn’t work, and someone had helpfully laminated a sign with the contact details of the local councillor who we should report it to. Whether or not the sign was successful, the lights seem to have been fixed, although it’s still not something I’d want to walk through in the dark.
All of these photos were taken when the seasons where transforming from winter to spring. I wonder what it’ll look like in autumn/winter?