Sunday, 28 March 2010

Cold Spaghetti

Just one long walk - and a few shorter, quicker ones - since my last blog entry.

The long walk - late last week - took me along most of the Tame Valley Canal, to Spaghetti Junction, and then down into Birmingham City Centre along the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal. I'd done that Birmingham - Spagehtti Junction and back walk a couple of weeks ago.

The journey sta
rted with a trip on the Metro to Wednesbury, then a short walk back to the Tame Valley Canal. I'd walked the other way on it a number of times, but this was the first time that I had walked eastwards on it.Going in the other direction - down towards the Birmingham Canal - the short stretch of the Tame Valley Canal passes through a grim, post-industrial landscape. Eastwards, though, it's noticeably different: a large part of the route was through suburban, even semi-rural, scenery. The canal was one of the last to be built in this part of the country, and it shows. It's wide, and straight; it's probably misleadingly named: while the Tame is near both ends of the canal, the river takes a far more roundabout route.

For the first stretch, you can see the river down to the left of the canal: it then passes through a cutting in which I took this picture. The picture was taken to show the derelict bridge, which you can see in the foreground. At a guess the bridge carried a railway, possibly built to serve the coal mines that used to exist in this area. I don't know how the strange lighting effect came about: it had been raining (look at the puddles!) and there was what you might call a watery sun shining at the time.

Before long the M6 comes into view, and the canal follows the route of the motorway for the rest of its length.
Here you can see the junction of the M6 and M5; if you've ever driven south on the M6 and turned onto the M5, the first bridge the motorway passes under carries the Tame Valley Canal, and it was from that bridge - acqueduct - t
hat I took this photo. Slow moving traffic near the M5/M6 junction will be familiar to many of you.

From here the canal follows the M6 - perhaps that should be the other way round. It's a long, straight stretch: the photo here is taken from the junction with the Rushall Canal, looking back towards Wednesbury; a few yards behing me was the bridge which takes the other arm of the M5 - the arm that takes cars off the northbound M6 or on to the southbound - over the canal. The route of the canal remains very straight, going through two deep cuttings and over a long acqueduct, before reaching the top of a long flight of locks. Just thirteen of them, but they do go a long way down - the drop on each lock seems higher than it is for locks on the Birmingham Canal.

The flight ends close to Spaghetti Junction - and close, again, to the Tame, which passes under this elegant bridge - Salford Bridge, which is almost hidden my the vastness of Spaghetti Junction. This is the end of the Tame Valley Canal; here it meets the Birmingham and Fazeley
which I followed into the centre of Birmingham. And here, the Tame is joined by Hockley Brook. Hockley Brook rises close to the WBA football ground, but it's mostly underground now; it's of interest because James Watt built his first, water-powered factory using the brook to power it; later he moved his factory a few hundred yards up stream, and powered the new site - Soho Foundry - with steam. A large part of the brook was lowered and put into a culvert in the 1930s; the house I was raised in was built on land thus reclaimed. Here you can see Hockley Brook on the left, the River Tame in the foreground, and the Birmingham and Fazeley canal, on the right. It was that canal I followed all the way into Birmingham City Centre.

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