Best Lunchtime Run Ever

View Lunchtime run in a larger map

As I continue to plod my way through Edinburgh Marathon training I’ve taken to doing a bit of running at lunchtimes (now that I at last work somewhere with shower facilities). I thought it worth sharing the route with you as it’s a fantastic, popular, traffic-free run with a few interesting sights along the way.

The start could be from anywhere in the city centre or Jewellery Quarter but, as the map indicates, I start from the B1 building opposite Spring Hill library. I enter the canal near Summer Row and then proceed towards the National Indoor Arena. You could cross here and continue down the Birmingham and Worcester canal but better by far to head up the Birmingham Mainline canal, the M6 motorway of the West Midlands canal system.

I say that because it’s dead straight, very wide and with a towpath on both sides. And it’s full of lunchtime runners. Most just go up and down but I do a loop round the Soho loop. This runs at the back of the prison and then comes out again on the Mainline canal where you can head straight back to base. The straightness of the canal really lends itself to some short sprinting if you’re so inclined. There are several bridges so it’s worth trying to push hard between them and then recover to the next, repeating until you run out of bridges.

In total the run is just over 5 miles. It would make a pleasant enough walk as well. If anyone fancies coming along with me one lunchtime just ask.

Another walk through Birmingham

This might develop into an occasional series as and when I take it upon myself to use my legs to get me from meeting to meeting rather than use the car or public transport.

This walk is from Jewellery Quarter to Fazeley Studios, Digbeth: 1.9 miles, allow 30 – 40 mins.

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You can track the walk on the map which has some pics I took along the way attached. Here are some additional observations:

  • I actually started the walk from my workplace, B1 building but as it’s opposite the lovely Spring Hill library. I’d recommend the casual walker to begin there. It’s on the number 8 circular route or numbers 82, 87, 88 from the city centre.
  • Be careful where Legge Lane meets Frederick street. There’s no traffic lights and the road is quite busy to cross. Note the blue plaque to Joseph Gillott, pen maker, on the building on the left after you’ve crossed.
  • Don’t go stopping at some city centre Starbucks for a break, try Pickwick’s cafe on Newhall street. Good value sandwiches, soup, jacket potatoes etc. Tell ’em Dave sent you. They won’t have a clue what you’re on about but if enough of you do it it’ll get them thinking.
  • After you go through St Philip’s Cathedral you’ll find yourself on Upper Bull street. Pop into Tempest records. Take time to browse and purchase a record or two. Are they and Swordfish Records on Upper Temple street the only independent record shops left in Birmingham city centre? Are there any other ‘Upper’ streets left in Birmingham on which one could open another?
  • After the scruffy area behind the shops it opens out to the under-development Masshouse area but look to your right to see St Michael’s Church. Services in Polish every Sunday.
  • As I’ve said to many people, Fazeley street is a far more preferable way to get to Digbeth. I like it in its current under-developed state. I’m not sure that the Warwick Bar proposals will ever see the light of day now will they?
  • Even if Fazeley studios isn’t your final destination do peek inside – they won’t mind (tell ’em Dave sent you….). It’s a lovely reception area and even better when you’re there to meet Pete Ashton who’s already got the kettle on.

My journey ended here but for the return route you could get on to the canal or return via Digbeth High street and the city centre. I’ll keep the routes coming as and when I have reason to walk them.

Come walk the city with me

walking map

I love walking. So does my Mom, even at 78 years old. I recall once walking with her and my siblings from home in Alum Rock to the city centre some time in the mid 1970s (was there a bus strike? more likely she just thought it would be good for us). My clear memory is getting to Masshouse Circus and instead of using the underpasses she made us go over the huge traffic island there. There was my mom and us three kids avoiding the busy traffic at each exit to the island until we made safe ground at Tescos (now Argos). We’d do longer walks around the city as we grew up but none stick in the mind like this one.

The city’s a tad easier to walk nowadays and I love walking it. Today I walked 4.16 miles around the city from New street station to a meeting in Aston Science Park, to the Custard Factory, back to the City centre and then on to the arse end of the Jewellery Quarter where my workplace is. I finished a bit annoyed at how it’s too often the simple things we’re getting wrong in the city, things that stop this walk being one for the tourist brochures despite the obvious historic interest along the way. I started at 8.45am and was back at work by 2.45pm. Here’s what I found:

  • From New st. to Science Park is a great straight mile that has benefited from the removal of underpasses at Bull street and Old Square. A lovely walk past the law courts and Aston Uni campus. Easy-peasy.
  • Who would think to use the canal from Science Park to Digbeth? A lovely towpath route but the entrance on the Science Park is obscured and poorly signposted. It is easily the simplest route. I passed only one other person.
  • The canal there is a bit intimidating due to poor tunnel lighting and the ongoing presence of loitering single men around Curzon street tunnel. Maybe a bit of a cottaging scene going on there? Of course it also lacks other people, maybe because no-one knows it’s there.
  • The new Yumm deli at the Custard Factory is a welcome addition. reasonably priced, cheery staff. Still love Rooty’s though but the love has spread now.
  • From Custard Factory to the city centre is NOT a pleasant walk. Was it lunchtime at the college? Does that explain the slightly intimidating youths? The ones who decided to do that come-right-up-in-your-face thing to me that youths sometime do? I’ve never liked it, still don’t. Too many side-roads including one where the traffic can come from the other side of the dual carriageway unexpectedly, and that fucking bus stop outside Digbeth Cold Storage where the path narrows. Why does this area need a dual carriageway? Why do we still love roads so much after all this time. Give us space on the pavement, please.

  • From Bull Ring shopping centre to the library is great, I like the second half of New street as it rises into the impressive Victoria Square and then to the library. The mall bit in the middle of the library still seems like an oddity though, to say the least.
  • But to get to Summer Row and to work from here – would you know how to do it? The weird exit to the right just after Nandos? Past the stagnant pool, down a red staircase (where do wheelchair users go?) and through the only underpass on the walk or across busy roads to avoid the underpass and onto another dual carriageway (although passing the very fine Birmingham Orthodox Cathedral),

Actually, in hindsight this is a great walk, spoilt only by poor signposting, a lack of thought about what make safe spaces and a continuing desire to prioritise the car. Above all, there seems a determination to keep the canals, the Custard Factory and Summer Row disconnected from the city centre experience. I’m not convinced that changing the road layout to prioritise pedestrians, stopping bus passengers being herded to the margins and installing better lighting on some canal tunnels need a Big City Plan to make them happen. It just needs those who make the decisions to come walk with us. To understand how good these routes are but understand the fine detail of what prevents them being great routes that we can promote with pride.

This is an open invite to all: in power, at the fringes of it or with a desire to influence it. Come walk with me, any time you like, I’ll show you the city I think you never take the time to see. And if she’s free, I’ll ask my mom along as well.