More canals than Venice. This is a common saying in Birmingham and I have no idea if it is true. The canals in Birmingham are undergoing a bit of a renaissance at the moment and not just in the city centre either. Brindley Place, Gas St Basin and Broad St have all benefitted from the redevelopment of the inner city and the canal network there. Towpaths throughout the network are being upgraded making them serviceable and some of them have become main cycle arteries into the city centre and the universities. If the canals were ever to be got rid of it would not be a bad idea to fill them in, tarmac them and turn them into cycle routes! (I hope this is never going to happen, by the way.)
I can walk all the way from my house to the city centre along canal towpaths. They are nearly all in better condition than some of the pavements I have to walk on. On the way I get to see all kinds of wildlife including ducks (various), geese (various), grey herons, kingfishers, the odd fish and the occasional rat!
Despite the odd fish, I often see fishermen on the canal. Some local angling clubs even hold contests on the canal. It is amusing to see anglers with their poles laid across the towpath competing with cyclist. It is like a form of Mexican wave as they raise their poles in order to allow the bikes through.
The industrial age of the canal has long since gone but small signs can still be seen. My local canal still has the chimney stack built by the GEC at Witton on its’ towpath.
Modern architecture now takes the form of motorway bridges, flyovers and all the structure that goes into making the road network around Birmingham. A walk along the canal underneath the M6 at spaghetti junction is like being inside a brutal cathedral with a roof of huge vaulted slabs of concrete held up on wide pillars spanning the canal. If you get on the canal at Salford Bridge you’ll see work by “our” resident artist/graffiti-ist (no such word?), Bill Drummond. He paints the occasional slogan or posters on the wall immediately under the M6. Sometimes worth a look as you travel through. I have pictures of his work on my website.