The new Midland Metropolitan University Hospital in Smethwick is right next to the Birmingham Main Line Canal – a water superhighway out of Birmingham into the Black Country. It has a loop (the Soho Loop) which circles around the City Hospital site in Birmingham.
I cycle these tow paths regularly on my way between central Birmingham and Sandwell via the hospital sites. I walk them too, usually when taking stakeholders on walking tours of the area to promote opportunities for regeneration and linkages with the canal network from the hospital sites.
But every time I visit, something eventful happens. Mid-June 2021 and we’re walking along the canal with stakeholders from Birmingham City Council and the West Midlands Combined Authority, chatting away extolling the virtues of the natural environment and peace and quiet. The environment is in stark contrast to the road and industry noise close by – you can step off the pavement, walk down some steps onto a towpath and within 30 seconds its peaceful – what a great place to escape to in the heart of a built-up industrial area.
Out of the corner of my eye I spot the heron perched on the brickwork. I love the photo, the mix of brickwork, the graffiti, the greenery – and then you spot the heron – and then it’s off into the air, gliding along above the canal.
One week after this I’m walking along the canal with stakeholders from Sandwell College – and there is a shout from a canal boat. They’ve got stuck having driven (is that a canal term?) into what appears to be a brick and grass central reservation and can’t get off.
Lots of instructions get shouted about revving the engine, using the pole, push harder etc. In the end it came down to an impromptu tug of war once we got hold of a rope. Lots of passers-by stopped to help, by the time I took the photo (we had rescued the boat by then) some helpers had already gone on their way. Honestly, I was helping too – not just taking photos. Sadly it was too early to accept a “thank you” beer…