diamond geezer

 Wednesday, November 07, 2012

While we're doing Birmingham suburbs, fancy a trip to Smethwick? To the northwest of the city centre, on the way to West Bromwich and Wolverhampton, close to Premiership action at The Hawthorns. Again it's a structure over a canal we've come to see, though this time nothing so complicated as a threaded motorway junction. Welcome to Galton Bridge.

This record-breaking span was built by Thomas Telford in 1829. At the time it was the longest single-span bridge in the world, although at this stage of the Industrial Revolution that wasn't saying much. At 46 metres long you could walk across it in less than a minute, but far better to stop and have a peer over the side. The view's vertiginous, staring down into an entirely artificial chasm beneath. This is the Galton Valley, an earthwork carved long and deep by hundreds of navvies, creating a single level canal where previously had been a lengthy flight of locks. Telford's fresh cut removed a bottleneck between Birmingham and the Black Country, but created a gash in the landscape that needed to be crossed by a bridge. The narrow roadway would have been bustling in its day, and busier still when someone finally got round to inventing cars, but now it's barriered at one end and open only to cyclists and pedestrians.

The best view is from the railway station alongside, that's Smethwick Galton Bridge. This is very recent, opened in 1995 at the point where one railway line crosses a perpendicular railway deep below to create a Low Level/High Level interchange. The upper platforms cross the gap in parallel to Telford's span, again a very long way above the canal passing below. Now the mills and steam engines have departed it's a very green and pleasant valley, edging towards a slightly brown and orange valley at this time of year. Such an elegant crossing, gently arched with iron struts, and well deserving of its Grade I listing. It doesn't look quite so impressive squinting through a camera lens into direct sun, but that's the perils of a whistlestop tour of the West Midlands. If you ever have ten minutes between trains, it's worth a look.

I've barely been to Birmingham before, which is remiss of me. I was there at the weekend courtesy of London Midland who were offering dead cheap tickets to anywhere on their network (don't bother looking, the offer's over). Their trains from London take so long to get anywhere that there was barely any time to explore, but I saw several places very much in passing.
» New Street station: Sheesh this is unpleasant, isn't it? Umpteen gloomy under-mall platforms, each being rebuilt, but at a snail's pace.
» Moor Street station: Blimey, this is more rural than urban - revamped like a 1930s pastiche, complete with steam train stashed away on platform 5.
» Snow Hill station: The name suggests better than the reality, but at least it's not New Street.
» The Rotunda: The famous cylindrical tower was less tall than I was expecting, and not as imposing. I could imagine it fitting in well in Croydon.
» Selfridges: The curved exterior's astonishing, covered as it is with 15000 aluminium discs, and bulging out of the Bullring.
» Birmingham Cathedral: The Baroque centrepiece of the city, but you'd think it was a big parish church if you didn't know better.
» The skyline: Redbrick and blocky, with little to pierce the sky, this is an unexpectedly homogeneous-looking conurbation.
I so need to go back one day and do Birmingham properly.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream