BCyC conquers Birmingham

The long weekend of June 4th to June 6th saw intrepid members of BCC undertaking the scary BCC or Birmingham Canals Challenge.

Conceived, masterminded and led by the `Incredible Hub’ aka Chris Whitlock, ten Bristol people and two outsiders from Shropshire descended on Britain’s second city for a not-very-gruelling three day series of rides.

Maybe not gruelling in terms of length but quite a challenge in terms of scariness. Perhaps it’s my age but where once I would gaily swan up the Kennet and Avon from Bath to Dundas, scarcely pausing to go under the few bridges, the canals in Birmingham are somewhat more challenging. I missed the warm-up ride on Saturday afternoon but joined with other overnight arrivals at a café just off Broad Street, where nearby Gas Street basin is at the hub of the Midlands canal network.

The half day Saturday ride had seen an intrepid group of ten explore the line of the former Harborne railway and the reservoir in Edgbaston before casting a critical eye over the new(ish) flamboyant Dutch architect designed library, the ‘Agora of the Midlands’. After some ‘whistle wetting’ in a CAMRA heritage pub they sampled some mouth-watering Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine c/o Café Soya, sat around a giant circular dining table.On Sunday the party set off along the Birmingham and Fazeley canal and undertook, or perhaps underode, a series of bridges and short tunnels most of which had no railings to prevent you from an early bath. Someone commented that although the tow paths were in excellent condition there were no cyclists to which we all replied `hardly surprising as most have probably drowned.’ Three miles out we joined the Grand Union canal which was much more cycle friendly, more country to look at and none of those pesky bridges. From there we joined the river Cole path through Yardley and stopped at Blakesley Hall, one of the oldest buildings in Brum. We were very fortunate to have the services of a knowledgeable guide to show us around the house and I am now an expert on all things Tudor (now I know where the words ‘chairman’ and ‘board’ come from!).

From historical Blakesley we continued on our way through Kingfisher Country Park and Sheldon Country Park pausing briefly to join the crowds gawking at planes landing at Birmingham Airport, a very popular picnicking spot for local families who like looking at jet planes. A late lunch at a nice pub and then back on to the Grand Union to end up in a Digbeth pub with a cosy back yard, mercifully smoker-free, for a final tea and farewell to half the party.

The Monday saw the remaining `famous five’ meeting at Five Ways station, just off Broad Street for a leisurely ride along the Birmingham and Worcester canal before joining Sustrans Route 5 which took us to Cannon Hill Park on the edge of Moseley near Pebble Mill Studios (where ‘the Archers’ have been recorded since time immemorial) and also adjacent to Warwickshire County Cricket Club ground. The weather being so good it was hoped by some that we could carry on riding rather than come back to Bristol on our allotted lunchtime trains, but due to exorbitant ticket prices we did in fact all leave after lunch.

A memorable three days with phenomenal weather.