Walking in Birmingham

It's quite difficult, I've found to get to know a city, so after considering a few more psychogeographical techniques, I'll publish all the walks around the city I know, purely as a public service. I'll try to post this as a separate 'page' for reference as well, *when I've worked out how*.

Psychogeographical approaches

The city centre streets of Birmingham are not, in my experience, suited that well to some of the classic psychogeographic techniques to get lost. Following a pattern such as first-right-second-left tends to end up either in a dead end or going round in a circle too much. A technique I like a lot is the one that in its classical form means drawing round a glass on a map, & walking round the line you've drawn, as close as possible. I find paper maps too much hassle, so I like to translate it as downloading a map & drawing a shape on it on a computer (I like the map at http://visitbirmingham.com/explore-birmingham/guides-and-maps/ It's a pdf but can be turned into an image file with a screen capture & then kept on phone or mp3 player). In this technological age there is even an app (that works online, you don't have to be iphone or android) to help you get lost at http://deriveapp.com/s/v2/
There is another great psychogeographic tradition, of navigating a place using a map of somewhere else. I personally also like using maps of the past. There is, for example, the Westley street plan of 1731, although it needs a rotation for modern eyes (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8b/Birmingham_-_Westley_Map_1731.png). More recent history is encompassed in the proposal for the inner ring road (which isn't quite what was built (http://i39.tinypic.com/wasqoy.png), which gives an impression of what might have been.


Noszlopy & Waterhouse's Birmingham Public Sculpture Trails (Liverpool University Press, 2008, ISBN 1846311349) does exactly what it says on the tin, & following public art rather than roads or buildings makes an interesting alternative way of exploring.

Foster's Pevsner Architectural Guide to Birmingham (Yale University Press, 2005, ISBN 0300107315) is starting to show its age a little but is the one book I would tell people to get about Birmingham. It contains as much history as architecture. He also has routes around the Jewellery Quarter & Digbeth.

A third book I like a lot is Smith & Bannister's Haunted Birmingham (History Press, 2006, ISBN 0752440179), with which a good ghost walk could well be constructed.

Websites, leaflets & trails

The Visit Birmingham website has a digest of guided walks, tour guides, useful links to things like the Big Brum Buz & so on, with a less...eccentric slant than my own: http://visitbirmingham.com/what-to-do/tours-sightseeing/on-foot/

A major way to explore a place is to follow themes in its history & fortunately planned walks aren't lacking for these in Birmingham's case.

For the historically-minded, I like the walk through time on the BBC website a lot 'On this Walk Through Time in the heart of the city, you'll find out about Birmingham's past as a forest, a swamp and underneath an ice sheet hundreds of metres thick. Then you'll walk right up to the present day, through Birmingham's history as a settlement and a thriving hub for industry. Keep your eyes peeled and you might just see some rare birds!': http://www.bbc.co.uk/birmingham/your_birmingham/walk_through_time/index.shtml

The Birmingham Grid for Learning website (bgfl.org) has a number of trails created from an educational point of view by local schools.

There is a Lunar Society walk that can be downloaded at http://www.bmag.org.uk/news?id=318

Two 'pavement trails' round the Jewellery Quarter (http://www.jewelleryquarter.net/visit/things-to-do/pavement-trails/) will explain those funny things in the pavement in the quarter. It is said that you're either a Jewellery Quarter person or a Digbeth person, & trails are also available on the other side of the city centre (http://digbeth.org/trails-and-tours/). Similarly, although it's not an actual walk all laid out, you could follow the author's footsteps in a Peaky Blinders-themed walk round Bordesley (http://www.birminghamconservationtrust.org/2013/09/22/peakyblindersbordesley/)

The Connecting Histories website has four trails themed on suffrage, Joseph Sturge, & Judaism, at http://www.connectinghistories.org.uk/exhibitions/trails.asp

In terms of leaflets, Birmingham Civic Society do a guide to heritage buildings - I've seen it in the library, so no worry that the information place on New Street is now closed. And the council do or did a cycling & walking map of the entire city.

It is hardly possible to visit the Venice of the Midlands without exploring the canals, & canalrivertrust.org.uk have downloadable maps & an app. In paper terms I've always liked Pearson's Canal Companions, & the First Mate Guides are now downloadable for a donation.

If you'd like a walk in the company of the neighbourhood witch, my only original contribution is my essay on urinals & other conveniences (http://houndofhecate.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/spirit-of-place-cast-iron-urinals.html?m=0); I had a little hand in my version of it, but the Green Man trail was originally the work of Anthony Hayward (http://houndofhecate.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/the-green-men-of-birmingham.html?m=0).

Outside the City Centre

For greener walks, the council website has a number of 2km & 5km walks in parks: http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/walks

The Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery site has a downloadable leaflet about the Tolkien trail, if you're keen on little men with hairy feet: http://www.bmag.org.uk/sarehole-mill/tolkien

There is a signposted route along the valley of the River Rea from its start up to Cannon Hill Park (where is becomes much more difficult to follow unless you follow the glimpses in the city centre): http://www.riverreatrail.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=69&Itemid=139


  1. As a member plus leader in two walking groups I have just stumbled across your site while looking for the Green Man trail.
    Thank you very much for this info.We know some of it but there are lots of good ideas on here.
    Again thanks and perhaps we might have a few ideas to share with you. Carol Martin

  2. Thank you very much for this info. As a member/leader in 2 walking groups we do know some of these details but there are loads of new ideas on here. Thanks again Carol Martin


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