Friday, 21 May 2010

On getting out of Birmingham...

...I was quite relieved, as getting out of Greater Birmingham was much trickier than I conceived it would be. The cycle route map that I found after a long-ish search proved of relatively little use. It did get me on a cycle-path along the Birmingham Canal, which was better in some places than others. It was also the home to numerous families of Canada geese, some of whom hissed at me when I got too close to their goslings. Then again, they were on the bike path. I eventually left the canal and tried to get out the urban area. I was aiming for Stourbridge but got shunted towards Halesowen. As the latter was also on the edge of Greater Birmingham, I said to hell with it, and went with the flow.

Unlike Canadian cities, British ones end with a bang once you hit the green belt. One moment you are in suburbia, the next you trundling along a country lane. Britain is much denser in different areas than Canada.

I got to Birmingham from Glasgow by a relatively underused and slightly late train. In defence of Virgin Trains, the late arrival was due to a road vehicle striking a railway bridge. Before the train could cross it, someone had to give the bridge a once over. Furthermore, unlike the Montreal commuter rail lines, the passengers were quickly informed about what was up, and we were only held up by about 20 minutes. Quite unlike an experience my sister had about six months ago in Montreal.

Central Birmingham was alive with people. As well, there were countless flags and posters calling for the city to be named the 2013 British city of culture. Whatever that means. ;-)

This part of the country is much hillier than I expected. Consequently, it took me longer than anticipated to get to Bromyard. Also at issue was my navigation which took a considerable amount of mental energy. I stopped at the pub in the misnamed Great Whitley (it is quite small) for 'arf a pint and some crisps. As I sat at a table outside, a young lad who wandered by asked how far I had come. Even though I said "Just from Birmingham" he was quite impressed. (In case anybody wonders why only 'arf a pint, I still had 12 miles to go over hilly terrain in warm and humid weather.)

It took a fair bit of asking as well as trial and error before I found Fox Hill House. I had made arrangements to stay with my aunt Isabel, her husband John Fox, their son Ben, his wife Charlotte and their three and half kids (one more due in June). It is quite an interesting house and arrangement of households, but it seems to work so far. John and Izzy were at the hospital when I arrived as John had suffered a heart issue that day.

Ben is in the process of looking for new job which might mean moving. I jokingly suggested to Ben that the next time he moves, he should go someplace A. nearer to the National Cycling Network and B. flatter, such as Norfolk. ;-)

This morning I went to Hereford with Ben, Charlotte and Isabella, their youngest. While Ben was conducting some business, the ladies and I visited the cathedral, the Mappa Mundi (a medieval map) and the chained library. The books in the chained library were chained to shelves (hence the name) to prevent anyone from stealing them. A bit like the sign threatening to excommunicate anyone who pinched a book from the old library in Salamanca.

Tomorrow, I ride to Gloucester and catch a train back to London. It has been a good trip, but it is time to go home, alas.

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