Sunday, March 03, 2013

Why Birmingham is built in the wrong place

We like taking the boat into Brum, the routes we have taken so far have been little short of splendid and the city centre visitor moorings are excellent. However, as with everything, there is a downside. Researching it led me to an interesting set of thoughts.

We've just been calculating options for routes from our moorings at Crick to Chester and back, something we meant to do last year but never got round to. There is a wide range of options, all interesting and attractive.

The quickest two are
A) up the Nortth Oxford, Coventry and B'ham and Fazeley canals to Fradley then take the Trent and Mersey to Middlewhich, then across to Chester.

B) we could go through Birmingham, via the GU or the North Stratford canal, then down through Wolverhampton and up the Shroppie.

Or of course we could go up one way and back another.

Now look at these figures (Canalplan calculations)

The shortest route would be B). If we did that and came back the same (shortest) way, it would mean

254 miles. 312 locks. 142 hours.

Alternatively, taking route A) going via Fradley (thus avoiding Brum) and Middlewich and returning down the Shroppie and the Staffs and Worcester ( so completing the four counties ring) and back down through Fradley again, we get

296 miles. 192 locks. 150 hours.

So by avoiding Birmingham we save 120 locks (quite a lot of them heavy GU double widthlocks) and take only an extra day! With Kath suffering a bit with her back recently, that saving is hard to ignore, even if we do like Brum.

I started looking up a few facts (you know me!) about Birmingham's altitude. It's built on a limestone ridge, which at the city centre is around 600 feet above sea level. Compare that with Fradley at 223 feet. No wonder they have all those locks up to Brum.

Now, I can understand why in ancient times a settlement might have been built on a high ridge - defence and all that, but how the hell did Birmingham ever get to its prosperous industrial position when roads, canals and railways had all that climbing to do to get there? No rivers to speak of either. The city is famous for its canals and yet they go right through the highest parts. Even the railway stations are well down the hill.

Browsing about the city's altitude I came across another issue. Aviation. Apparently the Civil Aviation Authority set a maximum height above sea level for the tops of city buildings. This gives Birmingham quite a problem it seems and prevents them from building any skyscraper type buildings ( a good thing some might say). The highest they can build is about 150 feet. (Their BT tower seems somehow to have escaped this ruling but it is not accepted as a precedent). In a time when modern cities seem to get their identities and some sort of kudos from high landmark buildings, poor old Brum has its hands tied.

There, I bet you didn't know that. I didn't anyway.


Captain Ahab said...

What about the SAS Raddison - its nearly as tall as the BT Tower!
As for the reason for its prosperity - its due to the free market called the Bull Ring which attracted custon and because of its remoteness its people specialised in metal trinkets and then with the arroval of canals this morphed into heavy metal bashing using local ironstone and coal from the surface leley 30 ft seam

Neil Corbett said...

Interesting about the free market. As to the height of buildings. The CAA stipulates a max altitude of 242m above sea level, which according to what I read would limit buildings in Birmingham to a max 40storeys.



Sarah said...

This is why we go 'down the North' when to everyone else it's up.

Eddie said...

The SAS Raddison has 39 floors and is 399ft tall the BT tower has 31 floors the post office wanted to go higher(600ft) but the ministry of Aviation said NO so it stands at 499ft