To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Spaghetti Junction, I’m revisiting some old posts from my previous blog Botany in Birmingham. This one is a continuation of ‘Salford Circus…‘, documenting a trip made in January 2017.
After spending some time at Salford Circus I embarked on a short loop through and around Spaghetti Junction. First a description of the route, then a description of some things that amused and entertained.
I crossed over the Tame Valley Canal and then dropped down from the Lichfield Road via this pleasingly elaborate construction…
…to follow the towpath North West under where the main bulk of the junction lies. Before getting as far as the railway line (Lichfield-Redditch cross city line) I took a left. Following a road for construction and maintenance workers parallel to the train line, the route soon bears left and passes under the Aston Expressway, over the River Tame and into the park that contains Salford Reservoir, aka Aston Reservoir. From here a short stroll around the water, back to Lichfield Road, under Salford Circus and a walk home as it started to rain.
One of the first items of note I came across on the towpath was this rather interesting example of an ash tree:
I admired its spirit but it did make me a little despondent. Especially seeing that it had turned to drink to ease its woes.
The towpath enters a wide and long tunnel. Whilst one can see daylight the other side of it, one can’t necessarily see the likelihood of reaching it alive. However, the tunnel turned out to be an enlightening experience as I came across the following novel idea:
Unfortunately, the trailblazing originator of this idea had not expanded on their proposition. I hope to hear more from them soon. Interestingly the person concerned had framed their political discourse underneath an opening in the roof of the tunnel – one of the only sources of light for some distance.
2022 update: this naturally lit stretch of wall continues to be a constantly changing highlight of this particularly murky length of canal. It’s most recent incarnation can be seen on this excellent BBC article. For once the writer has made effort to use up-to-date images rather than stock photos.
Emerging from the tunnel, reborn and shaped anew by the revolutionary ideas I had encountered, I was brought back to reality by the vegetation on the opposite bank of the canal:
It bore a striking resemblance to the scene in the raised beds back at Salford Circus. Whether the trees and ivy had been deliberately planted here or whether they had found their own way, the result was the same. It seems ivy has taken to Spaghetti Junction like Master Splinter to exterior design.
Further along – a patch of recently created bare earth, again on the opposite bank. Possibly interesting only to me. My reasons being that if it remains undisturbed for a good length of time, it will be possible to see the gradual appearance of plants recolonising the area. You might not like it but I’m going to keep you updated anyway.
The route I took headed off to the left, away from the towpath, before the canal headed under the railway line. I wandered over to have a look at the railway bridge before bearing left. The bridge looks like it is constructed from the same blue engineering bricks and lime mortar that make up the large buttressed walls seen when going by train into New Street Station. The brickwork on this bridge offers a home to the same plants that can be seen on those much larger walls. In the photographs below the ubiquitous Buddleja davidii can be seen along with a number of ferns (Harts-tongue fern, Asplenium scolopendrium?) lining the lip of the archway.
On the embankment of the A38(M) or the Aston Expressway, a small colony of Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) had established itself:
They’re biennial so the decorative flower stalks belong to plants that are now dead and next year will hopefully bring another generation of plants to flower. This chap was obviously a bit of an independently minded plant as he sought a life outside the safety of the fence:
The River Tame had been tantalisingly close for the duration of the walk, but crossing directly over it I could admire it in all its majesty:
The river will be explored in due course and as the oldest natural feature in the area it may well be of some interest. Equally, the alterations and abuses it has suffered may well have stripped it of anything of note. Watch this space.
I was hoping to take a quick dip in Salford Reservoir but this sign made me think twice:
Also, the disproportionately high number of these…
…filled me with concern. Salford Reservoir is an unexpectedly pleasant place. I have seen it many times but have never made the effort to actually go there. Unless you are an angling enthusiast it won’t take up more than 10 minutes of your day to walk around it in its entirety, but those 10 minutes will be rather nice. The water is clear, or certainly compared to the canals, river and puddles that course nearby. (Hopefully the puddles aren’t coursing. That would make them something else and I hate to think what that might be. Come to think of it canals don’t really course either.) The ground on the River Tame side of the reservoir undulates gently around edge the of the water, with the higher parts of the ground planted with small trees. The water itself is edged with a sort of heavy-duty crazy paving so that as the level of the water changes it always looks pleasant. The park also offers excellent views of Spaghetti Junction for those who appreciate such things.
Finally, a quick picture of the bridge that carries the Lichfield Road over the Mighty River Tame:
Well it’s been quite a blast, and at the time of writing I have no idea which direction I shall take next. Will the next exploration take me further afield? Or will I be inspecting some old chewing gum with a microscope? I hope for the sake of anyone who might read it that it is not the latter. We all have our limits.