To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Spaghetti Junction, I’m revisiting some old posts from my previous blog Botany in Birmingham. Here’s one from January 2017 looking at Salford Circus, which lies directly underneath the junction:
On a cold Saturday morning I strolled down to Salford Circus, beneath Spaghetti Junction, to begin my investigations. The pavements were lightly dusted with snow and the sky was a rather unenthusiastic shade of grey. A nondescript and frankly uninspiring day. Perfect for wandering around dark tunnels and inspecting dank corners.
On emerging from the underpass into the pedestrianised centre of Salford Circus, this was the view that greeted me:
Oh verdant glory! Majestic towering beauty! A tapestry of greens and browns of all shades and hues. And grey. Quite a lot of grey. I set about answering some of my questions.
How had I not noticed these trees before?
From this angle, the trees look completely insignificant. The multitude of pillars supporting the roads above simply dwarf the poor plants below. It’s no wonder they don’t get noticed really.
Why/how did they get there?
It is quite plain to see that someone put them there (rather than being chance seedlings). The why is harder to fathom. Presumably some poor soul was given the job of cheering up this subterranean realm to which the pedestrians have been relegated. Fair enough? Yes, but the seemingly random placement of the circular brick raised beds only adds to the confusion of what is already quite a disorientating space. The beds have been placed in the spaces between the roads that pass overhead meaning that their position has no connection to the space in which they actually sit. Whilst this is understandable when taking a step back, the immediate impression to the curious traveller on foot is that this is the product of a mind unhinged. Or a maverick genius. It’s a fine line.
Why did they look so merry?
Well they certainly had no right to be:
All the trees in this series of raised beds are completely ivy-laden and the individual on the right is struggling to keep it together. Here’s some more evidence of his misfortune:
I can only assume that these trees are perhaps unaware of how life could be outside of their current predicament. Ignorance is bliss and I wish them every happiness.
What other botanical delights and curiosities lurk beneath this concrete labyrinth?
That very much depends on what delights you and what piques your curiosity. Personally, I found a few delights such as some large specimens of the ever-reliable Viburnum tinus with flowers open and plenty more to follow.
In amongst the growth, I found signs of things that weren’t ivy. The fresh young shoots of Vinca major…
…and what I’m fairly certain was Mahonia aquifolium showing hints of yellow on the young flower buds. I also found a bust:
I hope to pluck up the courage to turn it over and gaze upon its countenance on my next visit. Both the viburnum and mahonia are, to my mind, flowering quite early which I assume is due to the volume of traffic and the surplus of concrete and tarmac creating a slightly warmer microclimate. I also spied some flowering cherries by the underpass heading to Slade Road. Of course they were sporting some rather fetching masses of ivy that seem to be fashionable amongst young trees in these parts. Curiosities were also encountered. As I mentioned in the previous post, plants will grow in cracks in the pavement and here is no exception. Unfortunately, the photos I took of these brave little specimens were even more blurry than those I have already included, so I shall have to do them the honour of their own post with some half decent photographs. They deserve that in the very least.
After finding the answers to the above questions I decided that it would be wise not to pry any further for the time being and headed out via the underpass to Lichfield Road. As I left I noticed that Master Splinter had been present:
As I looked at the bold, confident strokes, the loop above the second ‘T’ and the trailing off of the ‘R’s spoke of a certain mental unsoundness that made me think back to the placement of the raised beds and the ill-conceived use of ivy in the planting. Maybe Master Splinter is the lunatic/genius responsible for the entire affair.
I left behind the quiet madness of Salford Circus and ventured further afield. But now, dear reader, I will leave you to contemplate the difference between genius and insanity, the precariousness of life or perhaps just to watch Eastenders. I will relay the details of the rest of my exploration in a later post.