Sallows, Salford and summer on the brummie riviera

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Spaghetti Junction, I’m revisiting some old posts from my previous blog Botany in Birmingham. This one dates back to February 2017 .

I strolled down to Junction 6 of the M6 by foot, having struggled to stroll by car or any other mode of transport. As I walked through the fog and cold I accidentally acquired a few appendices. You may have already noticed.

I was hoping to have a general stroll about the area but also had a couple of specific ideas in mind, namely willows and Salford Junction. I’m sure the mere mention of willows made you sit upright in your seat, or if you were standing perhaps you had to find one. If you were slouching on a sofa I imagine you continued to do so, and those of you who were browsing this post whilst idly leaning against a bar and chatting may well have raised a eyebrow in excitement. Rarely has the Salix genus caused such a stir as that which I imagined in the previous two sentences. It was not a completely arbitrary idea; the nearby area of Saltley derives its name from Anglo Saxon forms of the words willow (an old word for willow is ‘sallow’) and clearing (-ley refers to clearing). This would have referred to the wetlands surrounding the River Rea, which joins the River Tame just downstream of Spaghetti Junction. I felt it was fair to assume that there would have been willows along the course of the River Tame and that some of those willows may have survived/regrown following all the construction work of recent times.

Unfortunately my planned post has had to be postponed. The main problem being identifying willows. Spotting one in the first place is not a problem but distinguishing between them is another matter when they are all leafless and twiggy. Nonetheless, I managed to find several each of Crack Willow, Salix fragilis, and White Willow, Salix alba. I think. Due to the possibly-foreseeable problem of not being able to tell them apart, the post on willows of the River Tame will have to be postponed until the trees have leaves. I apologise if I had you all excited.

Before I wrote in unnecessary detail about not writing something, I mentioned Salford Junction. So far on this blog I have mentioned Salford Circus, Salford Bridge, Salford Reservoir, Salford Park, and now Salford Junction. To make things clear; Salford Bridge crosses over the River Tame, Salford Reservoir is in Salford Park, next to the River Tame, Salford Circus is a roundabout and Salford Junction is the meeting of three canals in between and above all of those places. I am not aware of any other Salford-related places but I will be sure to let you know if I come across any.

Back to the topic in hand. As I just mentioned, Salford Junction is the point at which three canals meet: the Tame Valley, Grand Union and Birmingham and Fazeley canals. At this point I will mention that it was quite foggy, so the pictures I took contain an above average level of murkiness:

The Tame Valley Canal heads underneath the bridge I’m standing on; the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal comes underneath the first bridge on the right and heads, barely visible, out of the left of the picture and the Grand Union Canal goes under the second bridge on the right. Buddleia in the bottom right corner for anyone wondering what happened to the botany part of the blog.

Wafting my way through a potent haze of fog, fumes and weed, I walked round to the Aston leg of the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal. Underneath a bridge, which carries one of the towpaths, I noticed this door – unpadlocked and rather well decorated:


I couldn’t quite bring myself to open it as I thought someone might miss the £2 million’s worth of cocaine that it probably contained. They should really put a lock on that door. The canal slims down to an I-can-jump-that-far sort of width to pass over the River Tame before broadening out again after that. At this point you can admire Salford Bridge (and a willow) to your right and the convergence of Hockley Brook and the River Tame (and a willow) to your left. Also a large bin, for the eagle-eyed amongst you.

I am only too aware of the fact that it is not summer. I would in fact go as far as saying it is winter. I didn’t venture far up the Grand Union Canal but it affords lovely views of this beach hut (and a willow), presumably for the beach mentioned here.

p1020086I hear it’s a bit more lively during the summer.

Having a quick look up the other section of the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal revealed plenty of Buddleia on the bank down to the river (below left) along with an elder (below right).

There was another Elder on the opposite bank of of the canal, along with more Buddleias and other improbably balanced plants.


I’m sure all the local children come here to swim in the clear waters and forage for elderflower to make cordial in the summer.

And so ended my little jaunt around Salford Junction. In the future I’ll head further up each of the canals mentioned here and perhaps even take a long weekend to top up my sun tan. Until then I’ll have to make do with the fog.

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