Sandwell Saturday

In what is becoming a bit of a trend, I had swapped my Friday afternoon at work for a Saturday morning. The benefit of this is that I can use, even quieter than usual, public transport to go to work then walk home afterwards giving me a change of scenery.

The forecast, until Saturday morning was for almost continuous rain showers so only having my 5.5l pack I would have to pack carefully.

Luckily, Saturday started very foggy but with a dry forecast so I didn’t need to pack too much. I even had room for some sandwiches !

Before catching the bus, I took the doggies out for a foggy two miles each before grabbing some breakfast. The wife would also be at work today so the dogs were being left home alone – what could possibly go wrong?

If this were a film, this is where the speeded up clock sequence would go to indicate that I went to work, did some stuff and then …

I got changed into walking trousers, long sleeved base and soft shell top. In the back of my pack I had my empty sandwich box (cheese if you need to know).

From work I was soon on the canal heading towards Birmingham City Centre via a couple of tunnels.

It was still foggy and chilly but with my gloves and wolly hat I was fine.

Approaching the city centre the fog was still hiding the top of the BT tower.

There was a slight diversion from under the tower up to St. Pauls church but I was able to regain the towpath on Newhall Street next to what used to be the Science Museum.

There was noticeably a lot more people about mainly couples or small families. I think that this is one of the few goods that have come out of the recent Coronavirus situation namely that more people are getting out to exercise.

I continued up towards The Sealife Centre then along the Birmingham Main Line through Winson Green towards Smethwick. Just before Smethwick, the canal splits. Originally, the canal rose via three locks before descending a couple of miles later. In 1827, Thomas Telford’s NEW Birmingham main line was opened to allow lock free travel between Smethwick Junction and Bromford Junction. The low-res map on my watch indicated that I had to go left along the new section.

I needed to go along the canal as far as Kenrick Way but the nearer I got to my exit the more I realised that I should have taken the old branch. No problem but I did have a short steep climb to negotiate. Once on Kendrick Way, I passed the staircase that I should have ascended from the Old Main Line. I have been this was before but moving in the opposite direction as part of the Sandwell Six Towns walk.

From the end of Kendrick Way, I dropped down to a footpath running parallel to the Midland Metro for a short distance before having to turn off.

I was soon on the busy Birmingham Road just a stone’s throw from the West Bromwich Albion ground. I played safe and crossed the rood via the footbridge before following the public footpath signs along a drive towards the golf and cricket clubs. There was a guy stood next to his car on the drive and after the briefest of chats he assured me that I was on the right path.

I followed the drive and signs, walking past the club house, before turning right (I had to turn the M5 was in front of me).

Heeding the warning signs, I continued around the golf course, across a slightly muddy field and into a rather muddier copse.

I continued keeping the motorway on my right until I popped out of the trees next to Swan Pool, part of Sandwell Valley Park.

This part of my trek was probably the busiest, there were people everywhere. I made my way around the pool weaving in and out of family groups eventually crossing Park Lane (not the one on the Monopoly board) and into a slightly quiet part of the park, at least until I got to the next pool.

There was a slipway here leading down into Forge Mill Pool which was covered in geese. Obviously they had taken the hint the Swan Pool was not for them and had all congregated here.

I continued alongside the River Tame passing fewer people but two horses before arriving at Newton Road. Beyond this it was a lot quieter as I climbed gradually uphill to join the aptly named Tame Valley Canal. Another right turn and I was now heading towards Salford Junction better known as Spaghetti Junction some five miles distant.

Yet again there were a lot more people along here than I usually encounter but not too many that I couldn’t get into a good rhythm.

The canal is level as far as Perry Bar Locks where it drops through seven locks. From this vantage point I got a good view of the new stadium being build for the Commonwealth Games at what was The Alexander Stadium. It’s going to be massive.

I continued along the canal dropping down four more locks near Witton then another couple before swapping sides just before disappearing under the M6 / A38 / A38M.

Underneath Spaghetti, I left the Tame Valley Canal swapping it for the Birmingham Fazeley.

Three miles later, I waved farewell to the excellent canal system (technically I didn’t actually wave) to walk along a busy stretch of the Chester Road before ascending up the hill to the quiet roads of Castle Bromwich.

I soon left these quiet streets to skirt around the houses on a footpath between Parkfields and the M6 down below.

I arrived home shortly afterward having covered 22.7 miles in a gnat’s under five and a half hours averaging 14:30 per mile.

Luckily, even though they had been left alone all day, the dogs had behaved with no messes on my return. Bonus !

The walk went well, I stayed dry and even saw some sunshine. The vest / pack performed well and my legs only hurt a tiny bit (they were a bit achey and sore later).

Feeding the figures into the Route 66 tracker, I see that I am about to cross over the Mississippi River, leaving Illinois and entering my second state – Missouri with less that two thousand mile to do.