I spent quite some time imagining that my future career was going to be in urban regeneration (really, it’s a fairly obvious route to take from an urban geography degree). To some extent it will be if all goes to plan: after all, urban regeneration is not a new phenomenon, it’s exactly what the Cross Act was aiming at, back in 1875. Today’s photo is from a long-scheduled regeneration site, the Icknield Port Loop on the BCN main line canal.
As you can see, it certainly needs a bit of tarting up. It’s one of those frustrating canal sites that’s still in water and navigable, but with no towpath; you have to really use your initiative to get any good sightings of most of this loop. It currently serves a BCN depot and a feeder from Edgbaston Reservoir and was created when Thomas Telford cut a swathe through the old, meandering, contour-based Birmingham Canal in 1827. Telford’s new cut created a number of loops, including the Oozells Loop right by the Sea Life Centre; the Soho loop (of which more later, no doubt); the Cape Arm, and several more. It was a superhighway of a canal rather than James Brindley’s narrow and aging track, and by cutting through Telford created a network by itself running from Birmingham through the Black Country to Wolverhampton, linking with all the other canals that had sprung up in the latter part of the 18th century.
Once the canals went into decline, this bit got left behind a bit. Tucked in a sort of no-mans-land between Ladywood and Hockley, it’s stayed pretty derelict – all I saw were a fleet of parked-up lorries. There’s plans afoot to revivify though – I’ll be interested to see if they progress anywhere, as that could be a good test of a canal-based district that’s not smack-bang in the centre of town, and isn’t at all rural.