Just where Sandpits becomes The Parade the road becomes Saturday Bridge. In a car on the B1435 you probably wouldn’t notice it at all, so brief is the time you spend above the canal, so integrated into the road the bridge has become. From the top of a bus or the pavement you might get a glimpse of the NIA at the far end of the canal and realise that for a second you were borne over water. From beneath, on the towpath, Saturday Bridge is more evident.
As I run down the towpath I can see the cars fly over on Saturday Bridge and as I approach it the route is briefly slightly restricted by the bridge structure itself. Down here on the waterside, the bridge also tells me its story. A plaque on the wall says it got its name from the practice of paying boat workers at this point on the canal on Saturdays. I pause to reflect on that for a moment and I become aware that a few feet above me one can often see a queue form down Saturday Bridge, waiting for the Job Centre Plus to open up. Fate has served me up a tiny, quirky piece of irony, its own geographical comment on the post-industrial economy of Britain and Birmingham.
As a home worker I need excuses to get out of the house so, despite not being that interested in food other than as fuel, I’ve been volunteering at Stirchley Stores, doing shifts and running errands a few times a week. As well as the essential contact with other people it also gives me a commute, of a kind. It’s just a walk through Hazelwell Park and over the River Rea, five minutes at most, and it’s given me a real appreciation of these small, local parks which cover the Birmingham sprawl.
Functional and unpretentious, Hazelwell Park is a typical community resource. A large rectangle with space for ball sports (as I believe they’re known), enclosed on four sides by a terrace, a patch of woodland, some allotmments and the mighty Rea. Like other parks along the river its path forms part of the National Cycle Route 5, a pastoral bypass to the noisy Pershore Road used by pedestrians and cyclists alike. It also houses a vast murder of crows which, remarkable as they are, are not the subject of this letter.