This hugely popular TV series takes place in a fairly grim and dark setting, that of 1920's Birmingham just after WWI. At that time the city was dirty and industrial, not to mention poor and conflict-ridden, but the series does show some incredible and beautiful spots. Now Birmingham is a very very different kind of place, and is improving rapidly. I wanted to share some of the most similar locations that people could visit to get a sense of what Birmingham is and was like...Many people still think of the city as being quite dirty and grim, but in reality it is becoming more and more modern and colourful with every passing month.
The canals play a huge part in the history of the city and also in the TV show. This is one of the most lasting and durable parts of Birmingham's history. Much of the city has changed radically since the 20's, but many of the canal routes are exactly the same, with slightly updated paving. These canals are long, curving and seemingly endless, and I absolutely loved being able to walk up and down them when I lived here.
The Shelby family in the series make the majority of their illegal money smuggling goods up and down the 257 kilometres of canals that existed at the time. Now the routes are significantly reduced, and basically used by aficionados looking for a peaceful weekend of floating gently through the scenery. However there are still more than 150 kilometres of navigable pathways, so it's possible to hire a canal boat for a weekend and drift about bumping into the sides and having a great time.
The canals are not just for those with a boat, as there are hundreds of entry points from the city centre and all around the city in general, where pedestrians can walk alongside the canals. Some of the cities best views can be seen from the canal sides, and the open waterways surrounding the aquarium, NEC Arena and some beautiful cosy old canal-side pubs are my favourite part of the city.
Almost like a network of tunnels, those who have spent a lot of time in Birmingham use them as shortcuts to get around the city. From the outskirts to the centre there is always a canal to take. They are at their best for long, gentle runs in the spring and summer. As a student, I used to put my earphones in, turn on a relaxed playlist and just run in a straight line for as long as I wanted. There i no fear of getting lost as you can always just turn round and head back, and there are plenty of signs as well.
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