Like the illusive and ideal tour guide who gives you just enough info before leaving you alone to be adventurous, Birmingham Museums have dug up a whole host of hidden gems from Brum and beyond for you to get out and make the most of. Beautifully bound up in book form, it's an almanac of unassuming attractions to choose from, so we’ve worked with the makers to whittle all 400-odd down to a bite-sized six, which just scrape the surface. First up, we’re talking about a revolution…
The Revolution Walk Canal & River Trust St Vincent Street, Brindleyplace, B16 8EB
The 4.5 mile stretch of the Main Line Canal runs from the Roundhouse in central Birmingham to Chance Glass Works in Smethwick. The Revolution Walk celebrates three eras of transport: canals, railways and roads, evidence of which can be found all along this peaceful and historic canal stretch. Although the Revolution Walk is ideal for discovering more about Birmingham’s industrial history, it is also surrounded by leafy banks, trees and even a nature reserve nestling between the New and Old Main Line canals. There is plenty of wildlife spotting to be done there, including moorhens, geese and herons which are particularly fond of this canal stretch. The flat towpath provides easy access to a wide range of unique heritage and can be used as a green route in and out of the city. More
Castle Bromwich Historic Gardens
Chester Road, Castle Bromwich, Birmingham B36 9BT
Castle Bromwich Historic Gardens is one of the only examples of unchanged 18th-century formal gardens in the UK. There are over ten acres of 17th- and 18th century Grade II* Listed walled gardens, wild areas, ponds, vegetable patch and holly maze (a mirror image of the one at Hampton Court Palace designed by George London and Henry Wise) as well as flora and fauna all relating to the time period. The gardens are a breath of fresh air in the city – a healthy place both physically and mentally for visitors; and volunteers. Rescued by volunteers over 35 years ago, the derelict gardens have been painstakingly restored and maintained back to their original 18th-century beauty. More
Key Hill Cemetery
Key Hill, Jewellery Quarter, B18 5AH
Key Hill was Birmingham’s first garden cemetery and was laid out on the site of a former sand quarry. It was created in 1836 by a group of non-conformists who objected to paying fees to the Church of England for burial in parish churchyards and the fact their ministers could not conduct funerals there. Key Hill was intended to be a general cemetery open for all denominations. Famous residents include the politician Joseph Chamberlain, Alfred Bird, the manufacturer of Bird’s custard, and the poet Constance Naden. Open all year round, dawn to dusk. More
Saltwells National Nature Reserve
Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council Saltwells Lane, Dudley, DY2 0AP
A mixture of world-class geology, bluebell covered ancient woodland and nationally important heritage, Saltwells National Nature Reserve is now one of the UK’s largest urban nature reserves, covering 247 acres. Features of the reserve include Daphne Pool – home to 16 recorded species of dragonfly and an extensive bluebell woodland with woodland birds. It is also a geological Site of Special Scientific Interest – showing the best exposure of the Staffordshire coalfields and Brewin’s Cutting, a significant site in the Black Country Geo Park. More
Blakesley Road, Yardley, B25 8RN
Discover a fine Tudor house and beautiful gardens just a few miles from the heart of the city. Reopening on 21 July, Blakesley Hall is a timber-framed house built in 1590 by Richard Smalbroke, a member of one of Birmingham’s leading merchant families. More than 400 years later, beautiful Blakesley is still a haven, secluded from the avenues of modern houses that lie beyond its gates. The house is furnished using an inventory taken in the 17th-century and reflects the lifestyle of a wealthy family of the late Tudor and Stuart periods of English history. Outdoor theatre is heading Blakesley's way with Pygmalion, July 25 and 25, n'all.
Reform Street, West Bromwich, B71 4AS
Dartmouth Park is located between the town centre and Sandwell Valley Country Park. There are plenty of activities for all visitors at this Grade II Listed, Green Flag Award winning park including a fantastic play area, lakes for fishing, and outstanding views across Sandwell Valley, floral displays, a sensory garden, splashpad and a pavilion. More
'Things to Do and Places to See in Birmingham and the West Midlands' is available from the shops at Thinktank and Sarehole Mill, with proceeds supporting Birmingham Museums Trust. It's available online too, for £9.99.
Venue: Rico Libre @ Kanteen, 15 Gibb St, B9 4AA; Website Choice: Pork belly (£9) Chooser: Front of House
I've never had a tapas meal in which I enjoyed absolutely everything and, to be honest, I don't think that'll ever change. It comes with the territory of ordering pretty much everything on the menu, this trip 12 of the 18 tapas making it onto a ludicrously well valued £120 total bill (for three, which included two bottles of house wine and tip). Spanish omelette was the low point, pale and overly stodgy the staff offered us any other dish to replace it but, like I said, 12 dishes is probably enough and 13 is unlucky. Nice, though, that a substitute was offered immediately. The pork belly (above) was charred and crunchy at the crackling, encasing soft and supple pork, with blackberry cutting through the richness. The meatballs were outstanding and, at £6, a snip but the standout dish was a battered and fried hake (£7). Crispy and delicate, served with golden chips, it stopped all three diners in our tracks. Not a note of grease, it gave me the kind of happiness that Ben Affleck wishes on Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting. One of our number was utterly wrong to dislike the cod piquillo peppers that had me clawing at his share, while the linguini with clams was the most difficult to split between us, but was fantastic. Have your own. Childish areolae jokes aside (don't go out with your brothers if you want maturity) the potatas alioli did exactly what you'd want it to do — crunchy but fluffy with that moreish garlicky sauce — and the leek gratin in bechamel was the pick of the veg. It would be lovely, one day, for the Rico team to find their own premises once again. Their illuminous green, one-of-kind previous digs was unmistakeably 'them', but sharing with Kanteen now (which probably insured their survival during lockdown) does have a certain temporary feel to it, even if it isn't. I'll be going back whether they roam or don't. We're short on good Spanish and we need the ones we have. Menu
THE FLAPPER FIGHTS BACK
“Life, uh, finds a way”, said Jeff Goldblum in some movie, and it’s a sentiment that’s being shared more and more widely as we continue to emerge from lockdown. Such signs of life are sprouting at The Flapper as against all odds it prepares to welcome people back to Cambrian Wharf. The 50-year-old live music venue and pub has withstood nearly a decade of demolition threats, but is still standing strong due to the amount of people speaking up against its closure and the council realising its importance to Kingston Row and it’s residents. The canal-side building has more personality than your average pub and whilst the Grade II listed crane may not be Rock n’ Roll, it’s cool. Inside, you can expect more than a lick of paint, brand new bars and new, slightly-less-sticky flooring. The resurrection is part of a national conversation about how grassroots venues such as these are integral to the future of the music industry, providing up-and-coming local artists the chance to cut their teeth and hone their craft through Battle of the Bands, open mics and DJ sets. Having previously hosted Indie miserablists Editors, punk mainstays Spunk Volcano and The Eruptions and Nick Oliveri (the naked, beardy one from Queens of the Stone Age), The Flapper’s doors are set to open again, miraculously, on July 21, with bands hoping to be onstage come October. See you down the front for Spunk Volcano and the Eruptions, supported by Johnny Foreskin and the Pullbacks. News and gig announcements will be posted via The Flapper Instagram page.
WALKIES AND TALKIES
A new guided art tour of Birmingham is, like The West Wing, all about walking and talking. It's focussed on our city's public art, like your boi and badass reformer, Thomas Attwood (pictured). Meeting on Saturday mornings throughout July it starts at Grand Central and considers both historical and modern art installations like Forward Together, by Luke Perry (not that Luke Perry), a 12-metre installation being launched in Vicky Square this Sunday and staying for 12 months. It'll also take in this one by Gillian Wearing, that people seem to really get their knickers in a twist over. "Public art requires interpretation and is often intentionally controversial," says tour organiser Jonathan Berg. "Open debate is encouraged. Where public art is in disrepair or not being looked after, we ask serious questions. Where sculptures from those who are now huge on the world stage languish in store we ask why. Where plinths are installed but no sculpture has returned we explore the idea that seemingly benign art is now more controversial as our industrial heritage is reinterpreted in the light of the Black Lives Matters campaign." From £6
PADDLES AND BABBLES
If walking is "so 2020" to you then Brum's beautiful Roundhouse has reopened and will be the base for two new kayaking tours, from £25. 'Bustling Birmingham' will take you into the tourist heart of Britain’s canal system, along the route of James Brindley’s first canal into Brum, which played a major part in the industrial revolution. It provides snapshots into Birmingham’s heritage and plenty of opportunities to see landmarks from a different view. The ICC, The Mailbox, Brindleyplace and Gas Street Basin are all on the sail trail. The 'Green Escape Tour', conversely, will get you out of town, travelling along the Soho Loop which connects many green spaces and is full of wildlife — you may even spot an otter. If you don't have your canal legs, though, Roundhouse have teamed up with the brilliant Run of a Kind for a Best of Birmingham 10K running tour and they've also launched their first guided city walk, which explores the history of Brum through the lens of one location – Centenary Square. Tours of the incredible Roundhouse itself are, of course, back up and running, but if you'd rather be barged around, they have that covered too.
Make your own papier-mâché shrunken head at the Warehouse Cafe in Digbeth, this Monday (July 5). Yeah you heard. Free
JQ restaurant The Wilderness are to launch a gin, and it's your for £28. Pre-order
Yarningham, Brum's annual Yarn Festival, is online only this year. Still gonna be an absolute tear up, mind. July 10 & 11
This month has got more pop-ups than the Birmingham Mail website! The smoky Asian flavours of Fire + Rice will be at Wine Freedom, Digbeth (July 22 and 23), while Hong Kong team Blow Water are at Kings Heath's Juke Bar tonight (July 1) and Friday (July 2). In Moseley West Midlands Jerk Centre are at the Dark Horse today and throughout the weekend.
Grace + James's upstairs project, Upstairs, opens Sunday (July 4) with bookings being taken for breakfast and brunch Wednesdays to Sundays. Dinners will follow at a later date. —
It's 2-4-1 on certain Otto (JQ) pizzas via Uber Eats tonight (July 1). Includes "that" nduja one. More —
Get a third off oysters at The Oyster Club when you visit on Wednesdays, Thursdays or Fridays between 3pm and 6pm. Details —
Beer garden-based theatre at the Prince of Wales, Moseley, for a tenner anyone? Yes, me
"There is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats." — Water Rat to the Mole in 'Wind In The Willows'
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