Edgbaston Reservoir & Ladywood, Birmingham – tracing a young J R R Tolkien’s steps

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Yesterday I made the most of the sunny weather and took my first walk around the reservoir with my friend Suki. Despite living only a mile away for 18 months I had never got around to seeing the nature reserve and I was surprised to find there was 70 acres of it. It was created by Thomas Telford in 1827 as a top up to the city’s canal system and is still used for that purpose today. It had a seaside feel to me, especially with the gulls chorusing and hopeful metal detectors scanning. 

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The Tower Ballroom sits on the very edge of the reserve. In the 1870’s it used to be an ice-rink before becoming a dance hall in the 1920s.  Suki had worked there as a bouncer in the past and had witnessed much anti-social behaviour over her time. Unfortunately in 2014 the owners were taking to court for playing House of Pain without a phonographic licence. In tuneful synchronicity I heard their best known track “Jump Around” twice before the day was through.

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A few minutes walk away is the impressive Perrott’s Folly built by John Perrott in 1758 but no-one is clear of the reason why. Perhaps he wanted his own version of the Rapunzel tower. The Folly was used as the city’s weather recording station between 1884 and 1979. The last time it was open to the public was 2008 during a celebratory weekend which featured the life of J R R Tolkein who grew up nearby. Right now they are looking for volunteers to fill its small courtyard with plants.

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Here is a building neither of us expected to see. We could see an unusual yellow spike from a distance and so headed towards it. Well it turns out Ladywood houses the Birmingham Buddhist Academy with an admirable pagoda. The pagoda is the earthly manifestation of the mind of the Buddha, therefore is a prime symbol of the Buddhism faith. The organisation is a registered charity and construction started in 1998. 

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On route I enjoyed a short-lived friendship.

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We ate at the only cafe in the area, The Reservoir Cafe, basic sustenance of hash-browns and beans from the All Day Breakfast menu.

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Jean Francois Gravelot, a French tightrope walker who renamed himself The Great Blondin, daintily crossed the Edgbaston Reservoir in 1873 hence homage is paid to him on the main road into Ladywood. I could only catch him in silhouette as we drove by but I think it looks kinda good.

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The inner city area of Ladywood is notorious for being one of the most deprived areas in Britain, despite it neighbouring Edgbaston the poshest mansion filled place in Birmingham.  Suki and I felt very safe (maybe because it was daylight?) and despite the litter and regular whiffs of cannabis we fully enjoyed our tour.

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