"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

A Hidden City Centre Garden and Centenary Square

Yesterday I was on family "chauffeuring duties" and found myself at 10.00 in the morning in Birmingham City Centre. Now I have to admit I never visit the City Centre unless going to the Theatre, Museum or Symphony Hall, so I decided instead of sitting in the car reading for an hour or so, I would take the camera and explore.

Whilst walking to the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in the past I have noticed a hidden garden located behind the Theatre and this was my first port of call.

It was really lovely to see the effort that had been made to plant so many "pollinator friendly" plants - Cosmos, Buddleia, Red Hot Pokers, Nasturtiums, Calendula or Pot Marigold, Verbena bonariensis etc. etc.

A view of the rear of the new Birmingham Library - more on this later!!

The gardens were beautifully maintained and it was wonderful to find a beautiful garden buzzing with insects slap bang in the middle of a City Centre. A very tranquil haven.

Centenary Square was just a short walk away and at that time in the morning was fairly quiet. It was named in 1989 in celebration of Birmingham achieving City status in 1889.

Today dominating the Square is the new Birmingham Library which is estimated to have cost 188.8 million pounds! Once open it will be the largest library in the UK and the largest public cultural space in Europe.

When I've driven past in recent years during its construction I have to admit I was not at all impressed with the architecture and thought it was a complete eyesore. However, now its more or less completed and looking at it more closely I can see some beauty in its shape and design. Would be really interested to know what everyone thinks!

The library is due to open on 3rd September this year but it looks as though there might still be some work in progress!

Symphony Hall and the International Convention Centre

Birmingham Repertory Theatre - the theatre has recently celebrated its centenary - it was founded by Barry Jackson in 1913 and originally based at the Old Repertory Theatre moving to this building in 1971.

This building has been closed since 2011 due to the building of the new library and a few changes to the interior of the theatre although plays have continued at various other locations. It re-opens on 3rd September.

I do rather like Martin Shaw and am hoping to go and see this play

I was very pleased to see that Birmingham City Council had, in addition to more formal flowering displays, planted a meadow in the Square. Unfortunately, it did seem to have suffered probably from lack of rain during the hot spell we had.

It was lovely to see metal sculptures of two Towers located close by in Edgbaston - Perrott's Folly and a Victorian Tower which is part of Edgbaston Water Works. JRR Tolkien lived in the area for several years as a child and it has been suggested that these two Towers were his inspiration for "Minas Morgul" and "Minas Tirith" - The Two Towers after which the second volume of "Lord of the Rings" is named.

I visited these two Towers last year and here are a couple of photos

The Tower at Edgbaston Water Works and

Perrott's Folly

I thought this deckchair (also in the meadow) was a brilliant idea.

The Hall of Memory - a War Memorial built 1922 - 25 out of Portland Stone from the Isle of Portland, Dorset.

The four bronze statues are allegorical figures by a local sculptor (Albert Toft) representing the Army, Navy, Air Force and Women's Service. For some unknown reason I only took photos of three of them!

Statue of Matthew Boulton, James Watt and William Murdoch opposite the Square

Clouds reflected in the Hyatt Hotel

A Tower of Flowers

Baskerville House - originally the home of John Baskerville (1706-1725) a printer and type designer. The building was once used as offices by the City Council.

Statue of Edward VII


For more information on the ICC, Birmingham Rep and Birmingham Library please visit the following websites





Anonymous said...

An interesting tour of Birmingham and it seems to look quite different compared to the last time I visited the city (which was well before 2000). I'm not sure about the new Library either but it is at least different and the metal work is certainly interesting close up. However I am less ambivalent about that floral deckchair and simply love it :-)

Wendy said...

I was fascinated by this, because I don't know Birmingham at all, although I'm due to visit there soon. Wonderful to see so many plants for pollinators in the city centre - I wonder if they have beehives on the roofs there like London? I'm not keen on the Library design although it sounds a fabulous place inside.

Ragged Robin said...

David Turner - Thank You :) What really pleased me was the effort put into trying to establish a meadow and the attempts to plant pollinator friendly plants.

Ragged Robin said...

Wendy - So glad if the post helps with your visit :) I'm still undecided re: library design - problem is with City Centre there is such a mish mash of building ages - some old, some new and some very new!

Not sure about beehives on roofs - will have to do some research!

Ragged Robin said...

Wendy - So glad if the post helps with your visit :) I'm still undecided re: library design - problem is with City Centre there is such a mish mash of building ages - some old, some new and some very new!

Not sure about beehives on roofs - will have to do some research!

Lou Mary said...

It is very encouraging to see that some cities are trying to help nature!

I like the metalwork on the library and do quite like the whole design, but I can see that it may be a bit imposing.

I haven't been to Birmingham before so wouldn't know if it fits in or not.

Great post and lovely photos :)

SeagullSuzie said...

Ah, a lovely tour of Birmingham centre. The metalwork on the library is spectacular, but not sure about its overall shape. However at least it's not a concrete monster. I think spiders will love to make webs in it and that in turn will attract some birds.
If I remember correctly isn't that the garden Sarah Raven visited in her bees butterflies and blooms tv programme?

Ragged Robin said...

Lou Mary - Many thanks :) I so agree that its good that cities/towns etc. are trying to help wildlife. I have also seen areas with unmown verges too which all helps :)

Seagull Suzie - Many thanks :) Husband was saying tonight that the shape of the library has been likened to a wedding cake!!!

Yes, I think it probably was the garden visited by Sarah Raven. So good to see they are still trying to carry through some of her ideas :)

Em Parkinson said...

Not sure how I feel about the library. Funnily enough, I think I prefer it from a distance....not that keen on the fiddly stuff! Wonderful post - thank you!

Ragged Robin said...

Em Parkinson - Many thanks - pleased you enjoyed. I still can't make up my mind about it although mentioned it to my husband tonight and he loathes it and thinks is even worse than the last one they built which received a lot of criticism!!!

Do hope you have enjoyed/are enjoying your break!

Pete said...

excellent post RR. i've been to Brum once and that was 16 years ago!

Ragged Robin said...

Pete - Many thanks :) Changed a lot in 16 years!!

Countryside Tales said...

Fascinating post which I really enjoyed reading. Just shows how much interesting stuff there can be in cities when you look. I'm generally not a fan of modern architecture but I rather liked the new library, even if the cost seems exorbitant given our current financial climate!

Ragged Robin said...

Countryside Tales - Many thanks CT - glad you enjoyed :) I don't think I've explored that part of Birmingham City Centre since the children were little and we used to go in to visit museums occasionally.

Chris Rohrer said...

Hello there,

Really nice collection of photos here.....the garden is really delightful with all of those fabulous colors. I like the combo on top of the pole and also like that chair....very unique!!!

Any dedication to LOTR is awesome. I would totally dress up in Sarumen's robe and stand from the top of that tower for a shot. I'm reading the Unpublished Stories right now and am truly fascinated by how sensitive Gandolf was to all of the threads that began to form before and during the Hobbit. Very interesting stuff Tolkien wrote. The characters are real!

Hope you're having a good week! Chris

Ragged Robin said...

Chris Rohrer - Hi Chris :)

Thanks so much. Thought you might like the Tolkien connection :) I'll try and visit Moseley Bog one of these days - another local place that inspired him. I haven't read the Unpublished Stories though did read Unfinished Tales (perhaps same book?).

Sadly, I have to report that the badger cull began last night. Sickened and appalled and very angry and upset :( But we all keep on fighting to try and get it stopped.