For the first chapter of my travel journal, I’m illustrating a car journey between a rural commuter town into the UK’s second largest city. Hinckley is positioned within easy travel distance of Leicester, Coventry and Birmingham, along with the other smaller towns such as Nuneaton and Tamworth.
One change through the journey is the hilliness of the terrain. Hinckley and the surrounding area is quite flat, but as we travel along the A5 towards Tamworth it gets increasingly hilly. This is comforting to both of us in the car.
Growing up in Erdington I did feel more like I was part of the Sutton Coldfield community than the larger Birmingham community. When we moved from primary to secondary school, a lot of my classmates gained entry into schools in Sutton Coldfield. I personally started at grammar school in Handsworth across the city, but still most of the local school bus routes through Erdington ended up in Sutton.
Sutton Coldfield is not just another Birmingham suburb. It’s a large town in its own right, with its own suburbs, which is sort of attached onto the north of ‘proper’ Birmingham. In some places, the borders can seem as vague as any suburb, but Chester Road, which separates Erdington and Sutton Coldfield is a particularly defined line in the sand.
When I was little, Erdington hosted its own St Patrick’s Day parade on the high street, historically has a large Catholic community and now, a growing Polish community. On the approach to Erdington High Street from the north, the view ahead is dominated by the old Blockbuster building, currently a gym. Arguably symbolic of arriving in Erdington; it’s also in view when approaching on foot from the train station.