Gravy Train walking tour #2

And here’s the next in the series of walking (or cycling) tours taking in the locations I used in ‘Gravy Train’. This one is longer and you might well need to bike it rather than walking the whole thing, especially as you’d have to come back again!

Walk #2: Hockley to Edgbaston

Distance: approx 5 miles each way. I say approx because Google Maps had a major conniption when I tried to change the preferred route, which was for cars and didn’t take in half the places I needed it to. The wonders of technology…

Route:

1. Start at the Hockley flyover/Great Hampton Street. The area to the left as you walk towards the city centre is where I had in mind when I described Sandra and Mike’s public house, and there are examples of the type of pub (though nowhere near as rundown as theirs!) in the surrounding streets.

2. Continue along Livery Street, then turn right into Great Charles Street Queensway and follow this to Paradise Circus. This area is currently undergoing major roadworks to install a tram line and road and footpath closures seem to change on a daily basis, so find the approved route to take you across the island to Broad Street.

3. Once on Broad Street walk a short distance until you come to Gas Street, and turn left down here. There are some nice old buildings, now mostly cafes and bars, which back onto the canal basin. Find a cast-iron archway with a path that leads to the canalside towpath and have a good wander round. The area of the Gas Street Basin is fascinating and well worth exploring. I used the arch, the bridge and the towpath in the final showdown between crime boss Vernon Ball and Sandra’s “uncle” George, over the bag of money that Ball’s underling Lenny had stolen.

4. Retrace your steps to Broad Street and continue to Five Ways Island, a vast gyratory traffic system enclosing a green open space, with subways to various roads, offices and shopping centres. This island is central to the action in ‘Gravy Train’; it’s here that Sandra and Mike visit the betting shop to collect their winnings and get mugged by Lenny; and it’s on one of the roads leading to the island that Justine’s car breaks down and she nicks Lenny’s van to get herself home. Here’s a couple of pics of what might have been the betting shop, and the subway where Lenny froze his nuts off.

5. You can end your tour here, but if you’re feeling particularly energetic, take the subway up and onto Hagley Road and carry on walking for about a mile, until you come to the junction with Norfolk Road. There are a handful of clubs and casinos in this area which helped to inspire the Roller Club which Justine breaks into.

6. Retrace your steps, or catch one of the many buses that head along Hagley Road back into the city centre.

And that’s it. Once again I hope it gives you some new areas to discover and a bit of fun poking about. But again, don’t forget that Covid regulations mean we’re all expected to exercise within our local areas, so if you’re not already in Birmingham please don’t make a special trip yet.

And again, if you like the sound of the book then feel free to grab a copy here, and thank you!

Gravy Train walking tour #1

Stuck in Birmingham during lockdown and sick of pounding the same old streets? Then why not try discovering some of the locations in my books? This is one of several walking (or cycling, for the longer ones) trails that I’ll hopefully be posting on here in the next week or two, with routes, distances, and interesting things to see along the way. I hope they help to inspire you.

To start off, a nice easy stroll centred on the suburb of Moseley. This forms one of the main locations of my dark crime caper ‘Gravy Train’ and the walk includes the settings for Fred’s courtyard workshop, Vernon Ball’s criminal HQ, and the bench where grass Todd meets his police contact Suzanne.

Walk #1: Moseley to Cannon Hill Park

Distance: approx 1.5 miles (and the same back!)

Route:

  1. Start in the centre of Moseley. If you’re not local and on foot, there’s parking in a small car park off the Alcester Road or in some of the surrounding streets plus a good bus service (no 50) which passes right through the ‘village’ centre. Head along Alcester Road as far as Woodbridge Road and turn down here. A short distance on the right is a gated archway leading to a courtyard of apartments. There was a dairy operating out of the courtyard at one time and it’s one of the models I based Fred’s car mechanics business on.

2. Retrace your steps, cross over Alcester Road and head down Chantry Road (opposite Woodbridge Road). This is a fascinating street full of large, late Victorian houses, many of them uniquely decorative and some so vast they have their own coach-houses. The ones on the left-hand side back onto the private Moseley Park; there’s a locked gate into the park near the bottom of the hill. It’s one of these houses that forms the lair for crime boss Vernon Ball, with its basement flat, its garden, and its view over the park and pool. I couldn’t possibly say which particular house, but here’s a general street view to give you some idea.

3. At the end of Chantry Road turn left into Park Hill, past more impressive Victorian houses, then find a safe place to cross either Salisbury Road or Edgbaston Road until you’re on the diagonally opposite corner. From here walk a short distance along Edgbaston Road to one of the main entrances to Cannon Hill Park.

4. Cannon Hill Park is a vast city park donated to the people of Birmingham by Miss Louisa Ryland and opened in 1873. It covers over 80 acres – more if you add the woodland, conservation areas and nature reserve next to it, and there are lots of different walks and paths to choose. Look out for the foundations of the old glasshouse, the boating lake, the scale model of the Elan Valley reservoirs which provide the city’s water supply – and the bench where Todd met Inspector Suzanne Charlton, and got pecked by a duck.

5. After a good mooch round the park (and a takeaway coffee from the cafe, assuming it’s open and assuming you’re allowed to) retrace your steps to Moseley.

I hope the walk inspires you to explore this historic and interesting corner of Birmingham but please bear in mind that current restrictions mean you can’t travel outside of your ‘local area’ (whatever that means) for exercise. So if you’re based outside the city, please bookmark this for another day! And if you’d like to read about the various locations of ‘Gravy Train’ in more detail, why not treat yourself to a copy of the book? You can find it here.