11 September 2014

What do you think of when the name Birmingham (UK) comes up? 

Industry, Spaghetti Junction?   A place to drive through to get to the West Country or to the Lake District? 

This week we saw another side to that enormous city when we visited the Botanical Gardens (http://www.birminghambotanicalgardens.org.uk/)
Lawn Aviary
Bird houses surrounded by a rose garden
These gardens cover many acres and are not run by the local council or other body, it's completely self-supporting. The gardens is managed by a team of about seven gardeners with two apprentices.

Sub-tropical  GlasshouseThere's a tropical house, subtropical house, Mediterranean house and even an arid house.  So we travelled all over the world in only a few minutes.  It was amazing in the seasonal butterfly house to be surrounded by the butterflies happily flitting between their flowers.

We were shown round the beautiful gardens by our very knowledgeable guide, Nigel.  He gave us information about the origins of the gardens, about many of the plants we saw and also gave us tips on cultivation.  Especially one plant (can't remember the name) which wouldn't normally grow somewhere so far north, except that it's on a sheltered wall and the enormous amount of moisture needed for the plan to thrive is provided by a leaky guttering by the ladies' loo.

The cafe is rather pricey (although very clean and run by cheerful people) so perhaps it might be a good idea to take a picnic and pop into the cafe for a cup of coffee afterwards.

Unfortunately, we were there for only about two and a half hours, perhaps another hour or so would have enabled us to enjoy the grounds more fully.

Next we went on to Soho House Museum (http://www.bmag.org.uk/soho-house)in Handsworth, the home of industrialist and entrepreneur Matthew Boulton (or Bolton as it says on his portrait).  

This was a very interesting house and I enjoyed going round the house as there was information in each room, not too much, just enough for us to appreciate how the house was used and how people lived in those days.  The house was attached to the factory, so Matthew Boulton must have been very much a hands-on boss.  For his times, he was very enlightened employer. 

When we looked at the pillars in his front hall, it was staggering to think that they were all brought to the house by narrow boat as the house was built before the times of the railways.  There was also a small museum next to the cafe.  Coffee much cheaper, unfortunately no decaf,  but nice cake, friendly people and good cake and a very clean cafe.

There were quite a few artefacts on show and for sale which had been made as part of projects involving the local community.

We had a great day and plan to visit both of these places again very soon, and at the same time see a bit more of Birmingham itself, perhaps even the Jewellery Quarter (http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Tourism-g186402-Birmingham_West_Midlands_England-Vacations.html).


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