I have a map of Birmingham on my bedroom wall that I consult when looking for places to explore. At some point towards the end of the year I noticed something that caught my attention: a blue blob inside a green blob. The blue blob was labelled "Edgbaston Pool". It appeared that there was a significant body of water a short cycle from my house that I had no idea existed. It's been quite the year for local geographical discoveries so this seemed like the perfect way to fill one of those purposeless, indistinguishable days between Christmas and New Year (much like all the other days at the moment).
The reason I didn't know this lake existed is because it's surrounded on all sides by private property and there's no clear way in. Luckily a friend tipped me off that you can gain access via a running track so once I'd located that I was good. She also said that the secluded nature of the pool makes it a great spot for wild swimming. Alas I hadn't packed my trunks and I didn't have a pound for the lockers. Maybe next time.
I soon lost track of whose land I was on and wondered a couple of times if I was heading in the right direction. At one point I thought I might have stumbled upon the abandoned BBC garden that they used to film Gardner's World in. It certainly had the vibe of an abandoned BBC garden but having never seen the show I can neither confirm nor deny this.
I knew from the map that the lake was on a golf course so once I started noticing golf balls in the undergrowth I knew I must have been getting warmer.
Before the golf course this area was part of the landscaped gardens of Edgbaston Hall which still stands and is now used as the golf clubhouse. The current Hall was built in 1718 after Richard Gough purchased the estate, enclosed the park and stocked it with deer for hunting. The gardens were laid out by Capability Brown in 1776.
As I passed through the grounds to get a view from the east bank of the lake I noticed three men walking roughly in my direction. In my experience golfers are among the most ferocious defenders of private property so I braced myself for a confrontation. As they got closer though I saw that they didn't have any golf "stuff" and they passed me by without a word. Perhaps they were just looking for the blue blob too?
Edgbaston Pool was formed by the damming of the Chad Brook to power a water mill once used for blade making. It rests atop glacial sands and gravels overlying Keuper sandstone formed in the Triassic period. In 1986 it was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and is home to a vast array of birdlife including grebes, reed warblers and woodpeckers. I for one have never seen so many coots and gulls.
There are still deer to be found here too: muntjacks descended from escapees from Woburn Abbey, originally brought over from China in the early 20th Century.
As dusk descended and I started to think about making my way home, a deafening avian chatter rose from the trees behind me and as I stood aghast, a vast murmuration of something or other billowed out of the canopy and spilled across the lake, eventually coming to rest in the oaks and birches on the far side.
Anyone want to come back in the spring for a dip?
UPDATE: It's been confirmed that the mystery garden was indeed the former filming location for Gardener's World.
I've also been informed that the "murmuration" I saw was most likely comprised of jackdaws, meaning it would more accurately be described as a "clattering".