Gas Street Basin

Bypasses and ringroads

motorbikes and cars

modern modes of transport

leave their gaping scars upon this land

so green and pleasant,

we yearn for times gone by

but gazing at the narrow-boat

I wonder if our eye has rose-tinted

our view of the water-born

workhorse, now driven for pleasure

coal-carrying forgotten as we

pursue times of leisure and joy.

The canals were our highways,

industry was fuelled by these watery

paths – fumes, dust and noise

clogging the arteries of England’s

long spine.


This week on dVerse Poetics, Shanyn would like us to write about the rhythm of transport. This long weekend, I have been staying with my family who hail from what southerners in England refer to as The North. Well, I was born and brought up in the West Midlands, which is hardly The North, but we do have a lot of industrial history of which to be proud!

Apparently, my birth city of Birmingham has more canals than Venice, and they were used for commerce in support of the the Industrial Revolution. I imagine that they were dusty, noisy, smelly and very, very busy. Traffic jams of narrowboats would have been commonplace, especially in places such as Tardebigge, which has a flight of  30 locks. Taking a boat through a lock system is not to be taken lightly! These days, the canals are used for pleasure, and I think many people tend to to forget that they were the motorways of their day. So, this was my inspiration! Oh, and Gas Street Basin is where a number of canal systems meet in the centre of Birmingham – very pretty now, not so lovely back in the times when it was a working hub of the canal system.

I hope you enjoy this – please pop over to dVerse to see how my fellow poets have been inspired!

27 thoughts on “Gas Street Basin

  1. I once wrote a poem about that region, the Grand Canal; would like to see the canals one day; loved the poetic trip you gave us; thanks.

    1. Thank you, Glenn. Care to share your Grand Canal with us? They are a treat, by the way. A branch of the canal system cuts along only a few minutes walk from my Mum’s house… great memories of growing up!

  2. So interesting, I live in an area of Western New York that also had a canal system, and just like yours, it’s now used strictly for pleasure. Love the bit of history you wove into this.

  3. i hear you….we talk a good game on the environment and then chug on in our cars and keep on destroying….how cool would it be to ride horseback again….well maybe not in some circumstances but….smiles….the canals would def be cool….smiles….

    1. Definitely. We all get swept along in the daily grind… I have actually ‘legged’ a narrowboat through a tunnel – where you lie on your back and move the boat along with your feet on the roof of the tunnel. It was at the Black Country Museum. Great fun, when I was a kid!

  4. Ah I didn’t know that. I crossed Birmingham a few times on work travel and didn’t have chance to notice. Thanks for sharing such a lovely poem as you take us on a journey with you.

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