If you have arrived in Birmingham for the Commonwealth Games you may be wondering what’s so special about this city, a home to over 1 million people. Maybe you know us from the infamous spaghetti junction. Or perhaps you have been told that we are the origin for many famous food brands such as Cadburys chocolate. Or you may even recognise us from the iconic film 28 Days Later.

However you have gotten to know Birmingham, we can promise you that it is even more interesting than you think. Here are five surprising facts you may not know about our amazing city!

Birmingham Is One Of The U.K.’S Greenest Cities

(And Greener Than Paris!)

Although most people commonly think of Birmingham as being a city of old manufacturing warehouses, busy high streets and roaring motorways, the city is actually one of the cleanest and greenest in the country! Here in Brum there are over 500 hundred parks and open spaces for everyone to enjoy. From botanical gardens to stately homes to the Edgbaston reservoir. There is all different types of wildlife to explore and escape to when the busy city life gets too much.

Surprisingly, the city also has nearly 35 miles of canals, making it the city with the most canal connections. Yes – even more than Venice! The first canal opened up in 1796 and was a major trading point for the city. They weave in and out of the main area and into the smaller suburbs, creating a really vital connection for the locals. Filled with wildlife, cyclists, and beautiful canal boats they also contribute a lot to Birmingham’s greenness.

What makes Birmingham so great is the blend between urban landscapes and the more natural sides of the west midlands. The local council has also made a promise to make our city even greener. Ensuring that what was once known as the ‘motor city’ will become a more car free zone. Buses, cycle lanes and tram lines have begun to take over the cities roads allowing more accessible and better transport for everyone.

If you are looking for some green spaces to escape to during your time here at the Games, Lickey Hills is a perfect day trip out to go and see the breath-taking skyline of the city and to explore the woods. (It’s easy to imagine how J.R.R Tolkien wrote Lord of the Rings in Birmingham when walking through this forest!)

Home To The Most Haunted Place In The Country!

You wouldn’t think that a city would be the place for the most haunted area in England. Not with the multiple moors, war time hospitals and old manor houses the UK has – but surprisingly it is! Aston Hall located in the North of the city, is home to many, many ghost stories and tales. There has been many murdering events or mysterious ladies floating about the halls of this museum. Many workers have had direct experience with the ghosts themselves.

Perhaps one of the most famous hauntings is the relations to Sir Thomas Holt who built the hall himself. Rumours say that he locked up his daughter somewhere in the hall and she starved to death. Her spirit restlessly roams the hallways and rooms ever since.

Aston Hall Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

The Birth Place Of Many Iconic Characters

Maybe the most famous character you can think of in association with Birmingham is Brum, the children’s tv show about the small vintage cars adventures. But the city is actually the source of some very famous stories and characters! As mentioned before, J.R.R Tolkien, the author of Lord of the Rings, lived in Birmingham and also wrote his famous series here as well. Places such as Hobbiton are based on the small suburb areas of Mosely. Old Joe, the University of Birmingham’s clock tower, influenced the black tower of Insegard. Fun fact – Old Joe is actually taller than Big Ben and can fit two stacked double decked buses through its clock face!

Another surprising character that came from the city is the iconic character of Thomas the Tank Engine. (Although maybe not so surprising when you think of how big and busy New Street Station is!) Rev Adwry, the creator of the children’s franchise, came up with the story of the Railway friends as a way to entertain his sick son. And while New Street certainly is a station to spark inspiration, Adwry actually drew influence from his local rail station in Kings Norton which was the one of the oldest stations at the time.

Brum Martin Pettitt from Bury St Edmunds, UK, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

The Youngest City in Europe

When thinking of the youngest city – especially in the UK – you may think of London or Brighton, maybe even Manchester but Birmingham actually takes the lead! With over 40% of the population being below 25, the city is thriving with young souls who are growing at the same time the city is. This may be on account that the city is home to over five universities, the University of Birmingham being apart of the famous Russel Group and also a leading international university. Many young people end up staying on and working here because of the lifestyle and the multicultural environment. The jobs are great and many and the rent is much lower than other up and coming cities. What’s great about this is that the city is constantly getting a refresh each year. Birmingham is becoming more and more of a hotspot to hang out in.


Creator of Cluedo Was From Birmingham

Birmingham is home to many interesting and strange inventions whose origins are never really thought of like the postal stamp or the titanic anchor. But one of the coolest ones is that the creator of Cluedo was from our city! Stuck inside (sounds like something we are all familiar with) during the air raids on England, Anthony E. Pratt began to create this iconic board game. He took inspiration from the likes of Agatha Christi to create a game centered around murder mystery. With the help of his wife, the two of them designed the layout and rules of the games. It was quickly sold and turned into the famous board game. The journalist Norman Watson provided the name ‘Cluedo’.

Hopefully these facts give you an insight to how interesting and rich with different peoples stories, creations and histories Birmingham is. And these are only a tiny snippet of the wild things that have come out of Birmingham. There are hundreds of facts that will continually surprise you and challenge everything you know about the city!

Birmingham Anthony E. Pratt