A poem to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Birmingham to Wednesbury stretch of canal.
Strong in the arm and bright in the head,
An intrepid ideology that changed the nation.
People flocked to the flight of locks,
paid for by local men,
pioneered by engineers with plans of prosperity
Carved out by working hands that held this land
close to their hearts
and above their heads
for all to see.
The arteries of this landscape
(and the reason we boomed)
Brought soot to faces, smog to the air
and a swell to our cities:
Canals were king
Their reign long and honourable.
Yet time’s current of change is a strong one
And landscapes shift to fit.
Decades of hardship meant
Miles of veins were lost to turned heads
Became tips and slipped into neglect.
They have lived longer than the reason we first needed them;
Doesn’t mean the desire for their survival dried up.
Thank generational ingenuity of local people,
These channels are busy thriving,
The Renaissance in full flow.
The Crow is proof that the journey is greater
Though this summit still wins gold.
So we owe it to the heart of this land
And to the hands that formed it
To take a moment to hear its pulse
Composed in this world’s commotion:
A life that’s long with steady beat,
Vessels pumping still.
‘The Crow’ is the local name for the flight of locks leading to the highest point of Birmingham’s canal network.