What lies below is a theme for this and my next blog. Spaghetti Junction is 50 years old in May 2022. Millions of car drivers pass over Spaghetti Junction as they hurtle past Birmingham. Many are on the M6 heading north or south to their destination with no thought about what is below. For others the Aston Expressway is the main northern route into Birmingham and is a spur off the Junction. The sprawl of roads spit out cars to Erdington and 6 ways along the Tyburn Road. People live in Gravelly Hill immediately adjacent to the junction. The area is a mixture of concrete, noise and fumes. The Junction celebrates 50 years in May and at the time was seen as a landmark construction. Over the years it has become synonymous with Birmingham.
As a photographer what lies below is much more interesting and is seldom seen from above. The first part of the junction to investigate is Salford circus which is the link roundabout for many of the local roads to the motorway. It is not clear what the planners had in mind but the inner pedestrian area of the junction is an unfriendly concrete jungle. It is covered in litter and graffiti tagging. It is not a place to visit alone and luckily my photographic colleague John Bray was with me. The concrete pillars are giants holding up the roads above. The area is under attack and the hero is nature as it attempts to reclaim the area.
Kicking our way through the rubbish we make ouir way through the underpasses and cross the busy junction to reach the canal access steps. Running under the Motorway the canals also make a junction. There is where three canals come together namely the Birmingham and Fazeley, the Tame Valley and the Birmingham and Warwick Junction canals. Flowing alongside the canals is the River Tame. The area has numerous bridges criss crossing the canal and the light peeks through vents above. There are grafitti strewn around the place. Cyclists and walkers move around in a surreal dance. Walking eastwards the Motorway passes Star City and the area is reminiscent of many TV programmes. This is probably because a great deal of car chase filming takes place around here.
Moving westwards there is a bridge tunnel where there is graffiti which in the past was renowned for its beauty and craftsmanship in previous years. When we visited, there was just a white washed wall with a prison window. I am unsure of the meaning of this painting. The site is used as there is a shaft of light that comes down from above the junction onto the canalside.
The canal path leads under all the roads that form the Junction and there is repair work on several of the bridges. A path along the Aston Expressway eventually comes out onto Aston reservoir. This is a hidden feature in the shadows of the Motorway. It is relatively peaceful and a contrast to the distant noise of the traffic. Moving along the perimeter and keeping the river Tame in view, there are trees and shrubs which are reclaiming the land underneath the tarmac. This becomes the end of our journey underneath Spaghetti junction, and we head home back on the M6.
There are likely to be birthday celebrations on its big 50 birthday but meanwhile here is a BBC link celebrating 40 years.