If you have ever walked the 200 metres from Digbeth markets past the fountains, smart cafés and noodle bars to arrive at this statue, you’ll know from the pain in your legs that you’ve walked up a hill. But more than that, you’ve crossed an important threshold in the West Midlands landscape: you’ve walked up onto the Birmingham or Black Country Plateau (the name’s something else we can’t agree on). The air might not be very thin up here, but at 120m (the height of a 40 storey building) and covering most of Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall, Wolverhampton and Birmingham, the Plateau is the largest piece of high ground between the Pennines and the Cotswolds. And it famously includes the highest football ground in the English league. More historically, it is the reason the Black Country canals exist in the first place (at this height the rivers are too small to navigate) and also why there are impressive flights of locks where the canals come off the high ground (see below).
So next time someone assures you they are on the level, make sure they’re not just talking about their altitude.
PDF map of the Plateau
Location of 21 canal locks in Wolverhampton (40 metres descent)
…. and the Wolverhampton Locks Trail (pdf leaflet)
Location of 8 canal locks at Delph, Brierley Hill (25 metres descent)
Location of 13 canal locks at Farmers Bridge, Birmingham (25 metres descent)