Wonder-full City Centre Wandering

How long is it since you’ve been in to Birmingham city centre?  I’ve been there just two or three times in the last year – most recently for the City Women “Wander in Wonder”, a lunch-hour city centre walk, as pandemic restrictions ease to allow us to walk in sixes again.  Although we have continued with a few 1:1 face-to-face meetings in the last year, this was our first City Women “in person” event in more than a year.  It felt a landmark day – with the gift of wonderful spring sunshine.

I had a heightened sense of awareness – noticing details about the train journey and the city, alert to the details.  I was even glad to take city centre photos – almost like a tourist in my own city, seeing it from the outside, as well as feeling its familiarity.

Our group of a dozen city women – in two groups of six – shared a circular walk from Snow Hill, taking us across the ringroad and up the canal towpath, noticing trees and allotments before coming to the Library of Birmingham and returning via Centenary Square and Victoria Square.  I’ll happily share with you the walk map/sheet that Birmingham-city-centre-lover Raluca Vetor and I prepared for our City Women event!  Heartfelt thanks to Raluca for opening up such a refreshing encounter with one another and with the city centre: for me, it couldn’t have been a better way to share our first ChaplaincyPlus / City Women in person event in over a year.

Some City Women had been in to the city centre regularly; others live in the city centre.  For others, it was a bigger stretch to come in:

“I haven’t been into town since early summer 2020 and not on public transport since October so it felt quite strange but a good reason to come back in and explore new places near areas I know so well.  It was also a real encouragement that I would get to see different people too.”

“Twelve months since I was in the City… Personally found it a big push to get on public transport. Yet it gave me quite a lift, very special day.”

“It’s 12 months since I’ve been in the city centre. I was quite excited at the prospect but it did feel a little surreal.  It was strange for the trains to be so quiet but I must confess I did feel a little anxious when large groups got onto the train as to where they would sit so as to maintain social distancing.”

And how did it feel being in the city centre?

“It was lovely to share time with others, enjoying the spring sunshine by the canal and through the interesting streets by the cathedral. I’d not seen the new Symphony Hall extension or the fountains in Centenary Square. It was a very special time.”

“… it really felt like we are emerging from lockdown into a bright new normal.  It was so nice to see everyone and to look at the City from a whole new perspective in such wonderful company.  A real encouragement for us all…”

“A different perspective on walking even in this busy area where normally all we do is rush or trudge.  I also appreciated the reminder to find wonder in everyday things and people around us.  Before lockdown did we ever think we would be so glad to see people and get out of the house?  I hope it’s recalibrated us all to notice small pleasures more.”

“I loved the opportunity to meet up and chat with people in a way that we have not been able to for such a long time. So good to hear others experiences of what has been a challenging time for everyone.”

For anyone who is apprehensive about the “massive small step” of coming in to the city centre, “Wander in Wonder” particpants had the following thoughts:

“There is still space to socially distance when walking around as pavements etc are not busy and transport and businesses have taken huge steps to keep people safe with signage, screens, one way systems, sanitiser and other measures.”

“”Do not be afraid.” (Isaiah 43) If you are following the guidelines the risk of contracting coronavirus will remain lower than it has been.”

“Our city is vibrant and developing and it’s lovely to see people going about their daily lives so there’s a lot of be gained from coming back into the city, even if less often than before.”

“I found it refreshing and uplifting to see the city again and found hope for renewal as we emerge from lockdown.”

If you’re going to be back in the city centre for the first time, why not plan city centre walk in the lunch hour – either with a colleague or with a member of the ChaplaincyPlus team? It may be helpful to enjoy your own “Wander in Wonder”, to notice what’s going on for you, listening to your own heart and soul.  In this season of shifting perspectives, it’s so important that we all give time for the emotional journey of returning to the city, as well as the physical journey.

  • WONDER at modes of transport and our “need for speed” as you go at walking pace, as well as noticing the road and rail network around us.
  • WONDER at the trees which make a statement about sustainability in the heart of our urban landscape.
  • WONDER at the impact of meeting in person, after so much separation and online meeting!

Sarah Thorpe


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