Lower Fifth Fieldwork in Birmingham – November 2013 by Shree Jemahl

On Monday 11th November we (the L5th GCSE geography group) headed into Birmingham to research important case study material for the IGCSE Urban Environments Topic and practice our fieldwork skills for the IGCSE exam. 

Geog 02.12.2013The day began with unfortunately gloomy weather; however, we jumped aboard the coach and were anticipating the great geographical experiences that we were soon to learn about. Our first area of investigation was into the land uses and issues in the rural-urban fringe, and not compromising on the problems that urban sprawl generates. Urban sprawl decreases the amount of farmland available and therefore local food production will decline, not to mention leads to increases in air pollution through increased car use. A linked problem is that people living in more central parts of the city would be further away from rural recreational opportunities. As our coach trundled along the M42 motorway during rush hour, we realised the surrounding farm land (known also as ‘greenfield sites’ when considered for development) is part of Birmingham’s green belt. As part of our first topic of investigation, we visited a location that had been built on the green belt – Blythe Valley Business Park – an excellent example of how businesses take advantage of land on the rural-urban fringe as it is cheaper and more plentiful than more central land.

Our second area of investigation was to study a residential transect through South East Birmingham. The locations we visited were all typical of certain rings on the concentric ring model of land use, for example we visited Monkspath (an outer suburb), Shirley (a middle suburb) and finally Sparkhill (an inner suburb). In each of these areas we conducted an environmental quality survey, considering characteristics such as housing type and age, garden size, parking availability and degradation of the environment. We found some significant differences in the residential environments.

Lastly, we delved into the issues affecting Birmingham’s Central Business District, including how and why it is changing. To demystify the issues surrounding Birmingham’s CBD, we visited the iconic Bullring where we answered questions on themes ranging from architectural characteristics to the strategic layout of stores.  As well as visiting the Bullring we also visited Victoria Square (the main surrounding land use being the Town Hall and Council House, and now the location of the Christmas German Market) and the Mailbox (the main land use being high-end retail and residential apartments targeted, in part, at DINKYS – double income no kids yet!). The CBD is changing by regeneration and re-imaging due to new technology, progress and fashions – and Birmingham wouldn’t want to be left behind in these modern times. On behalf of our Geography group, I would like to thank the Geography department for organising a wholly stimulating trip!

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