3 Offbeat Things to Do in Birmingham-ish

(Map of Locations)

  • Indulge Your Pre-Raphaelite Nerd at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

While much smaller than the museums of London, Birmingham's Museum and Art Gallery features the largest Edward Burne-Jones collection in the world, and an impressive number of Pre-Raphaelite works. It also has the famous painting of Morgan le Fay by Frederick Sandys.

The museum is a quick walk southwest down Edmund Street from Birmingham Snow Hill Station, and northwest up Hill Street from Birmingham New Street Station.

  • Catch a Roller Derby Game

Roller derby is a (usually) all-female contact sport played on roller skates. Anyone who has not seen a derby match is missing out on a show filled to the brim with athleticism, passion, competitiveness, and skill. Also tattoos, fishnets, dyed hair, and more feminists than you can shake a stick at.

The world of roller derby was intoduced to the West Midlands in 2006 with the founding of the Birmingham Blitz Dames, the first English league created outside of London. The Dames boasts over 70 members, some of whom compete at an international level, and two of whom were picked for Team England and Team Ireland in the 2011 World Cup.

Their mission statement reads: "Since modern roller derby began sweeping the globe in 2001, it's been promoting female athleticism like no other sport in the world. We're proud to be a part of that revolution. We bring women into the roller derby community (and occasionally men, too) from all backgrounds, sporting or non-sporting, and we train athletes. We love what we do and we believe there's nothing else quite like it."

You can keep up with their event schedule here, or drop by a practice session in Futsal and try it out yourself.

  • Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm?

Okay, so the sleepy town of Wychbury is technically in Hagley, Stourbridge, Worcestershire, - an hour on the train or half an hour in the car from Birmingham city center - and not in fact in Birmingham at all. That's fine. It can still be done in a day trip.

The Hill has a bit of an odd history, which is remarkably unkown for something so unusual. Besides having been an Iron Age hill fort, Wychbury is the site of a two-hundred-and-fifty-year-old obelisk. In 1943, in the middle of World War II, a woman's body was found stuffed into the wych hazel (then thought to be a wych elm) on the site. It was estimated that she had been killed some two years earlier, and despite theories that she was a local citizen, a traveler, a German spy named Clarabella, or even a witch, was unable to be identified. The most recent theory draws a connection between these theories and the disappearance of a Nazi spy named Clara Bauerle in 1941, who was due to parachute into the West Midlands and then was never heard from again.

The next year, graffiti started to appear both in the town and on the obelisk, reading variations of Who put Bella down the Wych Elm? The writing has been repeated several times throughout the decades, as recently as 1999.

The Hill is a bit of a walk from Hagley Station.