As concepts go, Urban Explorers is relatively simplistic.

Find an area of character, walk roughly 10 miles in a day and support the burgeoning microbrewery revolution.

A city dweller definitely appreciates this unique type of beauty and, having climbed Snowdon recently, the views in the second city were equally spectacular.

Is there a finer library in the world than Birmingham's?

In my eyes, it knocks spots off the Pyg and Miners' tracks in Wales' premier mountain range and one needs to appreciate urban beauty to fully embrace this expedition. This ostentatious building was an ideal meeting point and, whilst jostling for space with Morris Dancers on the roof, it afforded a glorious vision of an urban skyline.

Birmingham has never been afraid of going for the jugular as Selfridges, The Mailbox, New Street Station and the aforementioned library will testify. Nevertheless, there are still some belting old buildings if you are prepared to walk and this band of urban explorers welcome both old and new in terms of boozers and buildings.

Structures such as The Old Royal, which was once classed as so grandiose Queen Elizabeth's grandmother saw fit to sleep there, are just as memorable as the hidden gem of the Post Office Vaults, which still has the feel of the Royal Mail pub and all the history that entails.

A brisk stroll down Lancaster Circus and, with the buildings of the Gun Quarter looming over the horizon, my Cynefin was beginning to flow. It could be argued it was the alcohol but all non-Brummie explorers could feel the infectious vibe permeating our souls.

Ian Clarkson
Ian Clarkson
 

The Bartons Arms, or should it be called, Laurel & Hardy's former pub, is a quite stunning building where snob screens still exist to separate the proletariat and upper class if the toffs deemed their presence unworthy!

The big foursquare clock tower looms into view and, for me, is as an integral part of Birmingham as the shiny new Selfridges.

However, on the walk to the Bartons Arms you meet the real characters of Birmingham who have far more knowledge than any tour guide on what makes this city a gem.

Conspicuous by its absence thus far has been the presence of a 'pub chain' and this is a crucial element of the Urban Exploration experience.

While the younger generation appear unwilling to seize the moment due to iPad/iPod/mobile phone/social network inertia, 40 and 50-somethings are rapidly becoming the new punk rockers as behemoth breweries find the rug being pulled from under their feet.

Craft and microbrewers such as BrewDog are sending out foul-mouthed, four-letter statements to the Portman Group, ostensibly saying "up yours" and accusing them of treating drinkers like "Brain Dead Zombies".

The Woodman, in New Canal Street
The Woodman, in New Canal Street
 

Anyway, I digress and the splendour of 19th century Steelhouse Lane Police station is in view and a packed Jekyll & Hyde, sporting Birmingham's only gin parlour upstairs, validates my previous point.

The serenity of Birmingham's canals are enjoyed in the centre's smallest hostelry, Canalside Café. This could almost pass for a micropub, which are exploding onto the market so expect a disused office block or shop front to house one imminently in Brum.

Arguably, the highlight of this expedition was a visit to The Craven Arms as it stands in stark contrast to the polished Mailbox and Cube that are its near neighbours. A historian within our group eulogised about the blue and gold tiling on the exterior of this jewel in the crown. A rip-snorting atmosphere inside only adds the keg-induced adrenaline and the gold-tiled fascia is gleaming in the evening sun

Curzon Street is set to receive some much needed love with the huge HS2 project restoring the station to former glories and the sight of the Grade II listed Woodman will be impressive for any commuter as is the selection of booze inside.

The Barton Arms pub in Aston
The Barton Arms pub in Aston
 

Don't think this is a real ale beardy-weirdy trip as craft lager is also drunk aplenty but the difference in taste to your average non-keg lager is enormous... but that's for another time.

Throw into the mix trips to The Anchor, The Old Contemptibles and the edgy atmospheric BrewDog on John Bright Street and the miles are clocking up.

An honorary mention in this piece must go to The Lord Clifden, a magnificent urban art bar in the Jewellery Quarter which was to be our final destination but time and the rigours of a 10-mile Urban Exploration scuppered that plan.

Snowdon is a relative doddle compared to Urban Exploration and this showed off the city at its finest and with a real heartbeat. A bandwagon is starting to pick up speed and, like in politics, people are starting to move away from what the status quo are telling them as it all sounds exactly the same.

Get out, walk about your city, feel the warmth of the people, love the history and don't accept bland buildings or pubs – become an Urban Explorer.

Ian Clarkson

Footnote: Cynefin = Welsh saying whereby you feel the place you are in is singing to you as you have a connection with it and all the people with you feel the same through you.

About Urban Explorers

Urban Explorers was the brainchild of former Birmingham City FC captain Ian Clarkson and 'a top chap' called Julian Hawtree – history teacher, global traveller and big Burton Albion fan.

Hawtree suggested a 10-mile walk around Derby, taking in all the decent pubs that support micro breweries, and 'anything that is a little bit different'.

The idea then spread to Birmingham, to find pubs with a colourful history or story to tell, like the Bartons Arms or Jekyll and Hyde with its gin parlour.

In a nutshell, it is a sense of adventure, a bit of fun, according to Clarkson.

"We want something different and not commercial, to meet 'locals' and have a chat in the non-tourist areas of town," he said.