Thursday, June 29

WME in Devon - the 85 and 85A

My explorations in Devon took me on some great bus routes, but I think the 85/85A has to be my favourite...

Staying in Dawlish Warren, the local routes are the 85 and 85A linking Exeter with either Torquay or Newton Abbot. The routes run frequently (a bus about every 15 minutes) with services operating well into the evening, and with the bus stop right outside the camp I had regular connections on my doorstep. Not only was the route convenient, it was an absolutely cracking ride in either direction. Tuesday saw me head into Exeter, with the bus providing leisurely views of pretty villages such as Cockwood, Starcross and Exminster - and the entire journey took just over half an hour. Come Wednesday I had the delights of Teignmouth and Kingsteignton as I headed into Newton Abbot on the 85A - so many places were just one ride away.

Better still, the routes provided good photo opportunities too. Stagecoach Devon buses give change, meaning buses often pause for a little while at bus stops, giving me just enough time to get a nice picture. Good photo locations included The Green at Dawlish, The Diner at Teignmouth and Sherborne Road in Newton Abbot.

It was great fun exploring the route, from waiting on Warren Road early in the morning looking for the bus to come, to hovering in Dawlish or Teignmouth in the evening then finishing off the outing with the bus back to the holiday park. Time to absorb and enjoy different surroundings, the route was a pleasure to ride

Wednesday, June 28

WME in Devon - a quick intro

I said I would post a few notes on my recent holiday, so here goes. I offer here a little introduction, and hope to add further posts focusing on my favourite bits of the adventure, so prepare yourself for a rambling kind of highlights package over the next few days!

As you know, last week I visited Dawlish for a well deserved holiday. Whilst down there, I took the opportunity to do a couple of days worth of exploring - and what a couple of days they were! I really enjoyed it, visiting some great places and trying out some fantastic scenic bus routes, not to mention investigating the local railway scene as well. With the weather just about right for photos - dry but not too bright - I was free to explore Devon at my leisure.

I had intended to do my exploring by rail, with the Freedom of the South West Rover ticket sounding tempting, but decided to go for the buses instead. Stagecoach Devon offer an Explorer ticket that gives you one day's unlimited travel on any of their services - and it only costs £5, a real bargain. What's more, the range of routes you can use the ticket on is extensive, spanning the county from Plymouth to Barnstaple. This meant I could catch a bus right outside the holiday camp and go anywhere I wanted - perfect!

So thats what I did - armed with my camera and a good dollop of suncream, I walked the two minutes it took to get to the bus stop and from there I could catch the 85 or 85A and set off into the unknown...

Sunday, June 25

Updates to WME Birmingham

Another busy morning of work on WME - this time I've concentrated on WME Birmingham, providing a few useful additions >>>
  • A photo of the building work during the 2003 redevelopment of Moor Street Station has been added to the Moor Street collection - nice to capture and include the station's transformation in progress
  • Additions also to the canal collections for Birmingham & Fazeley (Newhall Street Bridge) and Worcester & Birmingham (University Distance Post) - Newhall Street is a good addition making use of the WME Archive, the distance post is more of a filler that reflects another part of the canal furniture
  • A collection has been started for the Bromford Bridge estate - this currently includes the Racecourse pub and a shot of a local shop. I don't know how much more will be added as I'm not in any hurry to revisit the area. With the best will in the world, it is a bit of a dump
  • And finally, I've added a collection on Erdington Station. Its hardly the most exciting station I've visited, but I am pleased to include it. Looking back when adding the photos, I realised how much I enjoyed visiting the station despite its lack of age and charm, so it can't be that bad.

So, a fairly sizeable update there as I continue my return to action. Looking at WME1 and the test collections now though, there aren't many obvious candidates left as regards further additions. I will need to work on editing and improving some of the photos, as well as plundering the archive for new material - this might take some time. Whilst I am pleased with the recent updates, I am concerned that there isn't much happening on some of my galleries - particularly the ones for Coventry, Sandwell and Staffordshire. Add in sorting out the Devon stuff, and it looks like I've got a busy time ahead!

Saturday, June 24

Straight back into it

Well I'm back from my holiday in Devon, and what an excellent holiday it was. Loads of exploring, hopefully some good photos - anyway, more about that some other time. I thought I'd get stuck straight back into updating WME, with the result that I've made a little bit more progress this morning
  • On WME Wolverhampton, I've updated three collections. The old sign at Bushbury Pool joins Exploring Bushbury - its one of those filler photos that might prove useful to have around on the site. I've also added to the Birmingham Main Line and Staffs & Worcs Canal collections, both are beginning to take shape now. I'm particularly pleased to add Marsh Lane to Staffs & Worcs as its a special location with great memories, and is probably one of the main reasons I became interested in exploring canals in the first place, building on childhood walks around the Rakegate area >>>
  • Meanwhile, an Exploring Brierley Hill collection has found its way onto WME Dudley. Brierley Hill is one of those places that defines the Black Country so its good to finally include it on the site >>>

A good constructive return to WME duty there - hopefully something to build on over the next few weeks. I want to sort out my Devon photos and share a few thoughts with you on the holiday explorations, so more ramblings should follow shortly...

Sunday, June 18

And another thing

As I've already mentioned, I shall be on holiday in Dawlish for the next few days. The camera is going with me of course, so I hope to get a few shots of the local area and maybe do a bit of Devon exploration! Top of the hitlist are places such as Teignmouth, Newton Abbot, Torquay, Exeter and possibly Barnstaple. I might also venture down into Cornwall, depending on what trains and connections are available. I'm really looking forward to it, as its always fun to explore new areas of the country - here's hoping for a good holiday, some nice weather and some cracking outings to fill you in on when I get back.

Prepare to be bored

With the home computer showing signs of behaving again, I thought I'd attempt to squeak in a couple more updates before I leave for Dawlish, so...
  • Three photos have been transferred to WME Walsall. One is a very boring photo of a bus stop in Rushall that recalls memories of visits to Pelsall, Brownhills and routes such as the 346 and the 362. The other two are additions to the Wyrley and Essington Canal collection, with Birchills Junction and Stokes Bridge now making appearances. I'm particularly fond of the canals around Bloxwich so its great to get these photos included - Birchills Junction is a favourite location I've visited a few times now, whilst Stokes Bridge is quite eyecatching in its decoration and I still don't quite know what to make of it! >>>
  • And if you thought a bus stop in Rushall sounded bad, then things only get worse on WME Dudley. Just one photo has been added, with the Information Board at Stourbridge Bus Station finding its way onto the Stops & Stations collection. Its possibly my most mundane photo ever - there's a fair bit of competition for that title mind - but it does the job of capturing another little piece of one of my absolute favourite bus locations. Enough said, although I do hope to add more photos (maybe even some interesting ones) in the near future! >>>

And so another few pieces of the WME jigsaw have fallen into place. Hopefully the computer will still behave when I return off holiday, so fingers crossed for some more updates soon.

Wednesday, June 14

Rail Related Updates

Due to technical problems with my home computer, WME updates have been even more thin on the ground than usual. I have however managed to creak rustily back into action with a small update this morning...
  • Two train photos have been added to the Wolverhampton Station collection on WME Wolverhampton. I'm pleased to actually get some train related content on there and add more substance to an important and under-represented part of the site >>>
  • I've also added a collection on Aston Station to WME Birmingham. Its hardly my favourite station, but Aston is quite important to me as one of the first locations I visited with a digital camera. It does mean that WME Birmingham becomes even more rail dominated, but I'm pleased to showcase more of my earliest photos by including pics from September 2002 >>>

Hopefully a larger update to the galleries will follow soon - I know, promises promises! I have recently been working back through my early archive, extracting more photos for WME1 including some interesting shots that I hope to use once I return from my holiday in Dawlish later this month.

Monday, June 12

Trip Log - Saturday 10th June

More glorious weather as Rog came across to Wolverhampton for a World Cup Exploration...
  • Meet at Wolverhampton Bus Station for a few photos - Rog tells me he has already been to the pub!
  • 527 to Ashmore Park via Park Village and Wood End (I didn't quite manage to get the route photo so another outing may be required)
  • Ashmore Park - a look at the moat remains and the local park, enjoying the sunshine and admiring lots of England flags
  • 559 to Wolverhampton via Wednesfield and Heath Town
  • 513 to Bantock Park - a WN Metrobus, down Chapel Ash
  • Bantock Park - a game of pitch and putt. I won 101 shots to 114, so we were both equally useless. Turned out to be good fun actually, with a few photos of us trying to look like we could actually play golf!
  • 543 from Bantock Park to Castlecroft via Finchfield
  • Lunch at Castlecroft in the oh so glamorous bus shelter
  • Football at The Firs - unfortunately we missed the England goal and had to sit through the rubbish England served up for the rest of the match. Nice pub mind, even nicer cider
  • Celebrate England's 1-0 victory with a drink in The Chestnut Tree at Finchfield, another nice pub with more nice cider (well, I was thirsty!)
  • 543 back into Wolverhampton, a quick drink in O'Neills and Rog catches the 256 back to Stourbridge

Mission accomplished - England won and we had a good local outing, exploring a couple of routes and a couple of pubs. Need to practice the golf though, and I can't even use the cider as an excuse...

Tuesday, June 6

Wolverhampton Route Changes

Travel West Midlands have announced a number of route revisions that will affect bus services in Wolverhampton from July 23rd onwards. The changes are designed to improve service reliability and include:

  • 513 reduced in frequency to every 20 minutes
  • 526 reduced in frequency to every 30 minutes
  • 525 and 544 will have increased running times
  • 527 will be absorbed into a revised 528 service
  • 545 section between Merry Hill and Dudley is withdrawn
  • 613 will revert back to linking Bradmore and Northwood Park
  • 682 will revert back to linking Finchfield and the City Centre
  • 683 is withdrawn

From a personal point of view, the changes affect routes I have enjoyed exploring over the years. Top of that list is the 527, an old favourite of mine from various visits to Wood End and Ashmore Park. I don't have any photos of the route at Ashmore Park whatsoever, so it would be nice to ride it again and get some shots before it is incorporated into the 528, giving the route a good send off in the process.

The changes to the 545 mean that Wolverhampton will now only have one direct connection (the 260) to the Merry Hill Centre, and follows on from the shortening of the 541 a few years back. The 545 is a long route, which I've always thought was part of its charm - a twisting tour of the Black Country that provides great exploration connections. It won't quite seem the same when it just goes to Dudley, and the local network will seem a little more boring as a result.

The 613 changes mean I'll have to get the camera out and head down to Fordhouses whilst the route still terminates there. The changes do have an upside, as they return the service to the route I explored back in May 2004 when I caught the bus from Northwood Park to Bradmore but somehow managed to miss out on getting any photos - I might now be able to fill those holes in the archive.

The 682 and 683 changes provide a different conundrum - both are members of the rare breed of Wolverhampton bus routes I have never ever been on (yes, there are some!), although I did get a photo of the 682 at its Finchfield terminus. I'll certainly have to investigate the 683 before its consigned to history, and with the 682 terminating at Finchfield again rather than being a circular, I might be able to add to that earlier photo.

I'm never quite sure what to make of route changes - in one sense they freshen up the network and provide different exploration opportunities, whilst they can remove favourite services, connections and locations from the bus landscape. At least these changes give me an excuse (did I ever need one anyway?!) to get back out there exploring the Wolverhampton bus network, so it can't all be bad!

Monday, June 5

A Wombourne Walk

Hasn't it been glorious weather recently - it certainly makes a change! Dad and I took the opportunity to enjoy the sunshine by sampling another walk out of the Express & Star, this time taking us across to Wombourne for a stroll around Lower Penn and Orton. It gave me a chance for some more June photos, including a few shots of The Greyhound pub - scene of a rather exotic banana curry when I visited with work last year. It had been a while since we'd done a walk, so it was great to get back out there, sampling the Staffordshire countryside just a few miles from Wolverhampton. I'm looking forward to our next walk already, so I'll keep an eye on the Saturday night paper to see what other suggestions might appear...

Saturday, June 3

Trip Log - Friday 2nd June

Making the most of the sunshine yesterday with a great outing...
  • Train from Wolverhampton to Walsall - nice quiet ride as always
  • Walsall - a few bus photos and a bit of shopping
  • 377 Walsall to Streetly - Metrobus magic on a favourite route
  • Streetly: proper local exploration - Parson & Clerk, the Library on Blackwood Road, Foley Arms, Hardwick Arms, Streetly Gate
  • Streetly Buses - photos of the new 993 route at its Hardwick Arms terminus, then back to the Foley Arms to photo and catch the 113X
  • 113X - North Birmingham Busways from Foley Arms to New Oscott
  • New Oscott: only a short stay, trying to get a decent pic of the Beggars Bush
  • 451 New Oscott to Scott Arms via Kingstanding, Pheasey and Queslett Horns
  • Scott Arms: another brief stop, looking at the pub and the shops
  • 406H Scott Arms to West Bromwich via Hamstead and Sandwell General Hospital
  • Quick change onto the 402 to Central Avenue - People's Express bus, via Greets Green and Great Bridge
  • More good local exploring around Central Avenue, Wallbrook and Daisy Bank
  • Into Bradley to catch the 525 home outside the Iron Master

It certainly was quite an outing - on reflection, I realised I'd actually visited areas in Walsall, Staffordshire, Birmingham, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton - almost a full house, with hopefully some good photo material for a number of WME galleries