Saturday, January 27
The updates have been provided for WME Birmingham and WME Staffordshire: the Birmingham developments focus on the Lea Hall Station collection, with yet another photo of that infernal arch artwork, plus a couple of platform views - all useful stuff but I would like a bit more variety as the five current photos are all a bit samey. Talking of samey, a few bridges on the Shropshire Union canal look very similar, especially Bridges 16 and 17. Along with a couple of views of Bridge 15, these comprise the new additions to WME Staffordshire and mean that the canal content here is expanding quite impressively.
So there you are, an update you probably weren't expecting. To avoid making the same mistake twice, I'm going to resist the temptation to make any more sweeping statements about a lack of motivation - the next update will arrive as and when it suits, and I'll leave it at that!
Friday, January 26
- On Wolverhampton Station, I've added a photo of the Wednesfield Road entrance to the station. I quite like the picture, although it is a little complicated trying to describe the station site with all its passages and subways and the High and Low Levels, still I tried my best. The collection is coming along nicely, with a total of 12 photos including shots of the station entrance, some general station views and a handful of trains. Whilst being far from exhaustive, the collection is now doing what I intended by providing a useful impression of the station scene.
- The rest of the new photos are on Wolverhampton by Bus, and they're all pictures of the 534 at Wolverhampton - a bit monotonous I know, but I went a bit mad on Choice Travel back in 2005, ending up with a whole host of photos of their vehicles on layover at the bus station. Five of these pictures have been added today, although goodness knows how many more might be lurking in the vaults waiting to be unearthed! I must admit I quite like the idea of focusing on a route and building up a series of pictures of it, so we'll probably see more and more of this kind of thing as WME continues to grow. The net result is that Wolverhampton by Bus now contains a healthy 38 photos and the other operators (ie - not TWM) quota is boosted a little too.
I had planned to do a big update today, but for some reason (trauma from another England cricket humiliation perhaps?) I just don't feel like it. This lack of motivation seems a bit strange considering that I've got some exciting new May & June 2005 photos on WME1 waiting to be included, so there are plenty of potential updates in store. Yet somehow, I can't quite be bothered, so you'll have to make do with a few 534s for the time being!
Sunday, January 21
Looking at those updates, and the big beneficiaries once again were WME Wolverhampton and WME Birmingham as the battle for the 'Biggest WME Gallery' title really started hotting up. Birmingham took the lead with 171 photos, only for Wolverhampton to reclaim its crown with a swift overtaking manoeuvre to move on to 174.
Focusing on the WME Birmingham updates next, and these were quite significant due to the inclusion of the afore-mentioned newer material. Birmingham by Bus receives 5 new photos, all from the Rog Roughley trip in April 2005, representing great memories from visiting Roughley (along with not-so-great memories from Turves Green) and taking the collection's running total to 30 photos. There are also a couple more train photos on Longbridge Station from the same trip, whilst there's a useful addition to Erdington Station as well, meaning both collections now contain a more healthy tally of 5 photos each.
Nothing too exciting as regards the other galleries; the WME Wolverhampton update concentrates mainly on canals as a clearout on Wolvtest results in all four canal collections receiving additions. WME Coventry gets a nice Coventry by Bus addition in the shape of the 21 at Broadgate, whilst WME Sandwell gets a couple more Midland Metro photos at The Hawthorns plus a new train photo for Smethwick Galton Bridge. The Dudley, Walsall and Staffordshire galleries also had the odd extra thrown in should you wish to investigate.
A quick summary then, and for once I actually feel like I'm getting on top of things with WME, though I don't expect that to last for very long! The archive trawls have served their purpose well, as WME has filled out nicely to give a better foundation into which I can now introduce the more recent layers of exploration. Enjoy the updates and keep an eye on WME1 - you never know what routes, stations or locations might be appearing next!
Friday, January 12
I said the other day that I needed a good adventure to really put 2007 on the map - well today's trip turned out to be just the job. I headed across to Small Heath and Kingshurst as there are some significant changes to bus routes in the east of Birmingham that are coming into force at the end of the month, and I wanted to investigate the routes prior to the amendments, along with a few other bits and pieces as well...
Small Heath Station: my first proper look around the station, not that impressed. Got a train photo and some platform views (mainly of a graffiti covered shelter) but a photo of the main frontage proved difficult, especially with the busy traffic on Golden Hillock Road.
Small Heath Park: A few local photos with a walk around Small Heath Park, accompanied by either pigeons or geese plus the occasional squirrel. I came across what I thought was a lake only to realise it was actually just a flooded field, so I quickly turned my attentions to the bandstand and the real lake before heading to the 28 terminus
The 28: The route was the main inspiration for this trip, and had intrigued me for years yet I'd never been on it. The 28 has been a staple service in the Birmingham network for years, linking Small Heath and Great Barr via Fox & Goose and Erdington, although this is about to change as the Small Heath section is due to be withdrawn and replaced with a new service (the 24 I think). The Small Heath terminus is on Waverley Road, overlooking the park, and buses seem to layover here for a good twenty minutes or so, giving me time to try and get a decent photo. I then had the joy of a traditional Metrobus ride past the terraces of Oldknow Road and the local Asda, up Heybarnes Road and Hob Moor Road to alight on Belchers Lane. Classic bus exploration
Bordesley Green: A rather frustrating time trying unsuccessfully to track down a photo of the 28A round by Heartlands Hospital. I never seem to have much luck in this part of Birmingham as I couldn't get a 69 photo last time I was in this neck of the woods
The 28A: I didn't get the photo, but at least I caught the bus. More Metrobus action, up through Alum Rock, past the Ward End pub and the Fox & Goose to alight at Hodge Hill (Hunters Moon)
Walk to Kingshurst: Starting in Hodge Hill with a look at the Common and the Hunters Moon, then heading down Heath Way into Buckland End (The Heathway pub and local shops including the Hart Centre). Further along Heath Way is Shard End, with more local shops including a post office and the Shards Fryer, whilst photos were provided by the library on Shustoke Road. A walk through the estate (Pithall Road, Silver Birch Road) leads into Kingshurst. I feel that I know the area much better now having passed through on routes such as the 89 and 92 previously.
Kingshurst: A good local centre with photo opportunities to investigate. The local shopping precinct includes the post office and the library, whilst The Mountfort pub is across the road. Kingshurst Way emerges by the bus terminus, overlooking Babbs Mill Nature Reserve, and I wait for the 26 to arrive.
The 26: another route that's soon to be changed, reverting back to running between Birmingham and Bromford Bridge only - it only seems 5 minutes since the route was extended to cover the 92 and now its changing back! The changes will bring about 2 new routes, the 54 and the 56, to form a series of routes alongside the existing 55 service. Today's 26 experience meant another Metrobus, and a great ride back into Birmingham via Castle Bromwich, Shard End, Bromford and Saltley.
Smethwick Galton Bridge: After the 26 it was a quick dash to Moor Street and a train to Galton Bridge for my Wolverhampton connection - I usually try and avoid New Street if possible. It was only half three when I got to Smethwick but the remaining daylight was already going, and I enjoyed a quiet wait for the Wolverhampton train, soaking up the station's relaxed atmosphere on a Friday afternoon
I have to say I really enjoyed the outing - I may not have got all of the photos I wanted, but it was just good to be back out there on the buses and trains, doing what I've done for years. Trip done, thats probably enough adventure for the time being, but I'm already looking forward to what February might bring...
Wednesday, January 10
- Warwickshire by Bus - as usual, all new galleries begin with a bus collection. Two photos here showing buses at Nuneaton and Leamington, both good locations to showcase. I especially enjoyed visiting Nuneaton last year, a great place to get photos
- Stratford-upon-Avon Canal - WME Birmingham has a collection showing one end of the canal, and now WME Warwickshire has a collection showing the other. Two photos here as well, both showing Bridge 69 at Bancroft Basin in Stratford. The basin is yet another of my favourite canal locations, and Bridge 69 is one of the reasons I like the basin so much, so I'm pleased to include it
- Exploring Stratford-upon-Avon - Stratford is one of the definitive places that springs to mind when you think of Warwickshire, what with Shakespeare's Birthplace and the River Avon, so what better place could there be to kick off the local collections on the new gallery. Two more photos to start with here, The Pen and Parchment pub, and a view of the building that simply is Stratford, Shakespeare's Birthplace.
Time for action
The launch of WME Warwickshire is a response to a couple of nagging issues behind the scenes at WME. Firstly Warkstest and Saloptest have been sitting on WME1 for months and months going nowhere, and it was about time I did something with the photos. Secondly, there were dead links from the other WME galleries pointing to the non-existent WME Warwickshire and WME Shropshire galleries - again these links had been sitting there for months doing nothing and I didn't think it gave visitors a good impression of my gallery management skills. I decided that something needed to be done, so I've taken the plunge with Warwickshire to see how things go.
What comes next is a big issue... WME Warwickshire may be off and running with 6 photos and 3 collections, but this constitutes the bare minimum in terms of content and whilst I'd rather use the photos on a proper gallery instead of keeping them in Warkstest indefinitely, this does leave me with a sizeable problem - how to keep the gallery regularly updated. I simply don't have the backup photos with which to provide a stream of updates, especially as Warkstest itself is now down to 6 photos, and its going to be an age before I get round to releasing any other Warwickshire stuff for testing (we're talking March 2006 photos when I'm currently still working on photos from March 2005). It looks like those 6 photos might be the only photos for quite a while yet!
And another dilemma - I had intended to launch the Warwickshire and Shropshire galleries at the same time. Unfortunately, as Saloptest only contains 8 photos, I didn't have enough photos to consider starting a WME Shropshire site - launching WME Warwickshire with only 12 photos in Warkstest was already pushing things to the limit! I've had to abandon plans to launch the Shropshire gallery, so I'm still stuck with a dormant Saloptest and a set of dead WME Shropshire links.
Despite all this, I am convinced that the launch of WME Warwickshire is a step in the right direction. I'm not sure how I'm going to keep the gallery ticking over, but it could be fun trying to sort it all out. In the meantime, the gallery will remain very much as the baby of the WME family, and it will be nice to have a newborn about the place again!
Friday, January 5
- St Anne's Road - a blast from the past, recalling memories of journeys to Comet in Willenhall. Notable local features included the Forge Tavern pub and the local chip shop, whilst the Rushbrooke Farthing was an intriguing building, a pub I assume but I wasn't sure whether it was still open or had closed down
- Clarke's Lane - looking at the local shops (mostly closed down) and the Noah's Ark pub
- On the trail of the former Bentley Canal - hints of old bridges at Clarke's Lane, Durham Avenue (? Farm Bridge) and County Bridge. There was a footpath between the estates but it didn't look that inviting
- Bentley - exploring the local shops on Farmbridge Close, then heading into the centre of the estate. I got photos of the Highgate Hall pub and Bentley Library, both of which were boarded up. The Walsall Mobile Library was in attendance, presumably covering for the closure of the branch.
- County Bridge - a walk round the estate as the sky turned very black, King Charles Avenue and Devon Road. The 303 terminates down here somewhere but I'm not sure where, couldn't spot any bus stops and I don't think there's much layover time. Might be a bus photo opportunity in future, but not guaranteed by any means
- The Walsall Canal - a little walk from Bughole Bridge (great name) to Bentley Road to add another little chapter to my canal explorations. Emerged by The Boat, another pub thats now closed and boarded up
- Darlaston - called in at The Green, photo of the Nags Head, then Richards Street into the town centre. Victoria Park and the Old Engine on Bull Street. The part of the town by the Park is actually quite nice, especially with the Post Office (a fine local building), the war memorial and The Swan pub to take photos of. Round the corner past Middletons Chippy to photo The Green Dragon and Darlaston Town FC on Waverley Street
- The highlight of the whole trip - Darlaston Bus Station waiting for the 645 to arrive, driver was a real gent in letting me take the photo, a smile and a wave, great.
- Back to Bilston, with just enough time to investigate the Royal Exchange and The White Rose. Might need to visit the White Rose again for a decent photo, but at least its now firmly on my pub radar
Following on from Tuesday then with another solid outing and some useful looking photos despite the cold, the wind and the overcast gloomy conditions. I feel I still need a big adventure type outing to put January and 2007 on the map properly, but as starters go this was very enjoyable
WME Wolverhampton - now up to 164 photos in total, meaning the gallery has overtaken WME Birmingham as the biggest of the local WMEs! The new stuff includes...
- A nice new Exploring Claregate collection featuring the local Co-op and the Claregate pub
- More local additions: Another view of the now-defunct Dovecote pub on Exploring Dovecotes; Wednesfield Library joins Exploring Wednesfield to help showcase something of the area other than the local park; West Park Hospital makes an appearance on Exploring West Park; and All Saints Church/Community Centre finds itself on the Exploring All Saints collection. All these additions are useful building blocks for fleshing out the local collections and documenting that little bit more of Wolverhampton
- A Wolverhampton update isn't complete without a Wolverhampton by Bus photo, so my offering this time is the 526 at Goldthorn Park, taken as the bus did its loop of Ednam Road. Its always great to add another bus location into the mix, and Goldthorn Park does the job just nicely - a revisit might even be in order to track down a shot of the 641 perhaps?
WME Dudley - having passed its century, the gallery continues its growth spurt with these new housemates...
- An alternative view of Quarry Bank Library showing the whole building (and some Saturday afternoon traffic) joins Exploring Quarry Bank
- On Stops & Stations there are a couple of quite similar shots of Stand A at Dudley Bus Station, adding to the existing views of Stands K and Q
- And big news on the Dudley by Bus front - the inclusion of a second view of the 267 at Stourbridge means this collection now contains 50 photos, a well deserved half century even if I still can't quite break the dominance of Stourbridge and Halesowen amongst the featured locations.
WME Coventry - this gallery is just about getting by with tiny scraps at the moment, hardly ideal but a fair reflection of the fact that my Coventry visits and photos are few and far between
- It'll come as no surprise then that the latest update comprises one single photo - a view of the entrance doors to Coventry Station. At least it offers a glimpse of the station itself to go with the three train photos already in the collection.
WME Staffordshire - something a bit more constructive here. Indeed, with 87 photos now, WME Staffordshire is leaving the likes of Coventry, Solihull and even Walsall (!) trailing in its wake
- A photo of the 535A at Codsall on Staffordshire by Bus - ok, its exactly the same as the 535 photo only the driver changed the blind, but it did give me a chance to discuss the slight variation between the two routes
- Canals wise, another view of Kinver Bridge joins the Staffs & Worcs collection to swell the ranks here to a very healthy 20 photos
- Some local stuff with new arrivals on Exploring Kinver (a useful look at the war memorial) and Exploring Hednesford (a view of the Uxbridge Motel, which leads me to wonder what other pubs there are in Hednesford that I could get photos of in future)
- And still with the local theme, there's a new Exploring Chase Terrace collection featuring the post office and the shopping precinct, another small victory for persevering with the archive
WME Worcestershire - another gallery surviving on scraps, although this is more forgiveable because, unlike Coventry, I can argue that WME Worcestershire isn't a core WME gallery
- So, again, its a single photo update, which bizarrely echoes Coventry further as the photo in question is a view of station entrance doors, this time at Worcester Shrub Hill
WME Telford - saving the best till last perhaps. The Telford update means that I've updated six separate galleries in one day, not bad going really, and unlike Coventry and Worcestershire, the Telford update actually provides a meaningful bit of substance
- Two bus photos first - A successful tweak with my first photo of the 55 at Oakengates, meant that I could use that shot and free up 55 at Oakengates (2) for inclusion as well. They join my existing photo of the 24 to give Oakengates a greater presence on Telford by Bus, a good result as I really enjoyed my visit there
- And now for the star update... I didn't think it could happen, but WME Telford now has a local area collection! Exploring Hadley is the pioneering feature, with Hadley Library and Hadley Shops the photos that made it all happen. This collection alone makes the hard work I've done on the archive recently all worthwhile, but it is only 2 photos so I need to return to Telford ASAP to explore more local areas as a matter of priority.
One of my more substantial updates there then, I hope you kept up with the changes. All this trawling through the archive has taken a lot of time and patience, but I can now see some light at the end of the tunnel. Enjoy the updates!
Tuesday, January 2
All Saints - a look around Pond Lane and the remains of the Silver Birch pub, now just an unsightly pile of rubble
Parkfields - starting with The Black Horse pub, currently closed and looking rather forlorn. There was also time for a brief glimpse of Phoenix Park and some of the local shops
Spring Vale - a return call to the local library and the shops on Hateley Drive
Lanesfield - a walk down Hilton Road for a look at the local meeting hall and playing fields, a couple of shops. Then onto Spring Road to add some more pubs to the Wolverhampton archive - The Forgehammer, The Three Cups and The Rookery Tavern. I vaguely knew about the Rookery from late coach journeys whilst at school, but the others were new discoveries
Woodcross - following in the footsteps of my 2005 Christmas walk with a return to Woodcross, and it was just as much fun to explore second time round. The Spread Eagle pub was being refurbished just over a year ago, and today I got photos of the finished job, and pretty impressive it looked too. Other photos featured Mary Pointon Library, Childs Avenue shops and the Horse & Jockey, although the Woodcross Chippy eluded me yet again.
Hurst Hill - another key location on the 2005 walk, another place I was only too happy to return to. I added to my 2005 photo selection with some shots of The Gate Hangs Well, the Post Office and the Community Centre. Hurst Hill straddles the boundary between Wolverhampton and Dudley and I hope to have something for both galleries after today's trip.
Roseville - The walk then continued into Dudley along Upper Ettingshall Road, past the Coseley Tavern and down Providence Row into Roseville. The Hop & Barleycorn pub was an unexpected bonus, and I also got a couple of views of the local park, though to look at them you wouldn't know they were taken in wintertime.
Swan Village - the walk concluded in Swan Village, one of the few places on the 525 route that up until now I had very little knowledge of. The photos here concentrated on three local pubs - The Summerhouse, The Swan and Holden's Brewery Tap, The Park Inn - before I caught the 525 on Vicarage Road.
The 525 - I must have been on this route countless times, and yet today I still managed to spot a couple of intriguing pubs I'd never even noticed before. The first was up a sideroad just past Coseley Station, round by where the 545 turns into the estate, and the second was in Loxdale - the White Rose or something, on the sidestreet with the little chip shop and another target to add to the hitlist, where it can join The Royal Exchange on nearby Chapel Street.
A fascinating walk - I must have covered a fair few miles (Rog take note) - and a good way to burn off some of those Christmas excesses. The photos came out pretty well on the whole, making it a solid way to kick off my explorations in 2007.
Monday, January 1
Looking around on WME1, there are a number of photos that I have recently extracted that now appear ready to take their places on the appropriate home gallery, so it could be a busy time ahead. It would be good to start the new year with some solid progress, so fingers crossed! Happy New Year!
January - The year started off in style with a couple of classic canal walks. Firstly, Dad and I ventured into Staffordshire for a look around Shugborough and Great Haywood, discovering Great Haywood Junction and getting my first ever photos of the Trent & Mersey Canal. Then it was a solo tour around Tipton, with a quick look at Netherton Tunnel and Dudley Port Station.
February - The big outing back in Feb was a walk from Walsall to Wednesbury, calling at Caldmore, Bescot, Tame Bridge and Friar Park. Dad and I visited Hampton Loade on a particularly foggy morning, and I also did a local tour of Bushbury and Fordhouses in the snow.
March - March was dominated by Rail Rover week, as I set off into the wider Midlands for a simply wonderful week of outings, with highlights including Nuneaton, Church Stretton, Ludlow, Crewe and Beeston amongst many other treasured memories. This was also the month when I visited Coventry a couple of times, exploring the local bus network before the April overhaul and calling in at Cheylesmore, Radford and the Tesco Arena. Exploration Heaven!
April - More cracking outings in April, starting off with a Dudley Local looking at Northway, Sedgley and Gornal. This was followed by the ultimate in Wolverhampton Local outings, a delightful walk exploring Penn, with the Battle of Britain pub on Birchwood Road being a particularly intriguing discovery. Then there was a Birmingham Special comprising visits to Woodgate Valley and Rubery, and if all that wasn't enough, April also provided the first Rog trip of the year, adding Quinton, Brandhall and Langley to the WME mix
May - The return of Rog continued with a couple of bus rallies (BaMMoT and 2 Museums), and there was a Walsall Local to enjoy, exploring Bloxwich and Lower Farm. The highlight of the month though has to be my trip to Pheasey to explore the 34, with Kingstanding and Erdington thrown in for good measure. On the WME front, May also saw the introduction of the WME Blog, still going strong with this very post!
June - A busy month was June. First there was the 2006 Birthday outing, a lovely tour of Streetly that also included calls at Scott Arms and Daisy Bank. Then came the World Cup trip -Rog came over for a Wolverhampton local, looking around Ashmore Park and Castlecroft before heading to the pub to watch England v Paraguay. A quick note for a Dad walk around Lower Penn, and then June was completed with the big family holiday down Dawlish, which for me meant two fantastic days of roving around on the Stagecoach Devon network: Exeter, Topsham Newton Abbot and Totnes were amongst my calling points.
July - we're well into the summer now, and July saw the Rog trips go into overdrive. Two great outings, starting with a Kinver Canal Walk for Rog's birthday, and then came a classic - Stourport, Bewdley, Kidderminster and Redditch. Great memories, and an embarrassing moment falling over on the way into the pub at Redditch, I still haven't lived that down! On the local side of things, I called in at Fordhouses for a 613 photo and ended up exploring Coven Heath and Compton in the process
August - Another busy month, with two contrasting crackers to make mention of. The Harborne Stirchley outing was everything I could possibly want from a big Birmingham trip, whilst my walk to Essington was much more low key yet equally as enjoyable, especially with some Green Bus Services to photograph. A few days off at the end of the month allowed for outings to Castle Bromwich and Birmingham Airport, and then a stroll along the Bradley Canal Arm.
September - the Rog trips returned with the first of the 'Woody Plan' outings, an interesting tour of Bridgnorth, Shrewsbury and Telford. A couple of local walks comprised a solo effort around Willenhall and a Dad walk looking at the canals around Pelsall. The big solo trip for September though was my return to Cannock, 2 years after my first big exploration of that particular part of Staffordshire. Rugeley, Lichfield and Hednesford also featured, and I proved my camera could withstand torrential downpours, even if my coat wasn't quite as watertight.
October - a quieter month as it turned out, with my exploring basically condensed into one week. But what a week, the first of what will hopefully become many Rog Rovers. Kings Norton on Monday, Wombourne on Tuesday, Balsall Common on Wednesday - all fantastic trips in their own right. The weekend concluded things nicely, with another Woody Planner taking us to Cannock and Lichfield then on to Burton and Tamworth on the Saturday, with Sunday involving another visit to BaMMoT with the added bonus of a ride on the No. 50
November - Another quieter month, with the two main highlights being a local walk around Dovecotes, Palmers Cross and Oxley followed by a Rog outing around Walsall (Bloxwich, Willenhall, Reedswood, Pelsall with a return to Bloxwich in the evening). Unfortunately the welcoming committee had disappeared by the time we got back to my house, and it wasn't even that late!
December - and finally we come to December, and another couple of Rog trips along with a handful of bits and pieces that included a little look at the Wolverhampton Christmas Park & Ride. The first Rog trip of the month was another Woody inspired adventure, this time heading out into Worcestershire for a look at Evesham, Redditch and Droitwich. And what else can I say about the second Rog trip - I cannot think of a better way to round off a fine year of exploration than that walk around Hagley and Clent.
Looking back, it really was a fine year of exploration. Every single month produced great trips and special memories, along with an abundance of photo possibilities that I am really excited about showcasing on WME when the time comes. I only hope that 2007 can live up to the standard 2006 has set - if it can, I will be in for some fascinating outings in the coming months