Wednesday, October 24

That Was The Week That Was

A reflection on a busy week of exploration, with no hint of a Millicent Martin theme song...

Yes, I've been on an overdue holiday for the past week, and I've made the most of it by doing some outings, enjoying the autumn sunshine and visiting a few places that had thus far slipped through the net in terms of visits in 2007.

Friday 19th October - a return to Telford, something that had been on my 'to do' list for an eternity. The highlights included calling in on old haunts such as Dawley, Wellington and Oakengates, plus lunch in Leegomery topped off with some local shots of the community centre and the Thomas Telford pub. Buswise my routes included the 22 through Malinslee and the 25 through Hadley, although my favourite journey was on the 23 from Oakengates to Telford, providing a ride through Ketley Bank and a call at the Forge Retail Park. The rail content was provided with a brief call at Wellington Station, and a photo session at Oakengates whilst waiting for a shot of the train to Shrewsbury.

Monday 22nd October - I've been neglecting the Birmingham and Solihull end of things a bit recently, so this outing concentrated on Hall Green, Yardley Wood and Shirley. My favourite bits included a look at Hall Green Library, finding The Maggies pub on School Road, a walk through Shirley Park and lunchtime at The Baldwin. I then endured a bit of a hike from Yardley Wood Library, past the railway station, up Brook Lane and through Billesley for shots of the pub and the fire station, finally finishing at Yardley Wood Bus Garage for a photo of route 18.

Tuesday 23rd October - Coventry has also been suffering from a lack of attention, so to fix this I headed across to Canley Station to begin my next adventure. Photos of the station got me off and running, admiring the sprawling tentacles of footbridge but lamenting the loss of the level crossing, then I got stuck into local Canley with pics of the Herald, the local library and Prior Deram Park. The No. 19 bus took me through Earlsdon and into Pool Meadow, where I changed onto the 36 for a ride up to Keresley, spotting The Wallace and The Old Shepherd pubs in the process. Keresley provided a brief taste of Warwickshire - the bus terminus by the post office, then lunch by the multicoloured community centre and photos of the Golden Eagle. I finished things off by catching the 32 to Tanyard Farm (terminus in a housing estate) and a walk to Tile Hill Station.

Thursday 25th October - with Wednesday as my day at home relaxing, my next adventure came on Thursday morning with a trip I've christened Very Perry. Starting at Perry Barr with shots of the railway station, I went on to visit Perry Beeches, Tower Hill and Perry Common using a combination of the 52 and the 28/A. I then returned to Perry Barr for some bonus bus photos of routes including the 616 and 424 - all in all, a cracking morning's work.

As weeks go, this has to go down as one of the best ever in terms of exploration, getting some great photos for the archive and revisiting some of my favourite old haunts. I thoroughly enjoyed it, the weather was brilliant considering its October - and the week hasn't ended yet, with the prospect of an outing with Rog to look forward to...

Monday, October 15

Handsworth and Hamstead

Following on from the Old Oscott adventure, my October explorations continued with a meeting with Mr SBI for a look around Handsworth and Hamstead - here are the highlights...
  • Amblecote - I was early for the meeting with Rog so I decided to have a little walk down into Stourbridge, giving me a chance to investigate the old Corbett Hospital grounds and get a closer look at the Penfields estate including the Ten Arches pub.

  • Stourbridge - the bus station on a Saturday morning, scene of so many photos during the Rog adventures and this was no exception with the 299 and 250 in attendance.

  • Train into Birmingham - a chance to catch up, discuss possible walks and have a look at the Dudley Real Ale Trail for some pub inspiration.

  • 101 - a ride up to Handsworth through the Jewellery Quarter and Winson Green. The route showed me a different side to Handsworth - leafy Grove Lane, a glimpse of the local park, the Uplands pub and the terminus outside the Cemetery by the Leveretts.

  • Handsworth - a few bus photos although a no entry sign was blocking the ideal shot, then a look at the Uplands before its off to catch the Outer Circle.

  • Hamstead - we caught the 16 down to the village for a look at the railway station and the 654 & 425 bus terminus, useful photos there. The Hamstead experience also included a visit to the Beaufort pub for a drink and some cricketing action, followed by some lunch by the station and we also popped into the rather pink Hamstead pub to wash the chips down.

  • Wednesbury - with a 406H and Metro shuffle combination we landed up at Wednesbury Great Western Street for a couple of Metro shots, then a short walk to the bus station for the connecting 311 to Stourbridge.

Another useful outing, Rog was in good form and the MP3 player was in attendance to provide the subtle strains of the national anthem at regular intervals as we came over all patriotic in support of the cricket, rugby and football teams, not to mention Lewis Hamilton. All in all, it was a very enjoyable day, here's hoping there's plenty more to come!

Tuesday, October 9

And what about the site?

Well, once again things have been very slow going on the WME front - no real updates for the last couple of weeks, and nothing really on the horizon either. I've made a start on ploughing through the August 2006 archive, thus far focusing on my Bradley Canal and Castle Bromwich trips, so hopefully there might be some more constructive progress soon.

Looking at the galleries more generally, I am getting quite concerned about the WMEs for Solihull, Coventry and Telford. Updates have ground to a halt on these galleries already, and there isn't much remaining in the archive that offers the prospect of future updates either. I think I need to make those areas a priority for any outings I may do in the remainder of the year, and a few Birmingham Local trips wouldn't go amiss either.

Fingers crossed and lets see how things develop...

Autumn has arrived

Well we're into October, and looking out of the office window on a dreary drizzly morning it appears that autumn has well and truly arrived. With the weather on a downward spiral towards winter, you can never be too sure about getting out and about exploring. I do however have some good news to report on the outing front - last Friday provided some fine autumn sunshine, and I made the most of it by venturing across Walsall way to explore some bus routes due to be affected by forthcoming service changes. Here are the highlights...
  • The trip started off with a ride on the 376 out to Old Oscott - a nice little journey up through Barr Beacon, Pheasey and Kingstanding. The route is due to be withdrawn soon and will hopefully be replaced with a similar service providing connections between Walsall and Kingstanding.

  • Old Oscott - Winson Green apart, its been a while since I've been out and about getting local photos in Birmingham. To put that right, I got a couple of shots of the Kingfisher and Drakes Drum pubs whilst hovering for more 376s to photograph.

  • Tame Valley Canal - my first look at this particular canal came with a walk up Perry Barr Locks and out towards Hamstead. The locks were a nice feature, particularly the traditional cottage overlooking Top Lock, and provided the opportunity for some autumnal views.

  • Scott Arms - a busy interchange on a Friday afternoon, I took my life in my hands when braving the Walsall Road trying to get photos of the 28 and 406H.

  • 655 - another service set for the axe, the route links Scott Arms and Aldridge via Pheasey Park Farm and Barr Beacon. The bus was virtually deserted, but did provide a couple of useful photos up by the Elms at Aldridge.

  • Arboretum - the afternoon began nicely with a visit to Walsall Arboretum as preparations for the forthcoming Illuminations gathered pace. I thoroughly enjoyed a quiet stroll through the park, admiring zones featuring Spongebob Squarepants, Bubblegum characters and various robots and dinosaurs.

  • Pelsall Wood - a trip on a packed 348A up through High Heath and Pelsall, followed by photos of the bus at Trevor Road (very much my kind of terminus). I then did a loop of Pelsall Junction, looking at the canals and taking photos of Pelsall Works Bridge.

  • 363 - the final route on the day's hitlist, the 363 links Bloxwich and White Horse Road in Brownhills. The journey became something of an ordeal as the bus came under siege from a rabble of schoolkids, but it did provide a look at the top end of Brownhills, as well as Mallory Crescent in Little Bloxwich.

All in all, it was a very useful outing, keeping the photos ticking over and investigating bus routes before they disappear. The arboretum visit was one of the exploration highlights of the year - I felt like a kid again wandering around admiring the displays - whilst taking photos of the 348A at Pelsall Wood ranks not too far behind. Hopefully there will be more trips to come with which to capture the seasonal variations of the West Midlands in autumntime.