Saturday 20th November and how very Novemberish it was, with the the kind of autumn mists that Puff the Magic Dragon might well enjoy but they don't do much for my photography! My mission was to sort out my 2010 selection of Solihull shots, so it's destination Dorridge and take it from there...
* Getting to Dorridge proves a bit more of a challenge than usual, as a broken down train means delays at Smethwick Galton Bridge. When the train does show it resembles something more akin to last week's tube, so I wait another few minutes and hop aboard one with altogether more breathing space.
* I've always liked Dorridge, both the station and the place in general, and it seemed like an ideal place to start. I arrive at about 10:50am and pitch straight into my customary views of the station and the Forest Hotel - no expensive rounds today mind, as I concentrate on getting photos of the local shops whilst the wallet stays firmly out of sight.
* I wanted to widen my horizons beyond the immediate station surroundings and a walk along Grange Road does the trick nicely, introducing me to the Railway pub with its red M&B "Good Honest Beer" lettering. The pub was a nice find but seems to be a fair distance from any kind of railway infrastructure, making me wonder if I was heading for another Bromsgrove situation!
* Earlswood Road and Four Ashes as my walk continues. The Drum & Monkey adds to my pub content, whilst Mill Lane offers views of a level crossing complete with a nice pedestrian footbridge.
* I emerge onto Widney Road and quickly track down Knowle and Dorridge Cricket Club. Even on a grey November day their ground looks quite inviting and I attempt a couple of shots on behalf of Mr Beardsmore.
* I'm enjoying the freedom of my morning walk as Station Road leads me into Knowle, a village I always admire for its traditional charm and atmosphere. There's a considerable amount of traffic around on the High Street so I have to be patient when lining up a photo of the timber-framed library building.
* One of Knowle's proudest landmarks is the parish church, looking very historic in its green setting flanked by fir trees and more timber-framed buildings. The whole scene captures a pretty sense of Englishness even if the weather didn't quite allow me to do the place justice today.
* Time for some canal exploration as I follow Kixley Lane down onto the towpath of the Grand Union. From Bridge 72 I squelch my way along to Knowle Locks and enjoy some welcome peace and quiet. There are five locks in the flight, counting down from 51 to 47, and being the Grand Union they are considerably wider than you would find on the BCN. I particularly liked Lock 47 with its canalside cottage and a little location sign.
* Beyond the locks there is more mulchy towpath as I proceed to Bridge 70 at Warwick Road, flanked by the Heron's Nest pub. Here I leave the canal to undertake a vain search for a bus stop - no such luck, so I have to take a chance on hail and ride.
* S2C - luckily the bus does stop for me, thus meaning I can sample a route which sounds more like a Welsh TV station! The journey replicates the old 197 route and takes in Chadwick End, Fen End and Temple Balsall before Balsall Street homes in on Balsall Common.
* I alight at Balsall Common roundabout for a look at Station Road shops and the local branch library. If anything it's getting even colder and the mist is becoming a fine drizzle, making it frustratingly tricky to get a shot of the Brickmaker's Arms.
* The day concludes at Berkswell Station with a couple of shots of the Railway pub followed by a survey of the station itself. I was saddened to find that the old station house is part way through being demolished - I appreciate that the decaying building was something of a safety hazard but this still seems such a shame, and means that even more of the station's traditional character is disappearing following the replacement of the level crossing a few years ago. I accompany my photos of the remains of the house with some general platform views as I wait for my 14:21 train home - the service arrives promptly and gets me back in good time despite a crush of passengers boarding at Birmingham International.
An interesting day's investigations then as I firmly ensured that Solihull has taken its place on the 2010 exploration map. In years to come, the outing will prove memorable for that morning Dorridge walk, my first ever look at Knowle Locks and the unexpected goodbye to Berkswell's station house - not forgetting of course the very Novemberish weather! The camera got through this one intact, so I wonder what photographic challenges the winter might have in store for me...