Friday 6th January and the first full trip of 2012 comprises a morning tour of Walsall’s eastern districts followed by an afternoon with Mr D9 sampling pubs and ales around Darlaston and Wednesbury…
PHEASEY: Starting with the solo stuff and a pleasant ride on the 451 takes me from West Bromwich to Queslett with a look at the A41 roadworks and Scott Arms. The Old Horns pub kickstarts the photo count and then I venture into the Pheasey Park Farm estate, one of my lesser explored areas of Walsall. The Collingwood Centre and the local branch library provide some interest along with the Beacon Church and a block of shops. Collingwood Drive seems to have a regular supply of buses as the 33, 934, 997 and 651 all pass through in convoy, and then there’s a hint of countryside as I locate Doe Bank Farm up by the Deers Leap pub.
STREETLY: I’m firmly into my stride now as I stroll along Cooksey Lane and then pick my way through the Hundred Acre estate, a place Rog has bad memories of after a previous hike some years ago. Whilst the Chester Road cuts a swathe through the area, the main local centre seems to be on Blackwood Road where there is a neat shopping parade, a primary school and Methodist church. I can also grab my second library shots of the day, although one local resident seems to interpret me taking photos as a sign that the branch might be closing – I sincerely hope that this isn’t the case, although libraries across the country are in the firing line of considerable local authority cutbacks. Wood Lane leads me to the Hardwick Arms to complete my extended walk.
KINGSTANDING: Time now for a dose of Birmingham as the 935 whisks me down to Kingstanding Circle. My main priority is to get a spot of lunch but another clutch of photos are more than welcome, my targets including the Mecca Bingo hall, the police station, the shopping centre and the Kingstanding pub (a Mitchells & Butlers establishment that didn’t look very enticing). All was going swimmingly until the curse of the thick blue lines took over, and my intended 451 connection was nowhere to be seen. I should’ve known that a less-than-robust timetable might operate on a Friday afternoon, and I finally made it back to West Bromwich to meet Mr Lunn at 2pm.
MOXLEY: With the Hub Marketing Board now in session, we hopped on the Metro for a short ride to Wednesbury and then joined the towpath of the Walsall Canal. We had intended this to be a cursory glance at the waterways but it turned into a full-scale ferret that took in Moorcroft Junction and the remains of the Bradley Locks branch, fascinating remnants of an abandoned route. We’d definitely earned ourselves a drink by this stage so we sampled the hospitality of the Fiery Holes and the Travellers Rest, enjoying half of Banks’s Bitter in each – daytime TV seemed to be the order of the day as we endured episodes of Escape to the Country then Jeremy Kyle, I'm not sure which was the more painful to watch!
DARLASTON: Andy’s bald spot acted as a bus-seeking beacon drawing the 39 bus in towards us, and a quick sprint through Herberts Park later we found ourselves in Darlaston on the trail of further refreshment. The George & Dragon is an old-fashioned M&B pub on Church Street, very friendly with some real local characters, and I was also impressed with the Swan where we savoured a half of Spitfire amongst the sporting shields in the smoke room. Our Darlaston trilogy is completed by a swift half in the Old Engine, watching the Australia v India cricket highlights.
WEDNESBURY: We now aimed to finish the evening in style with a whizz around Wednesbury, but before we could get there a certain bladder made it’s presence felt and an urgent dash to the King George at Bescot was required to stave off any unscheduled waterworks - some things never change! With Andy much relieved we then proceeded down to the Queens Head, a pub I’d never come across before so well done to the Chairman for finding that one out. The Horse & Jockey was very busy, the Olde Leathern Bottle had its familiar olde-worlde leanings and the Nelson was one to say that we’d been in even if it wasn’t up to much. Last but not least came the Old Royal Oak where we met one of Andy’s former colleagues for a chinwag and that was job done for the day - a day that sets me up very nicely for the year ahead.