Saturday 10th March: I enjoyed January's foray around Lapley, Penkridge and Codsall Wood so much that I was eager to have another nibble at some South Staffordshire photo action, once again using the Staffordshire Way long distance footpath as a means of getting around the countryside...
588: my day starts in Perton, waiting by Sainsbury's for a bus that runs to a limited timetable of a couple of round trips or so on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The route in question is the 588, linking Perton, Wombourne and Kinver via the villages in between. With the bus arriving right on cue at 9:55, I'm stunned to find that my ticket to Bobbington costs only £1 due to the fact that the service is subsidised by the County Council. The bargain fare means I enjoy my journey all the more, and what a lovely relaxing ride it is, meandering down through Wightwick, Lower Penn, Trysull and Halfpenny Green.
Bobbington: I alight as the bus reverses at Brantley Crescent and launch into my first village snaps of the day. Dad and I visited Bobbington on one of our walks a few years ago but this was the first time I'd had a proper look around. Holy Cross Church is much admired as a landmark, then the Red Lion pub offers Enville Ales and a hotel annexe, both of which could prove attractive to clients using the nearby airport. I also note the Corbett Primary School and the village hall, whilst the local shop seems to be based in the front room of someone's bungalow.
Halfpenny Green: The mere mention of Halfpenny Green conjures up childhood memories of visiting the market that used to be held by the airfield, but it's years since I was last here and nothing seems familiar. Wandering along Six Ashes Road to a soundtrack provided by the occasional drone of a light aircraft, I soon arrive at the Royal Oak pub overlooking the triangular village green. A few sprouting daffodils offer an early hint of spring as I busy myself with pictures of the totem sign and a memorial boulder. Tom Lane then leads me past another of the area's famous features, the Halfpenny Green Vineyard although I can't see too many grapes on display just yet.
Highgate Common: Turning into New Road, I join the Staffordshire Way route and follow the markers down past Halfpenny Green Golf Club and across Highgate Common. The common is a dedicated Country Park that proves popular as a place to witness wildlife or just escape from the daily grind. I certainly enjoy picking my way through amongst the birch and heather, greeting a dog walker or two and hearing trills of birdsong amongst the aircraft noises. I exit onto Gospel Ash Road and then stick with the Staffordshire Way across the fields through Lutley and over to Morfe Lane.
Enville: A little more cross-country walking involving brooks, stiles and gateways brings me into the garden of Enville Court, using the main black driveway gates to exit onto the A458 Bridgnorth Road. Turning left towards the centre of the village, I immediately notice the imposing tower of St Mary's, a red sandstone church that looks rather serious in gazing down upon the surrounding lands. The village is only small but contains a quaint little post office and general store plus a pocket-sized village green with a couple of benches and a war memorial. Spotting the entrance road into the Enville Hall estate, I venture up for a quick look at the cricket ground where the scorebox looks charming built into an old brick wall. The Hall itself was the seat of the Earls of Stamford and remains as a family home today.
The Cat Inn: all of that exercise means I've earnt myself a little treat, and what better place is there to end up than at a classic village pub serving great beer. I first visited the Cat with Stephen a couple of years ago, popping in for a quick pint on our way back from Bridgnorth. I loved the pub then and simply had to try it out again, especially with the prospect of some ales from the Enville Brewery, just about as local as you can get. Soaking up some beer garden sunshine, I indulge first in a pint of Old Porter, a lovely dark beer that Nickolenko definitely approves of. With a quick glance at the bus times, I realise I still have half hour to spare so I head indoors for another pint. Enville Ginger tempts me this time, and I appear to be rapidly acquiring the taste for an ale that I didn't actually like much the first time I tried it. With its prime location on the main road just across from that little village green, the Cat was very popular today and deservedly so.
588: all that remains is for me to make my way home, so with a little wait on Blundies Lane I can catch my return 588 back towards Perton. Handing over my scarcely believable £1 fare, I get chatting to the driver who remembers me from the morning journey. The route weaves along some very tight lanes to emerge into Bobbington, and then the conversation continues as we progress through Halfpenny Green, around the Wombourne loop and then tick off the Trysulls, Seisdons and Wightwicks to arrive into Perton not long after 4pm. The only blot on the landscape is news of Wolves' capitulation at home to Blackburn Rovers, but otherwise it had been an absolutely wonderful day out.