Tuesday, August 7

Palfrey Pieces, Charlemont Crumbs

The patchwork quilt of my local explorations has gradually built up over the years as further layers get sewn into place. The latest additions came courtesy of a rare Monday off that saw me hunting for bits of material in Walsall and Sandwell... 

Pleck: My morning starts at Bescot, glimpsing the busy sidings and trying hard to ignore the concrete totality of the M6 motorway. The Banks's Stadium (home to Walsall FC) is gearing up for the start of the new football season, and then I investigate down Montfort Road for my first ever encounter with Pleck Park. This pocket of open space is wedged in between the motorway and a railway line but offers a bowling green, tennis courts and some welcome sanctuary.

- Pleck Park -

Palfrey: backtracking past Morrison's and the Broadway West Playing Fields, I make my way along Milton Street to find the Charles Napier, a traditional corner alehouse on the junction with Lord Street. Palfrey Park is a favourite of mine that appears to have had a makeover lately, hence the appearance of a new ranger hut (another example of 'floorboard' architecture) and a wiry sculpture of a horse. I really enjoy investigating some of the terraced backstreets as my trail weaves close to Caldmore.

- The Palfrey Horse -

Delves: next up is a shuffle along Delves Road, noting Walsall Rugby Club and parts of the university campus. This appears to be quite a nice residential area and that impression continues with Delves Green Road and Delves Crescent. The Tiger is a familiar target on Walstead Road before I take a stroll across Delves Green itself, a grassy area that leads me across into Sandwell territory.

- Walsall Rugby Club -

Yew Tree: a useful follow-up to my visit to the estate with Mr D9 earlier this year. I take care to note the former location of the Fir Tree Primary Schools, the buildings having been flattened with the site awaiting a new use. Redwood Road is the heart of the community, offering the local shops, a youth and community service, a walk-in health centre and the Annunciation of Our Lady Church - there also used to a branch library along here somewhere, but the mobile library van is in attendance today by way of current provision.

- Mobile Library on Redwood Road -

Canals: a little path alongside Cypress Gardens brings me onto the Rushall Canal at Shustoke Bridge, from where I proceed to Rushall Junction with the occasional passing nod to canalside anglers. Hill Farm and Biddlestone Bridges get their doses of photographic attention, and at the junction I bear right along the Tame Valley Canal. It has to be said that this is not my favourite stretch of waterway, it being straight and rather featureless except for the constant drone of the accompanying M6. There are some views of Ray Hall Reclamation Works and the River Tame to be had, although things do liven up with the aqueducts over the M5 and then above Tame Bridge Railway Station.

- Shustoke Bridge -

Charlemont Farm: Just after the railway aqueduct, I shimmy down the embankment onto Beacon View Road for my first pictorial foray into Charlemont Farm. Served by the 405 and 646 bus routes, the estate has intrigued me for some time and anticipation was building as I ventured further in. My eye was soon caught by the sad presence of the Mill, a derelict pub on the corner of Wyndmill Crescent that had most of its roof missing. The local shops wouldn't win any awards for aesthetics either, and then comes the Spinney, a pub which is still open but didn't look overly inviting. Climbing up to Charlemont Road, I head left through to Wigmore Farm where the surroundings are transformed into a quiet country lane with grazing ponies and the Sandwell Valley Riding Centre.

- The Mill, looks like its been through it -

Hall End: with aching feet and glistening forehead I press onwards for the final leg to Black Lake. Heath Lane presents the front gates of West Bromwich Cemetery as I turn into Vicarage Road, then there is a sequence of pubs to keep me occupied. The Queens Head is a good find but the Nags Head looks like it might have got converted into something else - star discovery however is the Hall End Tavern, now operating under its colloquial name as the Rampa Tampa (or the Rampa for short). All three are new additions to my archive and they provide a sweet flourish to carry me wearily onto my tram just as a sharp shower threatens to set in.

- The Rampa -

Satisified with my exertions (although somewhat tired), I make it home to reflect on my latest bit of handiwork. It had been some effort linking Bescot and Black Lake with many intricate twists and turns, but the needle and thread had definitely been put to excellent use and that patchwork quilt is all the more complete because of it...

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