Happy New Year! I have a feeling that 2012 will live long in the memory of the entire nation thanks to the successes of the Olympics, Paralympics and Diamond Jubilee celebrations, whilst here at WME the last twelve months have provided me with plenty of unforgettable moments and adventures to savour…
January: the year began in energetic style with strolls around Tipton, Shugborough and Kinver, and the walking theme also extended to a trek from Stourbridge to Netherton by way of Oldswinford, Wollescote and the Delph (where I was rewarded with a bostin’ pint in the Bull & Bladder). An early contender for ‘Trip of the Year’ came from Staffordshire and a stunning day exploring Lapley, Wheaton Aston and Whiston – an absolute crackerjack with glorious winter sunshine. The D9 was revved up for some Wednesbury hub antics (including the unmistakable Nelson) whilst Nickolenko weighed in with a Wednesday night in West Bromwich.
February: The Coventry Network review kept me occupied for a while, introducing me to places like Potters Green in the process, whilst the much anticipated East Birmingham hub tour included stops at Small Heath and Coleshill. Redditch got the beer festival calendar off to a flyer (once Nick and I had found the venue!), and the Chip Foundation were busy with beer-related tours of Amblecote and Harborne.
March: into Spring and there is a farewell glimpse of the Yew Tree Sports & Social Club shortly before it got demolished. Chairman D9 and I marked the club’s passing with a roam around Wednesbury and Bilston, swiftly followed by a Lichfield day that also incorporated some action from Aston (and the Manor Tavern in particular). I ventured back across Staffordshire way for a trail from Bobbington to Enville, washed down with a pint or two in The Cat (highly recommended) and I even squeezed in some canal walking to Alvechurch where the Weighbridge made a notable impression. The Chip Foundation were on the Birmingham beat with a Kings Heath special, Stephen winning the comedy fall of the year award with a spectacular tumble in Balsall Heath.
April: two week-long events dominated April’s activities. Firstly there was Rail Rover 2012, a pageant of photography that included visits to Evesham, Whitchurch and Cromford, utterly enjoyable from start to finish. Then came the small matter of Hove and the beginnings of a cricket season that would see Warwickshire crowned County Champions, even if the match with Sussex ended as a damp draw. Elsewhere, back-to-back beer festivals at Walsall and Coventry tested our endurance but the long-awaited sighting of green beer was truly something to behold.
May: Pride of place for May has to go to Long Itchington and an exploration epic that incorporated 14 halves in 13 pubs with Nickolenko reciting it all back on video – not to mention the joys of scrambling over Kenilworth Castle! South Birmingham was the Anti-Hub Destination, and a bit of discount skulduggery was at play for my cheap round in the Woodcock near Bartley Green.
June: a summer of immense national pride kickstarts with the Diamond Jubilee and a weekend where I found myself rummaging around Pelsall and Clayhanger. Derby gets a visit for some CB40 cricketing action, the Bears downing the Falcons rather comprehensively in truth. Mr D9 seals the discount honours in both Warley and Cradley – the former was a rather wet day trying to locate a ‘Barrel’ or two whilst the latter involved calls at Quarry Bank and Timbertree. No such discounts for the Chip Foundation though as a summer tour of Brum included a wallet-busting round in the Pub du Vin that very nearly bankrupted poor Mr Beardsmore.
July: Taunton and Telford were the mainstays in July. Somerset vs. Warwickshire conjured up a nerve-wracking finish with the home side just about getting the win, and there was more Beardsmore pub consternation when the Castle Green Inn seemed to add a surcharge every time he stepped near the bar. As for Telford, Chairman D9 and I soaked up the sunshine with a whirlwind wander around High Ercall, Wellington and Ketley, and with the Olympics underway a new multi-discipline event known as the ‘Wolverhampton Pintathlon’ is born, although you wouldn’t necessarily class the bald spot as having much athletic prowess!
August: It was a case of Double Duds in August with Duddeston and Dudley both on the menu as D9 dished up the Dolls House and a dosage of Oakham. The beer festival bandwagon rolled into Stafford with Mr WME Senior making a rare appearance, whilst Nickolenko was on hand for snippets of Swindon, Tipton, Coseley and the fantasy kingdom that is the Bacchus (just make sure to keep your eyes peeled when there are suits of armour about). As if that wasn’t enough, a rare solo outing sees me contemplating Charlemont Farm as a new archive location.
September: The onset of autumn brings with it the conclusion of the cricket, the Bears sealing the title at New Road, Worcester much to Stephen’s delight. The extremities of Sutton Coldfield are investigated with a Friday foray to Falcon Lodge, and there’s carrot to contend with at the Tamworth Beer festival – crunch crunch! North Warwickshire with Nick Turpin goes down as one of the all-time classic trips, doing Mancetter, Atherstone and Nuneaton proud with help from the Blue Boar and the Horseshoes, although the Coventry Cats tour was equally brilliant despite the christening of the Ron West Tribute Quiff.
October: Chairman D9 also raided the dressing-up box in preparation for more Wolverhampton exertions, this time sporting a yellow duster ‘skirt’ as he paraded around Penn - talk about a Halloween horror show! My Pensnett Railway Walk was another highlight, topped off by the discovery of Brockmoor Canal Junction, and there was a Saturday sweep of Brandhall and Bearwood in preparation for the Sandwell Network Review.
November: Photographic fireworks come courtesy of a Telford Solo Spectacular, sampling St George’s and tackling Trench. The D9 dusters were on show for a North Wolverhampton extravaganza, ferreting through Fordhouses and uncovering Ashmore Park. I enjoyed a nostalgic tour of Oxley, kicking up the leaves in Claregate before the Chip Foundation took yet another bite out of Birmingham with Stephen digging out an old diary to prove that not much had changed in twenty years!
December: the storming of Saltley for East Birmingham the Second ensures that the Anti-Hub brigade end the year on a resounding high, the wonderful fish and chips from Bedders at Hay Mills just blew me away. There was a catch-up session with Rog, who was recovering from ‘Eargate’ as we sought out a few pints around Lye, and the Chip Foundation brought the curtain down with a festive frolic in the rains about Tettenhall. It really has been quite some year!