- Bescot Baldness -
Friday 14th August and it's a mid-afternoon start that sees members bearing down on Bescot Stadium railway station for the first photos of the day. The station's concrete footbridge is a hideous lump of masonry but does allow good views of the sidings and train depot, plus an elevated perch from which to see the bald spot in action.
- River Tame at Bescot -
The photographs continue as we join a footpath beside the River Tame, crossing waste ground with tethered ponies for company. The walk allows further glimpses of Bescot's railway yard complete with maintenance blocks, sleeper joists and mounds of ballast rubble as we exit onto Sandy Lane.
- River Tame Aqueduct -
Crossing the Walsall Road by Tame Bridge station, the riverside walk continues with a track that skirts the edges of the Yew Tree estate. The M6 motorway is at an absolute standstill due to an earlier accident as Mr D9 gets all excited about the carriageway's support columns (and I quote "Look at the legs on that"!) The Secretary isn't quite as impressed by the M6 underbelly but does appreciate the aqueduct that carries the Tame Valley Canal over the river, definitely one of the discoveries of the day.
- Andrew Road -
The Tame now bisects Ray Hall sewage works and then passes below the M5 before members branch off into the Bustleholme Mill estate where Andrew Road and Stanhurst Way form a rectangular loop. Bustleholme Lane leads to the Haywoods Nature Area, an intriguing green pocket of open space almost hidden away within Charlemont Farm. The central path brings us to another section of Bustleholme Lane where the Chairman can reminisce about being a pupil at a local primary school.
- Proper Job! -
The rain has been on and off so far with the Chairman's brolly regularly getting into the action. We escape from the latest shower by sampling a couple of pubs - the Crown & Anchor (a corporate Sizzling pub known locally as the Jinglers) and the Royal Oak (on Newton Street where a pint of Proper Job is quite literally just the job, accompanied by a cob and a read of the evening paper).
- Heath Lane Cemetery -
Further ferreting is next on the D9 agenda as we pay homage to a former underground closet located on the junction opposite All Saints Church - the Chairman points out where the respective ladies and gents entrances were as indicated by gaps in the brick wall outside an undertakers premises. Another place that used to have toilet facilities is Heath Lane Cemetery with Mr D9 again eagerly hunting for clues.
- Rampa Champ! -
Trading witty ditties featuring Sid James ('Our House' meets 'The Ooter Song') we arrive at the Rampa on Vicarage Road, a pub that has adopted its colloquial name as its preferred title having historically been known as the Hall End Tavern. The place is now partly an Indian restaurant and provides a suitable setting for our latest pub games challenge. Today we wield pool cues rather than darts as, fuelled by Mansfield Smooth, D9 'Hurricane Higgins' prevails for a 2-1 victory. The first frame saw the Chairman in top form whereas WME 'Whirlwind' barely potted a ball, but frame two saw the Secretary fighting back with a memorable clearance to set up a decider. This in turn went down to the final black in scenes of high tension not witnessed since the 1985 Snooker World Championship final - both players had chances but it was the bald one who ultimately held his nerve.
- Menzies Memories -
Back out on the photographic beat and Clarkes Lane is the location of the Phoenix Collegiate Academy, D9's old secondary school (although it was known as Menzies High when he attended). The Chairman wallows in nostalgia for athletics tracks, science blocks and his own hair as we survey the current school site, the facilities potentially set to be demolished and rebuilt as part of the government-backed Priority Schools Building Programme.
- Getting into Gear on the 47A -
A visit to the Chairman's old stomping grounds would not be complete without a dose of dysfunctional driving, so the 47A is summoned for our connection into West Brom town centre with Wiltshire Way feeling the full force of the D9 gear changes. The rain finally appears to have fizzled out for the evening, meaning the Secretary has no weather-related excuses with which to wriggle out of an incursion into Albion territory.
- WME in West Bromwich -
With the Bond Wolfe office block acting as a beacon, we round off the day with a couple of the Chairman's choices on West Bromwich High Street. The Prince of Wales and the Sportsman Club are both released from the D9 sleeve but perhaps more memorable was Desi Junction with its rather grand frontage (built as the Lewisham Hotel). Some Highgate Mild and a bit of Aston Villa vs Manchester United action is not a bad note on which to finish, all topped off with a thumbs-up from one of D9's former works colleagues as we take our leave. Cheers!