Europa Village: Trinity Way is my opening location on this occasion - from the Metro stop it's but a short walk to the Europa Village estate, collecting bonus daylight pictures of the Desi Junction (formerly the Lewisham Hotel) along the way. Beeches Road provides access to Europa Avenue, a circular residential road with several offshoot cul-de-sacs named after various saints. My only previous visit to the estate was with Roger in July 2007; there wasn't much to photograph then and the same holds true today, although I do find a path through into the Sandwell Valley nature reserve. Back in 2007 the 414 bus did the rounds here whereas Diamond's 54 route is the latest incumbent with links to Smethwick, Warley and Worlds End.
West Bromwich: passing the Park Inn hotel, I return to Beeches Road for some tasty titbits of previously unseen West Bromwich. My finds include an ornate entrance (with lodge) into Dartmouth Park that I hadn't hitherto been aware of, plus King George V Primary School as built in 1892 with a rather refined clock tower. I also note that the road was once a single thoroughfare but has been unceremoniously divided by the Trinity Way dual carriageway, although a footbridge still connects the now disparate halves.
- Dartmouth Park Memorial -
Dartmouth Park: from the school I emerge onto Reform Street for a familiar approach into Dartmouth Park, even though the back end of the New Square development (with Tesco and Primark) represents the march of local retail progress. As for the park it proves a delight to explore on a bright but chilly November morning; I particularly enjoy capturing the war memorial and ornamental lake on camera, although I'm not entirely convinced by the new pavilion building with its modern matchstick-like appearance (Mr D9 might however approve of the toilet provision).
Sandwell Valley: reaching the car park by the Valley Cycles base, I can proceed seamlessly into Sandwell Valley Country Park where I hope to mop up more photo targets. D9 and I covered Forge Mill Farm earlier this month but its more heralded counterpart is Sandwell Park Farm, a restored Victorian farmyard experience complete with grazing pasture, rare breed animals and a walled kitchen garden (admission charges do apply).
- Sandwell Priory -
Sandwell Priory: resisting the urge to visit the farm's tea rooms, I venture instead through Priory Woods by following a nature trail that features carved animal sculptures and educational activity boards. Crossing above the M5 motorway, I soon arrive at the remains of Sandwell Priory for an intriguing slice of medieval history. The site is said to have been founded as a Benedictine monastery in the twelfth century before being dissolved in 1525; today's visitors can see wall remains showing the layout of the chapels, chancel, transept and cloister - the structure and its associated well are what Sandwell Metropolitan Borough was named after when the authority was created in 1974.
Oxhill Road: Park Lane marks the boundary between Sandwell and Birmingham so I charge on into the latter courtesy of an allotment-flanking footpath that brings me out at the 101 bus terminus on Oxhill Road. The turning loop stop is positioned outside the gates of Handsworth Cemetery while another local feature is the St John Wall Catholic School. The old Uplands pub would definitely have been in camera contention had it still been standing; alas the demolition of a fine landmark has only made way for a hand car wash enterprise that does little to enhance the street scene.
- The Endwood -
Handsworth Wood: Another former pub is next on my agenda, this being the Endwood on Hamstead Road. This building is at least still with us at the moment with proposals in place for conversion to a mosque. From here Handsworth Wood Road is pleasantly leafy, Devonshire Road is home to a bowling club and Somerset Road offers the Bayley Lees Hall (now seemingly part of a Sikh gudrwara). The roundabout with the Grove is instantly recognisable but just around the corner on Slack Lane is a total surprise - Handsworth Old Town Hall, a historic cruck-framed house that had somehow escaped my attention until now. What a find!
- Handsworth Old Town Hall -
Hamstead: Time marches on and so do I, seeking out Hamstead Hall Road where I confirm that Hawthorn House (formerly a public library and community facility) is now in private hands. Craythorne Avenue leads me towards the Hamstead Hall Academy until Acfold Road takes over with a sequence of shops climbing up a bit of a hill. The 54 bus is on duty here, a different route from the one I mentioned earlier (this one was previously numbered the 654), and then an alleyway shortcut from Hamstead Hall Avenue passes the scene of D9's unforgettable billboard-hugging antics. No fence-hopping gymnastics are required today thank goodness, and I safely make it to Hamstead railway station where this mission shall terminate. Another successful adventure!