Saturday, January 7

Two Days, Two Walks

How's about a little bit of local exploration to welcome in the New Year? My photographic account for 2017 is opened courtesy of a couple of Wolverhampton wanders, one concentrating on Castlecroft and the other having something of a factory focus...

- Bantock Park -
'Bracing' is a word probably invented for crisp January days with a chill in the air, and the description is certainly befitting on the morning of Thursday 5th. A ride on the number 3 bus is intended to get me to Castlecroft but I can't resist alighting at Bantock Park where the frost-tinged playing fields are bathed in watery sunshine. My parkland pause is followed by Finchfield where I top up my archive with further photos of the branch library (on White Oak Drive) and the Chestnut Tree pub.

- Approaching Castlecroft Stadium -
Another public house with an arborescent name is the Firs on Windmill Lane, one of the defining landmarks in Castlecroft with the adjacent curved shopping parade also being a familiar feature. Castlecroft Avenue then takes me past the local medical centre and the bus terminus to reach the driveway for Castlecroft Stadium, home to AFC Wulfrunians and the Wolverhampton Rugby Union Club. A little cricket ground also catches my eye here and with sporting settings captured on camera I can weave my way towards Wightwick via Castlecroft Lane.

- Wightwick Mill Lock -
Thursday's walk concludes with a stroll along the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal where thankfully any mud along the towpath seems to be frozen solid so as not to cake my shoes. The stretch from Windmill Lane to Compton is punctuated by a couple of locks (Wightwick and Wightwick Mill) where you almost feel you're in secluded countryside, the wintry scenery warming the heart if not the fingers! At Compton I sweep up a couple of shots of the Swan, a fine old coaching inn at the bottom of The Holloway, before catching the Arriva 10B back into Wolverhampton.

- Goodyears Goodbye -
The exploration action resumes with Factory Friday (6th January) and a walk intended to investigate Wolverhampton manufacturing past, present and future. The Goodyear plant between Stafford Road and Bushbury Lane will sadly become but a memory before too long; production ceased in December and the remaining site is now being scaled down towards final closure later in 2017.

- Ranger Drive under construction -
Goodyears had already been a much-reduced concern from what it once was, with the redevelopment of former factory grounds steadily taking place over the last few years. I've previously commented on the arrival of an Aldi supermarket and the Gatehouse pub but on this occasion I had a closer look at the ever-expanding new housing estate. Several roads have been created and houses occupied but clearly there is much more to come - Akron Drive and Columbia Crescent allow glimpses of Ranger Drive where the latest batch of houses are in the process of being built.

- Chetton Green Flats -
I will resume my manufacturing musings at the i54 development but to get there I now encounter the combined delights of Oxley, Rakegate and Wobaston, all places with which I have a strong childhood affinity. Ribbesford Avenue flanks the eastern edges of Oxley Park Golf Club before I dart across Oxley Moor Road (beside what used to be the Hop Pole but is now a convenience store) to reach Rakegate. Renton Road has me recalling formative memories of Rakegate Primary School while a Methodist Church (Renton Grove) and the bus route 4 timing stop (Sheldon Road) keep my camera busy. It always saddens me to see the old Oxley Library building looking ever more abandoned but I move swiftly on via St Anne's Road into Wobaston to reacquaint myself with the Harrowby Arms and Chetton Green flats.

- Moog, i54 -
Patshull Avenue in turn leads to Wobaston Road where I can access i54, a place I last photographed back in April 2013. The technology-based business park has certainly grown since then, and companies like Moog and Eurofins are now firmly established Wolverhampton employers. Innovation Drive is served by several bus routes - the 4, 6, 25, 54 and 154 - that together provide a network of important transport links across Wolverhampton and into South Staffordshire.

- Jaguar Land Rover, i54 -
i54 also points towards the future of cutting-edge manufacturing in Wolverhampton with Jaguar Land Rover expanding their operations here through the construction of additional engine production capacity. The scale of the JLR works is certainly impressive and it will be interesting to see if further companies may be enticed to take advantage of i54's Enterprise Zone status. A handful of Pendeford pictures (most notably of St Paul's Church) round things off nicely meaning 2017 is off and running in solid photo fashion. Bye for now!

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