Saturday, March 18

Another look at Langley

There are certain places which seem to crop up in my archive time and time and time again, with the Langley area of Oldbury definitely being one example. Even though I've visited several times over the years, it's always worth going back to see what might have changed and whether any new photographic gems can be unearthed - yesterday's outing therefore kept me rather busy...

- Chance Water Fountain -
Friday 17th March 2017 and I have some Smethwick sidestreets to get me underway, Bartram Road leading up from St Paul's Post Office to Devonshire Road where I can spy Ruskin House as part of the Holly Lodge educational campus. Holly Lane soon has me bearing down on West Smethwick Park for which the Chance family (of the local Chance Brothers glassworks) were major benefactors. Two prominent features provide evidence of this Chance connection - a memorial to Sir James Chance (who originally purchased the land for the park) and a drinking fountain dedicated to John Homer Chance (a former Chance Brothers Chairman who died in 1900).

- The Queens Head gets 'vetted' -
A brace of former pub sites now require my attention. The Londonderry which stood on the corner of Basons Lane and Queens Road has been flattened to make way for housing, while the Queens Head (further along Queens Road at the junction with Londonderry Lane) is now a veterinary surgery although at least the building itself is still with us. A number of the local shops carry the pub's old name - Queens Head Fish Bar, Queens Head Hardware, Queens Head Balti, you get the idea - while the Wonder Wash launderette looks like the kind of timewarp place D9 would enjoy sampling.

- Barnford Hill Maze -
Reservoir Road and Matty Road combine to lead me to the Q3 Langley Academy school, opposite which is the entrance into Barnford Hill Park. The early signs of spring are starting to peep through here, notably a crescent-shaped carpet of daffodils and a few brightly coloured crocuses. A youth shelter features a mural depicting picnic scenes (a dog trying to catch a frisbee) while a hedge maze allows for extra fun even if the foliage is decidedly brown. I then exit past allotments onto Farm Road to reacquaint myself with Langley Library, a lovely Carnegie landmark which originally opened in 1909. 

- Shutter sadness at the Royal Oak -
If Langley Library is still going strong after many years of sterling service, the same could not be said of the Royal Oak on nearby Langley Green Road. The pub looks rather sorry for itself with the dreaded sight of metal shutters telling tales of current closure; hopefully the situation isn't terminal as I am a fan of the building's traditional M&B detailing. Mill Lane is a derelict wasteland as I home in on New Inns Road Bridge for a brief taste of the Titford Canal.

- Langley Park Lodge -
My momentary wander along the towpath is cut short by the prospect of Langley Park where the lodge is now home to the local Irish association. Langley High Street retains its heritage appeal thanks to some old-fashioned shopfronts while the Crosswells Inn, village clock and local primary school also add to the sense of history meeting the present day. Titford Road then has the task of taking me towards Causeway Green where the old Hen & Chickens pub is nowadays known as the Flavourz buffet restaurant.

- The Old Dispensary -
As tempting as Flavourz might be, I'm keen to sample the hospitality on offer elsewhere with my prime target being a new micropub on Causeway Green Road just down from the post office. The Old Dispensary has set up base in what was until relatively recently a pharmacy store (hence the name). Real ales plus a cider or two are matched with classic pub snacks while the interior is modern but relaxing; I settle in for a pint of Aurora Big Dark, a satisfying porter from an Ilkeston-based brewery.

- The Wernley -
Bypassing Brandhall Golf Course, I investigate a section of the A4123 Wolverhampton Road for glimpses of Our Lady & St Hubert's Roman Catholic Church. The next junction along is home to the Wernley, a large Sizzling establishment with a bowling green out the back. Built in 1933/34 for Mitchells & Butlers, the pub has achieved listed status as an inter-war roadhouse example of the reformed public house movement. 

- Langley Swimming Centre -
A Warley wiggle involving Clent Road, Pottery Road and George Road allows for further pub pictures (accounting for both the George and the Plough, the latter by Bristnall Fields shops). Langley summons up a couple more targets by way of a parting gift so the swimming baths and the Merrivale (minus D9's favourite closet) also get the WME treatment, then Tat Bank Road transports me through to Oldbury for my train connection home. My latest Langley adventure will therefore go down as one of my favourites, and I expect it won't be too long before I find myself back that way yet again.

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