- Why did the geese cross the road? -
The 530 Banga Bus from Wolverhampton again dutifully serves as our initial connection, revealing the rubble by the Royal Hospital where the former Cleveland Road depot has recently been demolished. Rocket Pool Drive is a familiar terminus location now although some daredevil geese insist on waddling about in the middle of the road while taking no notice whatsoever of oncoming traffic. Our feathered friends survive unscathed so Mr Beardsmore and I can reacquaint ourselves with the remains of the Bradley Locks Branch, picking up the trail just off Humphries Crescent. The footpath gently climbs towards Weddell Wynd, the locations of the old lock chambers being noticeable where the path levels off in certain places.
- Weddell Wynd Earthworks -
The Bradley Locks Branch historically reached a junction with the Wednesbury Oak Loop somewhere in the vicinity of Weddell Wynd, the open spaces of which nowadays form a community woodland as part of the Black Country Urban Forest. Dodging a small army of dog walkers, we try to pick out where the Wednesbury Oak Loop used to go as it snaked off towards Batmanshill Road. There are some interesting earthworks that could indicate the curve of the canal before we emerge by a small clutch of shops comprising Chris's Stores and a Chinese takeaway.
- Wallbrook Primary School -
From lost canals to railway remnants next as we take Hobart Road in order to explore some of Princes End's transport heritage. The area was at one time served by two separate railway stations, the first of which (Princes End & Coseley) was located on the GWR route between Wolverhampton Low Level and Dudley. The line can be partially traced as a footpath beside Wallbrook Primary School while the station was positioned just off Bradleys Lane. We can't see much evidence of any platform structures but Stephen does spot some curious gate columns for a disused sports ground.
- Exploring the Princes End Branch -
Passing the Triple S Bar (previously the Talbot) on the Fountain Lane fork, we continue across Bloomfield Road in search of our second railway route of the morning. The Princes End branch line was a link between Tipton and Wednesbury with a stub to Ocker Hill Power Station - the passenger service ceased in 1916 although the route was retained for goods access through until the early 1980s, after which the section between Princes End and Ocker Hill became a leisure walkway. Newhall Road is our access point and we soon reach Upper Church Lane, site of Princes End's second railway station and a signal box although both are long gone.
- Princes End Precinct -
It's been a good few years since I last photographed the centre of Princes End so an archive update is very much in order. The precinct seems relatively unchanged with shops still including Fryday's Fish Bar, Gwen's Tackle & Bait, the local post office and the Tay Pot Cafe (the Black Country accent is alive and well in deepest Tipton). The William Perry Amateur Boxing Club is another notable feature but none of the three pubs I remember are still standing, the Shepherds Cottage, Lagoon and George & Dragon all consigned to history.
- Tipton Sports Academy -
Rejoining the railway walk, we proceed steadily towards Gospel Oak with the Glebefields estate for company over to the right. Time is running away with us and the full circuit we'd hoped to do will not be possible but there are still photo pickings to pluck out courtesy of an Asda supermarket and the Tipton Sports Academy (the leisure centre complex serving as the base for Tipton Town Football Club and Tipton Harriers Athletics). The Gospel Oak and Great Bridge Road see us safely back to Bradley Lane for our Metro conclusion, rounding off a rewarding roam that still leaves us with scope for a third instalment at a later date. To be continued...