Saturday, December 30

Shock News: Rog enjoyed a walk!

Shock news indeed, for not only did Rog enjoy the walk but he actually acted as the walk guide! I refer to last Saturday's outing, a pre-Christmas treat that saw Rog and I exploring Hagley and Clent, getting a few photos (and pints) along the way.

As Rog outings go, this was right up there with the very best. For starters, there was Hagley Station - having passed through a couple of times the station looked fairly interesting and it didn't disappoint. It is quite basic, but there's a nice building on the Worcester platform, complete with canopy, and there's a lovely blue and white footbridge adding to the traditional flavour. The platform building was closed when we visited but I think it is still in use as a ticket office/ station entrance for part of the week. The Stourbridge platform is a more mundane affair with a boring blue shelter and not much else. We got a few photos, although I was a bit miffed that my batteries died on me when I wanted to get a shot of our Class 150 train. Even so, the station provided a reminder of just how much I enjoy exploring railway locations.

Moving on, there's the small matter of the walk itself. We beat an energetic path through the back end of Hagley and then down to Holy Cross for a couple of photos of The Bell & Cross. Then it was into Clent itself, passing the Parish Hall and then calling at the Church, with a licensed Balti house on the opposite corner. A winding lane led down to the Fountain, with roads leading off to the Clent Hills - we had originally intended to explore the hills but it had been quite foggy in the week so we thought better of it. Lower Clent was next for a pub interlude, then the shorter way back to Hagley to complete the loop. A worthy Worcestershire addition to the walks catalogue without a doubt.

Did I mention the pub? Well, no outing with Rog is complete until we've quaffed ourselves some cider, and the pubs proved well worth visiting. First off was the French Hen in Lower Clent, an intriguing local with a distinct Gallic air intermingled with a hint of Christmas decorations. As a bonus, we met Mark, an old pal of Rog's and (hopefully) a future star of the Rog Files, so we had an extra drink and I grappled with the many Saturday supplements provided by the Daily Telegraph! Two other notable additions to the pub hitlist were The Station Inn in Hagley - nice local where I discovered Wolves were losing at home to Norwich - and The Queensway in Pedmore Fields, where we saw Man Utd beat Villa 3-0 whilst I munched my way through a pack of Salt & Vinegar. Ah, memories...

Continuing the food theme, I must make mention of our sampling of the cuisine of the local chippy in Hagley, 'Our Plaice'. Cooked as we waited, both the fish and the chips were delicious, and healthy as well according to the WeightWatchers notices on the shop wall! And a quick word too for Carol's in Stourbridge, where we called in for a quick snack on the evening. That chip shop has featured in quite a few of my Stourbridge outings down the years...

And thats that, except for some final bus-related thoughts. I had a wonderfully successful session at Stourbridge getting some bus photos whilst waiting for Rog - my wants list comprised photos of the 250, 251, 657 and the new buses on the 311, and would you believe it, I got the lot! Yet something managed to top even that... After our visit to The Queensway, and having found out Wolves had nicked a late equaliser to draw against Norwich, we caught the 298 back into Stourbridge. It was a Diamond route, one of our least favourite operators, but the driver was an absolute gent, chatting to us on the way back and then posing for a photo at Stourbridge. Now thats what I call service!

I think I'll have to encourage Rog to do a bit more walking in future...

Sunday, December 17

Extra Extra

After what seems like an absolute eternity, Exploration Extra has finally received an update. Yes, this almost forgotten section of WME has been the latest gallery to benefit from the release of some of my more recent photos...

There are 9 new additions this time out, with 6 on the Rail Rover collection and 3 on a new Devon Holiday collection, thus bringing the gallery total to 33 photos overall
  • The Rail Rover collection is starting to take shape nicely now, with 8 photos in total. Derby is quite well represented, especially with the arrival of bus photos for the Rainbow 4, The Red Arrow and The Mickleover services. The Rainbow 5 also resurfaces but this time at Beeston Bus Station (now there's a useful location for me to revisit on future Rover weeks), whilst Crewe also makes an appearance with the No. 16 bus and a view of the frontage to the railway station. All the above were taken in March 2006, definitely more recent than most of the photos I've been dealing with of late - great to get the newer stuff out there!
  • Things get even more up to date on the new Devon Holiday collection, with photos from my Dawlish holiday back in June. For starters we have a look at the 79 bus at Newton Abbot, but the star attractions as far as I'm concerned just have to be the photos of the 85 and 85A at Dawlish. Showcasing fabulous routes that were the bedrock of my holiday explorations, I can think of no better way to kickstart this new segment of the site.

It is fair to say that some of my galleries do get neglected, with updates concentrating primarily on Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Dudley, so this was a solid step in the other direction. Not only that, the update presents some of my favourite memories from my more recent explorations, proving that good things do happen when I occasionally manage to step foot outside of the West Midlands.

Tuesday, December 12

WME Dudley Reaches Its Century

Its always cause for a little celebration when one of the local WME galleries reaches the 100 photos landmark - Birmingham got there first, followed more recently by Wolverhampton. Well now I can add WME Dudley to that worthy list.

Having sat on 99 photos for a couple of weeks, a little update this morning did the trick and the 100 barrier was broken. The new additions are
  • On Dudley by Bus, 2 photos of the 636S at Quinton taken during the Langley Green Rog trip earlier this year (another example of me using more recent photos, and nice photos at that!) and;
  • 2 photos starting off a new Exploring Wollaston collection. Wollaston has featured prominently in the Rog outings, from eating chips at Wollaston Junction on our first outing, to staying at Rog's more recently - I'm getting to know the place as a home from home, so this collection has an extra resonance. Just a couple of pub photos to begin with, showing the Princess and the Waterloo - haven't actually been in either pub yet though!

From 99 to 103 photos in one fell swoop, and the gallery is starting to come along nicely. I must admit that the balance concerns me a little, with 49 bus photos dominating things, but there is a sprinkling of other stuff to spread the focus. Of course, breaking the century barrier doesn't mean that I rest on my laurels - far from it! Site development must continue, and I look forward to announcing further WME Dudley landmarks over the months to come - next stop 150...

Monday, December 11

Next round of updates

Another quick round of WME updates were made at the weekend. Two galleries were updated, WME Wolverhampton and WME Birmingham...

On WME Wolverhampton, the new additions comprise
  • Mill Street Bridge, a useful filler on the Birmingham Main Line collection
  • Another train photo addition on Wolverhampton Station, the layers are becoming clearer!
  • Elston Hall Community Centre joins Exploring Fordhouses - I'd been debating for ages over where to put this photo, finally deciding on Fordhouses although Elston Hall kind of overlaps into Oxley and Bushbury as well
  • A new Exploring Spring Vale collection containing photos of Spring Vale Library and the old Mobile Library - still not sure how to define Spring Vale as an area though
  • And finally, two additions to Wolverhampton by Bus. A 516 Choice Travel at the back end of Wolverhampton Bus Station, and the 531 calling at Bilston in the days when the route was operated by TWM

And now onto WME Birmingham

  • Another Bordesley Station stairs photo, with the station looking as depressing as ever
  • A second view of the bus interchange at Lower Parade in Sutton Coldfield finds its way onto Stops & Stations
  • Pershore Road Bridge joins the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, where it meets up with my photo of the bridge's nameplate
  • And a nice addition to Birmingham by Bus in the form of the 167 at Sutton Coldfield, the route is a more recent addition to the evergrowing list of personal favourites

Useful updates once again, with Wolverhampton and Birmingham battling each other for the title of local gallery with the most photos. Birmingham now leads by 161 to 157, but Wolverhampton has steadily been closing the gap for a few months now

The update also marked a little departure for me, as I've started to use some of my newer photos rather than leaving them on WME1 - the 167, the 531, Spring Vale and Elston Hall are all newer photos that have crept through and I hope to introduce a few more of my newer shots to balance up the galleries heading into the new year.

Thursday, December 7

December's Attack of the Stats

I have just completed the WME Photo Audit for December, and its revealed a few interesting facts about WME as things currently stand.

There are currently 1,126 photos on WME. 779 of these are on the local WME galleries, with 347 on the WME1 testing zone. Taking into account The Rog Files and Dad Files collections, which are housed permanently on WME1 and contain 92 photos, I have 871 dedicated permanent WME photos leaving 255 test photos that I am still working on.

Looking at the local WME galleries in more detail, and the galleries seem quite well balanced in terms of photo content. My aim is to provide a fairly equal split between Bus, Rail, Canal and Local content, with the Metro discounted for the time being as I simply don't have the photos to consider this as a major feature of the site as yet.

I did a quick calculation to see what percentage of the 779 local gallery photos could be classed as Bus, Rail etc, fully expecting that buses would come out on top. Not so, Rail came in at 33% with Buses trailing at 26% and Local not far behind that. The stats hopefully disprove any notion that WME is mainly a bus site with a few extra bits thrown in. I was also surprised to find that Rail effectively supplies a third of all WME photos, helped no doubt by a big chunk of them being on WME Birmingham. I think its fair to say the site is quite balanced, and I was pleased that the Local photos made up a good proportion. Canals was left lagging behind a little, not helped by the fact that there aren't any canal photos at all on the Sandwell, Solihull, Telford or Worcestershire galleries.

Another calculation I was intrigued by was the average number of photos per collection. A lot of my recent work on WME has been about fleshing out what's already on the site, adding further photos to existing collections. There are 169 collections on the WME galleries, with WME Birmingham leading the way with a rail-dominated 41. This means the average came in at 4.6 photos per collection, a good start but something I want to improve on. Whilst doing the audit I noticed that there were still a lot of collections containing only the minimum 2 photos, balanced out by the bigger bus collections (Dudley by Bus is the biggest with 47 members). I really need to do something about the underdeveloped collections, and my current opinion is that the best way forward would be to use my newer photos to flesh things out rather than trying to extract more from the older archive. We'll see how it goes.

So thats a little summary for you, I do find these audits useful for checking how well the site is progressing and to flag up any areas of concern that might need addressing. I will probably feed back a little bit more with comments for the individual galleries themselves, besides which I need to knuckle down for a session of updating and rebuild a bit of momentum again in the process.

Tuesday, December 5

A sprinkling of updates

A little bit of fairy dust has descended to kickstart the festive season with a handful of updates...
  • On WME Dudley last week there were a couple of additions - a view of Stourbridge Bus Station on Stops & Stations, and a photo of the 545 at Sedgley on Dudley by Bus. Nice extra additions from my recent archive plunderings
  • A two-fold update on WME Walsall; last week I added three canal shots to the Wyrley & Essington collection in the form of two views of Sneyd Junction and a shot of Wall End Bridge. Useful development of an important canal collection, Sneyd Junction is a particularly significant location for me so I'm glad its now included.
    This was followed up today with two additions to Walsall by Bus - the 529 at Willenhall and the 333 at Bradford Place. Useful photos, again from my recent plunderings.
  • To WME Staffordshire, and only one new photo but a goody nonetheless. The 991 at Lichfield joins Staffordshire by Bus - this photo had been sitting in Staffstest for ages crying out for full inclusion, and I couldn't deny it any longer. One of my favourites amongst my early bus photos, reminding me of a special outing I made over three years ago, doesn't time fly!
  • And finally, WME Sandwell - a gallery that has suffered from lack of attention recently, so by way of apology I offer one addition to Stops & Stations (a useful transition photo documenting the rebuilding of Bearwood Bus Station) and two additions to Rowley Regis Station (a platform view and a corridor view - not that exciting I must admit, but helpful in providing a more complete picture of the station)

And whilst the updates creak back into gear, I can also report back on an outing with Rog and Woody last Saturday, venturing into Worcestershire to visit Kidderminster, Evesham and Droitwich amongst others. I have to say I really enjoyed it, it was great to have a look around Evesham although I was disappointed not to get any bus photos - did visit the garage though, a bonus considering its due for demolition. Droitwich in the dark was fun too, but the highlight for me was taking photos of Kidderminster Town SVR station in the dark and with all the Christmas decorations out, a magical moment when I seemed to have the station all to myself. Obviously it will be a good while yet before the photos emerge onto WME, but they might just be worth waiting for!

Monday, November 27

Time for a clearout

WME1 serves me pretty well as a test site on the whole. I play around with my photos, tweak them a bit and then see what I think before housing the photos permanently on the appropriate local WME gallery.

The thing with testing is that some photos don't quite make the cut. Usually these photos end up sitting around on WME1 waiting until I have another go at making them presentable, a placeholder type system until I get the photo right. Problem is, some photos tend to just stay there forever not doing anything and with no chance of full inclusion - thats where today comes in...

From time to time I like to blitz WME1 and just remove anything that gets in my way. The latest blitz took place this evening, and resulted in considerable carnage as I decided there were quite a few photos I didn't actually like that much - 101 of them in fact.

At the end of the mayhem, things do look a little clearer. I'm left by and large with photos I'm generally happy to include, plus a handful of remaining placeholder shots that I think are worth experimenting with a bit more before total discard. 101 photos is quite a chunk to take out, and who knows, some of the photos may resurface at some stage - I always tend to follow a blitz with a guilt trip that leads to some shots being reinstated.

Amongst the blitz survivors I'm happy with is a selection of my more recent photos. My inclination over the last year or so has been to concentrate on the older stuff, meaning very few of my latest shots get edited up and tested. A select band of pioneers have bravely entered WME territory though, the question is what do I do with them? As a general rule, any such photos are held in WME1 until I get through the archive to the point at which they were taken. It has become clear of late that this process could take months, years even, leaving me with a dilemma. I want to include my latest shots more quickly, but I want to deal with the archive thoroughly at the same time, so whats the answer? I think I might just know...

With the blitz over, WME currently includes 1,108 photos with 335 of those on WME1. The archive focus had served its purpose well, but the site was starting to stagnate just a touch. Doctor Paul prescribes an injection of newer photo material, lets hope it does the trick!

Saturday, November 25

It's all gone quiet again

Yes, I must admit that work on WME has come to a bit of a standstill really. I go through these phases from time to time - one week I knuckle down and sort out some updates, the next week I just can't be bothered.

The enthusiasm for the site has dried up a little for the time being. I look at WME1 and I don't see many photos that I am happy enough with to shift them onto a local gallery. Its also been a bit of a struggle finding new photos for the site - I'm on another archive trawl and I'm reaching the point where I'm going over the same old photos over and over again. Ideally I want to get stuck in to some of my latest photos, but I want to make sure the old stuff is done properly as well. Turns out I do neither...

Thought I'd lighten the mood a little by keeping up with England's progress in the Ashes, what a bad idea that turned out to be. Three days in, we're over 600 behind with the worrying cocktail that our bowlers can't buy a wicket and the batsmen can't be bothered to stick it out at the crease. A long hard series in prospect, but at least Ian Bell showed some guts...

So with the cricket going so badly, my thoughts turn to football and Wolverhampton Wanderers, my team. Useful draw with Sunderland last night, should have won I guess. Overall, I think Mick McCarthy is doing a good job, he's certainly brought some pride back after Glenn Hoddle. He's also managing to unearth a few players rather than bringing in Premiership has-beens, I'm intrigued to see how this McIndoe does, hopefully he can get some goals. Goals are Wolves' problem really, they can't score enough to put the opposition away, Sunderland last night being a good example. After an excellent start to the season, things are levelling out a bit with a rash of away defeats and a slide back into mid-table. Obscurity beckons, which might not be a bad thing, give us time to consolidate and build a team for the long term.

Ok, I admit I had to write about something given the lack of WME stuff to waffle upon, hence the digression into the world of sport. As a solitary step forward though, and by way of apology, I have managed to squeak out the tiniest of updates, with another train photo joining the Wolverhampton Station collection on WME Wolverhampton. The photo itself is hardly exciting, but it does take WME Wolves to the 150 photos landmark(!!!) at long last, hurrah! And on that positive note, I shall draw this post to a close and get back to searching for a silver lining amongst the cricketing carnage. Wish me luck...

Wednesday, November 8

November Updates

After another couple of raids on the WME archive, I've found a few more photos to experiment with and some of these have now taken pride of place on the WME Wolverhampton and WME Dudley galleries.

Now showing on WME Wolverhampton, we have:
  • a couple more train photos on Wolverhampton Station showing the much maligned Wellington - Walsall service back in August 2003
  • a new collection, Exploring Oxley, currently featuring two photos of Oxley Library. Me and Oxley go back a long way so I'm glad the area finally has a WME presence
  • two new canal photos: Moathouse Bridge, scene of several lunchtime walks, arrives on the Wyrley & Essington collection, whilst on Birmingham Main Line I've added a bonus shot of a BCN sign near Horseley Fields Bridge - quite how I hadn't included this photo before now is a bit of a mystery but there you go

Turning WME Dudley where its bus related updates all the way...

  • A useful view of Halesowen Bus Station joins the Stops & Stations collection, adding another location into the mix
  • And on Dudley by Bus there are 5 new bus photos - the 002 at Merry Hill, the 236 and 257 at Gornal Wood, the 240 at Stourbridge and the 544 at Coseley. The collection now contains 46 photos, so it is well established, but I'm especially pleased with this latest batch of inclusions because they even up the location balance a little bit. The collection is still dominated by Stourbridge and Halesowen photos but at least there's a bit more Gornal and Merry Hill now, and a completely new location in the form of Coseley

Another solid update then, making further use of my older photos. The updates also mean that both WME Wolverhampton and WME Dudley are approaching little landmarks: WME Wolverhampton has 149 photos, one away from the big 150 (and catching WME Birmingham too) whilst WME Dudley is on 97, three photos away from becoming the third WME to break through the century barrier. The number crunching shows that the galleries are growing and becoming more substantial, so I am heading in the right direction.

Thursday, November 2

Reflections on Rog Week

Between October 9th and 15th Rog and I completed five hectic days of classic exploration. Here are some of my personal highlights:

The buses:

  • the 241 and a first glimpse of Rowley village.
  • the return of the 18 - one of my absolute favourite routes - and a ride from Bartley Green to Cotteridge.
  • Lynx haulage at Hawkesley and the 84 shuttle into Cotteridge (including Shannon Road photos)
  • the 598 and a friendly driver who tried to give the bus away to us free of charge, Rog was tempted
  • the 261, waiting at Wombourne Church and then the ride up through Swindon and Pensnett
  • the 312 back to Stourbridge on Tuesday listening to Rog's MP3 (although whether I enjoyed Chesney Hawkes' 'I am the one and only' is debatable)
  • the 32 - a new addition to the favourite routes, explored from Acocks Green to Bills Lane via Gospel Oak
  • Taking photos of the 197 at Solihull, then catching the route to Balsall Common - not to mention a first look at Knowle
  • Visiting Tamworth on the 765, providing a look at Whittington and celebrations when Mom informed me that Wolves had beaten Colchester, excellent!
  • Stourbridge in the dark and the 290 through Wollaston Farm and back to Rog's
  • A first look at Balsall Heath and Moseley as we caught the 50 down to Maypole in readiness for BaMMoT on Sunday. Gave Woody a chance to point out the exact scene of Rog's infamous dogmess incident!

Trains and Railway Stations:

  • Tyseley - another all too brief visit before catching the 36, it would be nice to stop for more than five minutes next time
  • A first visit to Berkswell, although I wasn't that impressed. Station house all boarded up, and a modern footbridge has replaced the much more charming level crossing

The walks:

  • A walk around Woodgate and Bartley Green for a few local photos and a look at the 23 terminus
  • Searching for Ben in Kings Norton Park
  • Exploring Rednal then heading into Cofton Hackett to track down the 47
  • Going local in Wolverhampton: Bushbury Hill And Northwood Park in the fog, followed by Warstones and Spring Hill and soggy shoes on the green
  • Exploring Kings Road in Tyseley, finding the 36 bus stop and then pitching up at Acocks Green for a quick look in the library
  • The Balsall Common Walk: Berkswell station was not as far as I thought, we discovered a nice pub and got drenched heading back up to the bus stop. Oh, and we found out where the Co-op was

The pubs:

  • The Bulls Head overlooking Kings Norton Green
  • The Oak Tree at Rednal after a ride on the 62, nice beer patio
  • Wombourne pubs - the Vine first, then the New Inn for my first proper pint of Banks's
  • The Village Hotel in Dudley - watching cricket and battling the quiz machine
  • The Rock Station at Stourbridge - an old favourite, nice weeknight atmosphere with Blade on the prowl
  • The Brickmakers Arms, near Berkswell Station - nice building, dodgy music
  • The Forest in Dorridge - a Rog outing favourite, and its in the Good Food Guide
  • The pub in Burton where I sampled Pedigree. Beer was nice but I can't remember what the pub was called. Stood at the bar on a busy Saturday afternoon, a proper pub experience at the town that is renowned as the home of brewing.

The food:

  • My first taste of a donner burger in the bus shelter at Pool Farm
  • Scollop and pie at Wombourne, sitting on a bench outside Barclays
  • Visiting Woolworths at Wednesbury for extra supplies of chocolate and crisps
  • Chips at Knowle, waiting for to photograph the 40A & 40C
  • Beer and a burger at Lichfield, the cider went to my head
  • A quick takeaway at Sedgley after the Monty's Bar incident

A week full of great memories there, and hopefully we'll add a few more with any trips we might do in the future. I think its safe to say the week was a success!

Thursday, October 26

Keeping those updates coming

Wednesday is usually my late start at work, so I try and use the morning wisely by doing some work on WME. Yesterday was no exception, and I managed to transfer another handful of photos from WME1 to their permanent homes

  • Starting as usual with WME Wolverhampton, and a new Exploring Castlecroft collection showing the Firs pub and a view of Castlecroft Road. Not my greatest ever photos, but they serve a purpose and look alright
  • Next up WME Birmingham, with just a single new photo this time as another train shot joins the new Sutton Coldfield station collection. It would be nice to include some photos of the station itself in the collection, and not just the trains I've placed in there so far - sounds like another little project to work on!
  • Next is WME Coventry where I'm actually down to the bare bones in terms of test photos I could include. I have added a photo of the No. 7 bus on Broadgate, which leaves me with only 9 photos in Covtest so I don't envisage much further update action on the Coventry front for the foreseeable future
  • And finally, WME Staffordshire and an Exploring Codsall collection featuring the Crown pub and Charles Wheeler's sculpture 'The Lone Singer'. Its always good to add in new exploring collections showing shops, pubs and local landmarks, but the places covered on WME Staffordshire have so far tended to be villages such as Codsall and Kinver, and I'd quite like to include more of the county's major towns in there as well.

Overall then, a small update but a useful step in the right direction nonetheless. WME1 is now down to 402 photos - I might break through the 400 barrier soon, although 350 test photos still seems a long way off. In the best WME traditions, things are taking ages to sort out, but judging by the way the galleries are fleshing out, I think it is worth it.

Tuesday, October 24

Back with more updates

Well, I must say I really enjoyed my week off - Rog and I managed to cram in a few outings, including an excellent Saturday in Staffordshire when we were joined by Woody. Lots of good photos which will hopefully see the light of day on WME at some stage, but in the meantime I'm still ploughing through the photo archive from the first half of 2005.

The first part of 'Operation Archive Extraction' was primarily completed a little while back - I'd been through and extracted what photos I could up to and including my outings from April 2005. I'm now somewhat bogged down in the second phase of the operation, whereby having extracted the photos I now have to try and use them on the local WME galleries. This hasn't been as straightforward as expected, I've had to do a lot of tweaking and background work to sort out photo sequences and build up a better record of what's actually in my archive.

The good news is that I am getting there. Before 'Rog Week' I had possibly my most sustained series of updates for months, and I've been able to pick up where I left off with some more additions:
  • WME Wolverhampton: A victory for the sequencing solutions I mentioned as a series of views of Devils Elbow Bridge join the Wyrley & Essington collection. The collection is coming together, although Devils Elbow is rather dominant at the moment
  • WME Walsall: More canal coverage as two pictures of Rayboulds Bridge join the Walsall Canal collection. The second photo had been sitting on Walstest for a while, waiting for me to check for any earlier examples. I finally got round to it, did indeed find a slightly earlier shot (only a month or so in it) and now both are tucked in nicely in their new home. Oh, and I also took the plunge and stuck the Stand K sign at Walsall Bus Station into the Stops & Stations Collection
  • WME Birmingham: and yet more rail content, with an addition to Duddeston (a useful view of the station entrance) and a new collection for Sutton Coldfield. I keep harping on about WME Brum being rail dominated, but I make no apologies in this instance - Sutton Coldfield is a great station, up there with my favourites and I simply had to include it. And by sorting out the various train photos I've taken there, it now is included, so there!
  • WME Dudley: nothing so exciting on Dudley unfortunately, although a platform view at Lye is not to be sniffed at, especially with the old station footbridge making an appearance. Talking about footbridges, the one on the canal by Coseley Tunnel must be the most photographed canal footbridge on WME - especially with two more views now added. That makes it four and counting now, and I'm sure there must be more recent shots I haven't even got to yet. And I don't even like the bridge that much!!
  • WME Staffordshire: still on the footbridge theme, the old footbridge at Codsall appears a couple of times amongst the four new additions to the Codsall Station collection. The collection is building nicely, and there is talk of the footbridge being resurrected using some of the original material, so good news all round I think
  • WME Telford: almost every photo on this gallery dates from Friday 13th August 2004, including the two new additions. We have a rather uninspiring shot of Stand D at Oakengates bus station, and a look at the old station house/ dentists surgery at Oakengates rail station. Considering I've had just the one outing's photos to go on, I don't think WME Telford is doing too badly really
  • WME Solihull: only one addition, but a good 'un - a view of the frontage at Shirley Station, a nice antidote to all the ugly, modern rubbish I have to put up with at other stations.

So thats the updates, whats next on the horizon. Well, WME1 still needs some exercise and its a case of me fighting the photoflab at the moment. Looking at the gallery, I still think there's more mileage in purging the test collections and trying to shift as much as I can onto the local WMEs. WME1 has already come down from 500+ photos to 408, but I'd like to take another big chunk out of it to get it down to something approaching 350 photos or less. This process is worthwhile, as the local WME galleries are growing, whilst I'm forcing myself to deal with awkward photos that I've been stockpiling. Sorting out the photo sequences has also took me back into the archive and released a few more photos that I'd somehow ignored, so I am presenting a more complete picture of my outings as a whole. And you know what, I'm actually enjoying the challenge of tackling the long-standing problem photos.

So, its on with the WME1 clearout. Hopefully I'll have a few more updates coming quite soon, the flab will melt away and then I can concentrate on the newer stuff. And hopefully I won't have to resort to the photo equivalent of liposuction, mores the pity!

Friday, October 6

October Updates so far

I'm on holiday next week, so I've spent the last few days trying to tidy up some loose ends on WME with a few more updates thrown in for good measure. There's a fair bit to tell you about...
  • Beginning with WME Wolverhampton as per usual. There's a bit more canal coverage as two photos of Cable Street Bridge join the Birmingham Main Line Collection, and views of the locks at Compton and Wightwick Mill join the Staffs & Worcs. And there's yet more new stuff from Wednesfield Park on Exploring Wednesfield. Thankfully, no signs this time, just a couple of shots amongst the flowerbeds (oo-er!)
  • Onto WME Birmingham next, and here there's a new addition to Birmingham by Bus in the form of the 156 at Perry Barr, after many edits I might add. I've also added a new collection Exploring Stockland Green. Its always great to add in new local collections, and this one is no exception. There are two nice shots of Stockland Green Bingo, and I've finally got a home for my photo of the bird statue at Brookvale Park. Great!
  • Next stop, WME Walsall. Progress here sees two views of local shops joining Exploring Bentley, a collection that is slowly growing into a useful pictorial view of the estate.
  • Looking now at WME Dudley, and yet more bus additions. Unsurprisingly, they concentrate on the usual Dudley by Bus locations, Halesowen and Stourbridge. These two places dominate the collection even more now, with Halesowen staking its claim with four shots of the Ludlow's 006 route and two views of the 210. Stourbridge might feel a little left out by only getting one new photo, with the 240 getting an airing. I could do with more photos at other locations but the archive won't allow that as things stand.
  • Still on the bus theme, I move onto WME Sandwell where Sandwell by Bus does get a new location joining the ranks thanks to a shot through the drizzle of the 124 at Cradley Heath from Rog trip 2
  • Not to be left out, WME Coventry gets a single new recruit, as a further train photo joins the Coventry Station collection.
  • WME Solihull had been effectively left to hibernate over the last couple of months, but it has risen from its slumbers now. Firstly, another train photo joins Shirley Station, and there are also train photo additions to Marston Green Station after a bit of trawling through the archive layers. With no hint of fanfare, I can announce the arrival of a new collection for Birmingham International Station, currently including a platform view and an onboard shot of the SkyRail interior. The challenge now will be to keep the gallery from going back to sleep...
  • Into the wider WME region now as I call in on WME Staffordshire. Additions here to Staffordshire by Bus, showing the 825 at Lichfield and at Rugeley - the Rugeley shot is a particular favourite. Lichfield City also benefits from me tweaking the archive with two more Cross City train photos, and not forgetting Cannock Station - a new collection for a station that is actually very forgettable indeed. Still, its there now...
  • A quick stop on WME Worcestershire just to mention that a further train photo has joined the new Foregate Street collection
  • And finally for this mad ramble, Exploration Extra and the Cornwall collection - no, not a range of farmer's clothing, but instead a transport related snapshot of the county that now includes two more bus photos, the 18 at Truro and an Eden Project shuttle outside St Austell Station

Well then, did you keep up? I think I can safely say there's a fair bit of progress there, and that I might just about have deserved a holiday. Hopefully you'll agree, and I'll aim to be back in updating action later this month. Enjoy the updates...

Friday, September 29

Keeping the momentum going

Momentum is a word that doesn't tend to enter the WME vocabulary much, with updates usually sporadic and rare at best. It is with some trepidation that I actually wield the word, but I think it is justified after my third round of updates over the last few weeks. The latest batch sees more useful additions to the following galleries:
  • WME Birmingham: Four additions - another 26 at Bromford Bridge photo (newly tweaked, I'm proud of that one), a view of Yardley Wood Station, another view of Kings Norton Junction Bridge on the Worcs & B'ham Canal, and a second train photo for Longbridge (got my layers in order there)
  • WME Worcestershire: Now, its very rare that this gallery gets an update, so enjoy it whilst it lasts. Two new bus additions - the 28 at Worcester and an 8 at Kidderminster - plus a new collection for Foregate Street Station. It was about time Foregate Street was included after being on my 'to do' list for an eternity, and now its sorted. Pleasing progress I'd say.
  • WME Telford: What, another Telford update? Yes indeed - Wellington Station provides one of those much-needed new collections I mentioned last time. Its great to start off a spot for one of my favourite stations, again after a long wait in the queue.

Whilst I'm delighted with recent progress, there still seems to be loads of work to do. There are plenty of test photos that still need tweaking and amending, but this latest batch of updates does show that it is worth it. My immediate priorities are to try and sort out a few photos for WME Solihull, whilst I also want to tackle the perennial issue of Wolvtest on WME1 being crammed with local area photos that never seem to go anywhere. Looks like I'll be kept busy for some time to come...

Wednesday, September 27

More WME Additions

A few more photos have been transferred to their home WME galleries over the last week or so. Its taken me a while to get the commentaries sorted, hence I am posting now rather than when the photos first appeared.

  • WME Wolverhampton: This gallery is seeing a fair bit of update action at the moment! The latest offerings include:
    - A 698 at Wobaston photo joining Wolverhampton by Bus (another Rog trip special)
    - A close up of Autherley Junction Bridge, following on from the sequence I added last time
    - A wintry scene at Wightwick Lock which joins the Staffs & Worcs collection
    - A useful shot of Castle Bridge on the Wyrley & Essington
    - Yet another photo of a sign at Wednesfield Park in Exploring Wednesfield
    - And finally, a new collection Exploring Park Village containing a photo of Fowlers Park and the railway crossing
  • WME Birmingham: Only one addition, but a good one all the same. A photo of the 26 at Bromford Bridge has crept its way into Birmingham by Bus, adding a new bus photo location to the WME mix in the process.
  • WME Dudley: An important new collection on the Dudley gallery sees a bit more canal coverage provided in the form of the Dudley No.1 Canal. Two photos so far - Wheelers Bridge and a view of the Delph.
  • WME Staffordshire: Following on from the Bratch Bridge photos I added last time out, I've added a view of Bratch Top Lock to the Staffs & Worcs collection. This particular collection is taking shape quite nicely now with a healthy 19 photos showcasing the canal.
  • WME Telford: Two additions to Telford by Bus, both are shots of route 22 at Telford Bus Station. I'm just about managing to keep the gallery ticking over with updates, but I need more material in order to add some much needed additional collections
  • Exploration Extra: This gallery has tended to get ignored at update time, so I'm pleased that there are some new additions at long last;
    - On the North Yorkshire collection, a photo of buses on layover at Malton
    - A new collection for the Lea Hall Garage Open Day with 3 photos including an alternative view of Metrobus 3050
    - And finally, Cornwall. 7 new additions here, representing Lands End, stations at Newquay, St Ives and Falmouth, a train at St Austell, a bus at Truro and a look at Penzance Bus Station. With 11 photos, this collection is actually getting some encouraging substance behind it

So there you have it, a few more updates to keep things ticking over. I could probably still shift a few more photos across, so a further update may be on the cards, whilst I need to experiment a little more with some of the other test photos before I can include them. The work never stops does it? Enjoy the galleries :)

Saturday, September 16

A few thoughts on WME1

As well as telling you about my latest updates (see previous post) I thought I'd fill you in on whats going on with WME1...

Over the past few months I have been concentrating on ploughing back through my earlier archive, extracting additional photos that I could use to bulk up the local WME galleries before I plunge headlong into my more recent photography. Well, this process is almost at an end as I have now reached my April 2005 photos, marking the point where I cross from the early archive into the newer stuff.

Looking back, the recent focus on the archive has been really successful. I've managed to unearth some photos I am delighted with, and the galleries now paint a more complete picture of the West Midlands thanks to the photos I have now been able to include.

All that remains is for me to do a bit more tidying up. There are still some photos that I need to transfer onto their respective local WMEs, plus a few I'll have to tinker with some more before I'm totally satisfied that they can be included. Once this is done, I can start working away on the newer stuff safe in the knowledge that the older layers have been properly dealt with.

The focus on the older archive has meant that certain parts of WME1 have suffered, notably the Rog Files. Very few of the photos from our 2006 outings have made their way online yet, although by way of compensation I have today added one tasty morsel from our most recent Bridgnorth outing. Starring none other than Mr Mark Wood himself, having coat problems in The Golden Lion - an instant Rog Files classic methinks!

WME Updates

Progress has once again been slow on the WME front (when isn't it?) but I have at least managed to squeak a few more photos onto their local WME galleries.
  • On WME Wolverhampton, a couple of buses representing Choice Travel and routes 517 and 817 join Wolverhampton by Bus. Usable photos that might as well be included.
    I also managed to sort out the sequencing for my Autherley Junction photos, so three of those have found their way into the Shropshire Union collection.
    I've finally managed to extract some useful Wyrley and Essington photos, so a collection has at long last been started for one of my favourite canals. Only 2 photos to begin with, a BCN sign and an alternative look at Devils Elbow Bridge
    And finally on WME Wolves, a new collection for Exploring Wednesfield that includes a nice shot of the memorial gardens, plus two rather boring shots inside Wednesfield Park. Hope to add a lot more to this as times goes on
  • On WME Walsall, a photo of the 319 at Bloxwich joins Walsall by Bus, good to include another photo from a Rog outing. Also, a Hills Rail Replacement minibus creeps into the Walsall Station collection, showing the less than ideal alternative to the Walsall - Wolverhampton rail link
  • On WME Birmingham I've added three photos to the Witton Station collection, building up a better look at the station as a whole
  • On WME Sandwell its a big welcome to Exploring Blackheath, with pubs The Ashley and The Beech Tree kickstarting this new collection. Blackheath is still a place I know very little about so a return visit may be in order
  • And finally, WME Staffordshire takes receipt of two Wombourne Station photos in the Railway Walk collection and two Bratch Bridge photos in the Staffs & Worcs Canal collection. Useful stuff, but I still have hardly any photos of Wombourne the village as regards pubs, shops and facilities - another future outing there too perhaps?

Useful progress then as more of the jigsaw falls into place. Enjoy the photos.

Tuesday, September 12

A Wander Around Willenhall

It had been absolutely ages since I'd had a proper look around Willenhall, so last Friday I decided to pay the town a visit and get some local photos in the process.

I quite like Willenhall, its a proper Black Country town and it certainly comes alive when the market is on. I remember visiting the market as a kid, looking at the stalls as they wind off down the High Street, Saturday mornings out shopping and bumping into relatives that we hadn't seen for ages.

The walk renewed my acquaintance with the market, and also allowed a return to the Memorial Park, a nice spot in the early autumn for picture taking. Also on the photo front, I found a number of pubs to add to the archive - The Windmill (by the park), The County, The Crown (by the library), and The Waterglade. I didn't photo the Royal George but its certainly distinctive with a bright green exterior overlooking the marketplace.

Willenhall also offers good bus photo opportunities with routes such as the 341 and 369 calling at Union Street, and the 331 terminates by the Lion Hotel - two good locations that have served me well in the past; I might drag Rog across for a look around in the future.

The pub photos continued as I extended the walk down into Bilston, revisiting Portobello and then calling at Bunkers Hill for a look at The Borough and The Hustler, the latter all boarded up and looking forlorn. Saturday afternoon memories came flooding back of visiting Queen Street to watch Bilston Town play, with a cup win against Nuneaton Borough a particular highlight. Next was The Samson and Lion on Newbolt Street, before I came across a previously unexplored bit of Bilston in the form of Villiers Square, complete with Villiers Arms pub and a post office, a great discovery.

The outing finished off with a look around Hickman Park, looking absolutely glorious in the autumn sunshine, and recalling even more memories as I reflected on visits to the park for the annual bonfire spectacular, complete with hot pork sandwiches. The park had a magical atmosphere on those chilly, dark November nights, and it wasn't quite the same visiting on a September afternoon but even so I could enjoy strolling around admiring the flowerbeds and the amphitheatre and getting a few more photos. A look at the Dog & Partridge pub just down the road preceded a visit to the Metro stop on The Crescent for a few tram photos and a ride back into Wolverhampton.

Exploring is a year-round hobby, but the trips can certainly take on a seasonal character - take Hawkesley on an icy February morning for winter, or boiling hot days walking along the Wyrley and Essington Canal to Pelsall for summer. Well, this outing had a real autumnal air and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Saturday, August 26

Exploring Essington

A great bit of local exploration yesterday saw me visit some old Wolverhampton haunts and also venturing out into Staffordshire.

The Wolverhampton haunts included Ashmore Park, where I tracked down the True Briton pub on Snape Road to add another piece to the Wolverhampton pubs jigsaw - I vaguely knew the pub existed but it was good to finally have a proper look. I also called in at Long Knowle and Underhill, adding to my library photos with the Scotlands & Underhill branch on Masefield Road.

The Wolverhampton stuff was fantastic, but the real highlight was venturing into Staffordshire to explore Essington. The village has featured in countless journeys on the way to Nan's old house in Bloxwich, as well as visits to Sunday car boots at the fruit farm, but this was my first time having a proper look around. I wasn't disappointed, with photos provided by local shops and the inviting looking Minerva pub. I really like investigating villages such as this - it gets me away from the urban sprawl for a bit, and gives me a taste of the essence of England.

By way of an added bonus, the walk provided opportunities to take a few bus photos, and I was particularly pleased to add a few more Green Bus photos to my archive. With an ageing fleet of vehicles, the Green Bus Service has a charm and friendliness that combined with cheerful drivers helps make phototaking a pleasure. The 8 runs hourly through Essington, so I ambushed the 11:15 for a shot on its way to Wolverhampton, before finding the 16 as it terminated near Essington Church. Delighted with my bus pics at Essington, I captured the 8 at Long Knowle for good measure and allowed myself to return to TWM reality with a shot of the 511 at Underhill.

Some of the photos have already found their way onto WME1 as I couldn't resist trying them out online, and I look forward to adding a few more in due course. All in all, a fine way to spend a quiet Friday morning in August.

Thursday, August 10

WME Wolverhampton Updates

More of my recent archive discoveries have found themselves a home, with WME Wolverhampton being updated yesterday morning
  • The Ashmore pub has been added to Exploring Ashmore Park, a useful photo of a local landmark
  • Exploring Dovecotes has received a photo of Ryefield underpass, another contender for the title of 'Least glamorous photo on WME'
  • Two more shots of the entrance to Wolverhampton Station have been added, unfortunately both show the station still looking as ugly as ever
  • A couple of additions also to the Shropshire Union Canal, with a nice view of Autherley Lock and a forgotten shot of Turnover Bridge. This collection is building quite nicely now
  • And finally, a photo of the 572 at Wolverhampton has joined Wolverhampton by Bus - another useful photo that shows a now withdrawn route and an operator other than Travel West Midlands

A small but useful update then, developing a couple of local collections that had been effectively dormant for ages, whilst building up further some of the more established WME Wolverhampton fare. The gallery contains 107 photos now so there is a fair bit online for the visitor to look at.

Sunday, August 6

A few bits and pieces

Recent work at WME has seen me working my way back through my photo archive trying to extract a few extra photos with which to add a bit more substance to my existing gallery collections. This process is ongoing, but I am pleased with how things are progressing, especially as I have unearthed some really useful pictures already.

This background work has meant things have been quiet on the updates front, and will be for some time to come. However, I have taken the opportunity to put a few archive discoveries into their new homes on the full WME galleries, so...
  • On WME Birmingham, two extra photos of Edgbaston Tunnel have been added to the Worcester and Birmingham Canal collection
  • On WME Dudley, I've added a photo of the 299 at Stourbridge to accompany the one already in Dudley by Bus
  • On WME Coventry, two photos of route 34 are added to Coventry by Bus. The first is another Tile Hill South shot, similar to that already online but from a different angle. The second is particularly useful in capturing the other end of the route up at Walsgrave Hospital, adding a new location to the collection and presenting more Coventry memories in the process. I've also started up a Coventry Station collection with a couple of train photos - another important development that now means a major Midlands station is represented whilst giving WME Coventry its first new collection in ages
  • On WME Telford, a couple of additions. A look at the stands at Wellington Bus Station adds substance to Stops & Stations, whilst a second platform view shot provides a bit more flesh to the Oakengates Station section. Both pictures were good bonuses to find amongst the archive, allowing me to make tiny but significant progress with one of my least developed galleries

Things are slow and painstaking at the moment, but it is important for me to try and extract everything I possibly can from my photo archive in order to present my explorations, experiences and memories as fully as possible. Its proving quite rewarding going back through my photos and finding extra photos to use that I missed or ignored the first time round - photos that just add that little bit extra to the overall jigsaw.

In setting up the galleries I wanted to cover as much ground as quickly as possible, with the result that WME has now become quite established. My priority has thus changed from providing a few launch collections and a handful of starter photos to now building on those foundations so that there is much more depth to WME as a whole. The photos added this weekend are part of that, and its particularly pleasing to see WME Coventry and WME Telford get some new additions after such a long time. I envisage this bits and pieces approach continuing for some time, so keep an eye on WME1 to see what other forgotten gems emerge...

Wednesday, July 26

Trip Log - Saturday 22nd July

A classic Rog outing that took us into Worcestershire to visit Kidderminster, Bewdley, Stourport and Redditch

  • Meeting point - Stourbridge Bus Station at 8:45
  • Catch the Dodger to Stourbridge Junction
  • No trains towards Worcester - instead we have a Rail Replacement coach taking us direct to Kidderminster, a nice ride through Norton and Broadwaters
  • At Kidderminster we find the station is locked, so not much opportunity for photos there :( The Severn Valley Station is open as usual though, so we have a look along the platforms and explore the station shop. I was really impressed by the whole operation, lots of hard work and effort must have gone into creating and maintaining the traditional railway atmosphere and infrastructure
  • Next up, a walk around Kidderminster town centre taking in Weavers Walk, the bus station and the library. Some construction work has blocked off part of the bus station, so local services are temporarily based at the stops outside the town hall.
  • Catch the 3 to Stourport - a frequent local route, taking us on a tour of a local estate before dropping us on York Street in Stourport. Route continues to the Walshes and Areley Kings
  • Stourport: A walk along the river and a look around the canal basins, brought back a few memories there. We stay on the canal for a walk up to the top end of Stourport, rounded off with a much needed drink sat in the beer patio of the Rising Sun pub (a traditional local boozer). Then its down to the bus stop for the 3 back to Kidderminster
  • The 292 was next, taking us across to Bewdley. The route links Kiddy and Ludlow via Cleobury Mortimer, although we only sampled the small section into Bewdley past the hospital and safari park
  • Bewdley: Start off with a look around the Bewdley Museum, where Rog found his rightful place (in the cells!!) Then it was time for lunch, fish and chips sitting next to the river watching the regatta. The essence of an English summertime.
  • Lunch finished, we explore Bewdley's Severn Valley Station. The railway sets very high standards, and Bewdley was another immaculately presented station facility complete with old station signs and advertisements providing plenty of photo potential.
  • Photos taken, it was time for another pub visit. The Great Western did the trick, I needed that cider.
  • Thirst quenched, we catch the 2 back into Kidderminster, alighting outside the rail stations only to find that the main station was still closed off. We decide to catch the X33 to Redditch, but had enough time for a quick visit to the Railway Bell whilst Rog started kissing old ladies for no apparent reason - worrying...
  • X33 - a good county route linking Kidderminster, Bromsgrove and Redditch with useful connections to local hospitals. The ride gave Rog a chance to tell me about bike rides to local villages such as Chaddesley Corbett and Belbroughton as we planned a possible Rail Rover week
  • Redditch: hmm, not particularly impressed. It had started raining heavily, the bus station was underground and the train station was a modern outpost without much character. We stood on the single platform trying unsuccessfully to stay dry as we waited for a train to photo, and to top things off I slipped over on the way into the pub. Rog will never let me live that down...
  • After nursing my bruised pride, we return to the rail station for a few more photos with the sun coming back out. Rog introduced me to Redditch bus garage, then we waited in the gloom of the bus station for the return X33 back towards Kiddy
  • Quick change of plan - the 318 is in at Bromsgrove so we change onto that for a ride back into Stourbridge. Great route, through Catshill, Belbroughton and Hagley - plus some bloke called Steve was driving with hair slightly less dodgy than Rog's!
  • Back in Stourbridge and time for the usual end of outing pub crawl. We start off by heading up to Norton so I could get a few local photos (including the Broadway pub and shops) before munching Pringles as we wove our way through the estate to The Greyhound
  • The Greyhound - modern style local estate pub, open plan and no traditional atmosphere as such. Here we meet Mr Wood who joins us for the final few pub legs as we visit The Plough and Harrow near Mary Stevens Park and finish off in that old friend, The Bell.
  • Suddenly its 9:30 pm and I have to make a hasty exit to catch my 256 home, and the curtain comes down on a cracking adventure

And thats that - one of the best outings in 2006. So many good memories, even Redditch was fun come to think of it. Looking forward to the next one already, providing Rog doesn't start kissing the elderly again

Sandwell Stuff

A belated note to say that I finally got round to updating WME Sandwell last week...
  • To begin with, a platform view was added to Tipton Station - good to add a little variety as the other photos in the collection are three very similar shots of the station entrance
  • Dudley Port also benefits from a couple of photos focusing on the path between Park Lane East and the station car park. Whilst I always try to get photos of main station entrances and platforms, it is worth exploring the periphery of stations for extra photo material, these two shots being a good example.
  • Additions also to Smethwick West, showing a couple more platform views. These are useful inclusions showing more of the derelict station, although I doubt whether it will be possible to add much more to the collection with the railway infrastructure at the site starting to disappear.
  • Also on the subject of changing scenes, I've included a photo each for Bearwood and Cradley Heath bus stations showing the locations before they received makeovers. I still lament the loss of the chunky blue shelters at Bearwood
  • And finally, a new collection - Smethwick Galton Bridge take a bow. I finally sorted out some photos from my earliest visits to the station to act as a launch pad, hence a platform view and a couple of train shots. Its an important station in terms of my rail exploration exploits, so its good to get it online.

I have to say I'm quite pleased with the update, some good collection development there. On a general note, things are moving very slowly at WME - I need to get back into the archive and extract more of my older photos, but its becoming a bit frustrating as I can't get the photos to click in a way that means I can include them permanently. The lack of test material means updates to the local galleries have dried up too, but I'm working on it. At least Sandwell got its first update in ages though >>>

Wednesday, July 12

WME Gallery Updates

Another little sprinkling of updates this morning

  • WME Wolverhampton - a photo of a City Way 334 at Bilston joins Wolverhampton by Bus, useful to get another operator in the mix
  • WME Dudley - the next installment of what looks like being quite a series of Stourbridge Junction train photos has been added. Keep them coming I say, the station is always a pleasure to visit.
  • WME Staffordshire - a Cross City train photo joins the Lichfield City collection. A very useful inclusion, the photo shows the value in trawling the archive and unearthing shots I might have missed first time round.
  • WME Birmingham - a couple of changes here. Firstly, a couple more signs join the Worcester and Birmingham Canal collection - I might get photos of them all eventually. Secondly, a couple of Kings Norton Station additions focusing on the ramp connecting the Birmingham platform to the ticket office - very much fillers but they help provide a more complete view of the station, plus they bring back memories of university and student tutoring days. Finally, I've started off a collection for Duddeston Station with a platform view and a train shot. Its hardly my favourite station but it merits inclusion as a place I have explored, so another stitch in the tapestry falls into place.

Nothing too exciting then, but solid inclusions as I slowly start to add substance to my galleries, putting some flesh onto the intial bare bones. Its taking time, but I am encouraged by the way the galleries are developing, both as a personal memory bank and as a snapshot of the local area.

Tuesday, July 11

Trip Log - Saturday 8th July

Rog and I followed Friday's birthday celebrations with a day of refined exploration down in Kinver. Well, he does have to be a little more careful now he's getting on a bit...
  • Start off by walking into Stourbridge so Rog can get his ticket
  • Its then off to the Bonded Warehouse (a hidden Black Country gem) to begin our canal walk at Stourbridge Basin
  • First stage takes us along the Stourbridge Town Arm down to Wordsley Junction, glimpses of industrial heritage amongst the greenery and tranquility
  • Wordsley Junction - a canal location I'd wanted to visit for ages, I wasn't disappointed. Lots of photo potential with the junction bridge, junction signpost and Stourbridge Locks all providing targets.
  • Join the main branch of the Stourbridge Canal and head down to Stourton Junction - the canal becomes more rural and, rather annoyingly, the bridges don't seem to have names. A relaxing stroll in the sunshine, with Stourton Locks providing further photo opportunities
  • Stourton Junction - another canal location crossed off the hitlist, with a chance to take shots of the junction bridge and nearby signpost as we join the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal
  • Just along from Stourton Junction is Stewpony Lock, a well known canal location with a distinctive lockhouse that has unfortunately closed down. Onwards through Dunsley Tunnel to Hyde Lock, one of Rog's favourite canal places, bringing back memories of our February 2005 visit. Then its a quick photo of Kinver Bridge where we leave the canal. What a fantastic walk that was, even Rog really enjoyed it - no Bromsgrove or Streetly style cursing this time round!
  • Next up, a visit to The Vine pub. Threatened with closure and demolition not long back, the pub has survived, meaning Rog and I could enjoy a refreshing drink in the beer garden overlooking Kinver Lock - great pub, great weather, great view.
  • We walk down into Kinver hunting a bit of lunch and a few local photos. I must mention the local butchers on the High Street; we popped in for some old fashioned pork scratchings and it was like stepping back in time, great service, time for a chat, an old cash register - real village atmosphere. It gave me a sense of what a village shop should be like, something that is all too quickly fading away in this age of convenience. And the scratchings were delicious by the way.
  • We had time to spare before the bus back so we ventured into The Cross for a quick drink. This gave Rog the chance to introduce me to Metallica with the aid of the pub's jukebox machine, I still haven't recovered.
  • The 228 provided the first bus ride of the day as we caught the route up into Wollaston and then transferred onto the 294 to investigate Mary Stevens Park. I've been on the 294 before but paid more attention this time, making mental notes of local photo targets on the Norton Estate such as Broadway shops or the Gigmill pub.
  • Mary Stevens Park provided another trip down memory lane, recalling our very first joint outing. The park seemed popular and lively on a summer's afternoon, and I followed tradition by taking photos of the war memorial and park gates
  • We return to Stourbridge along Worcester Street and finish the birthday celebrations off with a couple more drinks and a read of the evening paper.

All in all, a really enjoyable outing and a great way to mark Rog's 30th. Surprisingly though, the outing involved very little in the way of buses - not that either of us actually minded.

The Big 30

I couldn't let such a landmark pass without mention - Mr Chance of SBI is now 30 years old, a milestone that was celebrated in style over in Stourbridge last Friday. A great night, many congratulations - although not much sign of Rog becoming too mature and respectable just yet...

Monday, July 3

WME in Devon - Dawlish Stations

Of course, my Devon holiday wasn't just about riding around on buses. I also wanted to visit the local railway stations, particularly the two closest to the camp - Dawlish and Dawlish Warren
  • Dawlish: I had a brief glimpse of Dawlish Station as we arrived on the Monday - we actually parked on the station car park before exploring the town. I can't say the place left a great first impression; the station seemed shabby with the track on the sea wall looking decidedly rusty. I returned for a closer look on the Tuesday, and my opinion of the place didn't improve much after closer inspection.
    Quite frankly, the station is rather ugly, with a bleak booking hall, functional platforms and a ramshackle, rusty footbridge. I did find a nice old black and white platform sign but this seemed totally out of place amongst its surroundings. Despite the ugliness, I must admit it was enjoyable standing on the platform looking out along the sea wall and waiting for a train to photograph, with a Class 150 to Paignton arriving obligingly. I left feeling slightly disappointed with the condition of the station (the sea doesn't help), but nonetheless pleased to add it to my collection.
  • Dawlish Warren: Dawlish Warren was also something of a disappointment in terms of station facilities, but it is a station I will have good memories of. To begin with I had a quick look around during one of our evening strolls down to the seafront - it didn't take long to realise the station was effectively an unstaffed halt, looking quite desolate with only small concrete blocks for shelters on either platform. Very basic, very functional and not very appealing to the station explorer.
    Undeterred, I called in on my way back on Wednesday for a few quick photos, but it was the Thursday that I'll really remember. We'd walked into Dawlish along the sea wall in the morning, and heading back to the camp I realised I might get a train photo if I was quick enough. This necessitated a dash back along the seawall and a bit of a sprint through the car parks, but I made it with a couple of minutes to spare - now that's commitment for you. The train arrived bang on time and I got my shot, so all the effort was worth it. I even added a few more photos of the station itself, making the most of the peace and quiet. So, despite all my misgivings, the station ended up providing one of the highlights of the holiday, and you can't ask for more than that!

WME in Devon - more bus memories

A few notes on the other routes and locations that featured in my Devon adventures...

  • Exeter is a hub for regional bus routes operating out of the city's bus station. There is quite a choice, with routes to Plymouth, Barnstaple, Tiverton and Okehampton, but I settled for a ride on the 57 down to Exmouth - a nice little jaunt down through Countess Wear and Topsham (passing the station). Exmouth was my kind of location - the bus and train stations are next door to each other and offer some good photo opportunities. The bus station is quite basic and dated, but I quite liked that as an antidote to some soulless modern stations where you can't get anywhere near the vehicles. At both Exeter and Exmouth there were racks of timetables where you could just help yourself to a few leaflets, very handy for a bit of research and journey planning.
  • Exeter also has an extensive network of local routes, usually assigned a letter of the alphabet rather than a number. These routes operate from High Street rather than the bus station, and provide the more local kind of exploration I'm used to in the West Midlands.
    I explored routes K and T - the K links Pinhoe and Countess Wear via the City Centre, and I tracked it down the Countess Wear terminus outside the shops, a real local terminal point that was just the kind I like to explore back home. The T is similar to the K but extends to Topsham, providing another treat of a ride. The route terminates on Topsham Quay, surely one of the loveliest bus locations I am ever likely to visit. Having dashed down from the railway station, I had the absolute pleasure of waiting for the bus whilst enjoying wonderful views over the quayside and along the River Exe. Simply brilliant.
  • The 12/12A is another jewel in the Stagecoach Devon crown - a regular service linking Newton Abbot, Torquay, Paignton and Brixham. I caught the route outside Newton Abbot Station down to Paignton, providing glimpses of the railway station at Torre and a ride through the streets of Torquay before heading along the seafront. The Strand seems to be a good place to find buses in Torquay, although I didn't investigate, whilst Paignton Bus Station was another example of my kind of bus station - basic but photo-friendly with the added bonus of a travel shop where I could top up my ever expanding timetable collection
  • And finally for now, the 39 - something of an unexpected addition to the Devon bus collection, a happy accident that arose out of finding myself in Newton Abbot and wondering where to head next. The 39 arrived and sounded intriguing, so I took a chance and headed for Exeter. Its quite a haul after a long day of exploring but I still enjoyed it, plus I had the chance for a glimpse of places such as Bovey Tracey and Chudleigh before alighting at Countess Wear to track down that elusive K photo. Whilst not being up there as a great exploration experience, the 39 is still a fine route in its own right.

Thursday, June 29

WME in Devon - the 85 and 85A

My explorations in Devon took me on some great bus routes, but I think the 85/85A has to be my favourite...

Staying in Dawlish Warren, the local routes are the 85 and 85A linking Exeter with either Torquay or Newton Abbot. The routes run frequently (a bus about every 15 minutes) with services operating well into the evening, and with the bus stop right outside the camp I had regular connections on my doorstep. Not only was the route convenient, it was an absolutely cracking ride in either direction. Tuesday saw me head into Exeter, with the bus providing leisurely views of pretty villages such as Cockwood, Starcross and Exminster - and the entire journey took just over half an hour. Come Wednesday I had the delights of Teignmouth and Kingsteignton as I headed into Newton Abbot on the 85A - so many places were just one ride away.

Better still, the routes provided good photo opportunities too. Stagecoach Devon buses give change, meaning buses often pause for a little while at bus stops, giving me just enough time to get a nice picture. Good photo locations included The Green at Dawlish, The Diner at Teignmouth and Sherborne Road in Newton Abbot.

It was great fun exploring the route, from waiting on Warren Road early in the morning looking for the bus to come, to hovering in Dawlish or Teignmouth in the evening then finishing off the outing with the bus back to the holiday park. Time to absorb and enjoy different surroundings, the route was a pleasure to ride

Wednesday, June 28

WME in Devon - a quick intro

I said I would post a few notes on my recent holiday, so here goes. I offer here a little introduction, and hope to add further posts focusing on my favourite bits of the adventure, so prepare yourself for a rambling kind of highlights package over the next few days!

As you know, last week I visited Dawlish for a well deserved holiday. Whilst down there, I took the opportunity to do a couple of days worth of exploring - and what a couple of days they were! I really enjoyed it, visiting some great places and trying out some fantastic scenic bus routes, not to mention investigating the local railway scene as well. With the weather just about right for photos - dry but not too bright - I was free to explore Devon at my leisure.

I had intended to do my exploring by rail, with the Freedom of the South West Rover ticket sounding tempting, but decided to go for the buses instead. Stagecoach Devon offer an Explorer ticket that gives you one day's unlimited travel on any of their services - and it only costs £5, a real bargain. What's more, the range of routes you can use the ticket on is extensive, spanning the county from Plymouth to Barnstaple. This meant I could catch a bus right outside the holiday camp and go anywhere I wanted - perfect!

So thats what I did - armed with my camera and a good dollop of suncream, I walked the two minutes it took to get to the bus stop and from there I could catch the 85 or 85A and set off into the unknown...

Sunday, June 25

Updates to WME Birmingham

Another busy morning of work on WME - this time I've concentrated on WME Birmingham, providing a few useful additions >>>
  • A photo of the building work during the 2003 redevelopment of Moor Street Station has been added to the Moor Street collection - nice to capture and include the station's transformation in progress
  • Additions also to the canal collections for Birmingham & Fazeley (Newhall Street Bridge) and Worcester & Birmingham (University Distance Post) - Newhall Street is a good addition making use of the WME Archive, the distance post is more of a filler that reflects another part of the canal furniture
  • A collection has been started for the Bromford Bridge estate - this currently includes the Racecourse pub and a shot of a local shop. I don't know how much more will be added as I'm not in any hurry to revisit the area. With the best will in the world, it is a bit of a dump
  • And finally, I've added a collection on Erdington Station. Its hardly the most exciting station I've visited, but I am pleased to include it. Looking back when adding the photos, I realised how much I enjoyed visiting the station despite its lack of age and charm, so it can't be that bad.

So, a fairly sizeable update there as I continue my return to action. Looking at WME1 and the test collections now though, there aren't many obvious candidates left as regards further additions. I will need to work on editing and improving some of the photos, as well as plundering the archive for new material - this might take some time. Whilst I am pleased with the recent updates, I am concerned that there isn't much happening on some of my galleries - particularly the ones for Coventry, Sandwell and Staffordshire. Add in sorting out the Devon stuff, and it looks like I've got a busy time ahead!

Saturday, June 24

Straight back into it

Well I'm back from my holiday in Devon, and what an excellent holiday it was. Loads of exploring, hopefully some good photos - anyway, more about that some other time. I thought I'd get stuck straight back into updating WME, with the result that I've made a little bit more progress this morning
  • On WME Wolverhampton, I've updated three collections. The old sign at Bushbury Pool joins Exploring Bushbury - its one of those filler photos that might prove useful to have around on the site. I've also added to the Birmingham Main Line and Staffs & Worcs Canal collections, both are beginning to take shape now. I'm particularly pleased to add Marsh Lane to Staffs & Worcs as its a special location with great memories, and is probably one of the main reasons I became interested in exploring canals in the first place, building on childhood walks around the Rakegate area >>>
  • Meanwhile, an Exploring Brierley Hill collection has found its way onto WME Dudley. Brierley Hill is one of those places that defines the Black Country so its good to finally include it on the site >>>

A good constructive return to WME duty there - hopefully something to build on over the next few weeks. I want to sort out my Devon photos and share a few thoughts with you on the holiday explorations, so more ramblings should follow shortly...

Sunday, June 18

And another thing

As I've already mentioned, I shall be on holiday in Dawlish for the next few days. The camera is going with me of course, so I hope to get a few shots of the local area and maybe do a bit of Devon exploration! Top of the hitlist are places such as Teignmouth, Newton Abbot, Torquay, Exeter and possibly Barnstaple. I might also venture down into Cornwall, depending on what trains and connections are available. I'm really looking forward to it, as its always fun to explore new areas of the country - here's hoping for a good holiday, some nice weather and some cracking outings to fill you in on when I get back.

Prepare to be bored

With the home computer showing signs of behaving again, I thought I'd attempt to squeak in a couple more updates before I leave for Dawlish, so...
  • Three photos have been transferred to WME Walsall. One is a very boring photo of a bus stop in Rushall that recalls memories of visits to Pelsall, Brownhills and routes such as the 346 and the 362. The other two are additions to the Wyrley and Essington Canal collection, with Birchills Junction and Stokes Bridge now making appearances. I'm particularly fond of the canals around Bloxwich so its great to get these photos included - Birchills Junction is a favourite location I've visited a few times now, whilst Stokes Bridge is quite eyecatching in its decoration and I still don't quite know what to make of it! >>>
  • And if you thought a bus stop in Rushall sounded bad, then things only get worse on WME Dudley. Just one photo has been added, with the Information Board at Stourbridge Bus Station finding its way onto the Stops & Stations collection. Its possibly my most mundane photo ever - there's a fair bit of competition for that title mind - but it does the job of capturing another little piece of one of my absolute favourite bus locations. Enough said, although I do hope to add more photos (maybe even some interesting ones) in the near future! >>>

And so another few pieces of the WME jigsaw have fallen into place. Hopefully the computer will still behave when I return off holiday, so fingers crossed for some more updates soon.

Wednesday, June 14

Rail Related Updates

Due to technical problems with my home computer, WME updates have been even more thin on the ground than usual. I have however managed to creak rustily back into action with a small update this morning...
  • Two train photos have been added to the Wolverhampton Station collection on WME Wolverhampton. I'm pleased to actually get some train related content on there and add more substance to an important and under-represented part of the site >>>
  • I've also added a collection on Aston Station to WME Birmingham. Its hardly my favourite station, but Aston is quite important to me as one of the first locations I visited with a digital camera. It does mean that WME Birmingham becomes even more rail dominated, but I'm pleased to showcase more of my earliest photos by including pics from September 2002 >>>

Hopefully a larger update to the galleries will follow soon - I know, promises promises! I have recently been working back through my early archive, extracting more photos for WME1 including some interesting shots that I hope to use once I return from my holiday in Dawlish later this month.