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.