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!