Monday, December 24

Christmas Approaches

It may be Christmas Eve, but work continues at WME - and there are a couple more tiny reasons to celebrate. Firstly, this is my 100th post to WME Blogspot: the blog has proved a useful companion to the WME galleries over the last couple of years, giving me a forum for articulating my ideas and plans for the gallery, as well as reflecting on how things have been progressing.

To that end, things haven't been progressing too badly recently. A handful of useful landmarks have been met, the latest of which is WME Staffordshire reaching the 150 photo mark this very morning. The new additions include Stourton Bridge on the Staffs & Worcs Canal, a couple of Codsall views from Boxing Day 2005, and a new Exploring Essington collection adding to the growing presence of South Staffordshire villages on the gallery.

There are just a few more photos I want to try and move before the end of the year, and then I can focus on new photos for the new year. Hopefully I'll be back with post 101 soon enough to tell you all about it.

Friday, December 21

WME's Diet Log continued

I made mention of recent updates in my last post without actually filling you in on the gory details - it's not like me to miss out on a chance of boring you with such matters, so if you thought you'd escaped you're wrong!!

Most of the updates have been little odds and ends, fleshing out existing collections and generally being quite insignificant. There have been a couple of notable developments though, particularly with regard to WME Worcestershire, which can now boast its first proper canal content in the form of a Staffs & Worcs collection containing two Stourport photos. Also on the subject of the Staffs & Worcs, there's news from WME Staffordshire that further photos of Awbridge and The Bratch have appeared, along with a neat little series of photos showcasing Bumblehole Lock.

We have further rail content on WME Walsall thanks to another train at Walsall and a Bloxwich North platform view; WME Coventry has a further Tile Hill Station photo; there's a new Exploring Langley & Langley Green collection on WME Sandwell featuring two shots of the Bridge pub; and progress on WME Warwickshire with a couple of train photos for Stratford Station, and a couple of additions to the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal for good measure.

A busy time in the run-in to Christmas - a nice spread of updates where most galleries have received a little bonus for the festive period...

Stripped off and raring to go!!

Well, we seem to be hurtling towards Christmas at quite a pace now, and beyond that 2008 will be upon us. In preparation, WME has been slimming down ready for the festive period and a big effort next year to stay slimline whilst ensuring a steady supply of updates.

As such, WME1 has been on a crash diet where I have concentrated on whittling down the collections to the bare bones. There have been a fair few deletions, along with a prolonged series of gallery updates that has taken me right through to this lunchtime. The upshot of this is that WME1 is now very skeletal in nature - there are a few more updates left to make, predominantly on WME Staffordshire and Exploration Extra, with the remaining photos being those that I haven't got home collections for yet.

I have been concerned for some time now that things haven't been moving as quickly as I'd like on the WME front - photos have tended to become bogged down in WME1, and I rarely if ever got my most recent photos into the mix. This simply had to change, and come 2008 I will hopefully be drawing upon my whole archive (including any 2008 photos) and updating the galleries in a more organised fashion.

So, WME1 is indeed stripped off and ready to go, hoping for a sprightly and athletic new year where I can hopefully leave behind the technical problems and general sluggishness with which 2007 seems to have been afflicted.

Thursday, December 13

Another landmark in the bag

Only a little update today, but it was enough to bring about the latest in the mad rush of WME landmarks. Yes, WME Dudley has reached the dizzy heights of 150 photos, thanks to a couple of photos of trains at Stourbridge Junction. A few of my galleries are starting to bulk out nicely now, so the improved diet of more photos of late seems to be doing the trick.

No landmarks to report on the other WMEs, but still some useful additions. WME Wolves and WME Brum both see some update action, but perhaps the most significant new arrival is on WME Walsall - only one photo, but it heralds the first new rail content on the gallery for over a year. Take a bow 'Train at Walsall Station (2)'! And yes, it really has been 12 months or more since I last allowed a new rail-related shot to sneak through on WME3.

Well that's your lot for the time being, meaning I have now shifted 86 photos off WME1 and onto their new home galleries over the last month. WME1 is already looking leaner and meaner, ready for an injection of new photos at the beginning of 2008. You have been warned...

Monday, December 10

Keeping Busy...

For once, things are actually going along quite nicely at WME, with a steady flow of updates over the last couple of weeks.

As seems the trend for my recent postings, there is another gallery landmark to tell you about - WME Wolverhampton now has reached the big 250! I'm particularly proud of this milestone as it means that at least one of my galleries is starting to reach the level of content I've been aiming for since day one - maybe in the distant future the other galleries will follow suit. The latest additions here include new collections on Bradley and Penn Fields, plus more views of Ashmore Park.

Wolverhampton hasn't been the only gallery getting some belated attention. WME Birmingham has a new Four Oaks Station collection, plus additions to Sutton Coldfield Station, University and a couple of canal collections. There are new collections too on WME Dudley, looking at Sedgley and The Delph, and on WME Solihull thanks to the inclusion of Exploring Castle Bromwich. My Walsall and Sandwell galleries have also got their fair sprinkling of new content, thus consolidating what has been one of my most constructive sets of updates for months.

There is also good news on the exploration front. November was finished off in fine style with a good old Birmingham local outing - this involved a long overdue return to Bournville, a walk around Selly Park and Stirchley, a visit to Kings Heath Park, a ride on the 27, lunch at West Heath accompanied by photos of the library, the local pubs (the Cavalier and the Fordrough) and a glimpse of the 45 at West Heath Island, and all washed down with a brief call at Northfield Station - phew!

Then it was into December with a lunchtime visit to Ettingshall and Lanesfield, and a proper Saturday outing around Worcestershire with Rog and Woody. The highlights of the latter trip included Rog getting soaked at regular intervals, me beating Woody at pool, and Rog getting told off for inappropriate smoking! You can't take him anywhere... Our ports of call included soggy Bromsgrove, wet Worcester and rainy Redditch (no prizes for spotting the theme there), although Pershore and Evesham were my personal favourites with photos of the 551 bus and of Evesham Railway Station. The pubs weren't bad either, with top marks going to The Cricketers in Worcester and its fascinating range of cricket memorabilia, well worth a visit.

Well there you go, I have been a busy boy. Trying to keep up with that pace of updates and explorations is going to be a hard challenge to fulfill, but I'm more than happy to give it a go.

Friday, November 23

Another little milestone

Landmarks have been all too infrequent on the WME galleries over the last few months, but hot on the heels of Walsall's century, I can now report that WME Birmingham has joined WME Wolverhampton in the exclusive 200 Club.

WME Brum had been perched on 199 photos for ages, so the milestone was due to be reached sooner or later, and finally we've limped across the line with a belated set of updates. The photos in question offer more views of Blake Street Station, a shot of platform 1 at Aston, a look at Granville Street Bridge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal and at Newhall Street Bridge on the Birmingham & Fazeley, and finally another in the series of route 103 at Woodgate Valley photos.

Whether things are gathering pace updates-wise its hard to say, but just over the last couple of weeks there have been some encouraging steps in the right direction. So in my time-honoured tradition, I won't offer any promises other than to do my best to keep things ticking over.

STOP PRESS: These landmarks are falling like dominoes at the moment! I made a little update to WME Coventry this morning in the form of a photo of Jubilee Crescent shops, and it turned out this was the 50th photo on the gallery. Another little sign that things are heading in the right direction...

Thursday, November 15

More Exploration Action

A couple of recent outings to tell you about...

Firstly an outing with Rog last Saturday, and a circular walk from Stourbridge to Hagley and back. The walk took us through Oldswinford and Pedmore, then to Hagley Station before lunch and a pint in Hagley Village. After a little loop of Clent, we returned to Pedmore via Wychbury Hill and finished the afternoon off with visits to the Foley Arms in Pedmore and the Cross at Oldswinford. We reckon we walked about 8 or 9 miles all told, and got some useful photos and some not so useful blisters!

This was followed with a solo adventure on Monday, focusing on Great Bridge and Glebefields. Starting at Bilston with photos of the newly-extended 283 route, I moved on to Great Bridge for a look at the library and Sheepwash Nature Reserve. A ride on the 644 was followed by lunch at Tipton, warming me up on a cold November afternoon. Being the glutton for punishment that I am, I then embarked on another walk - not as long as Hagley thankfully as I still hadn't fully recovered from Saturday's exertions. The walk took me to Central Avenue to try some 402 shots, then along Powis Avenue for a look at the Harrier pub and Jubilee Park. Then it was into the Glebefields estate for photos of the library and the Sportsman, followed by a chat with a bus driver at Princes End, the final leg into Rocket Pool and back to Bilston for more 283 photos. Another in the growing list of cracking trips I've done recently.

Friday, November 9

A Century for WME Walsall

Updates to the WME galleries have been thin on the ground to say the least recently, but at long last I have some positive news to report - and another WME landmark to celebrate.

WME Walsall has always seemed the ugly duckling of the main WME sites when compared with Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Dudley and Sandwell - even Staffordshire has got more photos to its name! That might just change slightly now, as Walsall can proudly hold its head high as the latest member of the 100 Club.

The milestone was achieved with the addition of a few more photos, namely a shot of the 377 at Walsall Bus Station, a couple of views of Brownhills Market Footbridge, two shots of the Foley Arms at Streetly and a glimpse of Forsters Bridge on the Walsall Canal.

These additions mark the beginning of a clearout phase on WME1 as I want to change the way in which the galleries are updated. The clearout has also seen some action on WME Wolverhampton, with new additions including Bilston Library, a couple more Bradley Canal Arm shots, the Mitre pub at Bradmore and another in the series of Route 8 shots at Long Knowle.

I hope to fill you in on the changing approach to updating WME in due course, so keep an eye out for that in future postings.

Wednesday, November 7

That Was The Week That Was - Part Two

It's taken me a while but I've finally got round to filling you in on that Rog trip I mentioned - and what a trip it was, with a sprinkling of Withymoor Village, a dash of Dudley Wood and a good old dose of Delph pubs.
  • Withymoor Village - on a mission to get photos of the 297 by Sainsbury's, unfortunately my shots weren't coming out very well. Had a little walk around the estate before heading up to Silver End for our bus into Dudley.
  • 282 - the bus happened by as we waited at Dudley, so we decided to give the route a chance. A nice ride on an Optare Solo, around Netherton, down Yew Tree Hill and then into Dudley Wood.
  • Dudley Wood - a chance to visit Dudley Wood Library before the axe falls on it courtesy of Dudley Council, then a nice drink in The Woodman and a walk past the site of the old Speedway stadium.
  • 208 - another route by accident, the bus turned up at Cradley Heath and provided a ride through Old Hill to Brickhouse Farm.
  • Brickhouse Farm - a look at the Brickhouse pub, then an unsuccessful hunt for food as we couldn't find the local shops.
  • Windmill End - we eventually got lunch at Windmill End, a nice spot overlooking the canal interchange at the Bumblehole. Got a few photos of the various turnover bridges, with The Dry Dock and Wheatsheaf pubs also featuring amongst the piccies.
  • The Delph - after a brief call at Merry Hill, we spent the afternoon at the Delph sampling some of the many local pubs. Having a pint of Batham's at the Vine is a Black Country rite of passage, and very enjoyable it was too. We also tried our hand at pool at the Dock & Iron, whereby I proved myself to be completely useless, albeit with a strange talent for potting the cue ball - Rog was better, but only just!
  • Withymoor Village - I was determined to get the 297 shot, and finally succeeded at the umpteenth time of asking.

A great way to round off an excellent week of exploration - it was a proper Black Country outing, loads of fun and with some intriguing bus routes and photo opportunities taking pride of place. It all sets me up nicely for any exploring I might do in November...

Wednesday, October 24

That Was The Week That Was

A reflection on a busy week of exploration, with no hint of a Millicent Martin theme song...

Yes, I've been on an overdue holiday for the past week, and I've made the most of it by doing some outings, enjoying the autumn sunshine and visiting a few places that had thus far slipped through the net in terms of visits in 2007.

Friday 19th October - a return to Telford, something that had been on my 'to do' list for an eternity. The highlights included calling in on old haunts such as Dawley, Wellington and Oakengates, plus lunch in Leegomery topped off with some local shots of the community centre and the Thomas Telford pub. Buswise my routes included the 22 through Malinslee and the 25 through Hadley, although my favourite journey was on the 23 from Oakengates to Telford, providing a ride through Ketley Bank and a call at the Forge Retail Park. The rail content was provided with a brief call at Wellington Station, and a photo session at Oakengates whilst waiting for a shot of the train to Shrewsbury.

Monday 22nd October - I've been neglecting the Birmingham and Solihull end of things a bit recently, so this outing concentrated on Hall Green, Yardley Wood and Shirley. My favourite bits included a look at Hall Green Library, finding The Maggies pub on School Road, a walk through Shirley Park and lunchtime at The Baldwin. I then endured a bit of a hike from Yardley Wood Library, past the railway station, up Brook Lane and through Billesley for shots of the pub and the fire station, finally finishing at Yardley Wood Bus Garage for a photo of route 18.

Tuesday 23rd October - Coventry has also been suffering from a lack of attention, so to fix this I headed across to Canley Station to begin my next adventure. Photos of the station got me off and running, admiring the sprawling tentacles of footbridge but lamenting the loss of the level crossing, then I got stuck into local Canley with pics of the Herald, the local library and Prior Deram Park. The No. 19 bus took me through Earlsdon and into Pool Meadow, where I changed onto the 36 for a ride up to Keresley, spotting The Wallace and The Old Shepherd pubs in the process. Keresley provided a brief taste of Warwickshire - the bus terminus by the post office, then lunch by the multicoloured community centre and photos of the Golden Eagle. I finished things off by catching the 32 to Tanyard Farm (terminus in a housing estate) and a walk to Tile Hill Station.

Thursday 25th October - with Wednesday as my day at home relaxing, my next adventure came on Thursday morning with a trip I've christened Very Perry. Starting at Perry Barr with shots of the railway station, I went on to visit Perry Beeches, Tower Hill and Perry Common using a combination of the 52 and the 28/A. I then returned to Perry Barr for some bonus bus photos of routes including the 616 and 424 - all in all, a cracking morning's work.

As weeks go, this has to go down as one of the best ever in terms of exploration, getting some great photos for the archive and revisiting some of my favourite old haunts. I thoroughly enjoyed it, the weather was brilliant considering its October - and the week hasn't ended yet, with the prospect of an outing with Rog to look forward to...

Monday, October 15

Handsworth and Hamstead

Following on from the Old Oscott adventure, my October explorations continued with a meeting with Mr SBI for a look around Handsworth and Hamstead - here are the highlights...
  • Amblecote - I was early for the meeting with Rog so I decided to have a little walk down into Stourbridge, giving me a chance to investigate the old Corbett Hospital grounds and get a closer look at the Penfields estate including the Ten Arches pub.

  • Stourbridge - the bus station on a Saturday morning, scene of so many photos during the Rog adventures and this was no exception with the 299 and 250 in attendance.

  • Train into Birmingham - a chance to catch up, discuss possible walks and have a look at the Dudley Real Ale Trail for some pub inspiration.

  • 101 - a ride up to Handsworth through the Jewellery Quarter and Winson Green. The route showed me a different side to Handsworth - leafy Grove Lane, a glimpse of the local park, the Uplands pub and the terminus outside the Cemetery by the Leveretts.

  • Handsworth - a few bus photos although a no entry sign was blocking the ideal shot, then a look at the Uplands before its off to catch the Outer Circle.

  • Hamstead - we caught the 16 down to the village for a look at the railway station and the 654 & 425 bus terminus, useful photos there. The Hamstead experience also included a visit to the Beaufort pub for a drink and some cricketing action, followed by some lunch by the station and we also popped into the rather pink Hamstead pub to wash the chips down.

  • Wednesbury - with a 406H and Metro shuffle combination we landed up at Wednesbury Great Western Street for a couple of Metro shots, then a short walk to the bus station for the connecting 311 to Stourbridge.

Another useful outing, Rog was in good form and the MP3 player was in attendance to provide the subtle strains of the national anthem at regular intervals as we came over all patriotic in support of the cricket, rugby and football teams, not to mention Lewis Hamilton. All in all, it was a very enjoyable day, here's hoping there's plenty more to come!

Tuesday, October 9

And what about the site?

Well, once again things have been very slow going on the WME front - no real updates for the last couple of weeks, and nothing really on the horizon either. I've made a start on ploughing through the August 2006 archive, thus far focusing on my Bradley Canal and Castle Bromwich trips, so hopefully there might be some more constructive progress soon.

Looking at the galleries more generally, I am getting quite concerned about the WMEs for Solihull, Coventry and Telford. Updates have ground to a halt on these galleries already, and there isn't much remaining in the archive that offers the prospect of future updates either. I think I need to make those areas a priority for any outings I may do in the remainder of the year, and a few Birmingham Local trips wouldn't go amiss either.

Fingers crossed and lets see how things develop...

Autumn has arrived

Well we're into October, and looking out of the office window on a dreary drizzly morning it appears that autumn has well and truly arrived. With the weather on a downward spiral towards winter, you can never be too sure about getting out and about exploring. I do however have some good news to report on the outing front - last Friday provided some fine autumn sunshine, and I made the most of it by venturing across Walsall way to explore some bus routes due to be affected by forthcoming service changes. Here are the highlights...
  • The trip started off with a ride on the 376 out to Old Oscott - a nice little journey up through Barr Beacon, Pheasey and Kingstanding. The route is due to be withdrawn soon and will hopefully be replaced with a similar service providing connections between Walsall and Kingstanding.

  • Old Oscott - Winson Green apart, its been a while since I've been out and about getting local photos in Birmingham. To put that right, I got a couple of shots of the Kingfisher and Drakes Drum pubs whilst hovering for more 376s to photograph.

  • Tame Valley Canal - my first look at this particular canal came with a walk up Perry Barr Locks and out towards Hamstead. The locks were a nice feature, particularly the traditional cottage overlooking Top Lock, and provided the opportunity for some autumnal views.

  • Scott Arms - a busy interchange on a Friday afternoon, I took my life in my hands when braving the Walsall Road trying to get photos of the 28 and 406H.

  • 655 - another service set for the axe, the route links Scott Arms and Aldridge via Pheasey Park Farm and Barr Beacon. The bus was virtually deserted, but did provide a couple of useful photos up by the Elms at Aldridge.

  • Arboretum - the afternoon began nicely with a visit to Walsall Arboretum as preparations for the forthcoming Illuminations gathered pace. I thoroughly enjoyed a quiet stroll through the park, admiring zones featuring Spongebob Squarepants, Bubblegum characters and various robots and dinosaurs.

  • Pelsall Wood - a trip on a packed 348A up through High Heath and Pelsall, followed by photos of the bus at Trevor Road (very much my kind of terminus). I then did a loop of Pelsall Junction, looking at the canals and taking photos of Pelsall Works Bridge.

  • 363 - the final route on the day's hitlist, the 363 links Bloxwich and White Horse Road in Brownhills. The journey became something of an ordeal as the bus came under siege from a rabble of schoolkids, but it did provide a look at the top end of Brownhills, as well as Mallory Crescent in Little Bloxwich.

All in all, it was a very useful outing, keeping the photos ticking over and investigating bus routes before they disappear. The arboretum visit was one of the exploration highlights of the year - I felt like a kid again wandering around admiring the displays - whilst taking photos of the 348A at Pelsall Wood ranks not too far behind. Hopefully there will be more trips to come with which to capture the seasonal variations of the West Midlands in autumntime.

Saturday, September 15

Latest News from WME

It's been a busy last week or so, with a good Black Country outing followed by a selection of site updates keeping me occupied...

The outing took place on 7th September and saw me heading out around Smethwick before spending the afternoon in Cradley Heath and Old Hill. I had a look at Smethwick Canal Junction, visited the Black Patch, got a few Metro photos at Winson Green then caught the Outer Circle to Perry Barr. Next up was the 123, providing a seemingly never-ending ride through Lozells, Handsworth, Cape Hill, Bearwood, Bristnall Fields and Blackheath before dropping me off at Cradley Heath Station. The trip was finished off with a look at the Timbertree estate, a walk through Haden Hill Park, and a glimpse of the Dudley No. 2 Canal at Gosty Hill before a session at Old Hill Station and my connections back to Stourbridge and Wolverhampton. Nice weather, a healthy batch of photos and some fun memories - can't really ask for more.

Looking at the site updates, and there have been some useful developments on the WME galleries.
  • WME Birmingham: At long last, the Midland Metro makes an appearance on my Brum gallery. Two shots at Winson Green kickstart the collection, the second of which is actually a brand new photo, making it quite precious as one of the very few 2007 pictures to be found on WME. I've also added a couple more bridge shots to Exploring Woodgate Valley.
  • WME Sandwell: Another important new collection here, as the Old Birmingham Main Line makes an appearance with photos of Brasshouse Lane Bridge and Randalls Bridge. I need to develop the canal content of WME Sandwell and this is a big step in the right direction.
  • Exploration Extra: My recent work on the WME archive has focused on June 2006, including releasing photos from my holiday in Dawlish. Some of these have been added to the Devon collection on EE; I'm particularly pleased with the 157 at Exmouth and the shots at Newton Abbot Station, whilst Paignton is also added to the locations mix.
  • WME Wolverhampton: Some useful local additions here include two views of Heath Town Memorial and a second view of the King Charles pub in Northwood Park. The star of the show must be a look at the gardens of Bantock House, one of my favourite photos and it can now be found in Exploring Bradmore.
  • Two lesser galleries have had their rail quota topped up. WME Warwickshire gains a couple of views of the station frontage at Stratford-upon-Avon, whilst WME Shropshire gets two views of Platform 1 at Ludlow.

That completes this little summary, I've enjoyed having plenty to do on the site and is good to see a few things coming together. I'm hoping to get maybe one more outing in for September, and maybe a few more site additions too. If anything happens, I'll let you know right here on WME Blogspot.

Thursday, September 6

The Potteries Connection

An intriguing development on WME Staffordshire this morning has seen the introduction of my first photos from the Potteries area. Much of my work on the gallery so far has been concentrated on South Staffordshire, the towns and villages near Wolverhampton and Walsall, with the result that large swathes of the county have not been represented - I think the furthest north I got was Lichfield and Stafford, which was less than ideal.

Thanks to my Rail Rover adventures in March 2006, I did have a bit of a snoop up around Stoke-on-Trent and I am now able to introduce some of those photos. To get things off and running, I've added a collection on Longport Station - hardly my favourite station in the world, to be honest it's an utter dump, but it is a useful marker for an area I want to explore more of.

I am always on the lookout for ideas for developing the galleries, so if there's a place or an area you think needs to be included, feel free to drop me a line and I'll see what I can do.

Tuesday, September 4

Just plodding along...

Has it really been almost a month since my last post here on WME Blogspot? Time really has flown, so here's a brief update on what's been happening.

There has been a steady flow of small but useful updates across the WME galleries - nothing too exciting, just the odd photo or a new collection here and there. A quick summary...

  • WME Wolverhampton: A new collection looking at the Bradley Canal Arm.
  • WME Walsall: A photo of the 16 Green Bus at Bloxwich, and one of Deers Leap terminus in Pheasey.
  • WME Birmingham: Two nice bus shots - the 67 outside Aston Station, and the 86 at Morrisons in Rubery.
  • WME Dudley: Just added today, a new collection looking at the Northway estate near Sedgley.
  • WME Sandwell: Bescot Stadium Station makes an appearance, as does the 402 at Tipton Central Avenue.
  • WME Staffordshire: Two more locations added to the Staffs & Worcs mix - Marsh Lock and Botterham Lock.
  • WME Worcestershire: A rare bus addition in the form of the 44 at Worcester Bus Station.

Useful updates then, and hopefully there'll be more to come - there's been a steady stream of test photos arriving on WME1, some of which look particularly intriguing. Despite the recent additions, some of my galleries are still giving cause for concern - WME Solihull hasn't been updated for months, whilst WME Telford has suffered from a chronic shortage of supply photos now I've exhausted the ones I took in August 2004.

Tripwise, things have trundled along nicely aswell. I enjoyed a nice walk around Northway, Gornal and Himley a couple of weeks back, and I've been chipping away at the local Wolverhampton photos with some morning sessions up by St Peter's Church and a lunchtime walk to Graiseley. I also had the bonus of a walk around Underhill last Saturday, taking photos of the 511 including Travel A2Z working on the route. I'm hoping to do a couple more trips this month if the weather allows it, including a possible outing with Mr Chance.

Well now you're up to date with the latest happenings at WME Towers - I hope you get chance to look at the latest additions, and keep an eye out for the next batch of updates, they should be coming your way very soon...

Sunday, August 12

A Taste Of Summertime In Staffordshire

The weather has been invariably rubbish this summer, but just over the last few days we've started to see a bit of sunshine, and I didn't have any hesitation in setting off for an overdue bit of summertime exploration. My destination was Stafford to begin with, then up to Uttoxeter before calling in on Great Haywood and Penkridge on the way back. Here's the tale of the trip..
  • Stafford - a quiet ride on the 876 through Coven, Penkridge and Rising Brook. I wouldn't mind a closer look at Coven, a nice village with a post office and The Rainbow pub to investigate. I spend an hour or so in Stafford, taking photos of Victoria Park looking glorious with some vibrant floral displays.

  • The 842 - a real treat, linking Stafford and Uttoxeter and providing a ride through some great Staffordshire countryside. The route also visits Tixall, with its church and school house, then Great Haywood for a glimpse of the canal junction, followed by Hixon and Bramshall.

  • Uttoxeter - my first ever visit and I wasn't disappointed. The town has a real charm and character that seems to come with country market towns - intriguing buildings, a good selection of pubs and a bustling atmosphere. I have a good mooch around, including calling in at the library for some bus timetables, and also visit the bus and train stations for some photos...
  • Uttoxeter Train Station - As stations go, Uttoxeter was something of a letdown. I like stations with charm and character, a hint of history, and a definitive view that I can photograph such as a station frontage, the main entrance or a railway sign. Uttoxeter in truth had very little to recommend it - no station house, no footbridge, no platform buildings, not even a station sign to speak of save for the platform running boards - leaving what basically amounted to a car park with a couple of platforms slapped on the side. I still enjoyed my visit though, taking photos of the long blue platform shelters and looking out over the neighbouring racecourse. I got a couple of train shots and a bonus view of the X30 Alton Towers Shuttle Bus on layover, so it wasn't a wasted visit by any means.
  • Uttoxeter Buses - Uttoxeter is served by a nice little bus station with a handful of local routes to provide photographic interest. I spent a good half an hour or so taking a few photos whilst waiting for the return 842 at midday - my victims including the 1 to Burton and the 2 and 3 Town Circulars. I wouldn't mind returning to try out some of the other routes, especially the 428 Lichfield service or the 32 to Hanley.
  • Great Haywood - Rather than heading straight back to Stafford, I decided to stop off at Great Haywood to explore more of this Staffordshire canal village. After visiting with Dad during a Shugborough walk last year, I'd already got some nice memories of the area, and it was great to add to my knowledge still further with photos of the Fox & Hounds and the Clifford Arms. I then renewed my acquaintance with Bridge 73 and Great Haywood Lock before exploring a tiny bit more of the Trent and Mersey with a stroll out towards Little Haywood - a perfect way to enjoy the sunshine. Then it was back to Stafford on the 841 and across to Chell Road to catch the 875.
  • Penkridge - the outing was topped off with more canal exploration. I'd long wanted to explore the Staffs & Worcs as it heads through Penkridge, although it took me a while to track the canal down - I think I took a wrong turning and ended up going through a housing estate before emerging by The Boat pub. The canal itself was simply fantastic - I enjoyed a gentle stroll from Penkridge Lock, up past Princefield Bridge to Filance Lock, only a short stretch but great for photos. I'm really looking forward to returning for a longer walk and a closer look at The Boat, it seemed to be a great canalside local. I still had a bit of time to spare before my 876 home, so I had a walk along a brook and through another housing estate before waiting at Bungham Lane for the bus, which was surprisingly empty when it eventually turned up.

What a trip, it had everything - buses, trains, canals and a bit of impromptu local estate exploration too. I thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish, and the outing makes a great addition to the tradition of summertime adventures I've done down the years. Hopefully the weather will hold and I might manage another trip or two to make the most of the sunshine - fingers crossed!

Tuesday, August 7

Some more additions...

Whisper it quietly, but the WME bandwagon is slowly getting back up to speed. My recent sprinkling of updates has been followed by another batch of additions - here's the latest news...
  • WME Wolverhampton - Warstones Library makes an appearance on Exploring Warstones, whilst there's a new Exploring Bradmore collection that currently comprises a couple of views of Bantock Park.

  • WME Walsall - two new local collections here. Bloxwich is a part of Walsall that means a lot to me, so the Exploring Bloxwich collection has a bit of extra personal significance. I'm quite fond of the starter photos for Bloxwich too, showing the blossom at King George V Playing Fields - its nice to include some shots of the natural world amongst the buses, pubs and trains. I can't say I'm as enthusiastic about Rushall, far from it, but the Exploring Rushall collection is also up and running with a look at the War Memorial and the Miners Arms pub.

  • WME Dudley - one solitary new addition here, and it should come as no surprise when I tell you its a bus photo taken at Stourbridge. The route in question is the 297, a route I caught with Rog once but which I would like to explore more closely. Despite the focus on Stourbridge and Halesowen, Dudley by Bus is becoming a burgeoning record of the local bus scene.

  • Exploration Extra - more photos from the 2006 bus rally season here, with an addition to the BaMMoT May 2006 and the creation of a new collection for Two Museums Day 2006. I must warn you, there's a milk float lurking in there somewhere!

And on that alarming note I shall bid you farewell - I'll stick to my policy of not making promises, but hopefully it won't be too long before I'm back with some new stuff (and maybe even another milk float)!

Sunday, July 29

A Light Dusting...

I should get this registered as a personal catchphrase really, for yet again it has been quiet on the updates front. With holidays and a Rog trip to divert my attention, the WME galleries have been on the back burner for a while - but there is now some progress to report, with a light dusting of additions to tell you about.

  • It seems ages since WME Birmingham was updated, but I hadn't realised it had been a whole three months(!) since the gallery last had a new addition to speak of - quite an oversight I must admit. Things have got moving again with the arrival of a new bus photo on Birmingham by Bus - a look at the 103 at its Woodgate Valley North terminus, a nice location with good memories from my university days.
    I've also added a couple of photos to the Northfield Station collection - a couple of station entrance shots that recreated photos from an earlier visit. I didn't realise it initially but these two photos have provided me with another WME landmark - whilst I'm quite used to announcing that certain galleries have reached a century of photos, I was surprised to find that WME Birmingham now has a century made up of just rail photos. This is the first time a theme within a gallery has reached the 100 mark, and I suppose it demonstrates just how much WME Brum is rail-dominated (mind you, there are a lot of stations to cover).
  • To WME Wolverhampton, and another bulky theme within a gallery. The 'Exploring' collections on WME Wolves are rapidly approaching their own century, aided no doubt by the new Exploring Penn collection I've just added. The collection has the usual two starter photos - a picture of the Rose and Crown pub, and a look at Chamberlains Lane to provide a glimpse of the old village. Just for good measure, there's a photo of the 543 at Castlecroft terminus waiting for you on Wolverhampton by Bus too.
  • There's another new collection on Exploration Extra, with the start of BaMMoT May 2006 with a couple of shots of EHA 767D. Old buses such as this make for nice photos but I don't really know anything about the vehicles themselves, so excuse the rather lame commentary (what do you mean my commentaries are usually lame anyway??!)
  • Finally, its WME Dudley where a photo of the Retreat Bistro joins Exploring Oldswinford.

Recent experience tells me not to promise too much in terms of further updates, so I won't. I aim to keep chipping away as and when I can, and any news I have to report will appear here - so watch this space!

Wednesday, July 25

Saturday in Soggy Sandwell

Things have been a bit quiet site-wise since I returned from my Great Yarmouth holiday, but I can at least report back on an outing last Saturday when Rog and I braved the drizzle and set off to explore the delights of Sandwell - here are the highlights...
  • West Bromwich - we caught the Metro up from Wolverhampton to pay our first joint visit to West Bromwich. Got a few photos at West Bromwich Central, then had a look around the town. With the weather being as it was, there weren't many Albion shirts on display so Rog was able to just about restrain himself. Rog was also able to introduce me to the inspiration for his beard, thanks to a visit to WH Smith to hunt magazines featuring Metallica photos.
  • We then had a walk to West Bromwich Garage, calling in at Lodge Road Metro Stop on the way - a nice little bonus adding to our Metro photos. I was pleased with our garage visit, there wasn't much to see but it satisfied my curiosity and meant I'd ventured into Greets Green in the process.
  • 414 - back to West Brom to wait for the 406H initially, but when the driver failed to show we ended up on the 414 instead. We started off on the short section down to Europa Village (just an average housing estate with not much to photograph), then stayed on the bus to go through to Morrisons near Walsall. The ride provided a look at Carters Green, Stone Cross and Friar Park before taking us past Junction 9 and into Pleck. I'm not sure the route usually goes past the Brown Lion and down Bescot Crescent, but we arrived on Wallows Lane eventually and I even got a sneaky photo as the bus headed back off towards West Bromwich.
  • It was getting on for 1 o'clock so Rog was pining for his first pub of the day. We called in at the King George V pub just up the road from Morrisons - the pub was quiet for a Saturday lunchtime, with a couple of dogs on the prowl and the cricket on the TV. I was pleased to discover England had bowled India out for 201, and we enjoyed a nice pint of cider before heading outside where we were soon joined by more of the smoking fraternity, sheltering under the awning as the drizzle continued to come down.
  • Lunch was next on our agenda, so we caught the 311 down through Wednesbury and into Princes End. We then found a chip shop for a mini-fish special, complete with very orange chips - tasted good mind...
  • The afternoon was spent doing a local walk around Moxley and Bradley, starting with the Gospel Oak and then having a look at the old Bradley Locks leading up to Moorcroft Junction with the Walsall Canal - a nice bit of waterways investigation which Rog quite seemed to enjoy too. Then it was up to the Fiery Holes and onto Bradley Lane Metro Stop to continue our photographic survey of the line.
  • Rocket Pool - one of the few corners of Wolverhampton I had never visited, a situation I am pleased to say has now been rectified. Its a good place to explore actually, with the pool itself making for some intriguing photo potential, not to mention the Rocket Pools pub and the 530 bus terminus. We got our photos of the 530 before heading into the pub, where the locals were really friendly and Rog got some useful beard advice from a bloke known as Santa. Pint downed, we had a walk around the pool, got glared at by a Banga Bus driver who seems to have it in for me, and then headed back up to Bradley Lane for our tram back into Wolverhampton.
  • To the evening then, and the plan was to head off to either Penn or Tettenhall to do a couple of pubs and explore more of local Wolverhampton. In the end we got waylaid by a lyrics programme on the TV, so we stuck to some more local pubs by visiting the Moreton and the Moseley Park down in Fordhouses - made for a good night actually, I particularly liked the Moreton, a good local with a bit of a Wolves flavour. The evening was topped off with a walk back through Northwood Park, trying not to squash snails in the dark, and giving Rog chance to recreate his famous IT HelpDesk Rog Files scene.

A good little outing there, I particularly enjoyed Rocket Pool, the 414 and visiting the King George to watch a bit of cricket. The weather wasn't perfect but we both got a good selection of photos, with the Metro featuring quite prominently for a change. My challenge now is to get the site moving again, and to continue with more exploration - I wonder where I'll end up next?

Monday, July 9

Exploration Great Yarmouth

It's always nice to have a change of scenery by exploring a different part of the country. Last year it was Dawlish, and this year I was Norfolk-bound, savouring the delights of a week in Great Yarmouth. The weather was okay - considering what happened elsewhere we didn't do badly at all - and this allowed for a few days out and about in East Anglia.
  • Monday - travelling down to Great Yarmouth, a four hour journey that wasn't as bad as I was expecting. Only problem was it started raining as soon as we got out of the car, meaning we arrived at the camp a bit early. We settled into our accomodation, then Dad and I had a walk around Scratby on the evening only to get absolutely drenched as the heavens suddenly opened - I just hoped this wasn't a sign of things to come.
  • Tuesday - the weather relented a bit, giving us chance to explore Great Yarmouth properly, including me making acquaintance with the Market Gates Bus Station - things were looking up! The evening was actually really nice, so Dad and I made the most of the sunshine by walking the coastal path from Scratby to Hemsby and back, then calling in at a local pub (The California) for a swift pint.
  • Wednesday - an overcast morning saw us in Wymondham, where I made a beeline straight for the historic railway station - and very impressive it was too. The weather caught up with us as we continued on to Dereham, but we had a great afternoon visiting old friends Olive and Ron, nice to see them again.
  • Thursday - and possibly my favourite day of the holiday. We did some of the North Norfolk coast, calling in at Sheringham and then Cromer. I busied myself with more station and bus photos, including some buses on layover at the car park in Cromer. Sheringham had the bonus of two railway stations to explore, although the North Norfolk Railway's station was by far the most interesting - a very photogenic heritage railway location. Dad and I got drenched again on the evening, Gorleston certainly wasn't a pretty sight in the pouring rain.
  • Friday - a day spent out and about on the local buses in Great Yarmouth whilst the family went to Norwich. The outing was more like my explorations back home, giving me chance to investigate Great Yarmouth Railway Station as well as locations such as Caister, Barrack Estate and the James Paget Hospital. Against my better judgement I even returned to Gorleston, and I'm glad I did as I saw a much more upbeat side to the town compared to the sodden trudge around the docks the previous evening.
  • Saturday - the final proper day of the holiday saw us leave Norfolk behind as off we ventured into sunny Suffolk, giving me the bonus of a whole new county to take photos of. Our visit concentrated on the traditional seaside towns of Southwold and Aldeburgh, fascinating places that didn't feel overcommercialised with the usual rash of penny arcades, fast food outlets and tacky gift shops. Mind you, the fact I managed to get a good bus photo in each location means I'm bound to speak highly of the places! To round things off we stopped by at Oulton Broad, giving me a Suffolk station to add to my collection - Oulton Broad South is hardly a glamorous location but it did just nicely, with just a glimpse of Oulton Broad North to whet my appetite in case there's ever a return visit. Dad and I also had a game of pitch and putt on the evening, but the least said about that the better (although I was proud to win my one solitary hole out of the 18)!

Looking back it was a fun week - I've got some interesting and exciting photos to develop for future inclusion on Exploration Extra, and - more importantly - some wonderful memories to add to those of other family holidays over the years. In many ways the holiday was over all too quick, meaning its now back to the routine of daily life - and wouldn't you know it, now I'm back home the sun has come out, typical!

Sunday, July 1

Introducing WME Shropshire...

The next piece of the WME jigsaw has now been slotted into place with the launch of WME Shropshire earlier this week. The gallery has been in the offing for absolutely ages, so it was about time it sprung into life - and finally it has. As with all new WME galleries, we're dealing with a handful of photos and a limited number of collections - but a start is a start after all.

So what have we got? Two of my favourite Rail Rover stations make an appearance, Ludlow and Church Stretton, with a couple of introductory photos for each. Church Stretton gets further prominence with a local collection, currently featuring the Kings Arms pub and the local library. There's room too for an Exploring Hampton Loade collection containg two ferry related photos - it was so foggy that day I couldn't get much else!

The good news as regards Shropshire is backed up by a bit of development elsewhere too. Also benefitting from extra Rail Rover content is Exploration Extra, with a variety of photos joining RR2006 - there's a couple of station signs at Beeston, a look at the number 6 bus outside Derby Station, a view of Derby Station itself, a photo of a train at Long Eaton, and there's even a local (non-transport) shot of Crewe Market. Solid progress there I think.

There's Rail Rover related stuff to report on WME Staffordshire and WME Warwickshire too. Staffs gets an Exploring Stafford collection looking at Victoria Park and the Rose & Crown pub, whilst Warks goes one better - two new collections, Grand Union Canal (featuring bridges 40 and 41 in Leamington Spa) and Stratford-upon-Avon Station, with a boat at Bancroft Basin thrown in on the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal for good measure.

With all this Rail Rover stuff looking at places further afield, there is a danger that the main West Midlands galleries might suffer a bit of update starvation. To counter this, there have been some additions, although whether they add anything new is debatable. WME Dudley gets another entry for Exploring Lower Gornal, but it is yet another view of the post office, and its a similar tale on WME Coventry where the 17 bus makes its umpteenth appearance on Coventry by Bus. The 17 is at least joined by the 702 though, adding Arena Tesco to the list of locations covered and ensuring Travel de Courcey makes it onto the operator's chart too.

After the recent struggles to make any kind of update, these new additions are encouraging signs that things are slowly getting back up to speed, and the arrival of WME Shropshire is the icing on the cake. I have to say I am now going to be taking another break from the site, but its nothing to worry about this time - I am simply going on holiday to East Anglia for a week or so, and can do so safe in the knowledge that WME is in much better health ready for when I get back.

Thursday, June 28

Back to Business in Norton Canes & Burntwood

Its been quite a while since I've had a proper solo adventure, what with the technical problems at WME compounded by a prolonged spell of miserable weather. Today however I got back down to business, exploring a few endangered bus routes in the process.

Travel West Midlands are due to overhaul their Brownhills area services in July, a move that means that routes such as the 392, 393 and 396A/C will be withdrawn, whilst the likes of Norton Canes and Boney Hay will no longer be served by the company. I am not going to debate the merits of that decision here, other than to say that the changes presented something of a challenge to me in terms of exploring the routes whilst I still can, so...
  • Starting in Walsall, I caught the 396C up into Norton Canes - an interesting journey providing a look around Shelfield and Pelsall, then Norton West in reflecting what used to be the 345 route. I took the chance to mooch around Norton Canes with a look at the library and the Co-op, and a little walk trying to track down Jerome Road, scene of a memorable incident where Stuart and I caught the old 396 the wrong way and ended up lost and confused at the Norton terminus.
  • This was followed by a ride on the 396A, back the way I came as I wanted to have a closer look at Shelfield. A little wander around High Heath revealed some local shops and a park, plus the sites of what once were Shelfield Library and the Four Seasons pub. To Shelfield itself, and more pubs (The Four Crosses and The Spring Cottage), plus a bonus discovery with the local post office hidden away up Spring Road. Shelfield had featured on Brownhills rides in the past, whereby the Spring Cottage had particularly caught my eye, but this was my first proper investigation of the area, whilst High Heath was completely new ground for me.
  • My next move was to catch the 392 up to Ogley Hay. I'd been on the route with Stuart years ago, and remembered that it branches off up Coppice Lane instead of visiting Streets Corner - what I didn't remember was the Friezland section so that was a nice re-discovery. I alight by the Costcutter (I assumed this was the Co-op the timetables refer to) so I could connect with a service heading Chasetown way.
  • That service turned out to be the 394, heading up through Chasetown and Chase Terrace to Boney Hay, definitely something of a TWM outpost (but not for much longer). I got a couple of layover shots, then a couple of photos of a pub that had caught my eye (The Foresters Arms?) Not being sure what to do next, I decided to track down the 395 terminus - this involved seeing more of the Boney Hay estate, quite rural in flavour, and then trying to locate Burntwood Church. I found Church Road no problem, but waited at the wrong end of the road (as my map suggested), only to see a bus parked up somewhere in the distance. After a bit of a sprint I was on the verge of collapsing, but I got the photo so it was worth it... just!
  • Burntwood Church is quite a nice little spot actually, with a lich gate and an intriguing little railed area known as Prince's Park, reputedly the smallest park in the country. My Burntwood explorations then took me to Swan Island, with a spot of lunch at a bigger park off Elder Lane - time to reflect on a job well done so far.
  • Chasetown was high on my hitlist as regards local photography, so I was pleased to call in after lunch for some shots of The Junction and The Uxbridge Arms. After a fair old hike I didn't brave a walk up the High Street, so The Crown and The Swan will just have to wait until I'm next in this neck of the woods.
  • The afternoon was mainly concerned with heading back across to Norton Canes with the intention of getting the bus photo I missed out on earlier. The 394 returned me to Ogley Hay for my 396A connection, and after a ride up through Brownhills West the photo was safely in the bag. Both the 396A and 396C seem to layover for a good couple of minutes on Norton Green Lane, which but for the forthcoming changes would make it a useful location especially if you time it right to get the A and C within ten minutes of each other.
  • The double act did the trick for me anyway, with the 396C arriving on cue to take me back to Brownhills. For a bit of extra local stuff, I took the chance of exploring up around White Horse Road for photos of the Prince of Wales pub as well as The White Horse itself. Might be worth a closer look too, I think the 363 comes around here for future reference.
  • A walk down The Parade took me to the terminus of my final bus target, the 349. This is another route on death row, and one I was particularly determined to get a photo of as I'd missed out on a terminus photo previously. The route is similar to the 362 in that it serves Clayhanger and Pelsall, a nice ride if it wasn't for the school rabble. The loss of the route will mean TWM no longer serve Clayhanger Village, although a revised 395 should still link Brownhills and Pelsall. For today though, the route was alive and well, getting me back to Walsall in plenty of time for my train home.

What a great day, the weather finally held nice for me and it was brilliant to be back out there doing some local exploring. The routes were full of interest, and I shall be sad to see them go, especially as some of them take me back to the early days of my explorations - at least I can say I gave them a good send-off!

Wednesday, June 20

Healthier News

At last something a little more positive to report. Whilst my home computer is still sickening for something, there are some small signs of life - just enough to release a few more photos and provide a new batch of updates. Here goes...
  • Starting with WME Wolverhampton, and a useful few additions. Exploring Northwood Park gets some nice wintry shots of the park itself - I really think a bit of snow gives a place a wholly different atmosphere. A picture of Dunstall Park Bridge joins the Birmingham Main Line collection, and there's another look at the local park entrance on Exploring Spring Vale. Perhaps the most exciting update is that for Midland Metro, with photos of trams at both Bradley Lane and Loxdale - always nice to get some more locations in the mix.
  • A quick look at WME Dudley next, and only one new photo here. Coseley Station now has a train photo joining the existing views of platforms and station entrances.
  • There's a new collection on WME Walsall as the Anson Branch adds to the canal content of the gallery. I walked the remains of the branch back in December 2005, not a particularly enjoyable experience on a cold and miserable day but there you go.
  • Next up, and we have the first update in ages for WME Coventry. I must admit its the standard usual fare as far as Coventry is concerned - a train photo for Coventry Station, and a route 17 shot for Coventry by Bus. After a good three months without any new material, I guess any kind of update is most welcome.
  • WME Staffordshire has been ticking along quite nicely on a diet of canal and local related updates, and its the canals that again provide the thrust of the new stuff here. Bridge 16 is developing its own little portfolio of photos on Shropshire Union, whilst there's a nice view of boats at Great Haywood on the Staffs & Worcs- one of my better photos even if I do say so myself. Furthermore, we have a new collection on the Trent & Mersey Canal, currently consisting of a couple of views of Bridge 73 at Great Haywood - its not a canal I've explored much of, so there's a nice target for future exploration...
  • Finally, to our little toddler of a gallery in the shape of WME Warwickshire. A couple of new photos here with the Stratford Barge Lock joining Stratford-upon-Avon Canal and a view of route 19 calling at Stratford for Warwickshire by Bus. There's still a lot of work to do to bulk this gallery out into something that's actually worth looking at, but progress is progress so I shouldn't complain too much.

It's felt good to get my teeth back into the site after a while, and I'm hoping the home computer is going to keep holding on long enough for me to squeak a few more bits and pieces out onto the galleries. I can't make any promises other than that I'll try my best, so enjoy these updates and watch this space!

Tuesday, June 12

Slow Going

With technical difficulties continuing to hamper my opportunities to update WME, work on the website has effectively come to a standstill. I did manage to eke out a few more test photos, including some from my first Rail Rover Week back in 2006, but I'm not sure when the next batch will be dealt with.

There was however a brief flurry of updates last week - nothing too exciting really, but its a case of doing what I can when I can...
  • WME Wolverhampton got an addition to Exploring Spring Vale in the form of a photo of a sign at the local park.
  • There was a new Exploring Pattingham collection on WME Staffordshire that features a couple of rural views, fields and gates and so forth.
  • Two photos too for WME Warwickshire - a photo of the 9 at Nuneaton joins Warwickshire by Bus, with a view of Warwick Road Lock for the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal.
  • And finally, a Rail Rover 2006 addition to Exploration Extra as Platform 1 at Crewe Station takes pride of place alongside an existing photo of the station entrance.

So that's that, and its difficult to know where the next update is coming from. I might be able to juggle a few more things around, but there really isn't much scope in terms of releasing new photos whilst my home computer remains on the blink.

Progress is also slow on the exploration front as well. I've taken a few photos around Bilston recently whilst working across that way, and Dad and I enjoyed a lovely walk around Brewood last Saturday which culminated in a visit to The Bridge pub - I needed a drink after a six and a half mile walk in that heat! I'm hoping to get back into the swing of some full scale exploration in the near future, and maybe I'll get a chance to catch a bit of cricket as well.

Whilst I'm here, a couple of things have caught my eye recently. I'm pleased to report that Codsall Station now has a replacement footbridge that utilises as much of the original as could reasonably be salvaged - I'll have to get across for some photos when I get chance, although the photos I saw in the Express & Star looked promising. There's also intriguing news on the Wolverhampton Low Level Station front, whereby part of the redevelopment was due to open this week. I don't know how much of the station itself has remained intact, but it might also be worth me investigating.

I will try and keep you up to date with the latest news as regards the site, particularly if these computer issues look like dragging on indefinitely. Hopefully I'll have something more positive to report in the not-too-distant future...

Tuesday, May 29

Technically frustrating...

Due to unexpected technical difficulties, all updates to WME are currently on hold. My home computer has effectively died, meaning I have very limited access to the internet and am thus unable to upload and move around my photos in order to develop the WME galleries.

The situation is unlikely to resolve itself in the very near future, as it looks likely I might need a replacement PC and will need to sort out the finances for this, as well as transferring my photo archive across. In the meantime, I am still around for some site correspondance, and hopefully the galleries are developed enough to stand on their own two feet and provide much West Midlands interest even if I'm unable to add any new content for the foreseeable future.

Monday, May 7

Beginning the May updates

My recent work on the WME Archive has seen me delving into my photos from January, February and March 2006. Some of these photos have provided the basis for my latest round of gallery updates, whilst bringing back some great memories. A quick summary for you...
  • WME Wolverhampton: Just two new photos as a couple of park signs join the Exploring Heath Town collection. The collection now provides a nice wintry snapshot of the park as visited in March 2006
  • WME Walsall: Good progress here - firstly we have a new collection, Exploring Caldmore. I've got to be honest and say I didn't like Caldmore, its quite ethnic and I felt a bit out of place. Even so, I got a handful of photos with Caldmore Green and the local post office now finding their way onto the site.
    Continuing with the grim theme, and the Walsall Canal around Pleck certainly fits that description - my walk along the canal back in December 2005 was one of my most uncomfortable exploration experiences ever. I did manage some photos, including two shots of Woodwards Bridge that have been homed on the Walsall Canal collection. The collection had thus far been focused on Rayboulds Bridge and Top Lock, so its good to get another location in there.
  • WME Sandwell: Continuing the canal theme, but with thankfully less grimness, I've added more photos to the New Birmingham Main Line collection. I must admit that the photos go over the same old ground in covering Factory Locks yet again, but they show the locks in winter so there is some variety too. There's also a view of the towpath going over Factory Junction Bridge to add a new angle to the mix.
    I'm also pleased to report some progress on the local photos front, with updates to Exploring Wednesbury and Exploring Tipton. The Wednesbury addition is a February 2006 view of a park sign at Brunswick Park, providing some much-needed life to a collection that had become stagnated. Tipton meanwhile gets another pub photo as the Red Lion makes an appearance, adding further to a collection that I think epitomises what I'm aiming for with my local photography - a variety of photos that are slowly starting to capture the town.
  • WME Staffordshire: Another collection that's developing nicely is the Staffs & Worcs Canal collection - its really taking shape, especially as I'm now starting to add some content from the northern end of the canal. My January 2006 outings included a Shugborough walk with Dad when we explored the canal around Haywood Junction and Milford. From that trip I've been able to add two photos of Old Hill Bridge, a bridge which is a lovely traditional canal structure in its own right.
  • WME Worcestershire: To finish of this batch of updates, there's another addition to Malvern Link Station, again showing the shed-like main station building but this time from the platform side.

Its been good to get the galleries moving again after a little quiet spell. I'm encouraged by the photos that are coming through from the archive - they seem to offer plenty of potential for further additions that can only develop the scope and coverage of my galleries even more. Enjoy the photos...

Saturday, May 5

A little bit of cricket

The prospect of watching Worcestershire play Warwickshire was too good to miss, so yesterday I headed down to Worcester to spend the day soaking up the action at New Road.

Warwickshire had scored 610-6 in their innings, largley thanks to Ambrose's 251 and 162 from Jim Troughton, and Worcestershire were 116-2 in reply having lost Jacques and Solanki. Play started at 11am, giving me time for a little look around Worcester before making my way to the ground - I had a nice walk exploring a stretch of the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, a great little bonus.

The cricket was thoroughly enjoyable, with Warwickshire applying pressure and Worcestershire battling to stay in the game. Moore went early for 47 (I'd only just sat down), leaving Ben Smith and Graeme Hick quite a repair job on their hands. I also had a bit of a mission in trying to stay warm - the glorious sunshine of the last few days had mysteriously disappeared behind a blanket of cloud, whilst a chilly breeze swirling around the Basil D'Olivera stand didn't help matters. I've never sat in a fridge but I guess this is what it would feel like!

I warmed myself up over lunch, aided by a nice packed lunch and a stroll around Cripplegate Park, before settling in for the afternoon session. Worcestershire lost wickets at regular intervals, including Hick for 91, to be all out for 288 and facing the follow on. In what seemed like no time, Worcestershire were 9 for 2 second time round, the clock ticked to 4pm and a third wicket went just as I was reluctantly leaving the ground. I'd have loved to have stayed for the full duration, but I had a train to catch and didn't want to get back home much later than 7pm.

Worcester was bustling as I headed up to Foregate Street for that train back to Stourbridge, and waiting on the platform gave me time to reflect - I enjoyed the day from start to finish, whilst New Road is a real treat to visit, a lovely ground with views of the cathedral and a real English atmosphere. Considering it only costs £5.10 train fare and £10 to get into the cricket, I think I definitely got value for money - so much so that I can't wait to make my next visit. I just hope they don't think I'm a jinx given the batting collapses!!

Tuesday, May 1

Memories of Chase

Saturday 28th April was the last day of operation for Chase Bus Services following their takeover by Arriva Midlands. Rog, Woody and I marked the day by joining in with the Chase Farewell Running Day, visiting the Chase Garage at Chasetown and the Arriva Cannock depot on Delta Way. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day, but also one that was tinged with sadness - Chase have been a fixture of the bus scene in and around Walsall and Wolverhampton for a number of years, with their distinctive orange livery and a fleet of Leyland Nationals, and its a shame to see this come to an end (even if I won't miss their rather basic timetable leaflets).

As part of the grieving process (!), I thought I'd look back on my own adventures with Chase down the years. By my own admission, its always been bus routes that I've been interested in rather than the vehicles themselves, but I must confess to having a soft spot for the Leyland National. A ride on a Chase National was always that little bit extra special, a step back in time almost - well built, hardworking vehicles that have been looked after properly for years, buses with character. They made a great antidote to the plague of Darts and Tridents that seem to populate the area more and more. The Nationals haven't disappeared completely yet - Arriva have retained some for the changeover period - but you do wonder just how much longer they'll be a part of the local bus scene.

A few thoughts on Chase routes...
  • The 326 featured during some of my early photo trips, looking around Bloxwich, New Invention and Willenhall, and taking photos at Bloxwich Park Road or outside Willenhall Police Station.
  • The 362 came in very handy for trips to Brownhills, riding through Pelsall on one of the Nationals and then taking photos of Catshill Junction - it was good to be back on the route when I visited Clayhanger a couple of months ago.
  • That Clayhanger outing was my last proper Chase outing, save for Saturday's farewell, and it also saw me experience the 67 with a quick ride from Walsall to Aldridge. It would have been interesting to do the full route to Brownhills.
  • The 364 was another Chase favourite, going up through Beechdale, Short Heath and Poets Corner, although I never did manage to get a photo of the route at Coppice Farm.
  • The 560 was the main Chase foothold in Wolverhampton, and a route where the company competed with Travel West Midlands. I would use the route if I was covering at Wednesfield Library, and would always try and get a ride on a National if I could.

Some nice memories there, but perhaps the Chase memory I'll cherish most in future is our final ride on Saturday, when we caught the 381 from Lichfield to Walsall. A rural ride through Wall, Shenstone and Stonnall, the journey had a timeless quality that just seemed to epitomise Chase in general - it was great. Put simply, a sunny Saturday afternoon on a Leyland National grunting its way through the Staffordshire countryside - a most fitting way to say goodbye...

Monday, April 9

200 up for WME Wolverhampton

It seems to be landmarks all the way for WME at the moment, but I have to admit that this particular milestone is extra special. WME Wolverhampton has become the first of my local galleries to reach the 200 photo mark; 18 months of hard work have got me to this point, and I'm delighted with the achievement, especially as its Wolverhampton - the most local and most personal of my galleries - that takes me there.

A bit about the additions that broke the 200 barrier now, and it was just a standard, "nothing too exciting" type of an update to be honest. The crux of the update centred on sorting out some sequences of canal photos that had been sitting on Wolvtest for a while. On Shropshire Union Canal we got another Bridge 2 photo, plus a different angle exploring the top of Turnover Bridge, whilst on Staffs & Worcs there were a handful of Wightwick Lock views, a third installment in the Marsh Lane series and a couple of Compton Lock views. I must admit I do like the view of the lock gates at Compton, I'm quite proud of that photo. Other than the canal stuff, there was one addition to Wolverhampton by Bus - a second 698 at Wobaston photo further capturing a local route and a favourite terminus location - and thats your lot. Not a glamorous update then, but sometimes you just have to get stuck in and shift some photos around, so its a job well done all the same.

Whilst WME Wolverhampton should rightfully hog the headlines, I should also mention a useful update to Exploration Extra. My recent work on the archive has released some photos from October 2005 including some from my visit to BaMMoT with Rog and Woody, and these have now joined the BaMMoT 2005 collection. I must be honest and say I know very little about the vehciles or their history, so my commentary might lack its usual detail/waffle, depending upon your point of view. The photos are on there in any case, completing a constructive morning's work and keeping things ticking over nicely...

Friday, April 6

April Additions Alert

I've had a busy couple of days at WME Towers, sorting out some updates for the Easter period. There's a fair bit to report...

Let's start with WME Staffordshire, which has quickly followed WME Sandwell in joining the WME 100 Club! Perched precariously on 99 photos for the last couple of weeks, WME Staffs has smashed through the barrier in some style...
  • Staffs by Bus gets another photo of the 825 at Lichfield.
  • Railway Walk gets another location as Penn Halt joins Castlecroft and Wombourne Station.
  • Staffs & Worcs Canal gets a handful of November 2005 photos: Castlecroft Bridge (again!), two shots of Dimmingsdale Bridge and a second Mops Farm view.
  • Landywood Station has another view of the Walsall platform steps, plus a look at a curious DIY-style platform sign.
  • And there's a new Exploring Cheslyn Hay collection featuring the local library and the Talbot pub, making for ten new photos in all, thats pretty good going by my standards!

Also getting a decent chunk of an update is WME Dudley...

  • The star of the show here has to be the new Stourbridge Canal collection, featuring photos of Bells Mill Bridge, Brettell Lane and Seven Dwellings. This is an important canal addition to the Dudley repertoire and comes after a fair bit of research to find out what some of those bridges were actually called.
  • The canal ranks are swelled further with the arrival of Black Delph Bridge on the Dudley No. 1 collection - Black Delph is quite a significant location as its the spot where the Dudley and Stourbridge Canals meet, so its good to get that in there.
  • To more mundane matters, and we have another 240 at Stourbridge photo joining Dudley by Bus, and a further platform view on the Stourbridge Town collection too.

Looking now at the other galleries, and lets see whats been happening on those...

  • Starting with WME Birmingham and the usual rail related update. Hamstead Station gets a photo of the path to the Birmingham platform, whilst Blake Street gets a platform view and a rather nice look at the side entrance. Both collections have been on WME Brum for a while without any updates, so its good to get things moving a little.
  • On to WME Wolverhampton, and a couple of intriguing additions to Exploring Tettenhall - a view of Lower Green and a look at a tree in St Michael's Churchyard adds a bit more variety to the usual views of Tettenhall Library.
  • An update too for WME Sandwell - a Great Bridge Bus Station view for the Stops & Stations collection, and there's a nice shot of a tram at West Bromwich Central joining Midland Metro.
  • What's this, a new collection on WME Warwickshire? Yes, its true - Exploring Nuneaton is off and running with two views of the Railway Tavern, one for each of the Rail Rover Weeks I've done so far.
  • A single update to WME Walsall sees Pelsall Library join the Exploring Pelsall collection. I'm pleased with how this collection is developing, as it contains a variety of different views whereas most local collections often provide multiple views of the same thing (Tettenhall Library springs to mind once more).
  • And last but by no means least, even the perennial straggler WME Worcestershire gets a new photo with a second look at the back entrance to Great Malvern Station.

Well, I have to say that April is off to a good start with that little lot. Hopefully I might have some more update news for you as the Easter weekend progresses, and possibly a report on a potential outing to Stafford with Rog and Woody as well. I could be quite busy over the next few days...