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...