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overhaul their Brownhills area services in July, a move that means that routes such as the 392, 393 and 396A/C will be withdrawn, whilst the likes of Norton Canes and Boney Hay will no longer be served by the company.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...