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.