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)!