Tuesday, February 26

Keeping Things Moving...

It often follows that when I have a run of explorations, things tend to slow down a little in terms of updating the WME galleries. Well, the last couple of weeks has proved that the rule still holds some credence, although I have managed to find a little time in between the outings to push through some encouraging developments.

Firstly, I have some intriguing new canal content to report. The Cannock Extension Canal makes an appearance on WME Walsall - the canal is something of a backwater, the surviving section of a waterway that once linked Pelsall and Hednesford. The canal briefly tiptoes through Walsall before entering Staffordshire, with Friar Bridge and Pelsall Common Bridge being the notable landmarks on the Walsall section, so a photo of each gets the collection up and running.

Also on the canal front, WME Birmingham is the proud recipient of a collection exploring some of the remains of the Dudley No. 2 Canal. Whilst the section of canal between Parkhead and Hawne Basin is still very much a working waterway, the line beyond Halesowen fell out of use after the collapse of the Lapal Tunnel. The canal used to continue from Lapal and through Weoley Castle to join the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at Selly Oak Junction, and it is these Selly Oak remains that I tentatively investigated back in August 2006. The collection features a photo each of the old bridges at Harborne Lane and Selly Oak Park, providing me with a starting point that I hope to build on soon by exploring any remains around Weoley Castle.

There has also been some useful progress with a couple of Birmingham local collections. Another view of the Bale of Hay pub joins Exploring Bartley Green, whilst Exploring Bournville now boasts a couple of pictures of Selly Manor. WME Wolverhampton has also been joining in, with some photos from Hickman Park bringing to life what had hitherto been a very dull Exploring Bilston section - I'm particularly proud of my flowerbeds shot here, Bilston in Bloom indeed!

Finally for this post, some good news from a gallery that never gets much attention - WME Telford. I always struggle to update this gallery as my visits to Telford are few and far between, but I can at least report one new addition as a photo of the 33 route joins Telford by Bus. The route hadn't previously featured amongst this collection, so its progress of sorts and does at least show the gallery still has some life in there somewhere! Enjoy the updates.

Recent Explorations

I've been making the most of the good weather recently by getting out and about taking photos in the wintry sunshine...

Saturday 16th Feb: A useful Dudley local, starting with a brief visit to Stourbridge to catch up with Rog. I then caught the 296 up through Amblecote and Brierley Hill to Brockmoor, where I got some useful shots including the local pubs. The outing moved up a gear with a walk down Leys Road, discovering more pubs such as the Woodman and the Samson & Lion, before joining the Stourbridge Canal at Brierley Hill Road. I've enjoyed exploring the canal before, but this section was particularly special, heading down the locks towards Wordsley - I was in my element, taking photos of the locks, the Dock general store, and having a closer look at Dadford's Shed and the Red House Cone. I finished off with a visit to Amblecote Library at the Brook Primary School - the library is set for the axe as part of a review of library provision in Dudley, which is a real shame as its a great new facility having only been moved here a couple of years ago.

Sunday 17th Feb: A busy weekend was completed with a walk around Codsall and Codsall Wood with Dad - the alternative was watching Sheffield Utd v Middlesbrough in the FA Cup, so I think we made the right decision! The walk took us through fields and past farms, and provided me with my first proper look at Codsall Wood - a nice little village, with a church and an intriguing looking pub (The Crown) that could prove handy for a pint should we repeat the walk in summer. We finished off with the return leg to Codsall, climbing uphill on the old parish path to the church, following in the footsteps of countless parishioners over the last couple of centuries.

Friday 22nd Feb: The first big solo outing of 2008 saw me heading across to Birmingham before spending the afternoon around Langley and Oldbury. Starting off with a look at Duddeston Station and surroundings, I dropped in on Bloomsbury Library (a fascinating old building with a light, spacious interior) before joining the Grand Union Canal as I made my way to Adderley Park. From there it was across to Lea Hall, followed by lunch at Glebe Farm (another library visit) and a stroll around Stechford trying to track down the Iron Horse on Flaxley Road. The Langley and Oldbury leg saw me investigating the Titford Canal at Uncle Ben's Bridge, before enjoying the traditional local atmosphere of Langley High Street and heading up through Oldbury to Sandwell and Dudley Station. I took plenty of photos, often battling stiff breezes in the process, and thoroughly enjoyed the thrill of being back out there, revisiting old haunts and discovering new horizons.

Three good trips then, and - whisper it quietly - 2008 is shaping up to be a really good year of exploration. I've set the standard now, and am really looking forward to seeing what my next few outings have in store...

Thursday, February 14

Proper Progress

St Valentine's Day has proved to be a day of significant progress here at WME, with the arrival of some intriguing new collections for some of the galleries...

Starting for once with WME Shropshire, and I've always thought that a WME gallery is never truly off and running until it has some bus photos on there. After a prolonged spell of brave resistance, WME Shropshire has finally conceded defeat, hence the arrival of the Shropshire by Bus collection. There are only two photos to start with, but I think they're good ones - a 702 at Ludlow, and a 437 at Bridgnorth where I remember dashing out of the pub to try and get the shot!

The other new collections all add useful local content to their home galleries. On WME Staffordshire we have Exploring Wheaton Aston, featuring photos taken earlier this month - it feels good to include some of my latest shots for a change instead of photos taken 18 months ago. Turning next to WME Walsall, where Willenhall finally gets some recognition. The town has been a place I've visited pretty regularly since childhood, but until today this wasn't reflected through my photos. Thus Exploring Willenhall features two starter photos, both of the Lock Museum and reflecting nicely the town's lock-making heritage. Finally for this little bulletin, we have an Exploring Cotteridge collection on WME Birmingham - Cotteridge is one of my old university haunts, with memories of exploring the Outer Circle bus and Kings Norton Station, so I'm pleased it too has now been represented, with photos of Cotteridge Park and a Station Road sign getting things moving.

Well, we're halfway through February now and I feel these new additions do represent real progress, providing new content and filling long-standing holes in the galleries. It sets the standard for future work on the site, so I now face the challenge of maintaining this with any forthcoming developments - hopefully I can meet this challenge and the galleries will go from strength to strength.

Tuesday, February 12

February's WME Updates

Whilst there haven't been any major developments in February thus far, there have been a few little bits and pieces type additions to keep things ticking over. Here's a quick look at what's been happening...
  • WME Solihull: New photos here include platform views at Dorridge and Marston Green, another shot of the Solihull Station Interchange bus stops, and a couple of bus photos including a 37E in the dark picture that has quickly become a personal favourite of mine.
  • WME Staffordshire: Continuing the focus on South Staffordshire villages with the introduction of an Exploring Bilbrook collection featuring two views of the Woodman pub.
  • WME Birmingham: Canal additions in the form of the guillotine lock and Mary Vale Road Bridge, plus a shot of the Sportsman pub that provides some much-needed new content on Exploring Harborne.
  • WME Walsall: Useful new canal content here too - Rollingmill Street Bridge adds to the Pleck area coverage on the Walsall Canal, whilst Bentley Mill Way slots neatly into the Anson Branch. There is also a new Exploring Brownhills collection featuring the Hussey Arms.
  • WME Dudley: A couple of 248A shots taken in the dark at Stourbridge have been added, along with a photo of Bowens Bridge on the Stourbridge Canal, and another look at the entrance to Coseley Station.
  • WME Sandwell: Pitchfork Bridge provides a handy canal marker on the Old Main Line collection, whilst I can also report the inclusion of a train photo for Dudley Port Station, and a second look at the Fountain pub on Exploring Tipton.

Nothing spectacular then, but things have been building steadily. I am pleased with the extra canal and local content that has emerged, and every photo added means that one further piece of the WME jigsaw has slotted into place. Considering we're only half way through the month, this does represent a solid start with the prospect of further additions to come.

Tuesday, February 5

Wheaton Aston

Those of you who keep an eye on WME Staffordshire may well have spotted that I have something of a penchant for South Staffordshire villages - places such as Bilbrook, Codsall, Kinver and Wombourne feature prominently amongst the local collections, and provide memories of local pubs and walks along canal towpaths, through muddy fields and down country lanes. Often these villages are just across the border from the West Midlands, yet they can feel a whole world away, where the pace of life seems slower and the urban hurly burly is left behind to be replaced by a taste of traditional English village life. Well, last Saturday Dad and I sampled more of the South Staffs experience with a visit to Wheaton Aston.

Thankfully the grimness of January had given sway to a fresh February afternoon, and we decided to make the most of the sunshine with a little walk. As soon as we arrived in Wheaton Aston I felt at home, a nice quiet village, with the local post office by the village hall and a traditional looking pub, the Coach and Horses. Parking at the car park by the village hall, our walk took us down by the church and then out into open countryside to join the Monks Walk.

My favourite part of the walk came as we joined the Shropshire Union Canal at Bridge 17 - a walk along the towpath here is quite delightful, with the sun playing through the trees, a real sense of tranquility and some lovely traditional canal bridges to photograph. We followed the canal back towards the village, passing Bridge 18 and the visitor moorings to arrive at one of those special canal locations that I love so much - Bridge 19, a traditional canal scene with narrowboats chugging away, all overlooked by a canalside local in the form of the Hartley Arms. Bridge 19 was also our cue to leave the canal behind and head back into the village, passing the pub and an old rural garage that I got some sneaky photos of.

What a treat - a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Wheaton Aston made quite an impression on me, and I look forward to unearthing further walks that would allow us to investigate the village and its surrounds, and maybe even try out one of those pubs. The canal continues on from the village to Bridge 20 and beyond, and there's even the prospect of a Green Bus photo if you time it right. Hopefully Saturday's visit will be the first of many...