Saturday, June 28

Journey to the End of the World

How's that for a dramatic headline! I must confess however that the 'end of the world' I'm referring to is actually Worlds End, a local housing estate near Quinton that featured as part of a bonus outing yesterday. It was good to be out and about again in Birmingham and Sandwell - here's what I got up to ...
  • Queens Park - catching the 103 up through Harborne, I alight at Queens Park for a few photos of the flowerbeds as the park undergoes renovation works. The Court Oak pub also provides a bit of interest overlooking a little gyratory system.

  • Quinton - a quick visit to the local library off Ridgacre Road was followed with a walk up to Four Dwellings to investigate the primary school.

  • Worlds End - the estate with the doomladen name was actually half decent to explore. I got a few photos of the local shops on Faraday Avenue, and added to my Birmingham bus terminus locations when the 630 showed up to complete its trip from the Roundabout.

  • 637 - a ride on an Optare Solo giving me chance to investigate the extended route through to Rowley Regis Station. The journey brought back a few memories heading past Quinton Church, The Stag pub and Long Lane Library.

  • Rowley Regis - a couple of train photos, then its off into Blackheath for photos by the Ashley and a look at the California. I also tracked down Blackheath Library, a nice Carnegie building that seemed to be hidden on a sidestreet some distance from the main town centre.

  • Rowley Village - a long-term target of mine that I was pleased to finally investigate. Starting with a couple of views at a rather unkempt Britannia Park, I then proceeded into the village for photos of the Britannia and Robert Peel pubs. After a brief return to Blackheath for bus photos by Barclays Bank, I enjoyed a spot of lunch in the park before catching my next bus.

  • 129 - a fascinating bus ride providing a first look at Rounds Green and Rood End, with landmarks catching my eye including Rounds Green Library, Oldbury Cemetery and pubs such as the Phoenix, the Gate and the Bell.

  • Smethwick - the trip was concluded with a stroll around Smethwick, calling in on the library and Victoria Park before making my way to Rolfe Street for the train home.

There's a lot to be said for just getting stuck in and sampling places like Smethwick and Blackheath - they may not be glamorous places but they do represent important aspects of the West Midlands that demand inclusion on the galleries. With my recent adventures having taken me into Staffordshire and Telford, and bearing in mind I've also got a week of holidaying in Essex to come, I felt it was important to get a solid West Midlands trip in the bag and I think I've succeeded - and lets face it, it's not every day you can say you've been to the World's End!

Friday, June 27

A Bit More Attention...

With my summer holidays fast approaching, this last week has seen a bit of a mad scramble as I try and push through a few more updates before heading off for a well-deserved break. The result has been some intriguing new additions based upon archive photos from March and April 2007.
  • WME Shropshire: Following hot on Shrewsbury Station's heels, I am pleased to report a new collection looking at Craven Arms Station. I have a particular fondness for Craven Arms in general having thoroughly enjoyed exploring town and station last year, and I've been very keen to tell the story of that visit for quite a while now. This new collection is just the start of that process and currently features a train photo and a view along platform one.
  • WME Staffordshire: A significant new rail collection here sees Penkridge Station make an appearance thanks to a platform view and a couple of shots of the station sign. I've been quite scathing about the station in my photo commentaries, but in my opinion the facility is a bit of an eyesore and things hadn't improved much when I revisited recently as part of my Newport and Gnosall trip.
  • Exploration Extra: Things are ticking over nicely with the arrival of a new collection looking at the Chase Farewell Running Day in April 2007. I intend to feature here photos taken specifically at the Chase and Arriva garages, whereas any shots taken during the main outing will feature on either WME Walsall or WME Staffordshire. So far there are a couple of pictures taken at Delta Way, although I hope to add some from the Chase depot soon. Rail Rover 2007 has also been updated with a couple of Nantwich footbridge shots and a nice view of Brookfield Park, also in Nantwich.
  • WME Walsall: With the recent focus on Shropshire and Warwickshire it seems the main West Midlands galleries have been a little neglected for a change, which probably isn't such a bad thing. WME Walsall has kicked back into life with a couple of Exploring Bloxwich photos taken during that Chase Farewell event - no buses mind, just a couple of park photos with the blossom making a very welcome reappearance.

Well there you have it, and that probably concludes site matters for the month of June. A quick calculation has revealed that thus far in 2008 I have added 251 new photos to the WME galleries - not bad going although there's always room for improvement. We'll have to see what the second half of the year brings, but first there's that holiday to look forward to.

Friday, June 20

Some Much Needed Attention

My recent work on the WME archive has seen me tackling photos from Rail Rover Week 2007, meaning I have been able to give some overdue consideration to a couple of my forgotten galleries. Both WME Warwickshire and WME Shropshire have sprung back into life with some constructive new additions - let's see what's been happening...

Firstly to WME Warwickshire, which can now boast a new Wilmcote Station collection featuring a platform view and a station sign. Wilmcote is a nice traditional little station with some great original features, and it thus takes pride of place alongside bigger stations such as Stratford-upon-Avon and Leamington Spa. Stratford Station itself gets a station sign photo, whilst the other new content is all canal related with a photo of a lock cottage at Hatton on the Grand Union, and a series of Bridge 66 photos joining the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal.

Things have been a little quieter on WME Shropshire, where the solitary (but eminently noteworthy) new development is the arrival of a collection showcasing Shrewsbury Station. The station is a firm Rail Rover favourite, a great place to explore, and the new photos provide a couple of platform views and two shots of a train on layover.

Whilst the focus has rightly been on Shropshire and Warwickshire for a change, I must quickly mention progress on Exploration Extra where the Rail Rover archive has also yielded a couple of views from Hinckley Bus Station. I'm pleased to see such locations finally making an appearance on WME, and with the prospect of more Rail Rover treasures waiting to be uncovered, it'll be interesting to see what further action might be taking place over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, June 17

More WME Landmarks

Shock horror, its time for me to wheel out one of my well-trodden WME Blogspot catchphrases again! You know the one, "things have been very quiet on the galleries recently but I've now made a few little updates to get things moving again". I might be at risk of sounding like a seriously scratched record, but the statement is true - and in this case the new additions have allowed me to reach a couple more of those cherished WME milestones...

Congratulations are firstly due for WME Staffordshire, which can now celebrate reaching 200 photos with some nice springtime shots of Victoria Park in Stafford and some flowers on Exploring Pattingham. The landmark provides further evidence of WME Staffordshire's growth into being one of the WME big-hitters, whereby the likes of Dudley, Walsall and Sandwell are still trailing some way behind.

Also celebrating is Exploration Extra having reached its own century of photos. I'm actually more pleased with this achievement than the Staffordshire one, as I've put in a fair bit of effort trying to get old Extra into shape as a respectable photo repository in its own right. The 100 photo barrier was broken thanks to additions to the London 2007 collection (Aldgate East tube station and the Ten Bells pub at Whitechapel), and to Rail Rover 2007 (a couple of Crewe Station shots).

Some good news there then, and its also worth noting an addition to WME Walsall where a view of the 364 at New Invention joins Walsall by Bus (I just like the photo and was determined to mention it somewhere!) I am hoping, as ever, that these latest updates will prove to be the start of concerted series of additions, but we'll just have to wait and see. Whisper it quietly, but Shropshire and Warwickshire might be seeing some action soon...

Saturday, June 14

A Telford Classic

My annual outing to Telford is traditionally one of the highlights of the exploration calendar, and 2008's contribution proved no exception. Here are a selection of my favourite moments from yesterday's visit...
  • Town Park & Hinkshay - after catching the 892 across from Wolverhampton, I got the photos off and running with a stroll around Telford Town Park. The park sadly didn't look as immaculate as usual, although it was still nice going back down memory lane with a look at the play area and ornamental gardens. Rather than heading back to the bus station, I decided to venture further into the park, making my way along a country lane to eventually emerge into Hinkshay. Discoveries here included the crumbling derelict White Hart pub, plus the Three Crowns and Queens Arms as I continued towards Dawley.

  • 99 - every so often I happen upon a route that reminds me just why I enjoy bus exploration so much, and the 99 yesterday was one such example. I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to sit back, relax and take in new surroundings on the ride from Telford to Broseley. The route introduced me to Horsehay, with the Station Inn, the Telford Steam Railway, the village hall and the Foresters Arms all catching my eye. Then came Coalbrookdale, with its atmospheric industrial heritage and traditional looking pubs, followed by Ironbridge with a cracking view of the bridge itself. A fascinating journey then that provided me with loads of ideas for further investigation.

  • Broseley - As tempting as Horsehay, Coalbrookdale and Ironbridge were, my destination of choice was the charming mining town of Broseley. I found a nice spot for some lunch, a bench by the war memorial surrounded by flowers, then explored the High Street for photos of pubs such as the Albion and the Lion Hotel. I also tracked down the Duke of York, hidden up a side street, and the local library although it didn't open until 2pm. Broseley is one of my kind of places, lots of character, interesting buildings and a friendly feel which made it a pleasure to explore.
  • Telford Central - returning to Telford, I made my way to Telford Central Station to get a few rail photos, mainly concentrating on platform views and investigating the long red footbridge thing. I've been through the station a few times over the years but this was my first photo call here since August 2004, so a refresh was long overdue and quite enjoyable, especially with trains to New Street and Chester providing some further targets.
  • Donnington - after a useful reminder of the 55 Green Line route, including an intriguing ride around Wrockwardine Wood, I alight on Turreff Avenue for my first proper look at Donnington. My stay is only brief, but is long enough to allow for photos of the Champion Jockey pub (another in a growing list of closed and empty locals), the local shops and Donnington Branch Library, where I'm able to raid the leaflet racks for some useful research materials.

I'm always hesitant to start labelling outings as classic trips, but this trip is thoroughly deserving of that tag. It was exploration at its best, just cruising around on the local buses and with plenty of local interest to keep me occupied - I'm already looking forward to returning to Telford for the 2009 adventure.

Monday, June 9

Brownhills, Chasetown and Rushall

A nice weekend spent with Rog exploring across Walsall way and sampling a few pubs as we went along. Here are the highlights...
  • We started off with the shuttle train from Wolverhampton to Walsall, giving Rog chance to catch up with my recent thumbnails and get RSI in the process.
  • From Walsall it was onto the 394A for a proper Metrobus ride up to Brownhills West.
  • Brownhills West - a look at the Rising Sun and Crown pubs then a walk through the estate to Brownhills West Station, part of the Chasewater Railway. A nice little station with a heritage feel, good to have a proper look.
  • Chasewater - a walk around the reservoir, bringing back childhood memories. We had a quick look at Anglesey Basin (the terminus of the Wyrley and Essington Canal) before crossing the reservoir dam as we headed for Chasetown.
  • Chasetown - time for some pubs and a bit of lunch. We started in the Uxbridge Arms before making our way to the Crown, both were decent locals. Food involved pasties and sausage rolls at the local park, and I even got a bonus shot of the 61 bus before the return walk back to Brownhills West.
  • Rising Sun - a landmark pub overlooking the roundabout, I felt it had a slight ranch feel to it. We quenched our thirst whilst experimenting with the sepia and negative settings on Rog's new camera.
  • Walsall Wood - after a run for the 56 bus, we found ourselves in Walsall Wood, giving me chance to check out the old shed library and its new replacement before joining the canal down to Black Cock Bridge.
  • The Black Cock - after a bit more walking it was time for another pint, and I wanted to satisfy my curiosity having taken photos of this pub during previous outings. It was worth the visit, with Rog commandeering the jukebox and the chance to watch the Epsom Derby. It seemed one of the regulars had reason to celebrate...
  • Rushall - late afternoon saw us head down to Rushall to track down the Manor Arms, reputedly one of Walsall's oldest pubs, before heading up to the Royal Oak to watch F1 qualifying whilst Rog annoyed Pedro the parrot. With the Daw End Canal and the Park Lime Pits Nature Reserve to explore in future, this was a good marker for further investigation.
  • Wednesfield - after a quick visit to Willenhall, we finished Saturday night off in Wednesfield playing Yahtzee and drinking real ale in the Vine pub. I think the Vine was actually my favourite pub of the whole outing, friendly and traditional with a bonus bag of proper scratchings.
  • West Park - the weekend continued with a mini-outing on the Sunday morning, beginning at a glorious looking West Park with a look at the lake and a stroll around the Steam & Vintage Rally.
  • Penn - a final few pints to round off a nice weekend, with Rog taking the chance to familiarise himself with some pubs at the Wolverhampton end of the 256 route. The Spring Hill gave us chance for more camera experiments, this time trying to get the timer to work, whilst the Rose and Crown provided a final chat before Rog's bus home.
A fine weekend's exploring action there, making the most of some good weather as it felt like summer had well and truly arrived. I got plenty of photos, Rog got plenty of aches and pains, and poor old Pedro the parrot got thoroughly traumatised. Lets hope the good weather continues and that further outings are to follow.