Friday, November 28

Solihull and Spring Road

When I first started the WME Blogspot back in May 2006 I rather doubted whether the blog would last five minutes, so it is with some considerable surprise that over two years later I find myself putting together my 150th blog posting - where has the time gone? 2009 is advancing steadily on the horizon, but there's still life in 2008 yet as was ably demonstrated by today's outing exploring Solihull, Damsonwood and Springfield.

I must admit I've rather neglected Solihull of late, so it was good to be back exploring the town centre and the station interchange. I investigated a couple of paths around the back end of the station, then headed along Homer Road passing important looking office buildings. On Herbert Road I found the Coach House to get the pub photos off and running, then I did a little loop of Station Road, Poplar Road and the High Street - Brueton Gardens were a nice discovery, still looking neat on a cold November morning, and the Masons Arms continued the pub shots up by the church. Next came Touchwood, a busy shopping mall gearing up for Christmas, followed by Library Square where Santa's Grotto was already proving popular. After a quick look in the library it was back down Homer Road past the court and the police station, thus completing a solid tour of the town centre.

After a frustrating time battling sun glare at Solihull Station I caught the 76 up to Damsonwood, providing a useful reminder of Elmdon Heath and landmarks such as the Greville Arms. I did attempt a bus shot at Damsonwood terminus before crossing over for a couple of pictures of the Old Colonial. It was then into the estate to track down some lunch and get shots of the Golden Acres pub on Rowood Drive. I had intended to investigate the Grand Union Canal but had to content myself with a couple of photos at Damson Lane Bridge before catching the 76 back into Solihull (via Hermitage Road with glimpses of a Thwaites pub and the local ambulance station).

Back at Solihull Station I had time to attempt some more bus photos, with the sun thankfully being more co-operative. The 37 came in for some attention whilst I tried to dodge the army of bus cleaners dedicated to the route. My next target was the 41 route for a ride up to the College Arms via Streetsbrook Road and Gospel Oak, where the landmark Oak pub is yet another to have closed and become an eyesore, very depressing. Springfield was a bit of a bottleneck thanks to Stratford Road congestion, so I only stayed long enough to catch a glimpse of the primary school and zoom a shot or two of the College Arms itself (at least the pub was still open in this case).

My final target of the day was Spring Road Station, but first I had to negotiate Shaftmoor Lane. It was only half past two but already the light was going with the sky ominously clouding over. The Shaftmoor pub caught my eye, as did the old Denso factory, another depressing site where one of the gates had become a dumping ground for all manner of rubbish. Spring Road Station itself did little to lift the gloom - the station is a bit of an eyesore with a rusty corrugated hut guarding the main entrance followed by a portakabin style ticket office. The scene is completed by the multistorey monstrosity that is Denso's car park forming a tunnel over the far end of the platforms. Its hardly inspiring in terms of railway architecture, but I quite relished the chance to get a few photos and could even see myself becoming rather fond of the place in future. I'll certainly have to make a repeat visit as my train turned up almost immediately, thus bringing the curtain down on another adventure. And there you have it, Blog Post No. 150 safely in the bag and Solihull back on the WME radar - not bad for a day's work!

Wednesday, November 12

New for November

Updates to the WME galleries have been even fewer and further between than usual over the last few months, with the odd few crumbs cascading through but nothing more. By way of rectifying the situation, I have been busy putting together a series of updates to get things back on an even keel. Let's see what's been happening...

For once, I'm going to start with WME Coventry, a gallery that had been particularly neglected for the best part of six months (ouch!). My recent visit gave me the impetus to add a bit of new content, notably a new Exploring Tile Hill North collection featuring the local library and Jardine Crescent shops. The previous Exploring Tile Hill collection has been renamed Exploring Tile Hill South and now boasts an extra view of the shops on Station Avenue. Canley Station now features a new train photo and a look at part of the huge station footbridge, whilst a rather familiar station sign crops up again on Tile Hill Station. Coventry by Bus hasn't escaped my attention either, and I'm particularly pleased to present a brace of photos from Tanyard Farm, one of the 32 and one of the 33. Whether this makes up for me ignoring the gallery for so long I'm not really sure, but its good to see some signs of life at long last.

It won't surprise you to discover that WME Wolverhampton and WME Birmingham have been amongst the biggest November gainers. WME Wolves returns to form thanks to a new Exploring Springfield collection containing photos of a footbridge and the community centre and not a Simpson in sight! On the bus front there's a shot of the 283 at Bilston Bus Station whilst Exploring Bradmore has been especially active, the new additions here feature Bantock House, Bradmore Recreation Ground and the Critchley Hardware shop on Oxbarn Avenue.

Did I mention WME Birmingham? There are two exciting new collections to report here. Exploring Selly Oak begins to capture another haunt from my university days, although the photos of Muntz Park and the Country Girl pub are of a more recent vintage. Then we have Exploring West Heath, where the Fordrough pub makes its WME bow alongside two photos of the shed otherwise known as West Heath Library. Add in a platform view at Bournville Station and further shots of Mary Vale Bridge and Selly Manor, and things are coming together again.

Also taking its rightful place in the spotlight is WME Walsall. Two rather mundane views of Pool Hayes Bridge have joined the Wyrley & Essington Canal collection, but for me the pleasing additions are the arrival of a 348a Pelsall Wood shot on Walsall by Bus and the Royal George pub on Exploring Willenhall. The former brings back fond memories of discovering Pelsall Wood terminus, whereas the latter captures a useful landmark and offers some variety by virtue of not being a photo of the Lock Museum.

Elsewhere, WME Dudley welcomes the latest in a growing series of Lower Gornal Post Office shots (I'm up to number 4 now, although the shop is now News Express courtesy of the Co-op), WME Solihull gets its latest Shirley Station bus stop shot, and WME Sandwell gets pub photos in the form of the Railway Tavern at Oldbury and the Old Crown, a surprise discovery near Great Bridge Library.

So there you have it, contain your excitement please! I still hope to have a few more bits and pieces up my sleeve, but keeping the updates coming in the long term rather depends on how much chance I get to release stuff from my archive. It feels at times like I take hundreds of photos a month but nothing ever gets through onto the site - still, I'll keep on plugging away and hopefully the few photos that do squeak in are proving worth the wait.

Tuesday, November 4

Halloween Happenings

I don't suppose I've ever done a Halloween exploration before, so last Friday's outing was something of a first for me. My choice of destination turned out to be surprisingly appropriate as I ended up investigating some of the less glamorous areas of Coventry, namely terrifying Tile Hill and bloodcurdling Bell Green...

Tile Hill has long been an exploration favourite of mine, although I usually concentrate on the railway station and Tile Hill South. Both were present again this time around, with Station Avenue shops and the Bell pub once more featuring prominently, but I also took the opportunity to venture into Tile Hill North.

I'd been through the estate on the old 34 route some years back, so I had some vague knowledge with which to home in on Jardine Crescent. My eye was caught first by the futuristic looking library building, then the distinctive local shopping precinct. I also had a look around Limbrick Wood, then investigated the site of an old pub on the corner of Jobs Lane - I'm not sure what the name was so feel free to enlighten me! Finally I settled in at the turning circle waiting to get photos of the 33 on layover, with the bus driver obliging happily and me feeling highly satisfied with my morning's work. I actually found myself quite liking Tile Hill North - I've heard the place has something of a reputation, but in the cool sunshine of an autumnal morning it made for some decent local exploration.

Having got photos of the 33, I boarded the bus for the journey across city to Bell Green. The route made for an interesting ride, down along Tile Hill Lane past the Newlands, then negotiating Hearsall Common and the Butts. From Pool Meadow the route then took in Gosford Green and Stoke, before heading up Ansty Road into Walsgrave. There were some intriguing photo targets for future reference, including the Walsgrave pub and the Red Lion near the church. Finally the route wiggles through Henley Green before setting down on Roseberry Avenue so I could finally brave Bell Green.

If I thought Jardine Crescent had a reputation, this is nothing compared to the advance impression I'd been given of Bell Green as some kind of hellhole. That particular description might be slightly harsh, but I certainly didn't enjoy my visit. The morning sunshine of Tile Hill had given way to a grim overcast afternoon, and the bitter wind howling through the Riley Square precinct did little to improve matters. The precinct seemed sadly depressing, with rundown shops tucked beneath blocks of flats - I didn't feel that safe and certainly didn't want to risk taking too many photos. This was quite frustrating as there is some exciting potential here for bus photography, with the 10 and 33 both terminating whilst the 21 and a couple of de Courcey Tesco routes also pass through. As such, perhaps it would be better for me to reserve judgement and try again another day. Even so, I'm not in any hurry whatsoever to make my return visit.

Instead, I made my escape via the form of a route 10 Metrobus, giving me a glimpse of the wider estate before heading out past Wyken Croft and the Devonshire Arms. Relieved at leaving Bell Green behind, I settled in for a classic Metrobus ride back through Gosford Green, and by the time I got to Pool Meadow the sun had come back out again - something of a spooky coincidence perhaps?? At the risk of further horrors, I caught the 85 Travel de Courcey route to Coventry Station in plenty of time for a quiet train ride home, and so ended an eventful Halloween outing. Lets now hope for some gallery update fireworks with which to celebrate Bonfire Night!